Lizzie Pope
Digital Editor

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Family-friendly Bournemouth is a great destination for caravan holidays, as Practical Caravan's travel guide to this traditional seaside resort reveals

Go for a caravan holiday in Dorset and head to the far east of the county to visit Bournemouth, a family-orientated, traditional seaside resort that really does offer something for everyone. And with so many campsites in Bournemouth, the town is a great base for exploring the rest of the region and the New Forest, too.

Bournemouth has only been part of Dorset since 1974, but it is now the county’s largest town, not to be missed when you visit Dorset. Located to the east of the Jurassic Coast, and between the New Forest and Poole, it’s a popular seaside resort with an extensive shopping district and many other attractions. It’s particularly popular for those with children, as there are numerous family-friendly activities to enjoy during caravan holidays in Bournemouth.

Despite its built-up nature, there are a number of attractive gardens in Bournemouth – and one of the most popular is Lower Gardens, in the heart of the town. The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) offers great shows and entertainment, including a selection for children. For more entertainment, head to the Tower Park complex, close to Poole, which has amusements, play areas, bowling, a water park and more. Meanwhile Oceanarium is a seafront aquarium in Bournemouth that features a number of different environments.

Or you could keep it simple and just visit the miles of sandy beaches in Bournemouth, which are safe for swimming. And both Poole Harbour and the Isle of Wight are visible from the beach, too. Also, don’t miss Bournemouth Pier: it offers great views, the chance to see a show and an open-all-year restaurant.

Fancy hitting the shops? Bournemouth is also great for shopaholics who will find many of the big name, high street chains present in the vibrant town centre.

Those who enjoy getting away from it all will appreciate the peace and solitude of Brownsea Island: you can catch a passenger ferry from Sandbanks or Poole Quay to the island from March to November. It’s also one of the few places in the UK where you can still see red squirrels.

There are a good number of campsites in Bournemouth and the surrounding area, including some that are for static caravans only. For the greatest selection, consider pitching your caravan at one of the many campsites in the New Forest and driving into the town, as it’s only around 10 miles from the outskirts of the forest.

Top five things to do in Bournemouth

  1. Do the pier-to-pier walk. Start at either Bournemouth Pier or Boscombe Pier and walk to the other. The former is one of the great sights of this famous seaside resort and as befits a landmark attraction there's lots to see and do at and immediately around Bournemouth Pier, including an amusement arcade, a cafe, restaurants and a theatre. Boscombe Pier, on the other hand, has benefited from a renovation project – it's free to enter and you can go fishing from the end of the pier (although charges may apply).

  2. Visit the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum. Near the beach and giving visitors stunning views of the Bournemouth coastline, it is filled with items from across the world. Entry is free from October to March and in the peak season, from 1 April until 30 September, a small fee is charged.

  3. Why not stop at the Oceanarium when staying at one of the caravan parks in Bournemouth? Right on the seafront, there's loads to see at this aquarium, from clownfish and catfish to turtles and otters. 

  4. Take a ride on the Bournemouth Balloon. As you float about 500 feet above the pretty Lower Gardens, you can enjoy spectacular, panoramic views of the town, the English Channel and beyond – and it's suitable for people of all ages.

  5. Just over the county border in Hampshire is Paultons Family Theme Park, perfect for a day out with the kids. The park also includes the popular Peppa Pig World.

When to visit Bournemouth

Whatever time of year you choose for your caravan holiday in Dorset, if you're heading to Bournemouth there will be something to do. If you want nothing more than a wander along the beach or a chance to explore the New Forest, each season provides a different perspective. And there are events all year round at the Bournemouth International Centre – one such event is the Big Bournemouth Beer Festival in April.

On the second bank holiday weekend in May it is the Bournemouth 7s Festival. It is the world's largest sport and music festival – and if this takes your fancy, the event even offers a range of camping options. And that same weekend it's the Bournemouth Wheels Festival, a free, three-day event in the town and on the seafront with a wide range of attractions whether you're a fan of two- or four-wheeled machines.

There's the Bournemouth Food & Drink Festival in June and also that month in Poole you can enjoy Folk on the Quay. The Bournemouth Air Festival comes to the town every August and is a very popular event, as is the Great Dorset Steam Fair that also comes to the region in August. Then in autumn, it is time for the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival.

How to get to Bournemouth

If you're thinking of heading here with your caravan, you will be pleased to learn that Bournemouth is easy to access. Just follow the A338 from the east, or the A35 from the west. It is also good to know that two park-and-ride locations are available on the outskirts of the town.

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