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My TOP 25 fun things to do in Bournemouth on a day trip or a short break

Boasting 10 miles of award winning golden sandy beaches, Bournemouth is an ideal location for you to enjoy a variety of activities all year round, having lived here since I was 7 I can confirm it is one of the best places to visit with an abundance of things to do – so much in fact your only problem will be deciding what to do first.

Situated on the stunning South Coast of England there is something to suit every taste, age and ability, coming alive in the summer months, the vast array of outdoor things to do in Bournemouth will make any day out or short break here one to remember.

Here is a list of my favourite things to do in Bournemouth including activities, places to eat and local attractions which I’m sure you will find useful when planning your visit.

November 28, 2023


1. Pier Approach Bournemouth

Famous for its glorious beach my first recommendation of things to do in Bournemouth is of course the picture postcard beach which has made Bournemouth famous for many years.

Forget the old fashioned striped deckchair reputation that once was associated with the town, these days it has a vibrant cosmopolitan vibe and as you arrive at the pier you will be spoiled for choice of what to do first. Chilled by day and a buzzing party scene by night you are going to love it.

Sit on the beach and take in the sunshine, grab some fish and chips from Harry Ramsdens, and watch the world go by, a must when at the seaside right!

Then risk your pennies in the amusements, buy a few souvenirs and take a stroll, if you’re feeling energetic you can wander all the way down to Sandbanks and see if you can spot the rich and famous who choose to live in the multi million pound houses there.

2. The Pier Zip

For the adventurous visitors, top of the list of things to do in Bournemouth has to be the world’s first pier to shore zip wire, with a 250 metre dual wire you can race your family or friends to the shore, winner chooses the next activity or buys the ice cream!

Climb to the top of the zip tower platform 25 metres above the sea and launch away to “zip surf” across the gentle waves of the Dorset coastline.

This will suit the thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies amongst you, from £17 for a single rider to £30 for dual riders, prices vary according to season, and there are height and weight restrictions.

Please check the website to see if you are suitable. Group rates are also available – this would be a great team building activity for your business or group day out.

3. Rock Reef

An all-weather indoor activity centre providing fun for all the family, situated right at the end of Bournemouth’s Victorian pier.

Based on adventure sports, the centre provides 28 themed clip in climbing walls for all abilities. There is also a vertical slide drop, a highline, high ropes obstacle course, and the Pier Cave which is a 65-linear metre indoor fun cave experience.

Hours of fun and adventure no matter the weather. Prices from £30 for the complete experience but the activities can also be booked individually.

4. Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf

Continuing on the more active things to do in Bournemouth, you will have loads of fun trying your hand at this novelty smugglers themed 18 hole golf course.

Join Archie the dog and the daring Moonshadow Gang as you navigate rocks, runs and gravestones to see who has the skills to win. Novelty golf is a a great family activity for all ages, if you are a couple or group of friends it will bring out your competitive nature and lots of laughs.

Prices from £9.80 for an adult ticket and £6.80 for children. Family & group rates available too.

5. Bournemouth Oceanarium

Still based near the pier is this wonderful attraction, one for the animal lovers, you will be thrilled to watch the reef shark, stingray and turtle feeding experiences.

Get educated on the otter enrichment experience and explore the habitats of Nemo – (ok maybe his friends the clownfish), sharks, crocodiles, reptiles and the delicate dancing seahorses (my faves) amongst many others.

For a really special visit maybe for a birthday book the VIP penguin feeding experience, or be an Aquarist for the day, this really would be a highlight of your trip.

A great experience for any day, but bookmark this for any rainy days as you can spend all day here in the dry surrounded by the calming beauty of the sea-life world.

General admission prices from £13.50 If booked online, group and family tickets available.

6. The Bournemouth Big Wheel

Climb aboard the 100ft wheel and enjoy the stunning panoramic views across the town, gardens and seafront.

Amazing by day and night this is an experience to tell your friends about, and take great aerial photos.

There is no website so buy your tickets from the booth at the attraction, right at Pier approach.

7. Seaside hop on hop off Tour bus

Ride an open-top double-decker tour bus on a 1.5-hour loop through the Dorset coastline to discover the picturesque seaside towns of Bournemouth and Poole.

Stopping off at Poole Quay, you can explore the variety of shops, parks, restaurants and see boats bobbing about in the water.

With 22 stops in total this is a really great way to see the sights without worrying about parking, and the on board commentary will tell you everything you need to know about the history of the area.

From £16 per person see website for timetable

8. Upside Down House

Launched in 2018, Bournemouth was the very first location for the upside down house attraction which now are nationwide.

Each house is unique and designed to reflect its area and provides a really fun and unusual activity for your list of things to do in Bournemouth.

You can get loads of quirky photos to take home to show your friends.

Prices from £6.45 kids under 3 go free.

9. Bournemouth gardens

Time to relax in the beautifully kept Bournemouth gardens, comprising the upper, central and lower gardens, these grade 11 listed gardens run right down to the pier and pass through the centre of town, so grab a sandwich and take in the pretty flower beds and maybe catch a band playing in the traditional bandstand.

