Popular since the late 19th century, Bournemouth has shaken off its old image as a refuge for the elderly and is now a lively, year-round resort for all ages.
Its natural features – 7 miles (11km) of glorious sands backed by steep ‘chines’ – remain the focus of the town. Beautiful gardens snake their way up the hillside and at some times of year are illuminated by candles after dark.
The town itself has excellent shopping and a huge variety of restaurants, as well as a tethered balloon ride in the Lower Gardens. The area around the pier has a fairground atmosphere in summer, with its merry-go-round, street performers and Friday-night fireworks.
Among the visitor attractions in the town are the Oceanarium, the Pier (which now has a zipwire ride) and the Russell-Coates Art Gallery and Museum. The last of these is a fascinating glimpse into the home and collection of Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife, Annie. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the house is a treasure trove of art and sculpture collected and curated by the couple, who also lived here.