About the place
Studland is and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - its a mix of beaches, dunes and heath with some beautiful rolling green hills to boot - Dorset at its best. The whole area is managed by the National Trust so its worth becoming a member just for the free parking
Food and drink
Good pub to drop into if you are walking to Old Harry's Stack, just you and a thousand tourists
Pig on the Beach
One of the most visually impressive pubs I've ever been to, with epic views across the bay to the white cliffs and to Bournemouth. Not cheap - rooms run to over £300pn but much of the food is grown onsite (yup - even the bacon). Great place for a date. The Breezer bus takes you close by.
Shell Bay Cafe
Situated right by the ferry port on the beach. It's essentialy two halves - a characterless canteen-style cafe for tourists, kids dogs etc. and a sit down restaurant with views over the harbour.
About the place
Great beach and tons of it. Boscombe proper hasn't got the best reputation but those problems are further back in the Lansdowne area - interestingly you never see people begging on the beach or prom (maybe the sand is a barrier, maybe the pickings are slim or maybe it is policed differently).
The area around Boscombe beach offers volleyball, hundreds of beach huts at hundreds of pounds a week, a few pubs and a rather empty pier.
For people like us - Bocombe's facilities win hands down. The area either side of the pier has the best surf and there are life guard huts on both beaches (vision being obscured by the hulking great wooden thing inbetween).
On the prom nearby Urban Reef there is an excellent hot shower and changing area (not cubicles) - free of charge and hot year round (unlike the rather sad and seemingly permanently closed affair at the Bistro on the Beach) - that's the clincher as the weather and water chill.
Right next door is Sorted Surf shop who provide lessons and hire boards, and further along is the smaller (but our favourite underdog) SurfSteps which open all winter and who offer big dscounts for Ocean Sports Club members.
You can park right on the beach on the west side of the Pier outside SurfSteps (Underclifff car park) and charges drop to barely anything after Oct 28th ('low season'. NSS), or further up the hill if the sand is blowing and you want your car to be the same colour when you come back.
Food and Drink
One of the Hug Club group and right on the prom at Boscombe, the Reef has its issues (slow service being the main one, but the hidden toilets are another and the unpredictable nature of when what part is open for what) but the position is excellent. Permanently staffing the upstairs bar would help a lot.
They aren’t shy about charging mind – its an expensive place to go so if we have done a pier to pier then we tend to opt for the Harvester nearby, but for a drink and a chat it’s a nice environment.
Exactly what you'd expect, but with sand. You can get table service sometimes - handy for us as we turn up barefoot after a fin swim. We haven't yet walked to the bar in fins as I only just thought of it but..
About the place
Lilliput is a real place - who knew?
It's a charming, generally happy town built on a south-facing slope looking over Poole Harbour and I think that has a lot to do with it. Generally the more sun people get the happier they are and it's for that reason that you tend to find the largest and most expensive properties on these South/West facing slopes. Equally the flora changes as pines give way to palms so there is less gloom.
The architectural styles are varied but generally tasteful and few are gothic (tho some builder clearly got a job lot of blue glass at one point. Who wants to live in blue light?).
Lilliput borders Sandbanks which as some of the most expensive real estate in Europe and nowhere to go out
Food and drink
Koh Thai Lilliput
Absolute lottery this one – lovely food and a great venue with friendly staff.
You can’t book so that keeps it fresh but (and it’s a big but) - it’s a favourite for pushy parents to drag their spoiled kids to so be prepared to find yourself ‘in the way’ of sharp-elbowed mums who want your space for their precious.
I’ve had lovely times and awful times at the place – its all depends on who turns up and how entitled they feel they are to where you are sitting.
About the place
Branksome is ideally placed between the honeypot of Westbourne, a great beach (surf can be good but the prom is lacking in facilities; no changing room or showers) and Canford/Sandbanks - if you don't need the harbour then its a great option. That said - the houses are on huge wooded plots due to a covenant that is currently being contested. Once lifted (as they invariably are) then expect relentless development until the end of time.
A word on living by a chine (Branksome has a lovely one). All those trees need constant gardening so as not to flatten beachgoers and there appears to be a law concerning chainsaws, leaf blowers, woodchippers and the like that if you don't fire them all up at 8am you aren't then allowed to use them that day. I lived by a chine for a year and you tell yourself you get used to the noise but once you move away you don't remember it fondly.
Boscombe & Canford have a huge amount of trees. Jus' saying.
Branksome Terrace Cafe
A great place to watch the sea when the weather is bad (the other is the Bistro on the Beach at Southbourne). Full kitchen but pricey coffee and cake - I sense that's their main revenue generator.
About the Place
Feeling like a new town with its sprawling shopping area full of chains, Bournemouth lacks the seaside vibe that you would have hoped for in such a famous destination just two hours from Waterloo (by comparison Old Town Poole / Poole Quay has that in abundance and its on the same line).
There's an amazingly inconveniently placed station - a taxi drivers dream - an over-cultivated and characterless garden running the Bourne River valley to nowhere (we walked the length of it once - it just ends) and the characterless Pavillion concert hall that kills comedy dead.
All in its been run unimaginatively by the council obsessed with budgets and bins - no originality, no art, no sculpture, no vibrancy no joy - just small thinking that has yielded Milton Keynes with a pier.
A great choice for a political conference. We don't go out there much.
Food and drink
Brewhouse and Kitchen
The Brewhouse chain offers a proper pub experience right down to the happy bearded brewers (not hipsters – just blokes with beards).
They brew beer onsite so sometimes it can smell a bit earthy but the raised log fire that you can sit around more than makes up for that (as at Dec 2018 its been shutdown as the chimney caught light - will update when we know its running again)
Beers are tad pricey and there are no happy hours but their beer garden does seem to be slowly taking over all of Bournemouth with yet another extension being built last time I was there.
Make sure you check out upstairs too – its surprisingly spacious
Upstairs through a door off the high street the Cosy Club opens out into a Victorian-drawing room themed room with a restaurant further up.
It's an odd mix of too-low sofas and awkwardly located high tables that don’t have enough room around them but we have enjoyed the times we have been there, generally after beach walks
An upstairs pool halll with a cool vibe and half price draught & cocktails 5-8pm Mon-Friday. Tables are full size and cost around £13 an hour (best to prebook) - a regular haunt.
Absolutely lovley warm friendly Tapas joint a tad down and opposite from the Brewhouse - say hi to Louise at the bar from us and you may get a free shot
Crazy expensive and stuffy but the front garden has amazing views across the sea - we tend to head to it after a pier to pier and then on into Westbourne for food.
Stylish place and great pizzas for a tenner on a Tuesday night - convenient for the main bus stop too.