Thanks to seven miles of beaches and Europe's first artificial surf reef, Bournemouth is fast building a reputation as one of the South-East's surfing hotspots. It's also the "happiest place to live" in Britain if you believe two recent surveys which claim Bournemouth's residents are the most cheerful in the land. Shaking off its reputation as a retiree's haven, more and more foreign students are choosing this popular coastal resort for their studies, meaning nightlife, shopping and cultural pursuits are better than ever.
Treat yourself to a panoramic view of the city by checking out The Bournemouth Eye, a giant helium balloon with an enclosed gondola. It takes up to 30 passengers at any one time to a height of 120m. Also worth a look are the Lower, Central and Upper Gardens which have kept much of their Victorian character and during the summer months host many open-air events.
We'll start with the most obvious - the beach: seven miles of golden sand make up the award-winning Bournemouth Beach, boasting some of the warmest sea temperatures in Britain. Chill out on a rented sun lounger or get active with the choice of water sports on offer. A popular activity is a pier-to-pier walk; start at either Bournemouth or Boscombe Pier and finish at the other; all whilst taking in the views and perhaps finishing with a refreshment at one of the seaside bars and cafes. The city is also known for having Europe's first artificial surf reef, 220m offshore and just east of Boscombe Pier. The reef acts as a ramp, pushing existing waves upwards and shaping them into better quality surfing waves. For your culture fix you could head to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum or the Pavilion Theatre and Ballroom, where regular shows, operas, ballets and concerts take place. The Bournemouth Surf School, Laser Quest and Oceanarium are all popular with kids and big kids alike.
+ Seven miles of sandy beaches with good surfing and other water sports
+ Friendly locals in the "happiest place to live in Britain"
+ Lots to do for families
- The beach can get extremely crowded in high season
- Parking can be a nightmare in the town centre and around the beach
Bournemouth has plenty of things to see and do for a mini-staycation, but also remember that there are many other areas of interest to explore in the surrounding region, try: Corfe Castle, New Forest National Park, Jurassic Coastline World Heritage Site, and the villages of Cerne Abbas and Shaftsbury...
Bournemouth is well serviced by public transport plus you may purchase a day ticket for unlimited travel on most bus services across the region. If you take your own car though, remember that parking in the centre of town can be a hassle.
Certain areas of Boscombe have a reputation for unsavoury after-dark activities
Don't visit the beach during peak hours if you can't stand crowds!
Like anywhere else in the UK, diners in Bournemouth benefit from a wide choice of restaurants and cuisine from all over the world. Whether you're after Indian, Thai, Greek or Italian flavours, you'll find them here, as well as typical British fare at any number of pubs and bistros. Of course, thanks to Bournemouth's seaside location, there's plenty of delicious seafood on offer too.
To bring back
Most of Bournemouth's shopping streets are pedestrianised and located in the town centre, just behind the seafront or on either side of the River Bourne. For designer clothing and funky deco trinkets head to Westbourne, (nicknamed "The Village"), while Boscombe is home to beautiful antiques shops and the place for an unusual gift. Try to catch the open-air market every Thursday and Saturdays.