They were eager to sample the relaxing ambience of the town, breathe its healthy air, bathe in the pure seawater and unwind at leisure. In Tess of the D'Urbervilles Thomas Hardy generously described Bournemouth (alias Sandbourne) as "a Mediterranean lounging place on the English Channel". The aroma and perfume of the pine trees were considered health-giving and many a famous person came here to take advantage of it including J.R.R. Tolkien and D.H. Lawrence.
The first spa hotel was built in 1885 - the Mont Dore Hotel (now Bournemouth's Town Hall). Apart from luxury rooms and tennis courts, the hotel also offered the Mont Dore cure which was said to be a healing water and could not be found anywhere else in England. Sea and pure water from the Bourne stream were pumped into the basement of the hotel to allow the additional luxury of soaking and perspiring in Turkish and salt baths.
Since then, Bournemouth has grown into a thriving seaside resort and many of the big hotels offer spa treatments of their own as well as spa and beauty boutiques peppered throughout the town centre catering for men and women.
The pine trees still exist and visitors can still stroll through Pine Walk in Bournemouth Gardens today to breath in the healthy air. During the summer, the Pine Walk Open Air Art Exhibition is held here.
Bournemouth's growing population of students, gays and surfers have given it a more bohemian image than a typical south coast retirement town, leading to the nickname "BoMo".
Bournemouth is famous for its year-round mild and temperate climate. The warmest months are May to September which is when you will enjoy long, hot and sunny days. It can get very cold in the depths of winter though, and will sometimes reach temperatures below zero. Bournemouth's annual rainfall is well below the national average. Take a look at the latest Bournemouth weather forecast before planning a trip.
Unless travelling from the South-West of England most journeys by road will be via the M27 which turns into the dual-carriageway A31 and passes through the New Forest. At Ringwood look for the (A338) Bournemouth exit.
Care is necessary when entering into Bournemouth on the Wessex Way as there are numerous speed cameras.
Only those with a penchant for long queues of congestion should think about arriving at mid-day/early afternoon on a warm and sunny day! It is strongly advised to either get there very early or even arrive the evening beforehand otherwise you will be sitting in traffic for a considerable length of time on the A31.
Bournemouth station is served by SouthWest Trains from London Waterloo and other locations on the South coast, such as Poole and Weymouth. It is served by express and semi-fast services which continue to Weymouth, and a slow service which terminates in Poole.
CrossCountry trains from Manchester via Birmingham New Street terminate at Bournemouth, some trains arrive from other cities like Nottingham and Newcastle. Summer sees a wider variety of places linked directly to Bournemouth.
Greyhound and National Express Bus from London direct (approx. 2 hours 30 minutes).
address: HurnA few airlines fly directly into Bournemouth Airport from various destinations throughout Europe.
Bournemouth airport has no train station however shuttle bus services operate.
You can fly to Southampton Airport and take the train into Bournemouth (35-45 mins £12.50).
Bournemouth is small enough to walk around, but local bus services operate frequently within the town centre. Bus services are generally good (particularly in the East-West direction), but there is a wrinkle: the town is served by two companies who do not accept each other's tickets.
They are the "yellow" Bournemouth buses, whose service extends to Christchurch and the east; and the "blue" Wilts and Dorset buses, whose routes extend more to Poole and the west. The main termini are at the rail station and the Square.
Taxi services in Bournemouth are cheap for short journeys, with an initial charge of approximately £2. It is best to call for a cab rather than to queue at a rank near Holdenhurst for the best fare.
The station is a hike (10 or 15 minutes, uphill) from the centre, so consider transport.
The Square is the name given to the open space where the Tourist Information office is, the main gardens are, the pier can be accessed, and the river Bourne empties (although it is not in fact particularly square). It is naturally the lowest point in central Bournemouth, so you can generally aim for it by walking downhill.
The main shopping area is due inland/north from the Square. Old Christchurch Road (note the 'Old') marks the upper limit of the main shopping area. Holdenhurst Road, leading from Old Christchurch Road to the station, is a student area of late-night takeaways. Christchurch Road (without the "Old") is a very long road leading out of the town centre to the town of the same name several miles to the west, with the Boscombe and Pokesdown strung along it.
West Cliff is the clifftop, seafront area overlooking the Square, where there is collection of upmarket hotels and the International Centre.
The Triangle, Bournemouth's gay village and specialist shopping area, is up Commercial Road from the Square.
Further west is Westbourne, a very twee and cute area of boutiques and cafes, mostly along Seamoor Road, and its associated arcade. Popular with an older clientelle, it is not particularly jumping at night.
West Bournemouth eventually merges with Poole. About halfway between them and worth a visit is Lower Parkstone, a small area of specialist shops and trendy eateries that resembles a mini-Brighton.
Bournemouth's scruffy little brother to the east is Boscombe, with a population inclining towards foreign workers, and towards surfers and other idlers. The O2 Academy, and antique shops (particularly toward the Pokesdown end) are the main draws.
