best things to do in poole dorset

20 Best Things To Do In Poole, Dorset In 2022

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Poole is the second largest town in Dorset with a population of over 140,000. Located in the south of England along the jurassic coast, it’s renowned for its natural beauty and its thriving port.

The town is situated on the shores of Poole Harbour, which also happens to be the second-largest natural harbour in the world. The harbour is home to over 2,000 boats and yachts and is a super popular spot with adrenaline seekers, watersport junkies and beach lovers alike.

Poole and its sandy coastline also occupies one of the UK’s best beaches – Sandbanks – which is regularly featured in publications as one of the best stretches of coastline in the country.

Not only that but this local seaside town in the south of England is home to some of the most prestigious postcodes in the country too. Pearce Avenue in Lilliput has the highest average property price than any other street in the country, coming in at just under a casual £3.5m

In addition to its natural attractions, Poole is also a thriving hub of shops, restaurants, and cafes that attracts tourists from up and down the country, as well as internationally.

Poole is a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international visitors. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the town’s natural beauty or to do some shopping, Poole has something to offer everyone. From local markets, independent businesses, high street stores, arts and crafts…you name it, Poole has it.

With so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start. So here goes my list of best things to do in Poole Dorset so that you can skip straight to the good stuff and make your trip here one of your best ones yet.

20 Best Things To Do In Poole, Dorset

1. Poole Harbour

poole harbour in dorset

Poole Harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world and home to over 2000 boats. It’s a popular spot for adrenaline seekers and watersport junkies with activities like windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing, and kayaking.

The water stays shallow for a long way out, making it the perfect spot to practice and master the arts of these watersports in a safe and fun place

If you’re looking to relax, there are plenty of beaches to sunbathe and go for a swim on. You can also take a leisurely stroll along the harbourside and enjoy the views.

Poole Harbour spans a huge area though, so it’s perhaps a little too generic to call out the harbour as one of the best places to visit when a number of the places on this list can be found within this incredible place.

I wasn’t lying when I said how big it was. And the best way to really appreciate the scale and size of this mass of water is by boat. There are several boat tours that operate from Poole Harbour including pleasure cruises, nature-watching trips, and even pirate-themed adventures for the kids. Or you could hop on the ferry to one of the nearby islands like Brownsea Island or Studland Beach.

For the rest of this guide, I’m going to be talking about all of the other fun things to do in Poole Harbour and the surrounding areas, so you don’t have to miss a single thing.

Insider tip: If you’re visiting in the summer, make sure to bring mosquito repellent as there can be quite a few buzzing around.

2. Poole Quay

best things to do in poole quay in dorset

Poole Quay is the heart of the town and a great place to start your exploration of Poole. It’s where you’ll find most of the shops, restaurants, and cafes as well as some of the best views of Poole Harbour.

You can sit along the promenade of Poole Quay and watch the hundreds of boats passing through the narrow mouth of the natural harbour every single day. Look out to the natural beauty and appreciate the landscape and coastline, and the sea full of cruise ships, sailboats, cargo ships and pleasure crafts that all call this harbour home.

There are plenty of things to do at Poole Quay including taking a ride on the historic Poole Harbour ferry or going for a magical walk along the quayside.

3. Old RNLI Life Boat Museum

rnli lifeboat museum best places to visit in poole dorset

The Old RNLI Life Boat Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Poole. It’s located on the quayside and chronicles the history of the RNLI lifeboats in Poole from 1803 to 2003.

The museum also has a number of interactive exhibits, making it a great place to visit for both adults and children.

You can get up close and personal with the old lifeboats that would service the harbour and surrounding area for over 100 years, and you will also learn about the first boats to returning soldiers from Dunkirk as part of the World War 2 evacuation on the 30th May 1940.

It’s a really great way to uncover the history of this awesome charity organisation during your visit here, and if you wanted to show a little support, you can also pick up a little souvenir from the small RNLI shop on site.

4. Sandbanks Beach

sandbanks beach best things to do in poole dorset

Sandbanks Beach is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Poole during your visit here. This beach has been winning awards and accolades for decades now, and for good reason. It is one of the most popular beaches in Poole and quite possible throughout the whole country.

