Bournemouth West Cliff Hotel
Free things to do in Bournemouth

Free things to do in Bournemouth

You’ll find seaside fun, bucolic beauty and plenty of free ways to enjoy them in this wonderful corner of Dorset

Bournemouth – a coastal resort without the hordes of holidaymakers associated with Blackpool and Brighton, and plenty of free things to do nearby.

A little over 200 years ago, the area where Bournemouth now stands was nothing but rugged heathland running down to a deserted coastline, until smugglers came ashore and hid their contraband in Bournemouth’s now-famous chines (deep ravines running down to the sea).

The smugglers’ activities were no doubt disrupted somewhat when Victorians created the town as a health resort. They certainly left their mark, planting the pine trees still in evidence today and coming in droves to take the consequently pine-scented sea air as a cure for their ailments. They built extravagant villas and hotels offering sea-water treatments.

The smugglers are also to thank for the series of gardens alongside the River Bourne – logically but uncreatively named Upper, Central and Lower Gardens, which belies the many charms residing within them. The Lower Gardens are closest to the seafront and retain a Victorian feel – the wide paths are perfect for promenading, a bandstand provides musical entertainment and kiosks offer deckchair hire and refreshments.


1. Stroll the promenade and pier

These days, Bournemouth doesn’t put on airs and graces. It shamelessly flaunts its kiss-me-quick British seaside flavour: plastic buckets and spades hang outside shops, stripy deckchairs line the beach, funfair rides twirl and whirl, the scent of candy floss hangs in the air, and the incessant cha-ching of slot machines follows you wherever you go.

A promenade runs along the length of the beach and makes for a very pleasant walk, especially when the sun is setting over the bay. If a busy day of exploration or beach pursuits have worn you out, a land train that will appeal to any Thomas the Tank Engine enthusiast runs between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers (prices start at £3.20 per adult, while under-fives travel free). And, while we’re on the subject of quirky ways to get around, Bournemouth has not one but three funicular railways gliding up its cliffs, although at the time of writing one of them is still out of action following a landslip in 2016 (adults £1.50, children £1.10).

Victorian visitors, like those today, would have enjoyed strolling to the end of Bournemouth Pier after it opened in 1880 for views of the coastline and the Isle of Wight.

2. See how the other half live

Sandbanks, just west of Bournemouth, is something of a local celebrity – a playground for the wealthy, known for its ultra-modern mansions perched on some of the world’s most expensive land. A polo tournament is held on Sandbanks Beach each July, while a migration of yachts appears every summer to take advantage of the superb sailing waters of nearby Poole Harbour the second largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney. It’s all very glam.

3. Admire historic architecture

Head out to the east and you’ll soon come across Christchurch. It butts up against Bournemouth but has a different feel, being much older than its neighbour. The centre is packed with historic buildings including the wonderful Christchurch Priory, which claims to be the longest parish church in England and is a hugely atmospheric building of golden limestone. It was built in 1094 on the site of an even earlier church, while later additions to the building showcase a wonderful range of architectural styles, from Norman to Renaissance.

4. Walk Hengistbury Head

For a peaceful walk, spectacular coastal views and a dose of raw nature, you can’t beat Hengistbury Head, a sandstone promontory at the eastern end of the Bournemouth beaches. It’s an important nature reserve and a place of great archaeological significance, with evidence of human occupation since at least 10,500BC. Archaeological finds, including Italian amphorae and Breton pots, show this was a busy cross-Channel trading centre – some of the finds are displayed in the sleek visitor centre, which is worth a visit (can’t currently figure out if you have to pay to get in here).

From Hengistbury Head, you can walk (for free) or catch the land train (£2.20 for adults, £0.60 for children and £5.50 for a family ticket) to Mudeford Sandbank, the long sand spit trailing from the end of the head and protecting Christchurch Harbour. It’s packed with more than 300 colourful beach huts, which are among Britain’s most expensive (Sandbanks doesn’t have a monopoly on expensive properties around here).

5. Explore the Jurassic Coast

If you have time to venture just a little further afield, don’t miss the fascinating Jurassic Coast. Spanning from East Devon to Dorset, this stretch of coastline is famous for its fossils – hence the name, and with plenty of opportunity to dig up your own – but also draws in keen walkers with hundreds of miles of connecting footpaths, dramatic cliff top scenes and wide ocean views. Lulworth Cove and the famous Durdle Door are particularly stunning, and are both less than 30 miles from Bournemouth itself.