Bournemouth is famous for its 7 miles of golden sandy beaches and clean seas. The beach has retained the international Blue Flag award status since it was introduced in 1996 and in 2011 also secured 4 Blue Flag awards for Alum Chine beach, Durley Chine beach, Fisherman’s Walk beach and Southbourne beach.
The Pier is almost in the middle of the beach and offers a small fair, boat trips, an arcade, a café/bar and some other shops.
Museums and galleries
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museumphone: +44 1202 451800address: Russell Cotes Rd, BH1 3ABThis museum and gallery has some wonderful collections of 19th-century art and Japanese artifacts. The interior of the museum is worth seeing because it is lavishly decorated and shows the Victorian interests in eccentric collecting and other cultures, especially Japan and China. Admission free.
phone: +44 1202 533011address: Wallisdown, Poole, BH12 5HHAt the Arts University Bournemouth. It runs artist talks, school workshops, events and film nights to support the exhibition programme.
phone: +44 1202 961428address: Poole House, Bournemouth University, Fern Barrow, Poole, BH12 5BB
phone: +44 1202 290986address: Hinton Rd, BH1 2EEThe famous author Mary Shelly who wrote Frankenstein is buried in the churchyard of this church along with the heart of her husband the Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelly.
Bournemouth Hebrew Congregationphone: +44 1202 557433address: Wootton Gardens, BH1 1PWBuilt in 1905 in what would have been then a contemporary Art Nouveau take on the Moorish Revival style that was extremely popular for synagogues.
phone: +44 1202 983983address: Pier Approach, BH2 5AAIncludes a theatre.
address: BH2 6EY
Bournemouth International Centrephone: +44 1202 055555address: Exeter Rd, BH2 5BHHosts conferences and is the largest music venue in the town. The BIC has become a venue for a round of Premier League Darts in addition.
phone: +44 1202 451773address: Undercliff Dr, BH5 1
phone: +44 1202 311993address: Pier Approach, BH2 5AA
phone: +44 1202 451870address: Westover Rd, BH1 2BU
Bournemouth International Centreaddress: Exeter Rd, BH2 5BHConcerts and exhibitions.
Bournenmouth Air FestivalFree, every August.
address: Town CentreBournemouth's annual gay pride festival Bourne Free.
ChinesExplore a series of picturesque ravines in the cliff. Can be combined with a stroll along the seafront.
phone: +44 1202 555552address: 45-47 Westover Rd, BH1 2BZA large arcade, slot machines and entertainment centre.
Watch football (ie soccer) at address: Vitality Stadium, King's Park Drive BH7 7AFThey play in the Premier League, the top tier of English football. Their 11,360-capacity stadium is very small by Premier League standards and the club are looking to build a replacement.
- Cricket and bowls are played by a lot of locals and are easy to get involved in. Swimming, windsurfing and kite-surfing is popular as is (normal) surfing to a lesser extent.
Bournemouth has a good range of shops with mainly well known high street outlets in the centre but also many independent shops. Examples of large stores are Beales, Dingles, Debenhams and Marks & Spencers. The Boscombe area is well known for its many antique shops and for those who are into designer, vintage, and specialist clothes, Westbourne offers a good variety of designer boutiques.
For out of town shopping the massive Castlepoint Shopping centre is easily accessible by public transport, although there is little else to do in the area
address: 8 Albert Rd, BH1 1BZIndependent skate, streetwear and sneaker store.
Bournemouth has many different restaurants suiting different tastes and budgets. The Old Christchurch Road at the "top" of the main shopping area has a string of low to mid-range eateries alternating with your orientated bars and clubs. There is another crop of eateries in the West Cliff area (around the International Centre), and in the Triangle, and in Westbourne. The number of takeaways in Bournemouth has also increased over the years, offering a cheap alternative to a restaurant meal.
Tapas PlusAuthentic, independent Spanish restaurant, between the Square and the Town Hall.
- Aruba - On Bournemouth Pier has a fantastic menu based on the caribbean with outstanding decor a must see when in Bournemouth.
phone: +44 1202 203601address: Exeter RdUpmarket fish restaurant, opposite the BIC.
- Jumbo (Lansdown Rd) - All you can eat Chinese; you'll eat plenty as the food is fantastic!
phone: +44 1202 396234address: Boscombe Spa RoadBrasserie with innovative menus, stunning views and comprehensive wine list.
- Dosa World (260 Old Christchurch Rd). South Indian restaurant with many unusual specialities. Good value lunchtime buffet.
- Oriental Garden (105 Commercial Road). Affordable Chinese restaurant with super-authentic dim sum — crispy squid, deep-fried turnip paste, curried whelks, etc. Also a more typical menu.
- Atlantic Fish Restaurant (6, The Triangle) combines British fish-and-chips with a more continental approach in the sit-down section. Large portions mean good value.
