Bournemouth and Poole

The 10 best cheap things to do in Bournemouth and Poole!

The 10 best cheap things to do in Bournemouth and Poole!

If you’re looking for great places to visit in Dorset, look no further than the beautiful towns of Poole and Bournemouth. Both towns are seaside resorts on the south coast of England. They are known for their sandy beaches, Victorian-era buildings, and vibrant nightlife. Bournemouth has an estimated population of 510,041 making it the largest in Dorset, with plenty to do throughout the year including festivals and events. Poole was home to many British ships during WWII due to its proximity to naval bases on the south coast of England, with many boats from the harbour playing their role in the evacuation at Dunkirk. Today it’s a thriving port with ferry links across Europe as well as ferries from Southampton that can take you around Britain or even further abroad! See below for the best free and cheap activities between these wonderful towns! 

In this blog post we:

  • List the best places to visit for no charge at all
  • Show all places on an interactive map to help you locate each place easily.

Bournemouth and Poole has many cheap options for things to do. There are free museums like The Old Lifeboat Museum and Poole Museum or if you fancy some time outdoors, the beautiful Bournemouth Beach and Boscombe Chime Gardens

Things to do
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    Museums and Galleries

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    Westover Gallery

    The Westover Gallery is a small contemporary art gallery that exhibits works by both established and emerging artists from around the world. It’s also home to an extensive collection of modern genres and collections of paintings, prints and drawings alongside the famous Frogman Bronzes. The gallery can be found across from the Bournemouth Gardens.

    Poole Museum and Scaplen’s Court Museum

    Poole Museum and Scaplen’s Court Museum are two of the best museums in Poole, Dorset. They have a wide variety of exhibits that will interest anyone who loves history! Their galleries tell the story of the historic maritime town of Poole and its harbour from prehistory to the 21st century. There is something for everyone! Scaplen's Court is a Grade I listed medieval building dating back to the 1300s. It is now a thriving school learning centre offering unique hands-on learning experiences. The museums both offer a wide range of exhibitions, events, and activities for all ages. There is a café and gift shop where you can purchase unique gifts to remember your visit!

    Old Lifeboat Museum

    The Old Lifeboat Museum in Poole is a great place to visit. The modest museum is filled with artifacts and stories from the past. Housing one of Poole’s historic lifeboats, Thomas Kirk Wright, the old boathouse and souvenir shop at Fisherman’s Dock at the end of Poole Quay offers the public a close-up view of the lifeboat and the history that surrounds it.  The shop in the Old Boathouse sells RNLI memorabilia, cards, gifts, clothing and nautical-themed items. Proceeds from the gift shop itself will go directly to the RNLI in order to save lives at sea.

    History and Culture

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    Poole Harbour

    Poole Harbour

    Poole Harbour is Europe's largest natural harbour so there is plenty of things to do around the area. You can explore historic sites by taking a trip across to Brownsea Island which was recognised by Henry VIII as a strategic post to combat French and Spanish invasion and visit beautiful beaches like Sandbanks where there are lots of cafes and restaurants nearby too. Or why not spend your time exploring Poole Quay Market? This is an open air market that sells everything from fresh fish and vegetables to handmade crafts so it's perfect for people who love shopping local produce while enjoying views across the harbour itself!

    Walks and Nature Trails

    cheap things to do in bournemouth

    Bournemouth Pier and Beach

    Bournemouth Beach

    The coast has been awarded Blue Flag status every year since it was first introduced in 1996, and it’s easy to see why. There are plenty of facilities including toilets, cafes and restaurants. You can also hire deckchairs or sun loungers if you want to relax on the sand with your family or friends. With events on throughout the year, check online to see if there's something on when you're in the area. If you’re looking for something more energetic then there are lots of water sports available too – such as jet skiing, windsurfing and paddle boarding. Enjoyed by couples, families or the solo adventurer alike!

    Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre and Beach

    Hengistbury Head is a nature reserve and recreation area located to the east of Bournemouth. It's home to some of the most stunning views on the Jurassic Coastline, as well as an abundance of wildlife and plants.

    The nature reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the English county of Dorset, managed by the Bournemouth Borough Council. It has been designated as an SSSI for both its biological and geological features. Hengistbury Head is still popular with locals and visitors alike who come to enjoy views across Poole Harbour and Sandbanks from this elevated position. There are many paths through woodland, heathland, grasslands, and sand dunes which provide access to all parts of the headland. The beach at Hengistbury Head has been awarded Blue Flag status for its water quality, cleanliness, safety, and facilities.

    free things to do in poole and bournemouth

    Sandbanks Beach

    Bournemouth Lower Gardens

    The Lower Gardens are located in the heart of Bournemouth. The gardens along with the Central and Upper Gardens cover an area of approximately 3 kilometres and feature many beautiful plants, trees, flowers, and shrubs. They are Grade II Listed Gardens and have the TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Award for 2020. The pond with water lilies and local wildlife can be viewed from several bridges throughout the gardens. If you’re visiting during Christmas time, the incredible Christmas Tree Wonderland features a stunning trail of Christmas trees and festive activities, attracting thousands of visitors.

    Boscombe Chine Gardens

    Boscombe Chine Gardens offers a lovely mix of scenery and activities with formal flower beds, large grassy areas for recreation, mini golf, and a water-themed playground. A variety of trees grow on the banks of the chine and the gardens provide habitats for a range of wildlife.  There is a wildlife quiz trail along the pathway all about the plants and animals found in the gardens. The gardens are full of unique plants and flowers that will ensure an enjoyable experience.

    Sandbanks Beach and Shell Bay

    Sandbanks is a 5 kilometre long sand spit on a peninsula in Poole Harbour. It's home to some of Britain's finest beaches and offers fantastic views across to Bournemouth and Brownsea Island. Shell Bay is a glorious beach that can be reached from Sandbanks or from Poole Harbour. Most of the year the beach here is a haven of tranquility and the extensive dunes beyond give a feeling of wilderness. Summer is a different story though when the beach can become quite busy.

    Upton Country Park

    Upton Country Park is a beautiful place to go for a walk, hike, or bike ride. There are many different trails you can take, so it’s fun to explore the park and see what you discover! You might even find some wildlife along the way. The park has over 100 acres of land and provides visitors with many activities such as walking, cycling, fishing, and bird watching. It also has an adventure play area for children which is designed to stimulate creative, sociable play.


    Use the map below to locate all the best free things to do in Birmingham mentioned above to create your itinerary for your trip. We’ve also added places in the city to eat that offer good food at a decent price for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Open Google Maps to see distance information between locations and directions on how to get to each place.

    Please note...

    All outdoor activities including walking involve a degree of risk. The walks are recommended due to the features of each forest but this may change over time and further research is required before undertaking any activity. The weather can also impact the surface and general conditions of each path so please keep yourself updated with the weather forecast before setting off to enjoy your walk!

    Other Blog Posts From Dorset

    We write lots of blog posts from each area and have a few more from the towns of Bournemouth and Poole and the county of Dorset. Have a look at our other blog posts by clicking the links below:


    Bournemouth and Poole Blogs


    Cycling Routes in Dorset


    Forest Walks in Dorset


    Local Delicacies from Dorset

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