Poole owes its name to the Saxons who aptly named it after the vast expanse of water that lay before them. Boasting the largest, natural harbour in Europe, Poole's greatest asset hums with activity throughout the year. Great beaches, Poole Old Town and some world class water sport activities all contribute to making Poole a top summer destination in England.
Poole's key attraction for many visitors is her waters. Sandbanks Beach provides 3 miles of golden sand holding more Blue Flag awards than all other British contenders. Nearby, Shore Road and Branksome Chine Beaches are also good swimming spots while a short ferry trip will take you to great beaches at Shellbay and Studland (Studland beach is also famous for its naturists).
A visit to Poole Old Town is a trip into the past. Here is the heart of the town built upon foundations hundreds of years old. You'll wander through narrow smugglers' passageways and then stumble out upon 17th and 18th century houses originally built by rich merchants. Your tour will take you to Poole Quay where simply relaxing and watching crab liners, powerboats and fishing boats is an attraction in itself. Alternatively, why not take the Poole Cockle Trail (available from the Poole Welcome Centre) and take yourself on a self-guided tour of Poole, its history and curiosities? It's worth combining this with a trip to Poole's Water Front Museum which details the history of Poole and includes some gory smugglers' tales. If history's not quite your thing, you may want to wander around Sandbanks, an exclusive spot which boasts the fourth highest property value in the world.
Poole Harbour contains some 60 miles of coastline supporting mudflats, salt marshes and wintering waterfowl. Second in size only to Sydney, Poole Harbour provides sheltered waters which are ideal for cruising or learning watersports like sailing, wakeboarding, kitesurfing and windsurfing. The professionals turn up in September when Poole holds Animal Windfest, the No.1 UK Wind and Kite Surfing Championship in Poole Harbour.
Another unique Poole attraction is the National Trust Nature Reserve of Brownsea Island. These 500 acres lying smack in the middle of Poole Harbour are home to the rare red squirrel and other wildlife. You'll great views of Poole Harbour, swim at a tranquil beach or explore one of the many nature and explorer trails.
If you're visiting Poole in the summer, check out Poole Cresecent Dream Machines. Every Tuesday evening, thousands of bikes and bikers descend on Poole and gather at Poole Quay. You never know your luck - you could spot the Poole Pirates, one of the best motorcycle speedway teams in the UK. Those not mechanically minded may prefer the Poole Summer Breeze, a beach party extravaganza held every Thursday night.
Attractions around Poole
Just outside Poole lie attractions of a totally different kind. Compton Acres is often deemed to be one of the best gardens in Europe. Alternatively, you can visit Upton Country Park which dates to the 19th century and was built by a rich merchant. Poole is also a gateway town to Dorset's Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage site with outstanding scenery and wonderful hidden coves. Just 20 miles out of Poole, New Forest is great for walkers. Spanning some 200 square miles, New Forest is composed of streams, heathland, ancient villages and woods. Monkey World, an ape rescue centre is another favourite Dorset attraction near Poole.