6. Find adventure in the New Forest

Another gem even closer to Bournemouth is the New Forest National Park – just 13 miles away by car and also accessible by train. Explore its many walks and trails, search for deer or wild ponies, visit one of the UK’s oldest trees, or find your own adventure.

If you don’t fancy the trip, there’s plenty to keep you busy closer to (your holiday) home. The Victorians were certainly on to something when they created their health resort here. With its beautiful setting, a visit to restorative Bournemouth will still do much for your well-being. Walking along the beach and taking advantage of all the other free and cheap things to do here could work wonders for mind and body.


For more ideas, why not take a look at our ‘What’s on’ page.


5 of the best cycle routes around Bournemouth

5 of the best cycle routes around Bournemouth

Discover miles of breathtaking Dorset scenery by bike with our pick of the best cycling routes in and around Bournemouth

The best cycling routes around Bournemouth will enable you to discover the incredible scenery that this part of the Dorset coast is famous for. Between Bournemouth and the neighbouring towns of Christchurch and Poole, there are over 150 miles to explore on your bike, taking in everything from breathtaking clifftop paths to wildlife-rich nature reserves.

As well as giving you almost-unrestricted access to your natural surroundings, cycling offers a variety of health benefits, ranging from improved lung and joint function to better balance and coordination. It also helps the environment, of course, saving on emissions and reducing your carbon footprint.

To help you get started, we’ve listed five of the best cycling routes in the Bournemouth area, including the start and end points where applicable, the distances you’ll travel and what you can expect to see along the way. Please note that these are aimed at beginner and/or intermediate cyclists. To see a map of recommended cycle routes around Bournemouth, visit the BCP Council website.


1. Hengistbury Head to Sandbanks

Up to 10 miles (16km) one way. Difficulty: Easy to intermediate

The Dorset coastline is renowned for its vast stretches of golden sand, and there’s no better way to witness this glorious spectacle than by cycling along the seafront. Starting at Hengistbury Head in the east, this route follows the promenade past the beaches at Southbourne, Boscombe, Bournemouth and the Chines (Durley and Alum). Though the path is relatively flat, riding the whole way might prove challenging for some – handily, there are plenty of cafés along the way to stop for some refreshments before turning back. Please note that during July and August, cycling is not permitted on the seafront between 10am and 6pm.


2. Poole Heritage Cycle Route

7.5 miles (12km). Difficulty: Easy

A circular ride between Upton Country Park and Poole town centre, the Heritage Cycle Route takes in some of the area’s most attractive and historic locations. From the stark beauty of Holes Bay, with its views towards the uninhabited Pergins Island, to the magnificent mansions of old Poole, there’s plenty to admire and photograph along the way. Once you’ve completed your journey, why not reward yourself with something tasty in Upton’s gorgeous walled garden – the cakes are simply divine.


3. Moors Valley Country Park & Forest Through the Forest Ride

Up to 10 miles (16km). Difficulty: Intermediate

Spread across 800 acres, Moors Valley Country Park & Forest is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, making it a real treat for nature lovers. If you’re looking to explore it on two wheels, you have a number of options. Our favourite is the Through the Forest Ride, a single-track route aimed at people with some off-road cycling experience. If you’re able to navigate the bumpy paths and occasional tight turns, you’ll be rewarded with sumptuous views of verdant pines and untroubled pastures. For an easier ride, try the two-mile (3.2km) Forest Road circuit.


4. Christchurch Town Loop

3.1 miles (5km). Difficulty: Easy

Christchurch has long been a popular destination for tourists, who flock here to enjoy its award-winning beaches, coastal nature reserves and historic buildings – notably the ruins of an 11th-century castle. Starting in the neighbouring village of Wick, this gentle route gives you the chance to explore the resort by bicycle, taking in such picture-perfect sights as the River Stour, Tuckton Tea Gardens and Christchurch Quay. If you can resist stopping to admire the views with a scoop of ice cream, you have more willpower than us!