It’s a beautiful golden sand beach that stretches for miles and is well equipped for all types of visitors with showers, toilets, restaurants and cafes. It’s a perfect way to spend the day, nestled right in front of some of the country’s most exclusive and premium real estate and mansions in the country.

Amongst the rows of mansions, super yachts and boat dealers you can lap up the sandy beach, [hopefully] soak up the sunshine, and pass the day away with friends, family, or the love of your life. Whatever you’re doing here, it’s a fantastic place to come and visit during your time in Poole and Bournemouth.

5. Corfe Castle

corfe castle best place to see in poole

The Hartland Moore National Nature Reserve is home to the former royal fortress, Corfe Castle, and is a 25-minute drive from Poole Quay just on the other side of the harbour.

Corfe Castle is one of the most iconic and well-preserved castles in England. It’s a Norman castle that was built in the 11th century by William The Conqueror shortly after the conquest of England in 1066. It has been used as a fortress, prison, royal palace, and private home over its 950-year history.

The castle is located on a hill in the centre of the village of Corfe Castle and is surrounded by a moat. It’s a really beautiful and romantic spot, perfect for a summer picnic or winter walk.

There is also a really nice tea room in the castle grounds, so you can enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake after your exploring.

If you’re interested in English history, then this is definitely a place you should visit during your time in Poole. And if you’re not, it’s still a really cool place to explore and take some great photos.

Opening Times: Open all year round

Entrance Cost: £10 for adults / £5 for children / £25 for a family. Entry is free for National Trust members. Onsite parking costs £2 for up to 1 hour, £5 for up to 4 hours.

6. Compton Acres

compton accres best places to see in poole, dorset

Compton Acres is a beautiful garden located just outside of Poole in the neighbouring town of Westbourne. It’s about a 20-minute drive from Poole Quay, or you can catch the bus which takes about 30 minutes.

The gardens were created in the 1920s by Mr and Mrs J.W. Compton, and they are a stunning example of an Edwardian pleasure garden. They consist of ten different gardens, each with their own theme and style.

These magnificent gardens are still considered to this day as one of the most beautiful privately owned gardens in the whole of the UK.

The Japanese Garden is one of the most popular gardens at Compton Acres, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a beautiful and tranquil spot that is perfect for a summer’s day.

If you’re looking for a place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, then Compton Acres is definitely the place for you. It’s a little piece of paradise that is well worth a visit

You can even enjoy the little on-site cafe for any drinks, snacks and refreshments here, or Mare Luna Pizzaria for something. little more substantial to eat.

Oh and the gardens are even pet-friendly…providing your dog is well behaved and you keep them on a lead.

Opening Times: Open all year round, 7 days a week from 10:00 – 17:00

Entrance Cost: £8.95 for adults / £7.95 for concessions / £4.45 for children. Tickets are purchased on entry

7. Visit Poole Park

poole park one of the best things to do in poole dorset

Poole Park is a large public park located in the heart of Poole town centre, and it’s just a short walk from Poole Quay.

The park has something for everyone, with plenty of green space to relax in, a children’s play area, tennis courts, a cricket pitch and an outdoor heated swimming pool.

Poole Park is a great place to see in Poole with it springing all up and around the central boating lake which is refreshed and topped up after each ocean tide.

There’s a café located in the park so you can enjoy a refreshing drink or bite to eat whilst you’re here, as well as miniature golf and a mini train that the kids can catch a ride on

In the summer months, the park is the perfect place to come and relax with friends or family, and it’s also a great spot for people-watching. If you’re around on a Saturday morning, you’ll catch the park run, where hundreds of people come for a run around this large park…and you can join in too if you’re feeling up to it.

8. Learn Some History At Poole Museum

poole museum fun things to do in poole

Poole Museum is one of my best things to do in Poole, and it is located in the heart of Poole town centre, and it’s a great place to learn about the history of this wonderful town.

The museum is housed inside an old Victorian quayside warehouse and is spread over three floors. You can learn all about the town’s maritime history here and its role in the Second World War, and see some interesting artifacts from Poole’s past.

There is a very impressive iron age boat carved from a single oak tree which historians have dated back to around 2,200 years ago, and it’s always a firm favourite with visitors.

