Bournemouth in the South of England is one of our go-to cities when Josh and I are visiting family in the New Forest. This beautiful sea-side city with its amazing Victorian resorts and houses is a great place to spend a weekend in the summer or for an impromptu shopping visit.
Bournemouth has beautiful gardens, a wide beach and great car-free shopping streets all set in a Victorian seaside resort backdrop.
So, besides shopping – what is there to do in Bournemouth? I have created a list of the 10 best things to do in Bournemouth!
1. Bournemouth Beach
Bournemouth is known for its beautiful white sandy beach. The beach is connected to the city in such a way that you can easily walk to and from the beach when visiting Bournemouth. In fact, I would say that the shopping district and the centre of the city is perfectly connected with the beach.
One of the great things about the beach in Bournemouth is that it is a great place to be and walk all year round. During the summer it is very busy with people trying to catch some rays of sun, but during autumn, winter and spring, you can perfectly walk the beach with your dog and family.
I love walking on Bournemouth beach. We mostly start walking in Boscombe and make our way over the beach to Bournemouth where we have a coffee or a hot chocolate before we turn back.
You can also access Bournemouth Pier. This beautiful Victorian pier has recently been restored. You can find an amusement arcade on the pier and a beautiful theatre. Bournemouth Pier is also a great place to drink a coffee or eat a pancake after a long beach walk.
2. Russell Cotes Art Gallery and Museum
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery And Museum is a must-do for people who love history and art. Merton Russell-Cotes loved his wife so much that in 1901 he gave her a beautiful house on a clifftop for her birthday. (I want one as well – my birthday is on May 17th).
The family filled this beautiful seaside mansion with exotic artefacts and curiosities. This beautiful house and art gallery look to be sealed in time. Walk through the doors of this lavish home and you walk back in time.
This beautiful Art Nouveau house is now open to the public. The rooms are kept as they would have been in the beginning of the 1900’s. The mansion boasts beautiful stained-glass windows and roofs and breath-taking views over the sea.
Adorned with eastern details and paintings – both Middle Eastern and Far-Eastern, this house brings you back to the time of Alphonse Mucha and De Morgan.
When you are ready touring the museum you can drink a cup of tea or coffee in the café.
Do you love animals? Are you a fan of penguins and fishes? Then you should definitely visit Oceanarium when visiting Bournemouth!
At the Oceanarium you can discover everything about the creatures living in the street. The Oceanarium is a perfect day out with kids in Bournemouth. Kids can discover clownfish and sea turtles, penguin and sharks. They also publish their feeding times online so you and your family can watch staff feeding the animals.
The Oceanarium also offers VIP experiences. You can, for instance, feed the penguins yourself in a VIP Penguin feeding experience or you can meet starfish and bearded dragons through a meet the creatures encounter.
Ever wanted to meet an otter? At the Oceanarium you can go backstage to meet the otters during the Otter Enrichment experience. During the reef shark feeding experience you go backstage to feed these sharks with a prong.
The Oceanarium also helps to conserve sea creatures all around the wold. They have set up conservation programs and support conservation programs to help the Monk Seal and to support creatures in the UK and South East Asia.
Tickets to the Oceanarium are not too expensive which makes them a perfect attraction when visiting Bournemouth.
4. Lower Gardens
I love strolling around in the Bournemouth Lower Gardens. These parks are a favourite hangout spot for tourists and locals alike.
The lower gardens follow the course of the river Bourne which gave Bournemouth its name. T\
These beautiful gardens are easily accessible from the centre of the city and sport a mini golf course and even a bird cage. I love stopping at the birds as they are being kept by volunteers.
The flowers at the lower gardens bloom beautifully in spring and summer which makes the lower gardens a perfect spot for a little picknick. There is a supermarket close by – I think it is a Tesco, where you can get baguettes, humus and other things you might want for a picknick.
5. Boscombe Cliff Gardens
Another great place for a picknick are the Boscombe Cliff Gardens. These exotic Victorian gardens are perched on the top of the cliffs and offer an amazing view over the beach and the sea.
We often go for a walk through the Boscombe Cliff Gardens. Parking at the Boscombe Chine Gardens is easy and from there you can access the beach to walk to Bournemouth.
The Gardens are beautifully kept and from many of the benches in the park you have a great view of the Isle of White and the neighbouring towns perched on the clifftops.
6. Shelley Theatre
Mary Shelley and Bournemouth are very much connected. Her last wish before she died in 1851 was that she was to be buried in Bournemouth – even though she never lived in the city.
Mary Shelley’s son was told to buy a house in Bournemouth as the climate is warmer and the air is fresher than in London at the time. It would help his ailing mother and ailing wife. His mother, Mary, died before the house was built.
This house is now the Shelley Theatre. This small, independently run theatre is perched on the Boscombe clifftops and has room for 150 people.
The Shelley Theatre does comedy nights, movie nights, live music, dance and anything else you would want a theatre to provide.
If you don’t feel like going to a show you can go for a coffee in their café. The café is open every single day from 10:30 am to 3:30 PM.
7. Bournemouth Shopping Street
Bournemouth is a shopping paradise. The car-free shopping streets, the beautiful shops and the little cafes and pubs where you can drink a pint or a coffee after a long day of walking and shopping make Bournemouth one of my favourite places to shop.
Bournemouth has most of the high street shops you want a good shopping street to have. I would recommend stopping at Shakeaway. Shakeaway is a milkshake company that is incredibly famous in the area as they make original milkshakes from the chocolate bars and candies we love.
8. St. Peter's Church
St. Peter’s Church is the last resting place of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. As explained before, Mary Shelley had asked to be buried in Bournemouth as her son was building a house there.
The church was completed in 1879 and is known for the beautiful Gothic revival art, architecture and some of the most beautiful gothic stained-glass windows by Clayton and Bell. It has often be described as having one of the richest Gothic revival interiors of England.
It is the last resting place of Mary Shelley. Prime Minster Gladstone took his last communion here and composer Hubert Parry was born in the area and baptised in this church.
The church is a Church of England church that is free to visit. You will often find volunteers inside who are happy to talk about the history of the church and show you Marry Shelley’s last resting place.
9. Science Zone
Are you visiting Bournemouth with kids? Be sure to visit Science Zone! Science zone offers a large amount of interesting and educational experiences for kids. From workshops to science experiments, dinosaur dens and even a planetarium shows.
Science zone is the perfect entertainment for your kids while you get some shopping done.
10. Take a spin on the big wheel
The Big Wheel in Bournemouth is the perfect way to see the city from another vantage point. The Big wheel takes you up for 6 pounds and offers beautiful panoramic views of Bournemouth beach.
The wheel is more than 100 ft tall. You can find the wheel in Bournemouth’s pier approach. It runs from 10 am in the morning to 10 pm in the evening. I would recommend going at sundown to see the beautiful colours of the evening sky play on the water and over the city.