Spend a day relaxing upon miles of golden award-winning beaches, strolling through manicured tropical gardens, closely followed by a visit to some incredible vintage shops, luxury boutiques and galleries, finishing your perfect day out with a cheeky cocktail or two and a delicious dinner in a top restaurant? Where are you? The Caribbean, Hawaii or somewhere equally exotic? Try somewhere a bit closer to home.
Welcome to Bournemouth.
Historically the playground of rich Victorians, Bournemouth has come a long way over the last 150 years and has shrugged off its previous stag do image and coach tour reputation and is now one of the most popular places to visit in the UK. Once deemed as a place when you go to retire, Bournemouth is now a cosmopolitan destination that is fast becoming the must-visit place for seasoned travellers to visit.
Whilst #TeamCoco love and live to travel, sometimes the heart wants to be on your home turf and for me – Bournemouth is home and more and more people are not only choosing to live here but to visit too and here’s why.
Its award-winning beaches
It was voted as the UK’s Best Seaside Town in the British Travel Awards in 2017 and has recently been crowned as the best beach in the UK in Trip Advisor’s annual Traveller’s Choice Awards. The beaches in Bournemouth were even voted the 5th best in Europe beating the likes of Sicily, Crete and more. What’s more, if you opt to travel a little further afield, you can enjoy the stunning landscape of the impressive Jurassic Coast that stretches from Dorset through to neighbouring Devon which is a World Heritage Site.
The beautiful surroundings
Bournemouth enjoys a special micro climate and whilst I am no meteorologist, statistically speaking Bournemouth’s temperatures are generally deemed several degrees above the rest of the country which is evident by the presence of palm trees in the tropical gardens of nearby Alum Chine. These pretty gardens, which have their origins in the 1920s, provide an ideal area for contemplation whilst gazing upon the striking landscape design and stunning views.
It’s home to the UK’s best eco-friendly hotel
So, where to stay? There are hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, from boutique hotels to quirky cottages to rent. Our top picks include the UK’s ‘Best Green Hotel in the UK 2017’which is an eco-friendly luxury hotel situated close to Bournemouth’s award-winning beaches which is ideal for a simple yet luxurious staycation.
The hotel’s restaurant ‘Arbor’ has an oak sculpture reconstructed as a tree and the furniture is made from sustainable materials, even the paint and wallpaper are eco-friendly. The hotel also uses a solar panel to heat water. Think glam but green! Don’t forget to check out their quirky but tasty afternoon teas.
If you are looking for a sea view, you can’t get much closer than the Bournemouth Beach Lodges which are charming little beach huts located on the seafront. If you love glamping, then these cute little lodges which come with a galley kitchen for you to cook on are ideal and offer an enchanting overnight stay where you can wake up to some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches.
For a traditional luxury hotel, look no further than the Hilton Bournemouth. Situated in the heart of Bournemouth betwixt the beach and the bustling town, the Hilton is a glamourous boutique hotel renowned for its bespoke interiors and furnishings. It is achingly stylish inside and you can find retro tourism posters and other quirky accessories throughout the rooms and hotel.
Its amazing restaurants and eateries
If like me, your immediate thought is where can I eat and what can I eat, then rest assured that Bournemouth has a superb range of restaurants, eateries and cafes. There are hundreds of places across the county of Dorset to try. From fresh seafood and local produce to traditional Dorset cream teas, you won’t be disappointed.
Banque & Bohem offers seasonal fresh produce, delicious cocktails alongside Prosecco-laden high teas and Saturday brunches. This stylish cocktail bar and restaurant is on the site of a former bank and actually has the old vaults in place at the back of the restaurant.
From a design perspective, this is simply superb and includes ornate chandeliers, a feature door (formally the old bank vault door) and a Monet-inspired design feature. There are private rooms available to hire for birthday parties, baby showers and similar decorated in extravagant peacock embellished wallpaper and decadent leather sofas. They have an impressive range of cocktails, my recommendation? ‘The English Garden’ which is a delightful mix of Hendricks Gin, Elderflower Liqueur, Lime and Mint which makes a gorgeous and refreshing drink which is ideal for accompanying any meal.
Schpoons & Forx which is situated at the uber-glam Hilton is home to renowned chef and TV personality Matt Tebbutt’s modern British restaurant. This elegant eatery features a lively open kitchen with a contemporary décor designed to entertain, amuse and inspire conversation. This vibrant place with a tandoor and stone oven offers an intimate dining experience where the menu is strongly influenced by seasonal and locally-sourced produce. Why not try the whole South Coast Sole, tandoor roasted served with potted shrimp butter?
From Greek and Nepalese to Spanish and Japanese, you enjoy a multitude of worldwide cuisines from within a short distance of Bournemouth beach. One of the best places to eat curry in not just Bournemouth, but throughout the entire county of Dorset and beyond is Indi’s. Not only do they have the most delicious food, they offer exceptional service in a relaxed but chic setting in a modern restaurant that features pale wood, white furniture and modern art which lends this Indian restaurant a contemporary edge. It is situated in Westbourne, one of the coolest districts within Bournemouth which is home to vast selection of boutique, individual combined with plenty of places to eat, drink and relax.