5. The Castleman Trailway

Up to 16.5 miles (26.5km). Difficulty: Easy to intermediate

Idyllic would be an apt word to describe The Castleman Trailway cycle route. Following a disused train track from inland Sturminster Newton, through the Stour Valley to the coastal town of Poole, this largely level path passes through some of the region’s most captivating and undisturbed scenery – think rolling hills, shimmering meadows and tranquil woodlands. Of course, there’s no obligation to complete the route from start to finish, and – as with the train that used to wind its way through these parts – there are numerous opportunities to get on and off.


For more ideas, take a look at our Top Picks of things to do in Bournemeouth.


Join us in making mental health a priority: introducing our first-ever ‘Charity of the Year’

Join us in making mental health a priority: introducing our first-ever ‘Charity of the Year’

We’re excited to announce that we’ve named Dorset Mind our first-ever “Charity of the Year”.

As our official charity partners for 2024, we will be going the extra mile to support, sponsor and collaborate with the charity throughout the year.

The whole team agreed that Dorset Mind was the obvious choice for us – their mission is so well aligned with our values. We loved their team and the incredible work they’re doing locally, making them the obvious choice for a charity that can really resonate with our team, guests and the wider community.

Dorset Mind has been at work for more than 75 years, supporting mental health across the county. They’re all about building partnerships and working collaboratively to bring about big changes in our communities. They’re never afraid to speak up to ensure Dorset is inclusive and that the life-changing support that inspires people to live mentally healthy lives is available.

Their impactful one-to-one and group services for adults and young people include active monitoring, counselling, mentoring, wellbeing support groups and alternative social prescription solutions – all aimed at preventing mental health worsening and aiding recovery.

We’re diving straight in to support Dorset Mind in any way we can, from spreading awareness through fundraisers to our staff getting stuck in and supporting their events – we’re all in! You might spot us volunteering at the Sherborne Dragon Boat Race or flexing our muscles at the Dorset Plane Pull, all in aid of this fantastic charity!

It’s such a pleasure to be able to offer our facilities to support them in a wide range of ways. In fact, we’ve already rolled out the red carpet to host a well-deserved retirement party for their Chair of Trustees and we’re already preparing to host their annual summer bash too.

We’re also cooking up some fundraising magic right here at the hotel. We’ll be donating event proceeds, hosting competitions and much more, all to raise money for Dorset Mind – we want to pull out all the stops to show our support.

While fundraising is important, we are also 100% on board with Dorset Mind’s mental health education approach. As a part of our partnership, they will be helping us fine-tune our mental health practices with their expertise, supporting us with workshops and awareness sessions, because looking after our team’s mental health is a top priority.

Because we have seen for ourselves the difference Dorset Mind is making to our community, supporting people of all ages through tough times. It means so much to us to be part of their journey.

So don’t be surprised to see Dorset Mind leaflets around the hotel or collection pots here and there – and be sure to keep an eye out for some upcoming events in aid of the charity.

We invite you to join us in this mission for better mental health. Whether you’re a guest, a partner, or just someone who cares, there’s a spot for you at the table. Let’s show our support to Dorset Mind and make a real difference in our community.

For more information check out their website at


Introducing our new menu…

Introducing our new menu…

Calling all foodies!

Indulge your taste buds with the latest culinary offerings at our Brasserie Bar and Lounge. Prepare to embark on a culinary journey around the globe as we introduce a range of dishes influenced by global cuisines, all inspired diverse cultures of our talented chefs.

Why not try the rich and flavorful risotto de carne y marisco, which comes straight from the shores of Portugal, bursting with salmon, king prawns, and saffron-infused rice? Or the aromatic Caribbean half-roast, flavoured with mouthwatering Caribbean spices. There really is an item to tempt every palate.

The new menu boasts a fantastic selection of small plates and salads with mains including seafood, steaks, burgers, pizza, pasta, risotto, and noodles.

Save room for dessert with our irresistible tiramisu torte and the innovative Japanese Bar, which combines the flavours of matcha, passion fruit, and yuzu. Or, perhaps treat yourself to one of our signature after-dinner cocktails, such as the Apple Pie with vanilla vodka, apple, and cinnamon. Naughty, but very nice!

Vegan guests can also enjoy a new selection of plant-based delights. Our vegan menu includes a selection of small plates, an authentic Red Thai Curry, Falafel and Spinach burger, Risotto cake and a selection of delicious desserts too!

And for the little ones, our pirate-themed menu is a treasure trove of favourites. These include mac and cheese, pizza and pasta, with irresistible puddings that no little pirate could resist! Our children’s menu is great for value too, at £8.50 for one course and £12 for two.