There is a little stream that runs alongside to dip your toe into on a hot sunny day, and if you’re visiting in the winter; then the gardens become a festive wonderland with the Winter Christmas tree wonderland display, lighting up the area with millions of pretty lights, statues and alpine bars, food stalls and an ice rink to show off your talents.

There is also a smaller more traditional crazy golf course and many events are held here throughout the summer months.

Take a book to read and soak up the atmosphere, it is always busy at any time of year.

10. Visit BH2 - a fun leisure complex

When the weather is against you, there’s lots of things to do in Bournemouth that will keep you entertained, head down to the BH2 leisure complex and take your pick from an exciting array of exeriences.

The Odeon Cinema comprises a 10 screen cinema, showing all the latest films and the incredible Isense screen where you will really feel like you’re n the movies is one not to miss.

Eat at the many restaurants such as Nando’s, Five guys and Pizza Express – these are all big chain eateries so if you’d like somewhere independent look about for my recommendations later in the blog.

11. Mulligans

Mulligan’s an indoor golf experience and restaurant showcasing two out of this world golf courses with some of the UK’s most exciting on-course, immersive technology.

They have recently added other impressive activities including electro-darts, laser-shot, pool and ping pong.

Top tip – they only accept card payments, and is an over 18 only venue past 8-45pm.

12. Escape hunt

Choose your adventure from Alice in Puzzleland to Blackbeard’s treasure in an escape room, virtual reality or on a city hunt this immersive experience will keep you occupied for hours.

An ideal group activity and sure to bring out your competitive nature – who can spot the clues first and escape!

13. Battle Boom Bar

The latest addition to the complex, you can axe throw (yes really) play shuffleboard, have a go at augmented reality darts, American pool, crazier nolf – for those of you that have no idea what that is – its not golf instead you use your hands to play.

Lastly for those without the kids there’s beer pong.

This is an over 12’s venue and after 9pm its over 18’s only.

14. Browse the shops

Of all the things to do in Bournemouth shopping might not be top of your list, but it’s a must to see the old arcades that are part of the towns history, and can be a fun way to while away a few hours if the weather isn’t beach worthy.

Bournemouth is very much a town of two halves with each side meeting in the middle with the town’s square where you can grab a cuppa and decide what’s next on your to do list.

At Christmas the square is filled with alpine bars and local sellers in the cute little wooden chalets. The smells of the various food sellers will have you seeking out a snack and a beer.

In 1901 Merton Russell-Cotes gave his wife Annie her dream house on a cliff-top, overlooking the sea – note to husband it’s my birthday in August ;-) the couple filled this exotic seaside home with beautiful objects from their travels across the world, and lined the walls with a remarkable collection of British art, you can now visit and see the galleries, house and gardens in all their splendour.

Anyone who loves art and history will adore this museum and will learn so much, it is often a staple on school visits for the local children. Entry from £8.50 per person, family, student and kids prices available.

15. Get some culture - Russell Cotes Museum & Art Gallery

16. Fly high at Bournemouth Aviation Museum

When looking for things to do in Bournemouth a visit to the Aviation museum should be on your list, based near Bournemouth Airport and right next door to Adventure Wonderland you will see both civil and military aircraft, and other exciting exhibits such as the Control Tower, Airport Fire Engine and Double-Decker bus.

“The Museum encourages visitors to sit in the cockpits of most of the exhibits for a truly hands-on experience” which would be an incredible experience for those loving aviation or want to see how it might feel to take that position of responsibility, luckily the planes will stay firmly on the ground.

Entry adults £7 kids £3

17. Visit Dorset’s No 1 Attraction - Adventure Wonderland

A family favourite of things to do in Bournemouth when my kids were young, the park offers over 30 rides and attractions from flying elephants to a runaway train and jungle falls.

Get lost in the maze and sit down to enjoy the daily shows before enjoying lunch in the Wild Thing café. The kids will have the best time and be worn out at the end of the day.

You can easily spend a whole day at this fun filled theme park check their website for events and special character days.

Under 2 go free and current prices are from £21.75 for kids of 3 and above.

18. Take a cruise on the South Coast's waters.

Hop aboard the pleasure boats and take your pick of:

Sandbanks and harbour cruise: –

“You’ll get a unique look at all five islands, the Dorset Lakelands, the Isle of Purbeck, busy Poole Harbour entrance and the commercial areas that give the town its heartbeat. With on-board commentary included, it’s a truly wonderful cruise taking in the South Coast’s most iconic Harbour “

The Wareham River cruise:– relax as you cruise down the river Frome to the historic ton of Wareham, where you can go and choose to explore or have lunch in one the many cafes and restaurants.

Poole fireworks cruise – running every Thursday from the end of July through August you can see the spectacular firework display after a cruise around Poole Harbour & Sandbanks.

Prices vary but are very good value for money – see their website for details.

