15 Best Things to Do In and Around Bournemouth

Uncover the coastal charm of Bournemouth, a vibrant seaside resort teeming with a delightful range of attractions.

From sun-soaked Bournemouth beaches, ideal for water sports and coastal walks, to the town centre’s bustling local markets, there’s an attraction for everybody.

To help you plan your Bournemouth sightseeing itinerary, we feature 15 top visitor attractions in and around this bustling resort.

1. Visit Bournemouth Beach

Bournemouth Beach boasts miles of pristine golden sands framed by a shimmering sea.

Consistently ranked among the best beaches in the UK, it presents an idyllic setting for sunbathing, sandcastle building, or plunging into the invigorating sea.

The bustling promenade brims with delightful cafés, iconic beach huts, and ideal spots to relish the classic fish and chips.

Events like the vibrant summer fireworks and annual air show add an extra layer of excitement.

A day at Bournemouth Beach encapsulates a classic coastal escapade, interweaving leisure, entertainment, and breathtaking scenic allure.

2. Take a Walk on Bournemouth Pier

Bournemouth Pier

Bournemouth Pier stands as an iconic symbol of this seaside town, jutting out into the azure expanse of the English Channel.

A hive of activity, the pier is a must-visit whether you fancy a tranquil walk or adrenaline-fueled fun.

Marvel at the panoramic views of the coastline as you meander along its length, or satisfy your thrill-seeking spirit with a ride on the PierZip, the world’s first pier-to-shore zip line.

The pier also hosts an array of entertainment facilities, including an indoor climbing and obstacle course, a golfing adventure, and various eateries.

Visiting Bournemouth Pier offers an eclectic mix of relaxation, fun, and spectacular seaside vistas.

3. Experience the Oceanarium Bournemouth

Embark on an underwater voyage at the Oceanarium Bournemouth, a captivating attraction perched on the picturesque seafront.

Home to a diverse range of aquatic species, from the English Channel to the tropics, the Oceanarium offers an enlightening peek into the world beneath the waves.

Highlights include the mesmerising underwater tunnel, immersive enclosures such as the Great Barrier Reef exhibit and interactive feeding sessions.

Don’t miss the adorable otters and curious penguins, favourites among visitors of all ages.

A trip to the Oceanarium is both a fun-filled outing and an educational journey into the fascinating world of marine life.

4. Go to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

Step into a world of art, culture, and history at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum.

This treasure trove is nestled within a stunning Victorian villa and is prime destination for visitors looking for Bournemouth museums and art galleries.

The museum showcases a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, and artifacts gathered by Annie and Merton Russell-Cotes during their global travels.

Outside, the beautifully manicured garden offers sweeping sea views.

A visit to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum offers an intriguing blend of cultural enlightenment and aesthetic pleasure, all within a historic and picturesque setting.

5. Relax in Bournemouth Lower Gardens

This Victorian-era garden, flanked by the town centre and the seafront, is a haven of tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle.

Stroll along its winding paths, past vibrant flower beds, majestic trees, and meticulously maintained lawns.

Take a moment to admire the aviary, home to a variety of exotic birds. If you’re visiting in summer, you might catch a live band performance at the bandstand or enjoy a whimsical ride on the garden’s iconic balloon.

Bournemouth Lower Gardens is a lovely green space that’s a testament to the town’s rich botanical heritage and love for the arts.

6. Enjoy the Bournemouth Aviation Museum

Journey into the fascinating world of flight at the Bournemouth Aviation Museum.

This hands-on museum brings aviation history to life, with a focus on the technological advancements and human stories behind it.

Roam among the impressive collection of aircraft, some of which you can climb aboard for an immersive experience.

From military jets to civilian planes, you’ll gain a unique perspective of their design and functionality.

Interactive exhibits, engaging displays and knowledgeable volunteers make this museum an enlightening and entertaining visit.

The Museum offers a remarkable insight into the evolution of aviation and is one of the most popular Bournemouth attractions.

7. Take a Ride on the Bournemouth Big Wheel

Bournemouth Big Wheel

Experience Bournemouth from new heights on the Bournemouth Big Wheel, a towering Ferris wheel that offers breathtaking panoramas of the town and beyond.

As you ascend, watch as the seafront, gardens, and town come into view, their features miniature against the vast backdrop of sea and sky.

It’s worth taking a ride during the day and night.

In daylight hours, you’ll be able to enjoy some stunning seascapes, while at night the twinkling lights of Bournemouth are a sight to behold.

The Bournemouth Big Wheel provides a unique vantage point to appreciate the charm of this seaside town in all its glory.

And if you’re looking for things to do in Bournemouth at night, we’d recommend you take a ride.

8. Go to the Square

This lively hub is where the town’s main shopping streets intersect.

It’s a vibrant blend of bustling commerce, eclectic dining and frequent public events.

