Bournemouth’s spectacular Victorian gardens lie between the town’s shopping area and the seafront. The Grade II listed gardens are split into three distinct sections; Lower, Central and Upper Gardens, and include tennis courts, mini-golf, children’s play areas and outdoor art exhibitions, as well as cafes and ice cream kiosks.
Guided walks and interpretation points explain the wide range of plant and animal life and history of the gardens. Tree trails identify the huge California redwoods, Scots pines, Chusan palms and river birches, and the gardens are also famous for their stunning floral displays.
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum on the East Cliff showcases a rare mix of treasures from around the world including famous paintings and gems collected by the Russell-Cotes family.
The Oceanarium is an all-weather attraction beside Bournemouth Pier and is a hit with all ages, housing sharks, rare green sea turtles, piranhas, venomous lion fish, a cute otter family and the weirdly wonderful octopus. Later in 2015 a colony of penguins will also take up residence here.
The most visible attraction in the resort is the tethered Bournemouth Balloon in the Lower Gardens. It offers visitors outstanding panoramic views stretching east to the Isle of Wight and west to the Purbeck Hills.
The Littledown Centre features great sports facilities including a large pool with flume rides, baby pool and gym. The new Altitude High Ropes is perfect for teens, offering a zip wire, climbing wall and high and low rope courses. Splashdown, at Tower Park, Poole, has 12 fantastic water flumes, an indoor pool for children and an interactive water play area for under eights.
Bournemouth is a great base to explore the local area. There are a number of local tour companies that offer sightseeing tours to the Jurassic Coast, Stonehenge, Salisbury, the New Forest and the Isle of Wight.
The town also boasts a vibrant night-time economy, for which it has been awarded a Purple Flag. Like Green Flag Award for parks and Blue Flag for beaches, Purple Flag status means Bournemouth town centre meets national standards of excellence in managing everything that happens at night in Bournemouth’s scores of buzzing bars and nightclubs, while top entertainment acts headline at the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), Pavilion Theatre and the O2 Academy in Boscombe.