20 Jan 20 / Poole
How to spend 24 hours in Poole
Shielded from the sea, Poole Harbour – the largest natural harbour in Europe – is a water sports heaven. Poole also has three miles of golden sand including Britain’s best beach, Sandbanks, winner of more Blue Flags than any other UK resort. With this and more, there are plenty of things to do in Poole. Check out our guide to 24 hours in the idyllic coastal town.
Get out on the water
Poole is home to more water activities than any other UK resort. The harbour's flat, shallow waters make it the perfect place to learn. And the reliable winds around Sandbanks means windsurfing, kite-surfing and sailing can be enjoyed too.
Paddle boarding is great for keeping fit and those shallow waters are just right for kayaking and canoeing. The snorkelling is excellent by Studland Bay and Kimmeridge Bay, and wakeboarding is available as well.
You don't need to have equipment as there are tuition packages from local companies including Poole Harbour Watersports and The Watersports Academy. Jetski Safaris are considered the ultimate water-based adventure company offering jet skiing, flyboarding and powerboat trips.
Less active but still on the water there are also plenty of boat trips and cruises to try. From Poole Quay, there are hour-long cruises around the harbour taking in the views of all five major islands, as well as the Purbeck Hills. Check the schedules for Greenslade Pleasure Boats and City Cruises Poole. Brownsea Island Ferries can take you over to the National Trust's Brownsea Island – one of the last places in England where the native red squirrel survives. (Do note, it is closed from mid-November to February.)
If you prefer to stay on land, why not learn a new skill and create something unique? Titan Leathercraft has a popular shop and the workshop is open to the public so you can see the craftsmen in action. There are half-day courses available so you can learn some leather tooling skills.
There are many good reasons why walking is popular here. You could keep stick to the historic Old Town with its mix of smugglers' passageways and elegant houses built by rich merchants in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Pop into the Tourist Information Centre at Poole Museum and you can pick up one of the historic trails including the popular Cockle Trail. The Museum is also worth seeing as it has four floors about Poole's history from prehistory to the 21st century.
The town’s shops might slow you down – small independent retailers selling unique gifts, handmade cosmetics and delicious treats. And if you want to continue the retail therapy, the under-cover Dolphin Shopping Centre has over one hundred shops from High Street favourites to bespoke stores.
Another choice for an afternoon stroll is the three miles of golden sands from the Sandbanks peninsula. Or for a quieter option try Hamworthy Park and Beach on the northern shore of Poole Harbour.
There's also the lovely Compton Acres – considered one of England’s finest privately-owned ornamental gardens. Built in 1920, it is spread over ten acres and includes formal areas and woodland areas plus viewpoints overlooking the sea which is around a mile away.
Poole has over 50 miles of cycle network and 28 miles of pathway away from traffic. The heritage cycle route covers about 7.5 miles visiting places of historical interest in Poole. The route goes along the Quay and out to Upton House along the picturesque Holes Bay shared-use path. And Castleman Trailway takes in 16 miles through some of East Dorset's most stunning landscapes. It starts at Upton Country Park and follows much of the old Castleman Corkscrew railway line through Broadstone and on to the River Stour at Wimborne.
The Beryl bike share scheme is available across Bournemouth and Poole with 1000 bikes docked across the area outside key attractions and transport hubs. A smartphone app is needed to access a bike and then you can pay as you ride or get a day pass.
Before it gets too late, make sure to climb the Sea Music sculpture viewing platform. Designed by Anthony Caro, it is his only site-specific monumental sculpture in the public realm. The platforms allow you to see the sculpture at different levels and look out over Poole Harbour.
Poole Quay has loads of events including Dream Machines – the UK's biggest weekly motorcycle event when hundreds of motorbikes line the Quay – or Quay For My Car for car-themed evenings. Rockley's Summer Spectacular on Thursdays throughout the summer brings live music, street entertainment, family activities and a fireworks finale at 10pm.
All year round, the Lighthouse Theatre is a great choice as it's the UK's largest regional arts centre. Home to Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Lighthouse Poole offers a programme of national and international events including music, dance, comedy, visual arts, workshops plus its own independent cinema and art gallery spaces.
IF YOU CAN STAY LONGER
If you have more than 24 hours in Poole, why not take a tour of English Oak Vineyard followed by wine tasting of their award-winning produce? It's just a ten minute drive from the town and has public tours on Fridays and Saturdays from June to September.
Bournemouth is just a few miles down the coast, or you could catch a ferry to Guernsey.
WHERE TO STAY
With a myriad of things to do and see in Poole, you’ll likely be looking for somewhere to stay. In a narrow cobbled street, just off the historic Quayside, Hotel du Vin Poole has 38 luxury rooms and suites. The beautifully refurbished Georgian style building was originally built in 1776 and still retains the sweeping double staircase. You can dine on French home-style cooking and locally-sourced British classics in Bistro du Vin or outside in the courtyard. And there is afternoon tea available daily too. Let the in-house Sommelier guide you to your perfect wine for the evening, or have cocktails in the bar where the comfy sofas will ensure you feel at home.
Written by Laura Porter - Travel writer for Malmaison and Hotel du Vin.