Dorset is a seaside county unlike any other in the UK. It’s a wide region well-known for its incredible history and natural landscapes, many of which you’ll need to take days and weeks to discover in their entirety. It’s little wonder so many people holiday here!
St.Leonards is a cosy village area that’s well-linked to Bournemouth and Poole and is, therefore, a great spot for anyone looking for straightforward access to the rest of the county. It’s important to bear in mind that there is a bigger St Leonards – St Leonards on Sea – which is based in Sussex! This St Leonards, while smaller, has lots to offer in terms of local attractions.
Therefore, if you’re interested in holidaying in St Leonards or in nearby Bournemouth or Poole, you will need to make a list of all the nearby things to do! St.Leonards is a great little home base for holidays and will appeal to families and holidaymakers of all ages. Here’s our pick of some brilliant holiday ideas we think you should be taking advantage of.
As stated, Bournemouth is very close by indeed, only a short trip by car or public transport. If you’re a beach-dweller or fancy topping up your tan, you’re going to want to make a beeline here for the famous beaches. Bournemouth is home to seven miles of golden sands. That’s plenty of seaside strolling for you to plan for!
You can easily hire our deckchairs and even beach huts if you plan to take your time along Bournemouth’s golden stretches. The views here are magnificent, too. There are incredible panoramic views of the Isle of Wight beyond, and the sea here is surprisingly warm during the summer. No more paddling in freezing or tepid water!
You’ll also be pleased to hear that Bournemouth’s beaches are well-monitored by RNLI lifeguards, making it a safe excursion for beach travellers and those looking to go for a quick swim. The area is also well-known for its fabulous yearly festivals, such as the Arts by the Sea celebrations. This October festival is often full of wonderful local exhibitions and artworks for you to take a look at while traversing the sands.
If you are aiming to holiday in St.Leonards in Dorset, always make a point of taking a trip down to Bournemouth. Even if beaches aren’t always to your taste, there are some wonderful natural sights to see. Do be aware that access to dogs may be restricted to certain areas between May and September. You can always find dog-friendly beaches nearby throughout the year, however.
Situated just off Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island is a natural spectacle unlike any other. This National Trust site is only 10-11 miles from St Leonards, which means it is easy to get to once you’ve made a trip into Poole.
The biggest draw here for all the family will be the stunning natural walks and habitats. There are scores of wonderful wildlife waiting to be discovered! It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, with woodland walks and a luscious lagoon nestled deep within. There are even red squirrels here, too! These quarrels are protected species and are considered some of the UK’s rarest creatures. Why not take a trip out to Poole and see if you can spot some up close?
Brownsea Island is also well-known for being the birthplace of the Scouting movement. Lord Baden-Powell, who established the Boy Scouts over a century ago, established the first Scout camp here back in 1907. Even to this day, Guides and Scouts make summer pilgrimages here. There’s plenty for you to learn about the movement and the first ever camps on your arrival at the Brownsea Island outdoor centre.
You can even choose to camp overnight if you wish! It’s a wonderful slice of natural English heritage which will be right on your doorstep if you holiday in St.Leonards.
We’ve talked about the wonders of the Jurassic Coast in previous guides to Dorset, but it’s always worth coming back to talk about. Around 17 miles from St Leonards – a short trip in the car or on public transport – lies a UNESCO World Heritage Site unlike any other.
The Jurassic Coast is a shoreline comprising of natural rock formations which are thought to date back 185 million years. To this day, they remain unspoiled! Over 95 miles of breath-taking coastline are just waiting for you to traverse. It’s hard to believe that dinosaurs once took to this route so many millennia ago!
What will appeal to many holidaymakers and visitors is the fact that the coastline brings together so many historic towns and eclectic villages for you to dip in and out of at your leisure. Experience picturesque Sidmouth, historic Lyme Regis, climb to the top of the cliffside pinnacle that is the Golden Cap or explore bustling Weymouth and Dorchester at your leisure.
One of the great reasons for holidaying in St Leonards is the fact that, despite its relatively humble nature, it is so well-linked to so many fantastic Dorset hotspots. Whether you choose to stay in a lodge, a caravan or other holiday home in the area, you will always be able to take a short trip out to many different Dorset highlights. The Jurassic Coast, of course, is a must-see which you should definitely take the opportunity to explore when you’re next nearby.
A little further afield, though still accessible within an hour from St Leonards, are Swanage and Purbeck. Swanage is home to all manner of wonderful Dorset hotspots, sights and experiences. You’ll be able to take in the medieval ruins of Corfe Castle as well as its historic village, the pristine Lulworth Cove and a variety of wonderful natural views.
