Bournemouth is a seaside resort in the southwest of England. It is also one of the administrative counties of Dorset. In our comprehensive guide to free things to do in Dorset, we recommended starting your journey in Bournemouth. Not only there are tons of things to do in Bournemouth with toddlers, but also there is a huge variety of things to do in Bournemouth for free.
In this post, we will explain to you all the “why” reasons, including
- your safety
- free things to do in Bournemouth
- best places to stay by budget
- all the beaches in Bournemouth and Poole
- and Bournemouth culture itself which we found extremely interesting, relaxing, and refreshing.
Also, we have prepared a comprehensive guide with all possible Bournemouth attractions for families, kids, and adults, including water sports, nightlife, and festivals. So get ready by making a list of fun things to do in Bournemouth with kids and start enjoying!
Oh, and if Bournemouth isn’t enough, here is the complete guide of all the free activities and a day out in Dorset with kids or without.
When I was planning our first family trip to one of the UK beaches, I knew very little about this topic. All we needed is a family-friendly place with a sandy beach, nice weather, and family attractions around us. Bournemouth looked like a great option on the map with the beaches stretching out for kilometers. At the end of the day, it was not only the right choice, but it appeared to be the best selection of golden sandy beaches in the entire south of England with a massive amount of things to do in Bournemouth for families, including water sports, water parks, go ape wild Bournemouth activities, crazy golf, islands visit, and miraculous hidden gems.
Take a look at 24 best family beaches across the UK!
Getting to Bournemouth
Drive to Bournemouth by car
Bournemouth is located only 15 minutes’ drive away from Poole, a hub of factories and a natural harbor. Many people work in Poole and come to Bournemouth for leisure.
If you come from London, it is a 2-hour drive only, and frankly speaking, it is quite smooth without too much traffic on the way. However, it is highly recommended to depart early to avoid any delays.
Take a train to Bournemouth
It is very easy to get to Bournemouth by train. It will take you only two hours and two minutes to get to Bournemouth station using South Western Railway from Waterloo station in London.
Bournemouth Family Holidays & Family-Friendly Accommodation
There is a vast range of hotels, guest houses, and hostels in Bournemouth.
However, our pick this time was the Hermitage Hotel with a seafront view and a spacious family room. We absolutely loved our experience having an extremely friendly staff but most importantly, a short walk to the beach without crossing the road. Hermitage Hotel is located right in front of the Big Wheel and only 150 yards away from the Oceanarium.
The parking was free during our stay, the service was outstanding, and we actually spent the whole morning lying in bed enjoying the breakfast and the view.
Although this option doesn’t have a pool, we originally were looking to stay at Trouville Hotel which is only five minutes away from the Bournemouth Observation Wheel and features a heated indoor pool with spa, sauna, and fitness center.
Both hotels belong to the same hotel chain called Oceana Collection, among all nine absolutely amazing options.
Is it safe in Bournemouth?
Bournemouth like Poole is a relatively safe place for family days out. There is no problem to walk around during the daylight and we found it quite safe and entertaining during the night too.
There is a lot of teenagers and students because Bournemouth is proud to have one of the most popular language schools in the UK. But rather than that, everyone is friendly, helpful, and kind to each other following the general rules.
It is an absolutely safe place to go with kids. On the beach, we were approached by one organization that was distributing paper wristbands for children free of charge. All you needed to do is to put your phone number in case if your baby slips away from your sight. Think it will never happen to you? Better to arm yourself with all possible gadgets as kids can disappear in a split of a second, especially if the beach is overcrowded!
Free things to do in Bournemouth
Golden sandy beaches of Bournemouth and Poole
One thing that is forever free in Bournemouth is the entrance to the beach, and this is one of the best things to do in Bournemouth with toddlers. Bournemouth seafront is spectacular! The best thing about Bournemouth is that it is filled with an incredibly gorgeous set of sandy beaches. Our child just loved bathing himself with sand anywhere we went.
What to do in Bournemouth Beach and Bournemouth Pier
This beach is one of the nearest to Bournemouth, and it is proud to offer everything you can think of doing during a family beach holiday. It happens to have one of the best family attractions in the UK. Right next to it, there is Oceanarium, famous Bournemouth Big Wheel, and loads of different Bournemouth Pier amusements.
Among all the Bournemouth beach attractions, you will find dozens of ice-cream and specialty food trucks fill the square spaces. You can get everything there from German sausages, Greek gyros to traditional Cornish pasties. Right in front of the beach, there is the most popular fish and chips restaurant that is proud to serve the best fish and chips in the town.
On Bournemouth Pier, you will find a whole variety of outdoor activities and water sports by visiting the Rock Reef Activity Centre. You can easily spend there a half of the day trying zipline, climbing, highlines with no prior experience. It is also suitable for kids age 4+. More about it in our Bournemouth sports section.
Bournemouth Beach may get quite lively at times, but if it is, you have got plenty of choices to make your days out in Bournemouth perfect.
Let’s see what other nearby beaches are about to offer and you are good to pick the right side!
