Being situated on Europe's largest harbour, Poole has always looked to the sea for its prosperity. This has shaped its character as a town of merchants, mariners and foreign influences. Much of Poole's rich history still survives in the Old Town with an exciting mix of smugglers' passageways and elegant houses built by rich merchants in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Poole 'Cockle Trail', which was opened in 1998 to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Poole's first charter, traces the town's heritage. Download a free copy of the Poole Cockle Trail (PDF, 1494 kB) and follow the numbered cockle signs set into the ground, which link with the numbers in the text.
Life in Poole is stylish, fun and a joy for visitors. Where else can you enjoy some of the best watersports, museums, restaurants and bars, or simple walks along the most breathtaking waterside location in England? And at the end of the day, enjoy the sunset over Poole Harbour, which is unequalled anywhere else in the world. Dolphin Haven and a new breakwater have been established to provide sheltered berthing for yachts and a stunning backdrop and atmosphere to the new face of Poole Quay. It is also home to the town's famous fishing fleet serving some of the best seafood restaurants.
Poole Harbour is Europe's largest natural harbour and provides a stunning location for all types of watersports, such as sailing, windsurfing, wakeboarding and kitesurfing.
Brownsea Island is the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour. Owned by the National Trust, its dramatic location affords spectacular views across to Studland, Old Harry Rocks and the Purbeck Hills. Brownsea Island offers a peaceful, natural setting, which is ideal for walks, picnics and exploring. The island is home to nationally and internationally important wildlife, including rare red squirrels. Natural habitats include pinewoods, heathland, shoreline and lagoon where breeding and overwintering birds collect. Brownsea Island has a fascinating and varied history, including use as a daffodil farm, pottery works and a decoy to protect Poole during the Second World War. Robert Baden-Powell held the first experimental scout camp here in 1907 and the island is now known worldwide as the birthplace of the scouting and guiding movements.
Poole Museum has just undergone a major redevelopment thanks to a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The front of the building has been transformed by a new glass and steel structure designed by award-winning architects Horden Cherry Lee, and the light-filled glass atrium creates a stunning new entrance with a viewing terrace on the third floor to provide visitors with an orientation point and views across Poole and the harbour. The museum tells the story of two thousand years of Poole's history and the new displays enable greater access to the collections and feature objects seen for the first time, including the iron-age log boat.
Just a short walk from the town centre is Poole Park - a haven of peace and rare beauty, much loved by visitors and local people for over 100 years. The park contains a 55-acre lake plus a number of attractions to suit all ages:
For the younger ones, there is Gus Gorilla's Jungle Playground, a huge indoor adventure land for kids up to 12 years old (height restrictions apply). It has a huge ball pool and slides, which are sure to bring a smile to your kid's face.
The Poole Park Railway has been delighting young and old for nearly 60 years on its half mile trip around the wildfowl lake. Ride behind the steam-type train in covered carriages. Watch out for Duncan the Dolphin and Persil the Mermaid as well as ducks, swans and fish.
Also worth a visit is Hamworthy Park, which is just over half a mile from Poole Quay, and offers panoramic views of Poole Harbour. The park has a sandy beach with a promenade, large grassed area, established gardens, a large paddling pool, excellent playground facilities suitable for children up to 12 years, adjacent car parking and a cafe.
A little further afield is Upton Country Park. Upton House is an early 19th century residence surrounded by formal gardens, including a rose garden and walled garden, along with farmland, woodland and saltmarsh which hosts a variety of wildlife. The Heritage Centre offers displays of crafts and exhibitions. Refreshments are available from a kiosk at Upton House and the Peacock Tearooms.
Map of Poole
Download a free map of Poole town centre (PDF, 1201 kB) to help you find your way around the town.
Poole Tourist Information Centre
Enefco House, Poole Quay, Poole, Dorset BH15 1HJ
Tel: 01202 253253
How to reach Poole by public transport
Poole Station is situated in the town centre. There are daily train services to all major cities including London Waterloo, Edinburgh, York, Birmingham, Manchester and Southampton. National Express offers a regular service to most major towns and cities plus a new Flightlink service, up to 24 times per day to/from Heathrow Airport and central London with connections to Gatwick Airport. Bournemouth International Airport at Christchurch, Dorset is situated approximately 9.5 miles from Poole with regular services to Ireland and the Mediterranean.