One of the highlights of a visit to the museum is definitely the ‘Time Line Gallery’ which tells the story of Poole through a series of interactive displays.

The museum also has a café where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, and there’s even a small shop where you can buy souvenirs. If you looking for something educational and fun to visit in Poole, then this history museum should definitely be on your list.

Opening Times: Daily from 10:00 – 17:00

Entrance Cost: Free entry but with an option to make a donation

9. Pass An Afternoon At Upton Country Park

upton country park places to see in poole dorset

Upton Country Park is located on the outskirts of Poole, and it’s a great place to come for a walk or cycle.

The park covers an area of around 100 hectares and there are plenty of scenic routes to follow. Inside the country park is a large grade ll listed manor house, some beautiful, neatly pruned walled gardens, and even a lovely little stretch of shoreline.

If you’re feeling energetic, then you can even bring your bike and go for a cycle around the park, and you’ll see plenty of people doing the same.

There are a number of ponds and lakes located within the park which are popular with wildlife, where you will always find some ducks and swans around. You can check the open day dates here.

The manor house also has open days when the doors swing open for the general public and tours to have a wander through this incredibly, Regency-era manor house.

The park also has a children’s play area and some splash fountains during the warmer summer months which the kids obviously love. If you fancy a little tour by Segways, you can also book this in for your trip here too.

Entry to free to Upton Country Park but there is a ‘pay and display’ parking if travelling by car. The gates here are open between 8:00 – 21:00 7 days a week throughout the year.

10. Explore Scaplen’s Court Museum & Herb Garden

visit poole Scaplen’s Court Museum & Herb Garden in dorset

Scaplen’s Court Museum & Herb Garden is located in the heart of Poole town centre, and it’s just a short walk from Poole Quay.

The museum is housed in a Grade l listed building dating back to the 14th century. The former inn is spread over three floors and covers the history of medicine and surgery from medieval times to the present day.

You can see some interesting surgical instruments and medical equipment, as well as learn about the people who have worked in this field over the years.

On the ground floor of the museum is a lovely herb garden which is definitely worth a visit. The herbs here are all grown for their medicinal purposes and you can learn all about how they were used in years gone by.

Also, if you’re looking for fun things to do in Poole when raining, then this one is a great go-to, as well as the other museums on this list. Because let’s face it – it does rain a little more than we’d hope for here!

Opening Times: Monday to Saturday – 10:00 – 16:00 / Sunday & Bank Holidays – 12:00 – 16:00

Entrance Cost: Free entry.

Looking to travel somewhere a little warmer?

11. Enjoy A Boat Trip In The Harbour

best poole boat trip fun things to do in dorset

There are no shortages of organised boat trips from the Pool Quay, from full-day trips to just a couple of hours.

A popular trip from the harbour are the 2-hour sightseeing cruises along the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Jurassic coastline, with unobstructed views across to the white chalk cliffs and rugged coast from your cruise boat. You’ll also get onboard commentary talking you through all the best sights to see so you won’t miss a thing.

Getting out on the sea is a fantastic way to see the coastline of this fantastic region from a new perspective. And there isn’t just the Jurassic coastline cruise, there are plenty of other excursions by boat if you fancied something. a little different.

Cost: Prices start from around £13 per person for a 2-hour boat trip.

12. Pass an Afternoon at Hamworthy Park

visit hamworthy beach when you visit poole in dorset

Hamworthy Park is the perfect spot to come for a picnic or a stroll by the water. It’s quieter and a little less exposed than Sandbanks sitting just 1km west of Poole Quay, with large, open green space and those cute, colourful sheds that splash pretty colours along the rear of the sandy beach.

The park has some fantastic views over Poole Harbour, where you’ll see boats and yachts sailing past with unobstructed views over to Arne Peninsula and Brownsea Island. You can even see as far as Purbeck Hills down to the south.

The water is shallow and the beach is small, making it perfect for younger families, and there is a playground for the kids to mess around in for an hour or so whilst you sit back and enjoy a coffee in the coffee shop or relax on the sandy beach.

In the summer months, there’s a paddling pool which is really popular with the kids (and adults!) And if you’re feeling energetic, then there are some tennis courts which you can hire out too.