And let’s not forget our much-loved afternoon tea, featuring a delicious selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and an assortment of ever-changing sweet treats. This quintessentially British option, served with your choice of tea or coffee, really is the perfect way to unwind and indulge – especially when paired with our afternoon tea spa day offer! (Find out more here)

But don’t just take our word for it – come and experience our new menu for yourself! Book your table now through TheFork here and embark on a culinary adventure with us.

Bon appétit!

You can view all of our menus here.

The Bournemouth Bloggers take over the Bournemouth West Cliff Hotel!

The Bournemouth Bloggers take over the Bournemouth West Cliff Hotel!

We were delighted to host the Bournemouth Bloggers group earlier this year for the launch of our new menu.

Their presence brought a lively energy to our hotel on March 27th, as they enjoyed a night filled with great food, cocktails and marvellous music!

Our new menu didn’t fail to impress. The group had the chance to taste each of our new dishes, from savoury delights to sweet treats, all designed to please both the eyes and the palate.

The highlight of the evening was a hands-on cocktail-making session led by our skilled bar staff. Guests had the opportunity to sample classic cocktails and some of our unique specialities. Three lucky attendees even got to try their hand at mixing their own drinks under the watchful eye of the pros – definitely a recipe for fun!

Aside from the culinary delights, the bloggers were given an exclusive tour of our recently upgraded facilities, including our luxurious suites and spa amenities, showcasing all the ways we take care of our guests in style.

Providing the soundtrack for the evening’s festivities was local vocalist Jax Hall. Who serenaded us all with her smooth jazz and vintage vibes, setting the perfect mood for a night to remember.

And the best part? You don’t have to enjoy all the fun vicariously through their Instagram pages – You can experience everything firsthand here at the West Cliff Hotel and make amazing memories of your own!

Whether it’s a night out with friends or an intimate dinner for two, book your table now via TheFork at Our delectable new menu – and glorious cocktails – are waiting for you!


ABBA night at the West Cliff Hotel

ABBA night at the West Cliff Hotel

Dancing Queens and Super Troupers, mark your calendars!

Because something ABBA-solutely fabulous is coming to West Cliff Hotel in Bournemouth on Saturday, May 11th. We invite you to join us for a musical extravaganza celebrating the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s iconic Eurovision win. (No, we couldn’t quite believe it was so long ago either!).

Abba’s Angels, one of the UK’s premier Abba Tribute Bands, will be in the house performing a mesmerising and authentic tribute to one of the most iconic bands ever. Established in 2000, ABBA’s Angels have appeared on national TV and supported many well-known bands over the years; with incredible ABBA hits in the hands of these talented professional musicians and singers you’re in for some first-class entertainment.

Picture this – an evening filled with more sparkle than a disco ball, a complimentary glass of prosecco to kick-start your ABBA adventure, and a mouthwatering three-course meal cooked up by our talented chefs. All for just £50 per person. We can almost hear you singing ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’

And, in honour of the golden Eurovision moment which launched ABBA’s stellar career a half-century ago, we’re giving away a pair of tickets worth over £100 to one lucky winner! To seize your opportunity to be an ABBA VIP for free, enter the competition on our Facebook page here and follow these steps:

1️. LIKE & FOLLOW our Facebook page – Bournemouth West Cliff Hotel.

2️. LIKE, SAVE & SHARE the ABBA night giveaway post to your story (make sure to tag us!)

3️. And tag the plus one you’d love to bring along for the big night in the comments.

But hurry, this competition closes at midnight on Tuesday, April 30th. The winner (who naturally takes it all!) will be announced on Friday, May 3rd. Good luck!


The Abba Tribute Night with Abba’s Angels will be taking place on Saturday, May 11th from 7pm until midnight at the Bournemouth West Cliff Hotel, 7 Durley Chine Rd, Westbourne, Bournemouth, BH2 5JS

Tickets can be found at eventbrite.

To find out more, visit the event page on our Facebook event page here, get in touch via email at or call us on 01202 751000.

So, to all the ABBA fans out there – it’s time to put on your platform boots, unleash your inner Dancing Queen and get ready to say Thank You for the Music at this sensational ABBA tribute night, courtesy of the Bournemouth West Cliff Hotel!

Fancy dress is optional – but very much encouraged! We’ll see you on the dance floor…