I’ve now booked tickets for my big holiday of the year (to Australia for my brother’s wedding), but that’s a long way off, so I’m trying to plan lots of mini breaks and excursions. My first weekend adventure was with my friend Inez. We went to Bournemouth which has a wide range of shops, activities, restaurants and hotels to suit all budgets. If you’re thinking of a break in Bournemouth, then stop thinking and start doing!
Starting the day right… with a parkrun
Anyone who knows me knows that my Saturdays always start with a parkrun. If you’re in Bournemouth on a Saturday then Bournemouth parkrun takes place at Kings Park Athletic Stadium. If you are happy to travel up to a half marathon away, you can also get to:
- Poole parkrun (6 miles)
- Upton House parkrun (7.9 miles)
- Moors Valley parkrun (8.2 miles)
- Lymington Woodside parkrun (12.6 miles)
- Brockenhurst parkrun (13.1 miles)
I’ve tried all of these parkruns and honestly couldn’t choose between them as each has something special about it.
Beside the seaside in Boscombe
I started in my day in Boscombe, which is on the east of Bournemouth. It has a pier that won Pier of the Year in 2010!
Bouldering in Boscombe
I wasn’t sure about bouldering at Boscombe beach. I’m scared of heights and have no arm strength, so I didn’t dress for it.
My friend, Inez, is much more adventurous than I am. Despite neither of us wearing sportswear, she decided to kick off her boots and get climbing…
After that, Inez persuaded me to give it a go. I managed to make it to the top of the boulder, but there was no way I was going to stand on it!
Inez then tackled the other boulders, but one was enough for me!
Inez and I then strolled further along the promenade to where people were playing beach volleyball. If you’re feeling the beach sports vibe then you could hire a beach volleyball court.
It was a little breezy, so the volleyball players were not dressed in the skimpy outfits that you’d see at Copacabana Beach, but it still looked like they were having a lot of fun.
Watersports at Boscombe
It’s also possible to hire a Stand Up Paddleboard or have a private or group lesson, but the sea temperature is a bit chilly in early May. I’d love to come back later in the year and give that a go as it’s long been an ambition of mine.
In summer, VOTwo run the Salty Sea Dog Long Swims here at Boscombe. It’s the perfect location for sea swimming as the bay is quite sheltered. Also, there are free hot showers in the Overstrand (you may just about be able to see them behind the boards in the photo above!)
I did a Salty Sea Dog Long Swim in 2015 and absolutely loved it. If I can get back into doing more open water swimming this summer then I may come back and do another event.
There is a 16-station gym trail that runs 1km either side of Boscombe Pier. Inez and I didn’t stop at all sixteen stations, but we tried quite a few of them!
It’s so easy to see why triathletes love this area – there a long flat stretch for running (or cycling), a great bay for swimming and then opportunities for cross-training.
The weather was quite changeable. At times there was a cool breeze, but when the sun came out it was really warm. We decided to enjoy our time outside, so we strolled along looking at all of the brightly-coloured beach huts.
In places, there are two tiers of beach huts. I’m always intrigued by them. I was brought up near to St Ives in Cornwall and I don’t recollect seeing beach huts in any of the local places we visited when I was a child. I can see how convenient it must be to have a place to store your children’s beach toys and be able to have a fresh cuppa or sand-free sandwiches!
Inez and I walked as far as the funicular (aka cliff lift). It’s one of three that operate in the local area.
Lunch at Urban Reef
After our stroll, Inez and I decided to refuel at Urban Reef. I particularly love this diner because of its sea views and extensive range of vegetarian and vegan options.
If we had arrived a bit earlier (between 11 and 12), I would have chosen the ‘Brekkie Saviour’ from the brunch menu. The vegetarian option includes mushroom and halloumi on a toasted English muffin with two poached eggs, topped with cheddar and chilli jam. As it was, we got to choose from the main menu. Inez always opts for fish and chips when eating out at the seaside, whereas I chose a vegan burger.
Fish and Chips
Beer & turmeric-battered fresh catch of the day, homemade tartar sauce, mushy peas, fat chips, caramelised lemon.
Handmade plant powered burger with English beans & pulses, cashew cheese, silken tofu ‘mayo’, toasted vegan bun, house slaw, fat chipsFrom the menu at Urban Reef
There were a lot of places where we could buy local New Forest ice-cream in Boscombe, but Inez was preparing for Southampton marathon and I need to lose weight, so we looked but didn’t taste!
Shopping in Bournemouth
After eating, we chose to have a stroll around Bournemouth as there is a wide range of shops to explore. I particularly love Westbourne Arcade as it’s a stunning building.
Inez and I then started to explore the gardens. In summer this area is always busy and there are often bands playing in the bandstand. For a fairly small park, it’s absolutely stunning, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
In the afternoon, we decided to play a game of mini golf… but we had a dilemma. Where to play? Bournemouth is fantastic for anyone who loves mini golf as there are so many options. I chose the cheap option that allows you to take advantage of the sun: mini golf in Bournemouth Lower Gardens. However, Mr Mulligans Adventure Golf. looks like it would be great fun too.
Inez hadn’t played before and I’m quite competitive. However, I completely lost it on one hole where the ball just refused to go in. I thought I was still in with a chance of winning, but then Inez scored a brilliant hole-in-one on the last hole, which clinched it for her!
I wanted to keep up my active theme by hiring a bike from Front Bike Hire and exploring the seafront. They have some fun looking cruiser tandems… but Inez doesn’t cycle and I didn’t want her to risk an injury ahead of Southampton Marathon, so we decided to go on the observation wheel instead.
The big wheel
For many years, the big attraction in Bournemouth was its hot air balloon. However, the tethered balloon closed for good in 2016. That doesn’t mean that there’s no way of getting a good view of Bournemouth though as there’s now an observation wheel. I’m terrified of heights, but Inez persuaded me that it would be a lot of fun.
I’ll admit that the views from the top were great, as long as I looked out into the distance and didn’t look down. There was only one other couple on the wheel, so we didn’t spend a lot of time in the gondola not moving.
As you can see, by the time we got off, the sky was turning black and it started to rain a bit, so we headed into the arcade on Bournemouth Pier.
The rain eased slightly, so we left the amusement arcade and wandered out onto the pier. If you’re likely to spend a lot of time here then it’s worth getting a season ticket.
Until we visited, I didn’t realise that there is a zip wire that goes from the pier to shore. I didn’t see anyone using it, but that may have been because of the weather.
Next to the pier is the Oceanarium and a restaurant called Hot Rocks. We weren’t hungry, so didn’t go in, but it’s somewhere that I used to visit a lot.
South Coast Roast
With the weather turning chilly, Inez and I headed to a local coffee shop, South Coast Roast. Fellow fitness enthusiast Khetsi brought me to this coffeehouse in December. It’s got a laid back vibe, with great music playing and a range of drinks on offer (including a variety of vegan milks).
Inez and I enjoyed our hot chocolates, which were strong and dark without being too sweet.
Sadly, that was where our adventure had to end – by the time we got back to Southampton, it would be time to pick up M from the nursery.
Have you ever visited Bournemouth? What did you think of it?
Hotels.com gifted me £60 spending money, but all views are my own.