The largest natural harbour in Europe and one of the largest in the world, Poole Harbour is not only a great place to get involved in watersports. Thanks to miles of gorgeous coastline, it’s also perfect for exploring on foot, by bike or in your car, with dozens of pubs, cafés and ice cream stalls to keep you refreshed along the way.
Formed at the end of the last ice age, the extremely shallow harbour (the average depth is less than half a metre) has been home to humans for centuries – an Iron Age boat dating back to 295BC was discovered in the 60s while Poole was used as a main invasion point for the Romans.
You can catch regular ferries to Brittany, Cherbourg, the Channel Islands and St. Malo from the harbour, while you’ll also find plenty of yachts, cruise boats and private boats that sail around the islands, the biggest of which is Brownsea Island, which is perfect for adventurers big and small. The island hosted the very first Scout camp back in 1907, and with woodland, heathland and a large lagoon, it’s home to a wide range of wildlife, including peacocks, kingfishers and terns.
The Harbour has several designated water sports areas perfect for wakeboarding when the wind and waves are calm, or for windsurfing when the wind starts to kick in.
At the heart of Poole’s Old Town, the Quay is an action-packed area, which is ideal for exploring, day trips and sunny day ice creams. Head for a walk along the quayside and take in the tall ships, fishing boats and luxurious yachts or follow the Cockle Trail which takes in the historic sights, including Poole Museum. Or jump on a boat across to Brownsea Island and its amazing wildlife, with boats leaving every 30 minutes during peak summer season.
If you’re hungry, try your hand at crabbing or let the professionals do the catching and cooking and head to some of the excellent bars, cafés and restaurants that line the quay. A short walk away, you’ll find Poole Park equipped with playgrounds and a boating lake and The Ark, which has a miniature railway track, crazy golf and several playgrounds.