19. Visit Sandbanks - one the most expensive parts of the world

It’s not all about the money and outrageously expensive houses, although they are worth a look to just imagine what the views from their kitchen window might look like.

Sandbanks has won the blue flag award for 35 years, and boasts the coveted title of the UK’s best beach, and once visited you will see why. Pale golden sands and crystal blue waters, on a hot sunny day you will think you are somewhere far more exotic.

Take part in a game of beach volleyball, sunbathe or hop aboard the Sandbanks ferry over to Studland Bay – part of the National Trust you will find 4 miles of golden beaches, sand dunes, views of Old Harry’s Rocks. Don’t look too hard though as the area has a 1km stretch of beach where clothing is optional, the area is clearly marked with green topped posts and signs.

20. Brownsea Island

Another long-time favourite of mine is to hop on the very short ferry ride across to the wildlife haven that is Brownsea Island, also protected and preserved by the National Trust; the island is famous for its red squirrels and home to many varieties of wildlife.

Explore the trails or get a daily guided tour, grab a buggy ride for those less abled and look out for the peacocks that strut around showing off their splendid feathers. There are toilets and a café to enhance your visit.

National Trust members can land for free with their tickets. Otherwise it’s £9.50 for adults and £4.75 for kids.

21. Have a taste of the Army at The Tank Museum

A little bit further outside of Bournemouth town is the Tank Museum, featuring 7 large halls of exhibitions, and the world’s best collection of 300 tanks this will keep those interested in all things Army based amused for hours.

For younger children there are interactive games to keep them entertained, they can build Lego tanks, race tortoises and play in the soft play and outdoor play areas. Older kids can ride around the arena in tracked vehicle rides. Adults won’t want to leave as there is so much to see and do here.

Top tip – book online to save on entry fees – currently from £44.45 for a family of 4.

22. Go Ape at Monkey World

Just outside of Bournemouth in the heart of the Dorset countryside you will find Monkey world, a 65 acre haven for over 250 rescued and rehabilitated primates.

There is so much to do here, there are various keeper talks from the lemurs and small monkeys to the chimps and orang-utans. Tours for 4-12 people, and of course spend time watching the amazing animals that call here their home now.

You can even adopt your own primate, what an amazing gift this would be for a monkey loving person.

There is a play area where the kids can practise their own monkey skills swinging around on the climbing frames and cargo nets, swings and slides. Eat & drink at the 2 cafes and grab an ice cream from the many kiosks around the park.

What I particularly love is that the centre has a sustainable ethos, using no palm oil products and having biodegradable cups and plates and using local suppliers where they can.

Top Tip – book your tickets online to save on entry costs. Check website for current prices.

23. Visit the gentle giants at Dorset Heavy Horse Centre

Another fantastic and memorable day out is to come out to Verwood to see the home of the rare breed heavy horses.

So much to pack in to your visit, jump on board a horse drawn carriage ride, or a miniature pony carriage ride, get up close and personal in pets corner. Check out the vintage vehicles and various exhibits. Let off steam in the play barns and fuel up in the café.

Many of the gentle giants here have been rescued and are now leading happier and healthier lives, so by visiting you are supporting the very worthwhile work being undertaken at the centre.

Opening is seasonal from April to the end of October and closed on Mondays & Tuesdays during term time. Current entry is from £14.95 for kids over 3. See the website for all other options.

24. Get historical at Highcliffe Castle

Situated on the cliffs at Highcliffe, this impressive castle was built in the 1830’s with gardens designed by capability brown. It is well worth a visit to see the varying exhibitions and events taking place and discover how this once majestic family home was ruined by a great fire and subsequently lovingly restored.

Have a picnic in the grounds or visit their lovely café then walk down through Steamer Point Nature Reserve to Mudeford and see how many crabs have been caught in the children’s nets.

25. Catch crabs at Mudeford Quay

Last on my list of fun filled things to do in Bournemouth is crab catching, right at the entrance to Christchurch Harbour sits the picturesque Mudeford Quay, popular for sailing and windsurfing this is a very popular visit for all ages.

The kids will love casting off their nets and seeing how many crabs they can land in their bucket, and you can sit and people watch and count how many crabs escape and make their dash back into the sea!

Mudeford quay is a very photogenic place with the little fisherman’s cottages and The Haven inn – a selection of Dutch cottages dating back to 1697 and an ideal spot for lunch.

If you time it right you can buy some locally caught fresh seafood from the stall on the qua to take home for dinner.

I love to walk along the promenade to Avon Beach and Friars Cliff, on a clear day you catch a glimpse of the Needles on the Isle of Wight.

Between March and the end of October (check website for exact crossings)) you can cross the little Mudeford Quay Ferry over to Hengistbury Head and Mudeford Sandbank, check out the Hengistbury Visitor Centre and enjoy lunch or a coffee at The Beach House café.

Top Tip – the ferry service is CASH only. £2.50 for adults and £1 for kids over 3.

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November 28, 2023