Things to do in Bournemouth, with a toddler

June 11, 2013

What are the best things to do in Bournemouth, with toddlers and small children? I’m talking beaches, seafront, piers and the best places to see and do.

Things to do in Bournemouth with children - Tips for visiting Bournemouth in Dorset when you have children and babies

Boscombe beachWe’re just back from a gloriously sunny weekend at my parent’s house in Bournemouth. It was supposed to be warm and for the first time in forever it actually was; proper sunbathing-on-the-beach weather. If you’re not incredibly pale like me, of course.

My parents moved down to the coast a few years ago from land-locked Shropshire, so it’s a fantastically big difference. They now live in Boscombe with a sea view, and lots of cream teas.

And of course we love to visit; it was great when Eliza was a baby but it’s getting brilliant now she’s a toddler.

Here’s some of our favourite things to do in Bournemouth with a toddler or small children

  • Boscombe beach is really lovely. Eliza spent a lot of time happily paddling and running towards the waves this weekend (not a trait inherited from me, usually seen running in the other direction for fear of getting my hair wet). Apparently the local schools have sports day on the beach, how much fun would that be? There’s lifeguards, it’s safe to swim and there’s often lots of surfers wandering about, which is always a bonus
  • We love walking on the pier. It’s decidedly non-seasidey and there’s just something very calm and relaxing about it (and Wayne Hemmingway said Boscombe pier was cool, so it really must be)
  • If you walk left along the the seafront to Southbourne there’s a railway up the cliff, and if you go right you can walk or get the land train down to Bournemouth beach past the multi-coloured beach huts (you can read more about Southbourne on Lucy’s blog)
  • Play crazy golf – for the children, of course…ahem. There’s loads of courses in the area, including one in the Chine Gardens where there’s also a play park
  • Food-wise Cafe Boscanova is great, and very child-friendly, although it’s not massive so you’ll need to fold a pram. Urban Reef on the seafront is also good
  • Boscombe high street could be…lots nicer – the only shop of note is the medium-sized Primarni we always have to investigate – but there are a whole load of charity shops, furniture and antiques shops in the area
  • And the bonus of being at your parent’s house is babysitting, so a good thing we do when we can is go out for child-free drinks. This weekend we went to the Urban Beach Hotel and then to Reef Encounter (non-stop surfing videos, and an patio with blankets). Urban Reef is also great for drinks and a sea view; Alex and I had our wedding anniversary dinner there last year

And speaking of Alex, he stayed at home on flat painting duties – he also had two uninterrupted lie-ins and unlimited cricket, so it wasn’t all bad. We missed him! I thought the solo-parenting train journey had the potential to be a nightmare (even armed with my toddler train travel tips, we normally tag team so one of us can have a bit of a Twitter-checking relax and respite). But she napped on the way and was great on the way back, and quite happily sat with books, singing to herself.

Boscombe pier

Make sure you also read our Greentom stroller review and guide to the best south east London parks


  • @ADadCalledSpen

    June 11, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Lovely post. I took T&K down to see some friends who live in the area and we visited the Oceanarium, which both loved. It was a rainy day when we all went but I also went down a couple of weekends ago on a glorious day, and can’t wait to take them again when the weather is nice. K wants to use ‘diggy things and patty things’ on the beach so we’ll be doing that. 🙂

  • Laura

    June 11, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I’ve lived in Bournemouth most my life and I’ve loved bringing max up here!
    Some of our favourite things to do are: going to farmer palmers in Poole, so much fun! We love going to Lymington and Christchurch for trips (cheese and Alfie’s in Christchurch is a must!) the aquarium is gorgeous and not too big, your ticket is valid all day too, lulubelles cupcakes are amazing. Hamworthy park has a great toddler Pool and is right on the beach.
    Oh I could name so many things.


    1. gillian

      June 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      Oh you’re so lucky! Do you go for walks on the beach all the time? Thank you for all these suggestions – planning another trip down there soon just so we can do them all! I didn’t even know there was an aquarium 🙂 x

  • Charlotte

    June 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

    I grew up in Lymington and my folks are still down in the area and we do a lot of trips to Bournemouth, it’s so nice there. Love the atmosphere. We always used to go to Southbourne beach in the summer as it always seemed so quiet. So glad you mentioned Cafe Boscanova, I’ve had many a good breakfast there. There’s a lovely shop that sells vintage kitchenalia, but is also a second hand bookstore and a sweet cafe too – that’s just around the corner from Boscanova on the road towards Pokesdown Station (I forget the name).

    How about a bus ride to Poole and then a boat to Brownsea Island for a day out? I’ve not been there for years, but I remember many adventures had there as a child.

    1. gillian

      June 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      All those sound great – thank you! I’ll get my mum to check them out (she will love the vintage kitchen shop). Such a great part of the world to grow up in. I think my parents have mentioned Brownsea Island – are there squirrels there?! x

      1. Sarah Queenan

        June 27, 2013 at 1:42 am

        Yes, red squirrels – only place that they are still to be found outside of the Isle Of Wight. And lots of peacocks!

  • Josie

    June 24, 2013 at 10:37 am

    This makes me soooooo excited for moving there soon. Thank you!

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  • Sarah Queenan

    June 27, 2013 at 1:41 am

    I grew up in Bournemouth and now live next door in Poole. If the weather is good then Poole Park is great – free parking, mini train, duck ponds, boating lake, play parks, go karts, cafe and restaurant, cycle track and an indoor soft play centre (Gus Gorilla’s) if the weather turns -you can do a walk all round the lake and even head along the harbourside to Poole Quay in one direction or Whitecliff park (a great park for kids) in the other. Also, a trip to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour (or at least a harbour cruise) is a fab adventure for kids.
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