Swanage is also famous for its vintage railway. You’ll be able to board a passenger steam train throughout the peak season here on a 12-mile return trundle down historic tracks. The train stops along the way at Corfe Castle, Herston Halt, Harmans Cross and Norden. This means you can easily break off along the way to explore some of the stops while making the most of your return ticket. There are even special events and occasions based on the trains which run from April through October each year!
Swanage, too, has plenty of mod cons. If you’re keen to take a look at some local shops and amenities, the town is famous for its independent stores. It’s a quaint little Dorset town where there’s always a nice focus on local heritage. There is also a nice array of restaurants and cafes to choose from, all with that inescapable seaside charm.
Heading back to Bournemouth, any animal lover will want to head straight for the local aquarium and ocean life centre. The Oceanarium is open all year round and is home to penguins, sharks, stingrays, otters, turtles and more besides. They offer flexible membership plans, meaning if you and the family want to come and take a closer look at the aquatic critters, you can do so with unlimited entry.
It’s only a short trip from St.Leonards as it’s based in the centre of Bournemouth. It’s a fantastic, educational day out which will let you get up close and personal with some truly fascinating creatures. The Oceanarium also offers plenty of information on animal conservation and the work which goes into helping so many different critters feel at home.
It’s hard to believe that Dorset is home to so many different species. However, they’re all here waiting for you on St.Leonards’ doorstep!
The Moors Valley Country Park and Forest is another famous Dorset hotspot we’ve looked at briefly in other guides. However, if you’re holidaying in St Leonards, you’re hardly going to want to miss the walks, adventures, sights and sounds in store for you here.
Over 1000 acres of beautiful parkland and forestry await you. This can make for some truly unique country walks and bike rides! For children, there are also a number of different activity zones and adventures specifically built to help them explore the wonderful natural world around them.
You can even take in a spot of golf, check out community exhibitions and projects, and take a trip down a zip wire. It’s a wonderful family day out, though plenty of couples and even solo holidaymakers visit Moors Valley to sample the serene surroundings and lush woodland. Each trip here is going to be slightly different with so much to discover. Once again, it’s only a short trip from St Leonards.
If military and wartime history fascinates you, you will want to take a short trip from St Leonards out towards Bovington, where the famous Tank Museum has over 300 different armoured vehicles for you to discover.
The Bovington Tank Museum is even home to the world’s first tank. Many of these armoured vehicles saw action in World War One and beyond. It’s safe to say that some of the most important vehicular and armed assets in conflicts across the 20th century are preserved here for all to take a closer look at.
Supported by lottery funding as well as Arts Council England, the Tank Museum is one of many important slices of heritage that lie in wait across historic Dorset. St Leonards is so well-linked to so many different sites of importance and interest! Even if wartime history may not interest you outright, you may find yourself converted on a short trip to Bovington.
Dorset is home to many spectacular stately homes and gardens. Kingston Lacy, just 8 miles from St.Leonards, is one of the most popular. Situated near Brownsea Island and Poole, the National Trust operates this faux Italian palace which is open to the public.
It’s an art and sculpture lover’s dream, with vast arrays of artwork, carvings and more on display. There’s even a well-maintained Japanese garden, a tea house and family play areas based on site. Therefore, it’s always going to be a great trip for all the family to take. There are around 8,500 acres of family estate here now open to the public – which means there’s never going to be a shortage of things to do.
With Dorset being so visitor-friendly, it’s hardly surprising that there are so many different accommodation options from town to town. However, many people choose to stay in quaint St.Leonards year after year for a variety of reasons. Not only is it well-linked to just about all the major sights the county has on offer, but there are also plenty of lodging and accommodation options which are amazingly affordable.
Many people opt to buy a holiday home, lodge or static caravan. For a small upfront fee, regular visitors to St.Leonards and Dorset beyond can attach themselves to the local area! If you’re likely to visit beautiful Dorset and St Leonards several times a year, or even on an annual basis, it makes perfect sense to have somewhere to call home here.
If you are interested in purchasing a holiday home or static caravan in St Leonards, you may wish to consider the wonderful Forest Edge Holiday Park. Well-linked to Dorset’s main attractions, this cosy park boasts cycle trails and peaceful woodland for you to explore at your leisure. It’s one of the most tranquil holiday sites in the region, which means you’ll always be free to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life to come and relax.
It’s based at the edge of the New Forest region, too – which means it’s superbly located for anyone looking to take in more of the county’s natural beauty.
Are you interested in holidaying in St Leonards or Dorset? Why not make a holiday home or lodge your own in the heart of the county.
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