Poole Harbour Poole Harbour

The harbour is enormous and by enjoying a boat trip from either Poole Quay or Sandbanks (next to chain ferry) , it is possible to reach the many inlets, beaches and islands, including the largest, Brownsea Island. Owned by the National Trust, Brownsea is home to the red squirrel and the site of Baden-Powell’s original Scout Camp in 1907.

Durley Chine

Poole is one of the oldest settlements in Dorset, as well as one of the largest. It has the second largest natural harbour in the world, with more than 100 miles of shoreline, most of it undeveloped. The tides funnel through a gap no more than 200m wide, and this, coupled with the vast amount of water in the harbour, creates the unique conditions whereby Poole enjoys more than 14 hours of high water each day.

The harbour entrance is bordered to the east by the Sandbanks peninsula, a superb stretch of immaculate beach (boasting no less than 13 European Blue Flag awards) which extends for several miles, merging into Bournemouth beyond Branksome Chine.

Poole developed as a port as Wareham declined due to silting in its river. As ships became larger and the wool trade developed, Poole’s harbour became much more suitable. Thus, from the 13th century, Poole became a port and fishing town. In 1406 Poole was raided by the French in retaliation for the exploits of the local privateer or pirate (depending on your nationality!) Henry Page.

As the Wool trade diminished so did Poole’s importance, although this was later to be re-established with the Newfoundland Trade. A three cornered route whereby ships went out to Newfoundland loaded with salt and provisions, brought salt fish back to the Mediterranean countries and finally came home with wine, olive oil and dried fruits.

From the beginning of the 17th century Poole was one of the main ports of this trade until its decline in the early 19th century. The port was once again saved when the 1890’s the growth of Bournemouth as a resort stimulated coastal trade at Poole with the import of building materials for the new town.

Heavily bombed during the war, most of the Georgian part of the town survived unspoilt and virtually unknown just behind the Quay. This really is worth exploring as there are many 18th century and early 19th century houses, including delightful old inns like The Angel, and The Old Customs House, rebuilt in 1813 after a previous building had been burnt down.

Today, Poole’s bustling quayside has lots to offer, with visiting vessels, attractions and places to eat all within easy walking distance. Home to the world-famous Poole Pottery, you can see craftspeople at work and have a go at creating your own masterpiece before snapping up a few bargains in the shop.

16 The Tourist Handbook Wessex 2018-19

Across the island there are great ways to enjoy this amazing place. Whether you are interested in history, wildlife or adventure, there will be something for everyone. With wildlife walks, children’s trails and adventure activities, this is the perfect place for the family, but when required, solitude and beauty can always be found.

Using materials from the island, the Rangers and countryside volunteers have created a fantastic natural play area for families to enjoy. This year, join one of the monthly guided walks that explore the different aspects of the island, or the many activities that occur throughout the year.

Follow the signs to Sandbanks and you will quickly find yourself on the road skirting the Eastern edge of the Harbour. Breath- taking views of the Isle of Purbeck vie with the hustle and bustle of harbour traffic large and small, alongside hundreds of yachts that call this sailing mecca home.

The Harbour offers endless possibilities for anyone who loves the water, beginner, expert, or just those who just love to relax alongside its sheltered waters. Marinas line its eastern shore, and the opportunity for a powerboat trip, to cruise the Dorset coast, or even try your hand at wind or kite surfing, kayaking or sailing should not be missed. Beachlovers will find Sandbanks, known for some of the highest property prices in the world, also the site of one of the best beaches with miles of soft golden sand and safe waters.

Such an active area creates hungry mouths, and this area is rich in the best of seafood and local produce alongside restaurants looking after every taste. One definitely worth seeking out is The Grasshopper at Bournemouth Road, Parkstone (BH14 9HT). A contemporary pub- restaurant, it is the perfect venue for drinks, lunch and dinner in a great location. With fresh, unpretentious seasonal dishes created by talented chefs, it has quickly become a local favourite.

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