13. Shell Bay & Studland Beach

shell bay and studland beach best things to do in poole

Shell Bay is located at the most southern tip of Purbeck just across the mouth of the bay. The beach here is part of the Studland National Nature Reserve and it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular spot for nature lovers and those who enjoy getting outdoors.

You can catch a ferry from the southern tip of Sandbanks or Poole harbour, or you can reach there by driving around the harbour from the city centre.

The views from Shell Bay are stunning, with unobstructed views out over the English Channel towards the Isle of Wight. The beach is also a great spot for wildlife watching, with plenty of birds to be seen all year round.

You’ll trade the million-pound mansions lining Sandbanks for the majestic golden sand dunes jutting along this protected area of coastline

In terms of facilities, there are toilet and shower facilities available as well as a café selling hot and cold drinks and snacks. There’s also a small shop selling beach supplies such as sun cream and buckets & spades.

14. Watersports at Poole Harbour

poole watersports fun things to do in dorset poole

Poole Harbour is one of the best places in the UK for watersports, with everything from sailing and windsurfing to kitesurfing and wakeboarding on offer.

There are plenty of schools and centres offering lessons and hire, so it’s easy to get started even if you’ve never tried before. The calm waters of the harbour make it the perfect place to learn, and there are always plenty of people around to give you a helping hand if you need it.

If you’re already an experienced watersports enthusiast then there’s still plenty for you to enjoy, with some of the best sailing conditions in the country and plenty of spots to try out new tricks.

If you’re keen to find some fun and quirky things to do in Poole, you’ll most definitely want to get out onto this incredible body of water and try your hand at something new.

15. Visit Brownsea Island

visit brownsea island best places to see in poole and dorset

Brownsea Island is a short ferry ride from Poole Quay and it’s well worth a visit if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of town for a few hours.

The island is owned by the National Trust and it’s a great spot for a couple of hours of walking, with a handful of marked trails to follow around the island. There’s also a nature reserve on the island which is home to red squirrels, as well as a variety of birds and other wildlife and of course the Brownsea Castle to explore.

If you’re visiting with young children then they’ll love exploring the pirate fort, and there’s also a café and a shop selling souvenirs.

16. RSPB Arne Nature Reserve

fun things to in in poole dorset visit nature rspb arne

Spanning across the south side of Poole Harbour is the RSPB Arne Nature Reserve – a huge greenspace spreading over 1,400 acres of untouched landscape.

The reserve is made up of heathland, wet grassland, woodland and reedbeds, sandy beaches, mudflats and more, all of which are teeming with wildlife.

RSPB Arne nature reserve is an absolute field day for keen photographers, where you can find a wealth of different wildlife from spoonbills, Dartford warblers and even the sika deer – an East Asian species that has made this area its home after escaping deer parks in the region back in the 19th century.

There are marked walking trails to follow, as well as a network of cycle routes. You can also go kayaking or canoeing in the harbour itself if you want to get out on the water.

Or, if you just want to sit back and relax, there are plenty of spots where you can do just that and take in the stunning views.

Stop by the welcome hut to learn all about the RSPB’s conservation activity in the nature reserve, grab a drink and bite to eat in the café, and collect some souvenirs from the RSPB shop.

17. Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park

Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park in poole, dorset

Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park is a great option if you’re visiting with young children. They can meet and feed the animals, take part in tractor rides, go on a pony ride, play in the outdoor playground and so much more.

This farm does a great job at combining indoor and outdoor activity with plenty of animal encounters and all the kids love it!

There’s an indoor soft play area for when the weather isn’t so great, and a café serving hot and cold food and drinks for the whole family.

If you’re looking for something fun to do in Poole on a rainy day then Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park might be the perfect option.

Opening Hours: 9:30 – 16:00

Entrance Cost: Adult £15 / Children 3+ £15 / Under 3s £7.50. You can buy tickets from the official website.

Best Things To Do Near Poole & Bournemouth

18. Durdle Door & Lulworth Cove

durdle door best thing to do close to poole dorset

Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are two of the most popular tourist destinations in Dorset and for very good reason. If you’re wondering what some of the best places to visit near Poole are, then this one will always make the list.

Durdle Door is a natural limestone archway that’s been formed over millions of years, and it’s located just a short walk from the beach. The views out to sea are simply stunning, and it’s well worth the walk (or the short drive) out to this spot.