To your right…
Durley Chine Beach, Bournemouth
Less than 15 minutes’ walk on the seaside promenade and you will get to the ocean oasis with a family-friendly vibe called Durley Chine Beach. There is a possibility to rent one of the tiny beautiful huts for the afternoon tea.
Also, at Durley Chine, you can hop on the land train which is a lot of fun for your children. It goes straight to Poole across the entire coastal promenade. Not only you can enjoy gorgeous views but also get to the other beaches further the way much quicker than walking. Otherwise, it may take a little bit over an hour to walk.
On the way from Bournemouth Pier, you can enjoy the ride by West Cliff Lift to reach the cliff tops or admire the stunning views.
See the prices and operation hours for land train and West Cliff lift in this special edition.
Durley Chine Beach offers baby changing facilities, lifeguard stations, ice-creams, and even a pub on the promenade. What can be better for a family vacation!
Alum Chine Beach, Bournemouth
Alum Chine Beach is the next from Durley Chine. It is only 7 minutes’ walk, and by far, it is our favorite kids-friendly beach.
Apart from the golden sandy beach and purely turquoise water, Alum Chine is full of Bournemouth activities for kids. There are children’s water play area and Alum Chine Play Park that is located right behind the restaurant Vesuvio. This is just an amazing combination as you can enjoy your beer or glass of wine while watching your child play. There are a huge fun slide and a pirate-themed wooden house with all sorts of climbing challenges for little feet. Even parents can take a chance to have fun there too.
The restaurant Vesuvio is very family-friendly offering kids’ menu, baby changing room, and highchairs. As everywhere we traveled in the UK, kids’ menu gets limited to little pizza, pasta, or chicken nuggets.
Spyglass Point next to the play park area offers amazing seafront views and so great pictures to your collection.
Beach huts are available to hire all year round from the local beach office. The prices start at £40. Call 01202 451781 for availability and prices.
Branksome Chine Beach, Bournemouth
The next one is Branksome Chine Beach, which is only 13 minutes away from Alum Chine Beach. Again, you will love the sandy beach experience on one of your days out in Poole. There is a pier that offers great pictures of the beach.
Branksome Chine Beach boasts Spa services and various beach activities. Stretching over 1km either side of Boscombe Pier, there is everything from sports courts and water sports to bouldering and slacklining. Clearly, this beach is full of things to do in Bournemouth for adults too!
Canford Cliffs Beach, Bournemouth
Another 17 minutes and you are about to reach Canford Cliffs Beach.
If you wish to enjoy the beach experience with the least tourist possible, Canford Cliffs are the right choice for you. Although it is recommended to access this beach from Sandbanks or Branksome Chine, you will never regret your experience.
This beach with a blue flag status offers picturesque wooden huts, a range of restaurants, and shops. It is also one of the most popular areas for locals. Consider it a hidden gem.
Dogs are not allowed to this beach.
Sandbanks Beach, Bournemouth
Sandbanks are considered to be one of Britain’s best beaches! No wonder as it boasts some great facilities offering mini and regular golf courses, different children play areas, fine golden sand, sparkling clean waters, and breath-taking views.
To your left…
There are also amazing beaches on the other side of the Bournemouth Pier to your left.
Boscombe Beach, Bournemouth
Half an hour walk along the seaside promenade and you are about to enjoy golden sandy Boscombe beach. This beach resort is perfect for your family offering a pier, lifeguard service, toilets, a variety of water sports, and Kidzone activities for your children.
Southbourne Beach, Bournemouth
Just in 20 minutes from Boscombe beach, you will reach Southbourne beach that is also the Blue Flag award-winning beach. Likewise Sandbanks, this beach offers a golf course and the cliff lift. On the clifftop, you can find a lot of ice-cream and snack options for your family.
As you can see, there is a vast variety of beaches in Bournemouth and Poole. And I must tell, the vibe is so relaxing and friendly.
Feel free to choose the beach that is nearest to your accommodation.
But is Bournemouth only about Blue Flag award-winning golden sandy beaches? Wrong!
On top of that, it offers an amazing spectrum of sports activities and absolutely gorgeous places to visit.
Important to know! Tips and Tricks to Travel in Bournemouth
- If you plan to spend only one night in Bournemouth and you come from London, try to depart as early as possible to avoid traffic and enjoy the rest of the day. We recommend leaving home by 6:30 am, especially when you travel with kids.
- There are paid parking spaces everywhere and they are quite expensive. Prepare in advance and book the parking space through JustPark, it will save you a lot of stress.
- Pretty much everything closes by 5 pm, so try to start your day early.
- All beaches in Bournemouth are golden sandy offering a variety of water sports from kite surfing to paddleboarding.
Check out the ultimate guide to Bournemouth Attractions for Families now and plan your best itinerary!
Enjoy Your Stay in Bournemouth!
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Also, check out:
- Bournemouth Attractions for Families.
- Free Things To Do In Dorset With Kids or Without.
- Things To Do In Cornwall For Families.
- Day Trips From London For Families.
- Best UK Beaches for Kids + Map, Tips & Family Holidays.
- Family Days Out: Best Places to Hike in the UK + Map, Tips & Family Holidays.
- 15+ must-see and FREE things to do in London with a baby.
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