Fringed by the Lower Gardens, it’s ideal for people-watching or taking a break from shopping.

Seasonal events, like the Christmas market and live music performances, add to its charm.

The Square’s landmark, the Obscura Café, houses one of the world’s largest pinhole cameras, offering a unique view of the surroundings.

A great place to unwind between visiting the many Bournemouth attractions.

9. Unwind at Compton Acres

Delve into the beauty of Compton Acres, one of the UK’s finest privately-owned gardens.

Located a short drive from Bournemouth, this horticultural gem spans ten acres and showcases seven distinct themed gardens.

From the Italian Garden’s classical elegance to the Japanese Garden’s tranquil beauty, each area offers a unique sensory experience.

A garden centre and cafe can also be found onsite allowing you to relax and refresh in idyllic surroundings.

10. Visit Boscome Market

Immerse yourself in Bournemouth’s local buzz at Boscombe Market, a vibrant, open-air marketplace.

This lively market springs to life twice a week and comprises  an eclectic mix of stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, artisanal delicacies, fashionable clothing and antiques.

Engage with the cordial vendors, each with their unique stories and products, as you navigate this busy community hub.

Boscombe Market is a cherished staple of the town’s local charm

11. Take a Trip to Highcliffe Castle

About 10 miles from Bournemouth, this Grade I listed mansion elegantly fuses Romantic and Gothic architectural styles.

Set on the edge of cliffs, the castle affords fantastic views out over the English Channel.

Venture within to discover the beautifully restored rooms, which narrate the tale of its intriguing history and notable residents.

Outside, the castle is surrounded by well-kept gardens and trails leading to the nearby beach.

If you’re looking for things to do in Bournemouth, then we’d strongly recommend Highcliffe Castle.

12. Enjoy a Day Trip to Adventure Wonderland

Enjoy a Day Trip to Adventure Wonderland

Photo: adventurewonderland.co.uk

Within a ten-minute drive is Adventure Wonderland, an award-winning theme park on the outskirts of Bournemouth.

This enchanting destination, primarily designed for families with young children, offers an assortment of rides and attractions.

Children can let their imaginations run wild in the mystical maze and ‘Cuddle Corner’ petting farm.

The park, with its Alice in Wonderland theme, also hosts seasonal events and performances, promising year-round entertainment.

A day at Adventure Wonderland is sure to be a hit, filled with laughs, thrills and heart-warming family moments.

13. Visit the Kingfisher Barn Visitor Centre

There are numerous Bournemouth nature reserves to enjoy – Stour Valley is perhaps the most famous.

You can begin your exploration of at the Kingfisher Barn Visitor Centre.

This eco-friendly hub is a short drive from Bournemouth and offers insightful information about the local flora, fauna and various walking trails that meander through the reserve.

From riverside walks to birdwatching, the nature reserve offers a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

Inside are interactive exhibits and activities designed to educate visitors about the local wildlife.

There’s also an on-site cafe – ideal for a snack or hot drink.

Kingfisher Barn Visitor Centre is the perfect starting point for exploring the beautiful Stour Valley.

14. Discover Hengistbury Head

Hengistbury Head, a distinctive headland guarding the entrance to Christchurch Harbour, offers unrivalled vistas across Bournemouth.

This nature haven boasts diverse environments from woodland to wetlands and coastal zones, making it a refuge for a myriad of wildlife.

Traversing the well-trodden paths or hitching a ride on the charming land train, you can reach the summit where remnants of an ancient Iron Age hill fort remain.

The on-site visitor centre provides engaging exhibits, illuminating the area’s rich history and ecological diversity.

Hengistbury Head provides a stirring fusion of natural beauty and centuries-old human narrative, wrapped in a scenic panorama.

15. See Poole Harbour

Behold the natural splendour of Poole Harbour, a vast haven of calm waters and diverse ecosystems that’s a stone’s throw from Bournemouth.

As one of the UK’s largest natural harbours, it’s a visual spectacle and a refuge for a plethora of wildlife.

Indulge in a variety of activities from yachting and angling to observing the resident bird species or exploring its distinct islands.

Notably, Brownsea Island stands out as a wildlife sanctuary and a historical site celebrated as the cradle of the global Scouting and Guiding movement.

As you traverse the harbour’s edge, admire the sight of moored yachts and the picturesque Purbeck Hills forming a magnificent backdrop.

Given how close Poole is, its harbour should really be part of any Bournemouth sightseeing itinerary.

For more ideas about things to do in Bournemouth, visit the official tourist site.

We’ve also written a guide to offbeat attractions in Bournemouth in case you’re looking to go off the main tourist trail.

Dale Shelabarger

Dale is the owner and founder of Cottages to Rent which he launched back in 2005. As well as promoting holiday cottages, Dale blogs regularly about top UK holiday destinations, visitor attractions and places of historical interest.