Good times on Poole Quay
Poole Quay is magical; with the best of the UK’s weather, spectacular views of Europe’s largest natural harbour and all sorts of fun, food and history, you can’t beat it. On a summer’s day you could be in the Med. Even in the winter, a refreshing walk and a hot chocolate is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours.
You can walk from the lifting bridge at one end of the quay all the way along the water’s edge to the prestigious marina (where Pip Hare, British Vendée Globe sailor is based) and Poole Old Lifeboat Museum on the other side; this is our favourite spot for crabbing, the perfect way to spend a couple of hours with the kids – its free and you can pick up supplies at various places along the quay.
There are plenty of million-pound Sunseekers to admire - one of Poole’s greatest exports, featured in many a Bond film - but boats of all sizes come and go; little fishing boats, tall ships, pleasure cruisers and yachts. Enjoy the view from the top of the Sea Music Sculpture by renowned sculptor Sir Anthony Caro, which echoes the sound of the sea.
There’s also a life-size bronze sculpture of Robert Baden-Powell, who started the Scout movement on nearby Brownsea Island. The quay is the gateway to this and the other islands in the harbour and there are various boat trips on offer. Watch the sun go down from Poole Bay on Dorset Belle Pleasure Cruise’s Summer Nights Cruise or try mermaid spotting on their fascinating Mermaid Cruise.
Refreshment-wise, you’re spoilt for choice; relax outside one of the many cafes or pubs on the quayside and soak up the continental atmosphere. There are too many pubs to mention but Poole Arms is the area’s oldest pub, dating back to 1635, and the King Charles is reputedly the most haunted building in Poole, with things mysteriously being moved and staff reporting hearing a lady crying “help me!” even though there’s no-one there. Our favourite cafés are Tiramisú Sorrento, tucked just behind the quay in the Old Town, where you will discover the most delicious Italian treats, and dog-friendly Deli on the Quay.
Having been a pivotal town since medieval times, Poole Quay and Old Town, full of ancient alleys and cobblestones, has a fascinating history, so there’s loads to explore. Head to Poole Museum for four free floors of history and Scaplen’s Court next door - the most complete medieval building in Poole. Grab a cockle trail challenge sheet from Poole Tourist Information and follow the numbered brass cockles embedded in the pavements to discover how Poole has changed through the centuries - from pirates to ghosts, D-Day embarkations and murders, Poole has it all!
After over 140 years, the famous Poole Pottery sadly closed in 2017 but Studio Poole is keeping its legacy alive with its outlet shop and live in-house studio, where you can have a go at producing your own piece of pottery.
Other shops not to miss include Truly Scrumptious, an old-fashioned sweet shop with amazing fudge, ice-cream and a vast range of sweets. And the first ever Lush shop (the company headquarters are in Poole). If you’re feeling flush, Gina Conway Aveda Salon and Spa is the place to visit for a special pampering treat.
We love Italian food here in Poole – our favourites are Rosso’s Italiano, with stunning panoramic views of Sandbanks, Brownsea Island and The Purbecks beyond. Family-run Pizzeria Valona, located in the Old Town, specialises in delicious wood-fired pizzas. And Da Vinci's, which has been a feature here since 1993 and has recently developed a large al fresco area on the quayside. Owner Nico Da Vinci, says Poole Quay is a very traditional, family-friendly place, “During the summertime, it’s like being in St Tropez or Côte d’Azur or Portofino. People come here to dine then have a walk on a lovely evening.”
There are many culinary alternatives to Italian; for fresh fish try Rockfish. Renouf’s is an amazing local concept in cheese and wine, Oriel does fabulous Mediterranean cuisine, Custom House is great for Bistro-style dining and Hennings has amazing food all day and a little boutique attached where you can treat yourself to local goodies.
For stylish celebrations and cocktails head to the beautiful Guildhall Tavern, with two AA rosettes, or to Hotel du Vin, where you can also rest your head for the night.
With a packed events schedule, from summer fireworks to Poole Seafood Festival, and Poole Dream Machines to the New Year’s Day bath race, whenever you visit, you’re sure to be entertained.
By Emily McGregor, Local News and Lifestyle Reporter