Lulworth Cove is a sheltered cove that’s located just around the corner from Durdle Door, and it’s a great spot for swimming, paddling or just relaxing on the beach.

There are plenty of other things to do in the area too, such as exploring the Lulworth Estate, visiting the Tank Museum or going for a walk along the coast path.

19. Bournemouth Aviation Museum

bournemouth aviation museum fun thigns to do around poole, dorset

Bournemouth Aviation Museum is located at Hurn Airport, just a short 30-minute drive from Poole Quay.

The museum is home to a collection of over 30 aircraft, as well as a range of aviation memorabilia. There are also interactive displays and exhibits, making this a great option for a rainy day activity.

And since you’re already close to Bournemouth at this point, you may as well spend the remainder of your day exploring this city too. You can easily make a half day visiting Bournemouth Pier and grabbing lunch down by the beach.

If you’re interested in aviation or military history then this is definitely worth a visit. And even if you’re not, it’s still a fascinating place to explore if you have the time to get here.

20. Moors Valley Country Park

moors valley country park best things to do around poole dorset

Moors Valley Country Park is located in the New Forest, around a 40-minute drive from Poole Quay.

The park is home to over 100 miles of walking and cycling trails, as well as a number of different play areas for children. If you have explored all the nature spots within Bournemouth already, then get yourself over to this country park and reconnect with the awesome nature trails here.

There’s also a golf course for the adults and a large playground with a few rides, including a ride-on train for the little ones. Let the kids go crazy whilst you kick back in the café with a coffee and cake.

There are also a number of different events and activities that take place throughout the year. You can check in advance to see what’s going on here.

There are so many different activities to do here, from segway rides to the Go Ape high ropes, and you could easily spend a few days here. Whether you’re looking for a day out in the great outdoors or something to do on a rainy day, Moors Valley Country Park is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for fun things to do in and around Poole, Dorset.

Best Things To Do In Poole, Dorset

  1. Poole Harbour
  2. Poole Quay
  3. Old RNLI Life Boat Museum
  4. Sandbanks Beach
  5. Corfe Castle
  6. Compton Acres
  7. Visit Pool Park
  8. Learn Some History At Poole Museum
  9. Pass An Afternoon At Upton Country Park
  10. Explore Scaplen’s Court Museum & Herb Garden
  11. Enjoy A Boat Trip In The Harbour
  12. Pass an Afternoon at Hamworthy Park
  13. Shell Bay & Studland Beach
  14. Watersports at Poole Harbour
  15. Visit Brownsea Island
  16. RSPB Arne Nature Reserve
  17. Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park
  18. Durdle Door & Lulworth Cove
  19. Bournemouth Aviation Museum
  20. Moors Valley Country Park

Best Free Things To Do In Poole, Dorset

  1. Poole Harbour
  2. Poole Quay
  3. Sandbanks Beach
  4. Visit Pool Park
  5. Learn Some History At Poole Museum
  6. Pass An Afternoon At Upton Country Park
  7. Explore Scaplen’s Court Museum & Herb Garden
  8. Pass an Afternoon at Hamworthy Park
  9. Shell Bay & Studland Beach
  10. RSPB Arne Nature Reserve


Is Poole worth visiting?

Poole is definitely worth a visit. There’s so much to see and do in the area, from exploring the coastline and getting out onto the water, to visiting one of the many country parks and exploring the nature trails. If you’re looking for things to do on a rainy day then there are plenty of options too, such as visiting the Bournemouth Aviation Museum or Moors Valley Country Park.

What’s Poole famous for?

Poole is most famous for its harbour, which is the second-largest natural harbour in the world. The harbour is a great spot for swimming, sailing and windsurfing and is home to some of the best-voted beaches in the UK. Sandbanks and its golden stretch of sand and million-pound mansions draw plenty of tourists here throughout the year!

How do I get to Poole?

Poole is located in the county of Dorset on the south coast of England. The nearest airport is Bournemouth Airport, which is just a short drive away. There are also regular trains and buses that run to Poole from London and other major cities across the UK if you wanted to fly to one of the UK’s major airports and use public transport or a car rental to reach Poole.

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