Friday, 14 August 2015

An insiders guide to Bournemouth

I'm lucky enough that I live in a UK holiday hot spot. Bournemouth is blessed with some of the best of England's weather and beaches which can turn an average weekend a mini break in an instant.

But stained with a reputation for stag and hen groups, nightclubs and nastiness, it's easy to see how you could overlook a town with so much to offer.

Here, I'll take you on a tour of some of my favourite things to do, eat and drink whilst weekending in my Bournemouth.

Art Deco styling at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre


With 7 miles of golden beaches (4 miles in Bournmeouth and 3 in Poole) along one great stretch its easy to plan a wonderful day by the sea. Families can find parking and mini golf in Sandbanks and Alum Chine, whilst day-trippers and holiday makers flood the piers at Bournemouth and Boscombe. Stretch yourself a little further and you'll find a local crowd at the quieter end in Southbourne.

LV= operate a kids safe zone on certain parts of the beach for a little extra piece of mind, and a land train connects Alum Chine to Bournemouth Pier, and Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier.

Beach huts are available to rent from the council, and some owners also rent their huts on sites like gumtree. Expect to spend upwards of £25 per day.

Views of Poole Bay from Overcliff Drive


When it's time to seek some shade, there are some great places to grab a snack or sit down to lunch. One of my all time favourite spots is Delice de Champs opposite the Arcade on Westover Road. This french fancy is great for grabbing a croque monsieur and cafe to go, or for a delicious baguette or salad in the french themed interior.

If you're coming straight off the beach, Urban Reef in Boscombe has a small deli for hot drinks and cafes, plus a decked seating area offering a great range of light bites and drinks overlooking the sea. Grab a seat on the decked upper level and watch the world go by.

Afterwards, treat yourself to some of the UK's favourite gelato at Giggi's Gelataria. Recently expanded, Giggi is famous for their award winning gelato and authentic flavours delivered from from Italy.

Lunch Al Fresco at Urban Reef


Some say the dining options in Bournemouth are limited, but I don't agree. Bournemouth has an excellent selection of restaurants outside of the town centre, which mostly has chain's. Turtle Bay is a recent addition to the town centre scene, and it's Caribbean flair has taken off!

Outside of The Square are the tapas twins Lolitas and Koh Thai in the Triangle (the top of Commercial Road). Lolitas is a staple to Bournemouth and excellent fun if you don't mind a little 'Spanish hospitality'. Koh Thai is part of an expanding empire in the south, serving thai tapas, and proper sized meals in beautiful surroundings.

Towards Westbourne pizza lovers will be split between the authentically Italian and family run Da Mario's and the hipster friendly Baffi (Italian for moustache). Da Mario's started as a take away and has been serving the best pizza in Bournemouth for some time. They've recently expanded adding more tables. New kids on the block Baffi have outlets in Westbourne, Canford Cliffs and Southbourne and are becoming a town favourite with imported beers and a laid back vibe.

Pizza at Baffi with a glass of red.


Bournemouth isn't just a stag and hen mecca; there's plenty of places to enjoy a few drinks or a dance without being hit it the face by a blow up whatever. 1812, within the Royal Exeter Hotel has a good bar and happy hour. Live music is on most weekends and it counts as your daily slice of history as The Exeter Hotel encompasses the building which founded Bournemouth in 1812.

Gay bars are to be found in the Triangle, along with not-specifically-gay Smokin Aces, with a team of talented barmen and women who'll mix you just about anything you like with style and expert knowledge.

Back in Westbourne, recently opened Renoufs offers cheese, charcuterie and wine flights to anyone lucky enough to get a seat. The wine flights are a particular favourite of mine, allowing you to try 3 wines at a time in smaller doses.

Happy Hour at Smokin Aces


The Pavillion and BIC are the resident concert and exhibition centres and an Odeon and ABC cinema run on Westover Road. On summer evenings you can enjoy candle lighting in the gardens (Wednesdays in August) and Family Fiestas and Fireworks on Fridays (July and August).

The Oceanarium is perfect for a cooler day with the kids. The ticket lasts all day and you can meet the new penguins, coo over the otters and watch the turtles being fed.

Happy feet at the Oceanarium

No matter how you decide to spend the day in Bournemouth, I hope you have a wonderful time, and please share your favourite spots with me.