Join us on a tour of some of the top attractions in Poole, including incredible architecture built with riches from Newfoundland, a National Trust island that ranks among one of the best attractions in Dorset, and a park where you can try your hand at everything from windsurfing to model-yacht racing.
Attractions in Poole
Anyone visiting Poole for the first time simply has to take the time to follow in the footsteps of ship captains and pirates by exploring Poole Quay. It’s the most historic area of Poole Harbour, which is home to the Old Town and houses some of the most historic buildings in the whole of Poole.
You can watch as pleasure yachts and powerboats make their way in and out of the harbour, delve into the town’s rich maritime history by visiting Poole Museum and the adjoining Scaplen’s Court, and even snap a selfie with the life-sized Lord Baden-Powell Statue, which commemorates the life and achievements of the man who started the scout movement that’s taken over the world.
While you’re in the town centre, on the corner of Market Street and New Orchard, you should also pay a visit to the Poole Guildhall. It’s one of the most iconic buildings in the whole of Poole, with its grand double staircase and magnificent architecture, which dates back to when it was originally built in 1761 during the 18th-century Golden Age of Poole. During this time, its cod fisheries made a booming trade with Newfoundland and earned riches beyond their beliefs.
In terms of religious buildings, you can follow Market Street down to Church Street to visit St. James’ Church, otherwise known (due to its long association with the local fishing trade) as ‘the fishermen’s church’. The beautiful building itself was rebuilt towards the beginning of the 19th century in the Georgian style that you can see today, and it’s one of the finest of its kind.
Last, but by no means least, there’s Upton House & Country Park. It’s only a couple of miles away from either of our Poole hotels, and barely more than a five-minute drive from both. The Georgian mansion was built with riches from Newfoundland. Following the extravagant lifestyles, and not inconsiderable debts of previous owners, it fell into the ownership of the Borough of Poole.
Over the years, there have been plans to turn its grounds into a zoo, a hospital, and a golf course. For several years, it was actually the home of a Romanian prince. However, those days are long gone. It’s now a 130-acre country park and leisure location for the people and visitors of Poole.
St James' Church
One of the top things to do while exploring Poole is to catch the ferry to the National Trust’s Brownsea Island. It’s the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour and is almost entirely open to the public. It’s several attractions rolled into one.
For starters, it’s the home of the Brownsea Open Air Theatre, which we mention in our local guide to Poole entertainment. It also has an incredible diversity of habitats making it a wonderful home for wildlife, such as peacocks, sika deer, and notably, it’s one of very few places in the south of England where red squirrels survive. On top of that, you can also explore Brownsea Castle, and delve into the story of Robert Baden-Powell, who inspired the worldwide scout movement.
If you’re looking for green space near the town centre, it’s well worth making the short walk to Poole Park. The Victorian-era park was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1890 and features a magnificent series of human-made lakes and ponds. It was once the home of Poole Park Zoo, although it closed to the public in the 1990s. Visit Poole Park today and you can play tennis, enjoy a game of bowls, putt your way around the mini golf park or even try your hand at water sport activities, such as sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and model-yacht racing.
On the other side of the boating lake, you’ll find Baiter Park, where the Poole Harbour Festival is held in July (which you can read about on our Poole culture page). It also features the Baiter Skate Park and the Cycle Speedway. Alternatively, if you’re looking for somewhere on the other side of the harbour, Hamworthy Park is a popular option and is where you’ll find the sandy Hamworthy Park Beach.
Baiter Park from the air
The only stadium you need to visit in Poole is Poole Stadium, the home of Poole Greyhounds. It’s one of the best attractions in town and has been attracting punters from Dorset, and further afield, for over 50 years.
Find out about what you can expect from a day at the races, when meetings are held, and the excellent value of the restaurant in our page dedicated to Poole Greyhounds.