Waking up to the soft shushing of the waves and the smell of the sand, already warmed by a September sun, I find myself drawn irresistibly outside. It is the first morning of my Bournemouth holiday, and the unexpected warmth is too tempting. In a mad dash, I pull on a swimsuit and race to the sea before I can change my mind. It’s 8am, no one but joggers and dogwalkers insight.
The water is sharp and cold, the way the English Channel always is, but it’s not too cold. My nerves jolt awake and I swim, joyfully, the whole of Bournemouth Beach to myself.
At home, I live 20 minutes from the beach, yet in three years I’ve never had a swim before breakfast. This is my favourite thing about holidays: the time they give you for simple things that we never seem to make time for at home. Watching the sunset, or the sunrise, or the stars at night. Drinking coffee outside without the distraction of a phone. Simply sitting and looking at the sea.
That’s what my recent holiday in Bournemouth was. A proper, relaxing, holiday by the sea – all the charms of the English seaside thrown in.
My trip was organised by BCP Tourism and my stay at Bournemouth Beach Lodges was gifted in exchange for blog content. Most travel expenses were covered by me and, as always, all words and opinions are my own and 100% honest.
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A Holiday in Bournemouth Beach Lodges
Bournemouth is one of the most popular seaside towns on the South Coast of England. The stunning beach – white sand stretching for miles on either side of a Victorian pier – is, of course, the town’s biggest draw.
And I was staying right on it, in one of the stunning Bournemouth Beach Lodges: miniature holiday cabins built in the style of chic beach huts. Check out my review of the stay here, or my short video of the lodges to see exactly what they look like inside.
It was the perfect place to stay for an end-of-summer Bournemouth holiday. Right on the beach, with the sea there ready and waiting every morning.
Because I was visiting just offseason, in the second week of September, the beach was almost empty. Especially in the mornings and evenings, there was a fantastic sense of having the whole place to myself.
Just along the seafront, those same sea views can be found at one of Bournemouth’s best restaurants. Urban Reef served up a cracking seafood dinner of locally caught seabass while I watched night fall over the ocean – while another night saw me scoffing a delicious takeaway pizza fresh from their wood-fired oven!
Bournemouth Beyond the Beach
But there’s so much more to a holiday in Bournemouth than just beaches. Which is lucky, because England never guarantees good weather at any time of year!
Tucked into a beautiful garden at the top of East Cliff, the Russell-Cotes Museum and Art Gallery would look out of place in most towns. The striking villa, with its turrets and mishmash of styles, is determinedly unique. But in Bournemouth, with its long and eclectic seafront, it looks right at home.
The house was designed by Lord and Lady Russel-Cotes in the early 1900s, as a gift from Merton to his wife Annie. Avid travellers, the pair filled the villa with art, antiques, and exotic curios collected on their trips. As I overheard one guest put it, “they liked clutter”.
Today, the house is a museum and gallery, with regular exhibitions alongside the permanent collection. There are very few barriers or glass cases, so it feels more like wandering through someone’s living room than visiting an art gallery.
Down the hill, the area around Bournemouth Pier is still buzzing with holiday vibes. I stop for a picnic on the beach – and the obligatory 99′ ice cream – before leaving the tourists behind and turning into Bournemouth’s gardens.
The Lower, Central and Upper Gardens cut a long, green strip through Bournemouth town centre, following the narrow River Bourne. Dating from the Victorian era, filled with lawns and flower gardens – as well as more modern attractions like miniature golf – this narrow park forms a gorgeous centrepiece to the town.
In the Central Gardens, a recent project has reclaimed the underpass beneath a busy A road. The Upside Gallery is a permanent, free, outdoor art gallery, transforming the uninviting space into something more special. Eleven UK artists created colourful murals on the concrete pillars, adding a bit of beauty back into this space between the gardens.
A Day Trip to Christchurch
Ten minutes down the road from Bournemouth, Christchurch is a small, pretty town tucked between the Rivers Stour and Avon. A town of cute cottages, boutique shops, and picturesque rows of pastel-painted terraced houses.
The small town packs a lot of history, which is easily explored following the Blue Plaque Trail through the town centre. Highlights included Christchurch Priory – reputedly the longest priory church in England, which dates all the way back to 1094.
Just beyond it, the hilltop ruins of a Norman Castle dating from 1160 look wonderfully out of place, dropped between the high street and a busy main road.
One of my favourite discoveries is a replica of a 14th-century ducking stool. Apparently, these weren’t actually used for catching witches like I’d always thought. Instead, people – most often women – earned a ducking as punishment for things like verbal abuse and anti-social behaviour. Today, the chair is fixed in place – no duckings, only selfies.
Following the river, crowded with sailing boats, SUP-ers, and gangs of moody swans, I arrive at the Captains Club Hotel and Spa. I dine out on the terrace overlooking the river, enjoying a short-lived sunny spell.
This is the first three-course meal I’ve had since lockdown hit, and it’s sublime. Fresh local scallops, sea bass fillets, and an extravagant, bomb-style take on an eton mess for dessert. It feels indulgent, but isn’t that what holidays are all about?
Mudeford and Stour River Way
From Christchurch, I pay £5 for the ferry to Mudeford Sandbank, just downriver. This spit of land juts out from the headland, dividing Christchurch Harbour from the sea.
A long, thin strip of white sand lined with colourful beach huts, it also marks the endpoint of the 61-mile-long River Stour.
I follow the Stour Valley Way back along the river to Christchurch, past Hengistbury Head and through peaceful wetlands. The route is more elongated than I’d imagined and takes far longer than expected. But the views, and the quiet peace, are worth the walk.
Arriving back at my Lodge on Bournemouth Beach later than planned, I make pasta and slump into a deckchair on the terrace. And I don’t move for the rest of the evening.
I sit with a glass of wine, watching the stars come out and the lights of ships out at sea. No TV, no scrolling on my phone. Just me, the empty beach, and the sounds of the waves. It’s bliss – and exactly the kind of holiday I needed!
Have you ever visited Bournemouth or Christchurch? Leave a comment to let me know what you thought of it!