I have spent a lot of my adult life in England and each time I’m back there I enjoy touring new parts and revisiting old haunts. In the last year I have backpacked through a load of English places like Liverpool, Birmingham, Windsor, Sunderland, Christchurch and London. I have also delved into the Empire of Austenasia.
However you might have read my Bournemouth story and become aware of my love for the AFC Bournemouth football team. I spent the best part of 6 years living and working in Bournemouth and Poole. For me, Poole and Bournemouth go hand in hand – the two towns are linked, to the point where the border at “County Gates” goes un-noticed. One house on one side of the road is in Poole, the other is in the Mouth.
Poole isn’t written about much on travel blogs or backpackers journals so here is a quick top 5 to start you off in this traditional English coastal town.
1. Poole Park
Spectacularly unknown to backpackers yet frequented by locals, Poole Park is a relaxing place to enjoy walks or indulge in sport. Bizarrely there used to be a zoo here featuring a Himalayan Black Bear (OK so that closed in the 1990s). Nowadays facilities in Poole Park include children’s play areas, tennis courts, a bowling green and of course a massive lake.
Poole Town Cricket Club have their cricket field and pavilion inside the park grounds. Water sport activities mostly sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, rowing and model yacht racing take place on the lake, normally in summer.
In an area renowned for fancy state-of-the-art housing, Sandbanks is a good spot for a tourist as well. It is a small peninsula by the coast. In the summer, the cove and bay here also has windsurfers on it. The strip of swanky houses and beaches looks magnificent from above.
You can play crazy golf or eat in a range of restaurants and bars on the Sandbanks Strip. It’s not quite Vegas, but it’s the spot of choice for famous football managers like Harry Redknapp and Tony Pulis. Its reputation is well known, which is why Sandbanks has the fourth highest land value in the world by area. As a backpacker, I’ve had a few sneaky pints in Sandbanks over the years but yet to meet anyone famous.
3. Poole Harbour and Poole Quay
I used to work on the cross channel ferries that run from Poole to St. Peter Port in Guernsey, St. Malo in France and Cherbourg. Poole harbour is massive and includes the main ferry terminal as well as the place for smaller boats and yachts at Poole Quay.
Poole Quay is great for a pub crawl and sunset watching. Neil, Jody and I enjoyed an epic pub crawl there in 2004!
Lots of boat owners dock here and stay the night in the harbour and have a few beers. There’s a cool guide to the harbour online for those wanting to check about anchoring their boats or yachts in and around Poole.
4. Poole Town Centre
There’s something traditionally English about Poole town centre. It feels like the genuine article. Old poky pubs, Falkland square, greasy chippies and a few prominent buildings such as Poole Guildhall and Churches.
I recently attended a wedding in Poole of my friends Maria and Ben.
5. Brownsea Island
Back in 2008, I headed on a boat to Brownsea Island, which is a nature reserve island off the coast of Poole. It was actually meant to be a meeting for the South of England Northern Ireland Supporters Club. But it turned into a bit of sightseeing as we toured the island, met some peacocks, had a drink and visited the church.
Brownsea Island is controlled by the National Trust and is one of very few islands in the UK that you have pay to enter. After getting the ferry off, you’ll have to pay the island fee. No passport stamps though – you’re still in England!
These are five quick things to do in Poole, England. It’s a surprisingly good spot to hang out in and I’m sure I’ll be back there again soon.
Here are some videos I have made in Poole down the years: