Truth be told, I have spent a lot of my adult life in England and each time I return, I love to tour new parts and revisit old haunts. In the last year, I went through Liverpool, Birmingham, Windsor, Sunderland, Christchurch and London and also delved into the Empire of Austenasia.
I spent the best part of 6 years living and working in Bournemouth and Poole. For me, Poole and Bournemouth go hand in hand – the two towns are linked, to the point where the border at “County Gates” goes un-noticed. One house on one side of the road is in Poole, the other is in the Mouth.
The entrance sign to Poole at Westbourne, County Gates (note: this shot was taken from Bournemouth). Poole isn’t written about much in travel magazines or blogs, so here is a quick top 5 guide to start you off in this traditional English coastal town.
Spectacularly unknown to travelers yet frequented by locals, Poole Park is a relaxing place to enjoy walks or indulge in sport. Bizarrely there used to be a zoo here featuring a Himalayan Black Bear (OK so that closed in the 1990s). Nowadays, the facilities in Poole Park include children’s play areas, tennis courts, a bowling green and of course a massive lake.
Poole Town Cricket Club have their cricket field and pavilion inside the park grounds. Water sport activities mostly sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, rowing and model yacht racing take place on the lake, typically in summer.
In an area renowned for state-of-the-art housing, Sandbanks is a good spot for a tourist as well. It is a small peninsula by the coast. In the summer, the cove and bay here also has windsurfers on it and the strip of swanky houses and beaches looks magnificent from above.
You can play crazy golf or eat in a range of restaurants and bars on the Sandbanks Strip. It’s not quite Vegas, but it’s the spot of choice for famous football managers like Harry Redknapp and Tony Pulis. Its reputation is well known, which is why Sandbanks has the fourth highest land value in the world by area. I’ve had a few sneaky pints in Sandbanks over the years but yet to meet anyone famous.
Sandbanks from above
Poole Harbour and Poole Quay
I used to work on the cross channel ferries that run from Poole to St. Peter Port in Guernsey, St. Malo in France and Cherbourg. Poole harbour is massive and includes the main ferry terminal as well as the place for smaller boats and yachts at Poole Quay.
Poole Quay is great for a pub crawl and sunset watching. Friends Neil, Jody and I enjoyed an epic pub crawl there now over ten years ago.
Boat owners dock here and stay the night in the harbour and have a few beers. There’s a guide for solo cruisers for those wanting to check about anchoring their boats or yachts in and around Poole.
Poole Town Centre
There’s something traditionally English about Poole town centre and it feels like the genuine article. Old poky pubs, Falkland square, greasy chippies and a few prominent buildings such as Poole Guildhall and Churches.
Falkland Square, Poole & Poole Guildhall
Back in 2008, I headed on a boat to Brownsea Island, which is a nature reserve island off the coast of Poole. It was actually meant to be a meeting for the South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club. But it turned into a bit of sightseeing as we toured the island, met some peacocks, had a drink and visited the church.
Getting the Brownsea Island ferry
Brownsea Island is controlled by the National Trust and is one of very few islands in the UK that you have pay to enter. After getting the ferry off, you’ll have to pay the island fee. No passport stamps though – you’re still in England!
Brownsea Island ferry terminal