Bournemouth hidden gems: much more than you’d think
Whether you are a local or tourist, Bournemouth is amust-visit. With temperatures hitting 29 degree this weekend, the summer season is well underway. Not a resident? There are loads of brilliant hotels in Bournemouth with prices to suit all pockets.
This year – having been named the UK’s best beach in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards for the second year in a row – Bournemouth is building on its reputation as a pleasant surprise that surpasses expectations.
Read on for your essential guide to Bournemouth below the gallery of high jinks from the best weekend for weather so far this year.
You can do so much in Bournemouth in just one day – but to explore the area at leisure, free up a weekend and focus on the town’s amazing independent businesses, who continue to thrive year-round. I started my day with a double espresso at Flirt Cafe Bar.
Flirt is a quirky and cosy cafe is situated in Bournemouth’s ‘Soho’ district – the Triangle – so I treated myself to a taxi from the station to make my morning as stress-free as possible. Download the United Taxis app or look for the iconic yellow cabs right outside the station.
Flirt has fabulously friendly staff who happily dug out four brown sugar sachets to sweeten my morning. If you are visiting at a lunchtime, I recommend the Bubble Teas. Elsewhere on the Triangle, Espresso Kitchen is another great place to start your day. Boldly positioned opposite a Starbucks, it is doing so well that there are plans to open another outlet later in the year. No stomach for coffee? Try their green smoothies, which are popular with the gym bunnies working out before they hit the beach. They also sell gluten-free and vegan cakes – all homemade – and offer almond milk for those with dietary requirements.
Bournemouth pier gets better every year. From street food stalls, to crazy golf in the Lower Gardens, to the Big Wheel and other seaside attractions, there truly is something for all the family. You can even buy your dog an ice cream if you so desire!
If you are flexible with your travel dates, you may like to book your break around one of the town’s iconic family festivals! With a programme that covers all seasons, you can tie your visit in with one of our major events and boost your Bournemouth break.
As well as stunning views across the bay, framed by the Isle of Wight on one side and the Purbeck hills on the other, Bournemouth Pier also boasts a wide and varied selection of attractions, entertainments and retail outlets to make any visit to Bournemouth memorable.
At the entrance of the pier, you can leave the kids at the Pier Amusements Family Entertainment Centre. It costs £1.60 for access to the pier, which is the ideal place to take photos. There is an arcade and the iconic PierZip and Rock Reef.
But I was looking for a more relaxing day, so I headed to Key West for their Mini Breakfast (£6.25). The morning menu is served until 11.30am and my breakfast arrived piping hot with two slices of fresh toast, with several pats of butter. The bacon was well done, how I like it – the sausage, a little under done, but the grilled tomato was sublime, perfect for adding to the toast.
They also recently launched a new menu for lunch, available from midday, including fish and chips – of course! It’s something I know my parents would love and I can’t wait to book a beach day with them later on in the summer. Kew West Restaurant is so chilled out compared to the hustle and bustle of the beach. Sit outside to soak up the atmosphere without the crowds (or sand in your shoes!) and use the on-pier telescopes to spy on boats out on the bay.
It's great to see 'The Big Wheel' tourist attraction back at Pier Approach! 🙌
Where is your favourite spot to explore in #Bournemouth? 🎡 ✨
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— Holiday Inn Bournemouth (@HolidayInnBMTH) June 30, 2019
From Key West, I took a short stroll to catch the City Sightseeing bus from behind Hot Rocks. Top tip – head to GroupOn to save £1 on your tour. I downloaded the ticket to my phone so it was one less expense to fret about.
With inside and outside seats, this attraction is weather proof. Bournemouth pier is stop 1. Bus stop 15 is another must for CitySightseers, The Poole Quay & Old Town. This was one of the main ports used by Britain to trade with the Roman Empire before the Romans arrived. It is a very lively port where you can often see coastal freighters being loaded and unloaded.
Another great place to hop off and on is at Canford Cliffs, stop 6. Explore the rambling gardens and soak up the silence before heading back to the beach. I went back via Alum Chine, hopping on the land train to explore some of Bournemouth’s seven miles of award-winning beaches.
Back to the Lower Gardens and Square for a browse around the shop, there was so much entertainment. From contemporary dancers outside Debenhams, to fire jugglers in the Lower Gardens, to Bournemouth and District Concert Band in the bandstand, you could rent a deckchair and while away the afternoon people-watching and catching up with the Sunday papers.
The Victorian gardens are loved by all ages and split into three distinct sections. They start at the Lower Gardens, close to the sea, and lead through the Central Gardens onto the Upper Gardens which end in Poole.
The bandstand has been making music to entertain the masses since 1893. According to the Bournemouth Echo, the Pier bandstand was built in 1885, and the Pine Walk stand, in the Gardens, was built in 1884.
Back to the Pier and Aruba is a fabulous bar/restaurant with stunning sea views. The cocktails are popular so be patient if there is a line at the bar! Their wood-fired pizzas are awesome; I opted for chilli cheese fries (£4.50) as I was still full from my morning fry up. I bagged a table inside with comfortable banquettes but there is a seperate dining area if you are celebrating something special. Groups are advised to book, especially on weekends. During the week, they run various 2-4-1 promotions: trry Thursdays burger special, great value for money.
My final stop on my uber-relaxed Sunday session was Forever Gorgeous, the spa at the Queens Hotel on Eastcliff. A brisk walk helped me work off the chilli cheese fries so I was ready for a lie down and a bit of pampering. Run by Hollie Power from beautybusinesssuperstars.com (pictured), it’s been tending to my muscle niggles for 10 years and continues to attract regulars, tourists, hen dos – anyone in need of pampering.
To celebrate a decade in business, they have launched an indulgent cupcake ritual. The one-hour session costs £45 and promotes top to toe beauty. My therapist Elise immediately put me at ease and, to be honest, it was nice to get out of the sun before the train home.
To start, an invigorating strawberry cupcake scrub sloughed the dry skin off my back,. Hot towels and a firm back, neck, shoulder massage broke down toxins and eased my aching shoulders. Too much texting? Perhaps.
My newly clean skin was then engulfed in body butter; I was wrapped up and a scalp and foot massage soon had me snoozing. I awoke refreshed and relaxed, ready to tackle the train home with super-smooth skin and a zen-like aura. Even a one-hour delay at my second changing point at Salisbury didn’t phase me.
Need some ideas for the nighttime? The new BH2 complex in the heart of Bournemouth, teems with restaurants and attractions including a 10-screen multiplex cinema. Committed to adding value to people’s holidays, Bournemouth has a packed programme of festivals
and events throughout the year, making it so much more than just a great place by the sea.
With eight Blue Flag beaches and 10 Seaside Awards, an award-winning, multi-million-pound project to landscape the waterfront, and Leave Only Footprints – a successful campaign aimed at encouraging residents, visitors and workers to be more environmentally conscious – Bournemouth’s vision for a world-class seafront is fast becoming a reality.
Now plan your perfect Bournemouth break!
Pick up on-trend neon beachwear at Primark
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Let’s meet for coffee
Disclosure: This is paid partnership with Hotels.com. All views, opinions and photos are my own.
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