Whilst you are in Westbourne, you simply must check out Renoufs, where diners are served a stunning array of the very best and finest local and international wines and cheeses alongside stunning charcuterie boards with complimenting chutneys and sides – #Youhadmeatcheese! One of the highlights is a flight of either white, rose or red wines – a fantastic way to try new and exciting wines.
It is in Sandbanks where you will find some amazing fine dining restaurants including Rick Stein restaurant that serves deliciously fresh seafood and meat dishes whilst gazing at the stunning views across the water.
It has its very own gin scene!
Hands up if you love gin? Us too! Gin continues to be one of the most popular drinks of 2018 and a visit to Gin Jam’s is the ideal destination to explore an incredible range of gins including locally-distilled gins such as Conker, Fordington and Lilliput.
Its incredible nightlife
Bournemouth has a bustling nightlife which includes some amazing bars and nightclubs. Try Sixty Million Postcards which is a funky and eclectic bar which features pieces of art designed and created by local artists. Here you can choose from a superb range of artisan beers and gins, listen to live music or simply hang out and play board games with friends.
If you are looking for cocktails and let’s be frank – who isn’t?! Then a visit to the Be At One Cocktail Bar is a must. This stylish cocktail bar is situated a short walk from the beach and features a wide range of amazing cocktails made by expert bartenders.
Enjoy a relaxing drink coupled with stunning panoramic views of the dramatic vista of the coastline along the English Channel to the centre of Bournemouth at the Hilton’s Level8ight Sky Bar, where the décor is highly influenced by the sea; opulently styled in hues of teal, gold and charcoal, taking inspiration the changing light over the water.
For a late-night drink, you have to try Smokin’ Aces cocktail bar and whiskey lounge which fuses sophisticated style with a rock ‘n’ roll twist. Drink perfectly mixed cocktails whilst chilling out listening to live bands and DJs.
You can shop until you drop
If you love to shop, then you won’t be disappointed, as well as the usual high street stores, you can find unique shops and boutiques throughout the town. If you love all things vintage, then head to Pokesdown – the vintage mecca of Bournemouth. This quaint Victorian suburb to the east of the town is fast becoming Bournemouth’s creative quarter. It is home to some of the South Coast’s most loved vintage shops such as Vintage Clobber where you can buy anything from a 1950’s style swing dress to a 1970s band tee-shirt. It is truly an Aladdin’s cave of vintage goodies.
Situated just a ten- minute walk away from Clobber (and other vintage and antique shops) lies the Bournemouth Vintage Emporium which is chock full of vintage accessories for the home, vintage clothing, antique furniture and old vinyl. It also has a kitsch little tearoom where you can relax and make believe that you are on the set of an old school film.
You can do as little or as much as you want – including surfing!
Feeling active? Why not don a bicycle from the promenade of Bournemouth to the stunning Hengistbury Head (which is situated between Bournemouth and Mudeford) where you can take in the views over the coastline and sample some local Purbeck ice cream before heading back to town.
For the super adventurous, there’s a zipline that whisks you from the end of the pier onto the beach. It’s not for everyone but is an exhilarating experience that you will remember always.
Surf culture has been ever-growing in Bournemouth over the last couple of decades and if you have never surfed before, Bournemouth is definitely a wonderful place to try it for the first time. As well as surfing, you can try kayaking and paddle boarding at Boscombe beach (just outside of Bournemouth town centre) and can try windsurfing and more at the world-renowned Sandbanks, a mere fifteen-minutes’ drive away from Bournemouth town centre.
It’s home to some of the UK’s coolest festivals and gigs
So, you have eaten, drunk (hopefully danced… a bit) and you are probably looking for some culture? You are in luck. Not only is Bournemouth host to several cool live music venues where you can see world famous bands, up and coming artists and more, but you can also enjoy great festivals in the wider Dorset area such as Bestival, Camp Bestival, End of the Road, Teddy Rocks and the Larmer Tree Festival amongst others.
It has its very own treasure trove of art and eclectic curios
Bournemouth has always had a unique historical and cultural offering and no trip to Bournemouth should be without a visit to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum. This is truly a treasure trove of Victorian eccentricities nestled amongst world-renowned artworks (Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite, sculptures and curios from all over the world. It is perched upon the clifftop overlooking the sea in an extravagant villa which blends an intriguing mix of architectural styles inspired by Italy, Japan, France, Scotland and more.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Bournemouth before, come on down. It has palm trees, hip boutiques, glorious vistas, some of the best restaurants in the south and let’s not forget seven miles of award-winning beaches. It is only two and half hours from London and is an ideal place for a relaxing and revitalising break. Bournemouth is a thriving cosmopolitan place to visit and has plenty to offer the discerning traveller.