With its seven miles of glorious coastline, a Bournemouth family break can feel more like Florida than South West England at the right time of year. Katie Amps and her family visited in May. Did she get Florida vibes from Bournemouth? Take a look.
Bournemouth family breaks have it all – even sunny weather if you’re lucky!
Late spring in England can be a bit hit or miss on the weather front, so we certainly felt blessed when a little Florida-style sunshine brightened up our May half term getaway in Bournemouth.
This famous English seaside town is renowned for its sprawling coastline, golden sandy beaches and bustling seafront restaurants. But there’s much more to this super family friendly place as I discovered when I took my beach-mad 3 year-old, Ronnie, to explore recently.
The first thing that hit me when we were lucky enough to have a sunny minibreak to Bournemouth was that this town really has it all. The busy centre is a real shopping destination, with a high street as buoyant as it was before the pandemic and just a stone’s throw from the beach itself.
When it comes to activities, there’s something for everyone here, from beautiful green open spaces to quaint coffee shops on every corner and the outstanding Bournemouth Oceanarium right next to the pier.
The pier itself is home to zip wires, climbing walls and other action-packed activities, which is another example of how this resort is modernising its appeal to families. The seafront is spectacular with the Observation Wheel in the heart of the main promenade, which also has traditional amusement arcades, fish and chip shops, ice-cream stalls and even deck chairs, for when you just want to sit and take it all in.
We were very lucky with the weather and basked in the sunshine every day. However, with so much to do, we had to limit the beach time and get exploring. Come rain or shine, Bournemouth will certainly keep you entertained.
Stay at accessible and amazing Marsham Court Hotel in Bournemouth
Our accommodation for the weekend was the family-owned, 4 star, Marsham Court Hotel. Set on Bournemouth’s East Cliff, it’s only a few minute’s walk from the seafront and offered the perfect location to explore the town on foot.
The hotel has been recently renovated and has a lovely seaside vibe, with stunning views of Bournemouth Bay. Marsham Court staff gave us a wonderful welcome, with a tour of the hotel which now includes a host of new accessible facilities. It has become the first UK hotel to install a fully-equipped Changing Places toilet, a project which cost £160k. Additionally, it also features a new Sensory Room and a wheelchair lift into the hotel. Plus, there are now accessible laundry facilities as well as a swimming pool hoist and two new accessible guest rooms with wet rooms, specialist beds and ceiling hoists.
Our little one was extremely excited to see that the hotel had a beautiful outdoor pool, which was heated, meaning we could have some lovely evening swims. Towels are provided for around the pool and there’s also a lovely little ice-cream counter and lots of sun loungers.
We stayed in one of the hotel’s large family rooms with a cosy king-sized bed and a single bed for Ronnie. From the windows we had a stunning view of the Dorset coast-line and waking up each morning to a sea view made it just that little bit more special.
Family restaurants from fish & chips on the pier to uber-cool on the prom
Places to eat in Bournemouth are just as impressive as the beach! We dined in The Stable, which is on the corner of the beautiful Lower Gardens and famed for the mouth-watering range of handcrafted sourdough pizzas loaded with quality regional ingredients. It has a chilled vibe, with flowery décor and a pretty outside terrace with views over the gardens.
On Saturday evening we headed to Key West Bar and Grill, which is right at the end of the iconic Bournemouth Pier, for fish and chips. There is no better place to sit and watch the sun go down and capture one of Bournemouth’s spectacular sunsets. This was a fantastic family friendly option and our little boy felt like he was having dinner in the sea!
Then on Sunday we took a walk along the beach front to the surf haven Boscombe and had brunch at the uber-cool Urban Reef Restaurant right on the promenade. The unique location offered stunning panoramic views of the Bournemouth Bay, from the Isle of Wight to the Purbecks and beyond. There was plenty for children – the kids’ menu is designed by eight-year-old chefs. Plus, there are books to read, quizzes to do and menus to colour in. Ronnie loved sitting on the terrace watching the surfers and was anticipating making sandcastles and paddling in the sea.
Visit Bournemouth Oceanarium for the penguins and so much more
The Bournemouth Oceanarium was one of the highlights of our trip. It’s a busy aquarium with hundreds of awesome creatures as well as a shark tunnel, penguin enclosure and a small, children’s play area. Ronnie was mesmerized by the underwater world and lucky enough to catch one of the fish-feeding sessions. We were especially taken with the penguins. These are one of Ronnie’s favourite animals, he was surprised to learn that that they make a moo-ing sound like a cow! The Oceanarium was a magical experience and a great opportunity to add a little education into your trip.
After that excitement we decided to let off a little steam with a good old-fashioned game of crazy golf. We were in for a treat at Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf where you’re taken back in time to the life of a smuggler and discover Bournemouth’s past as you work your way round the 18-holes. The course was perfect for our little crazy-golf first-timer. All the smuggler statues and themes kept him entertained, so mummy and daddy could get a little competitive! There’s even a downloadable app to help keep score, and make sure daddy doesn’t cheat!
Don’t miss Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park, it’s magical
Now this is a pre-schoolers dream day out and Ronnie was certainly overcome with excitement. Peppa Pig World is one of five themed areas of the park and it wasn’t as big as we expected. Although, that turned out to be a blessing with a three year old in tow. Size aside, it really felt like we had walked into the world of Peppa Pig.
There were bright and colourful age-appropriate rides even our fair-fearing little boy would try. His favourites was George’s Dinosaur Adventure, where you ride on a life-sized version of George’s Mr Dinosaur. But he also the loved Windy Castle Ride which takes you around the castle and has stunning views across Peppa Pig World. There were lots of photograph opportunities with characters in front of Madame Gazelles school house too. Ronnie thought Peppa was much bigger than he imagined! It truly was a magical experience and definitely something to tick of the before school bucket list.
Bournemouth is the ultimate family destination, with miles of sandy beaches and traditional seaside attractions. Easily accessible by train, bus and road, as well as a ton of different accommodation options to choose from, getting here is easy. So, the only thing you have to worry about is whether you’ll have time to see and do it all! I know we could have added a few more days to our break and still not seen it all.
How to plan your Bournemouth family break
Bournemouth sits on the Dorset coast, an hour’s drive west of Southampton and under two hours by train from London.
Where to stay
A standard family room at Marsham Court Hotel costs from £100 per night, including breakfast and parking.
Rooms with sea views and balconies are available.
For larger families, the hotel offers a choice of one and two bedroom apartments, which are dog friendly and have access to all hotel facilities, including the pool.
Apartments can be booked for 2 or 3-night weekends and also 7-night stays.
One bedroom apartment (sleeps up to 4) from £499 for a 2-night weekend.
Two bedroom apartment (sleeps up to 6) from £599 for a 2-night weekend.
What to do
A visit Paultons Park with our three year old was one of the highlights of our Bournemouth trip.
You need to book tickets online in advance. Prices start at £39.75, family tickets are available and kids under 1m go free!
If one day with Peppa Pig isn’t enough, official Paultons Short Break Packages include 2nd Park Day absolutely FREE.
Breaks start from just £199 per family of four!