Travel review: Celebrate Britishness by the beach in Bournemouth
It’s amazing what three days by the sea eating sumptuous food and sleeping in an enormous bed can do for the soul.
With the Jubilee and the Olympics, there has never been a better time to celebrate our Britishness and for the Londoner, Bournemouth is the perfect weekend break to indulge in seaside shenanigans and continue to ride the residual patriotic wave washing over the capital.
Book Friday or Monday off to make the most of a long three days enjoying the excellent restaurants, Blue Flag beaches and bustling nightlife.
Seven miles of stretching, sandy beaches curve around the bay from Bournemouth’s buzzy pier to the exclusive Sandbanks peninsula in the west, which by area has the fourth highest land value in the world.
The town has certainly shaken off its seaside retirement resort reputation and now boasts some incredibly good fish restaurants with impeccable service and swanky bars.
And if you’re not so keen on sand and sea, the lush Lower Gardens, just a two minute walk from the pier and beach, are perfect for a picnic and lazy day in the sun.
Here you’ll find tourists, families and groups of young people relaxing on the lawns by the small stream, admiring the brilliant summer flowers and watching the Bournemouth balloon ascend and descend throughout the day.
The tethered helium globe which winches you 500ft above the gardens to give spectacular views over to Poole Harbour and the Isle of Wight is a must, if only to get your bearings.
Like any other seaside town it does help if the weather is good but all’s not lost if it does turn on you. The Bournemouth Oceanarium, with its rainbow of fish including stingrays and sharks as well as other sea animals such as otters, is worth a visit whatever the weather but is a great place to duck inside if the sun goes in.
And if you’ve never tried jetskiing (www.jetskisafaris.co.uk) then frankly, what are you waiting for? Once you’ve recovered from the exhausting task of sucking and heaving yourself in to your wetsuit then you’re ready to hop on board.
You’ll be amazed at how fast 12mph feels at first as you lurch around the small obstacle course aimed at familiarising you and your new water beast. The machines can get above 50mph but as a beginner you’re likely to stick around a top speed of 25-30mph.
The faster you go, the more control you have over the ski, as the nose rises above the water rather than having to battle through. We went out in a group of six and our instructor Ollie, an archetypal cool beach bod with a tan, sun-kissed hair and flip flops, put everyone at ease and made sure we were comfortable with the pace.
After a busy day on the water, try out one of the town’s many restaurants. Don’t be fooled by the casual ambience of West Beach, aptly situated on the seafront. Its seafood is some of the best in town. Mouth-watering pan fried scallops with black pudding and pea puree and wild sea bass with braised fennel are amongst its top dishes.
Meanwhile the Print Room offers an inarguably bling interior and perfectly cooked local produce. The fillet steak with asparagus and Madeira jus was infallible. The Crab Restaurant, up the road from the pier has an impressive wine list and even better service. Apart from its impeccable seafood options such as hot fruits de mer, lobster and local seared cod, it also boasts irresistible dishes of steamed turbot with samphire and oyster vermouth and herb crusted rump of lamb with aubergine caviar.
Being a university town, Bournemouth is full of bars and clubs. It is also a draw for surrounding smaller coastal areas looking for a good Saturday night out. But that doesn’t mean it’s not cool.
Sixty Million Postcards in Exeter Road, with a big beer garden and five minutes from the pier hosts regular indie, rock and electronica band nights as well as art events.
And as the sun goes down, or comes up, it’s time to get some rest. The Norfolk Hotel, a 10 minute walk from the pier oozes old school class. From the Molton Brown toiletries to the his and hers bathrobes and enormous beds, it is luxury from top to toe.
Enjoy a treat with the Friday fizz and lobster in the garden, with all sparkling wines and champagne half price from 4pm to 8pm. Before bed take a dip in the heated indoor swimming pool or relax in the steam room and sauna.
If you’re looking for an easy getaway this bank holiday weekend, you’d do far worse than to take a trip down the coast to one of our most loved seaside resorts and see how it’s reinvented itself to become a foodie haven with plenty of good old-fashioned British fun.
What to do
Explore the Jurassic coast on the coolest form of transport: Jet skiing at Salterns Marina in Poole (around a 20 minute drive) www.jetskisafaris.co.uk, 01202 706 784
Marvel at the startlingly large piranhas: The Bournemouth Oceanarium www.oceanarium.co.uk, 01202 311 993
Up, up, up and away for the best views: The Bournemouth Balloon www.bournemouthballoon.com , 01202 314 539
Where to stay
The four-star Norfolk Hotel with its excellent service and British class: Richmond Hill, Bournemouth, BH2 6EN, www.norfolk-royale.co.uk, 01202 551 521
Where to eat
West Beach www.west-beach.co.uk , 01202 587 785
Print Room www.theprintroom-bournemouth.co.uk , 01202 789 669
The Crab Restaurant www.crabatbournemouth.co.uk , 01202 203 600
The Bournemouth Air Festival 2012 returns for a fifth year of aerobatic displays and evening entertainment, held from the 30 August to 2 September.
Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival 2012 will provide a month of spectacular and imaginative events starting on 29 September from midday to midnight.
VHS Shot Club all-dayer at Sixty Million Postcards on August 25 will offer screen printing in the day and bands at night. www.sixtymillionpostcards.com. Free entry.
For more information see www.bournemouth.co.uk