- West Beach - Excellent frontline seafood restaurant adjacent to Bournemouth Pier. Definitely not cheap, but aboard the beachfront decked area, about as close to dining Californian-style as you'll get in the UK!
- Himalay (10 Queens Road). Indian restaurant and takeaway with unusual Nepalese specialities.
Chez FredAn excellent fish and chip restaurant and takeaway, as attested by long queues.
Isabel'sRomantic restaurant with reliable French cuisine in trendy Ashley Cross.
Urban BeachA boutique hotel and trendy bistro between the High Street and Pier.
- Tomlins (Seabourne Grove, Southbourne). A popular fish and chip shop. Open until late.
address: Exeter Rd, BH2 5AQAn outstanding Wetherspoon's pub when it is quiet, dreadful when it is not. It is in an old department store, with outside seating and great views of the gardens from its two floors, and a good selection of guest ales. Idiot central on Friday and Saturday nights, though.
address: 1812 Exeter Rd, BH2 5BYA swanky jazz music night club in the first mansion in Bournemouth.
Goat and TricycleThe town's top real ale pub, located just off the Triangle and serving at least 10 varieties, also popular for its food.
Smokin' AcesA small "Cocktail Bar and Whisky Lounge" in the Triangle, with live acts.
Winchesteraddress: 39 Poole HillA music and DJ venue. Rather peculiar, very dark inside with a rather cliquey crowd, but good acts.
Sixty Million PostcardsPainfully hip and arty bar, bistro, club and live venue, in a building that looks like a huge, graffiti'd garage on the way to West Cliff from the Square. Definitely not for everybody.
HaloClubbing in a refurbished church.
2930 The TriangleThe biggest gay venue in Bournemouth, set over two floors.
Daisy O'Brien'saddress: 77 Old Christchurch RdOne of the few traditional pubs in the town centre, with low prices.
address: 260 Old Christchurch RdAt the far end of the Old Christchurch Road strip (number 260), this Irish pub has live music most nights and attracts the slightly quieter kind of student.
The PorterhouseA traditional pub (Ringwood's) in the cute and quaint Westbourne district, a little to the west of the centre.
The Bermuda TriangleWackilly decorated pub with ever-changing real ales. In the trendy Lower Parkstone district, well to the west of the centre.
Mr KypsOne of the area's top rock music venues is next door.
Old Fire StationMedium-sized live entertainment venue in the Holdenhurst Road studentland. Run by the Student's Union of Bournemouth University.
Chaplin'saddress: Boscombe High StWine bar and cellar bar. This two-in-one venue offers some kind of live music most days of the week. Continental beers and acoustic music in the wine bar on top, real ale in the scruffy cellar where the louder acts play.
address: Boscombe Spa RoadStylish bar and brasserie - spectacular views, great atmosphere with a wide range of drinks and cocktails.
O2 AcademyThe former Opera House vies with the BIC as the town's main entertainment centre, with major acts and club nights.
phone: +44 871 222 0037address: Meyrick Road Lansdowne
phone: +44 1202 295819address: 19 Bath Rd, BH1 2EPA cheap hotel at £35 per night. Handy for the beach – 200 m away down Bath Road.
phone: +44 8719 846257address: 43 Christchurch Rd, BH1 3PHOffers budget accommodation.
Premier InnOn Westover Road (+44 871 527 8124), at 47 Christchurch Road towards Boscombe Gardens (+44 871 527 8126), and at 8 Poole Road (+44 871 527 8128) in Westbourne.
address: Boscombe Spa RoadComfortable hotel with leisure facilities and choice of dining. Sea and garden views with easy access to beach and surf reef.
address: Knyveton Road, BH1 3QQThe Carrington House Hotel in Bournemouth is perfect for a short break, family holiday or relaxing weekend stay from which to explore the areas many attractions whatever the time of year.
phone: +44 1202 551911address: 11 West Cliff Road, BH2 5EUOn the prestigious Bournemouth West Cliff, the Wessex Hotel is just a short walk from the town centre, Bournemouth International Centre and Blue Flag beaches.
phone: +44 871 221 0204address: Bath Rd, BH1 2EWCentral for shopping and the beach.
- The very well-heeled town of Christchurch is about a 15-minute journey east of Bournemouth. It is a couple of hours of very pleasant walking along the cliffs. The Regent Arts Centre tends to be the main attraction. If you do not yacht, you may not fit in!
- Poole, a similar distance to west boasts a long shopping street and the atmosphere of a working port and fishing town. It can be used a stop-off for a sea journey to Brownsea Island, Purbeck, Swanage, etc. The Lighthouse arts centre is the cultural magnet.
- Corfe Castle - approximately 1½ hours away by bus through Sandbanks, the 4th most expensive post code in the world and the Isle of Purbeck - part of a World Heritage coastal zone. One option is to take the open top bus via the Sandbanks ferry in the summer for approx £5 from central Bournemouth and change at Swanage.
- The New Forest - half an hour way to the east