Brownsea Island Tours
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With ancient woodlands, windswept heathlands, and freshwater lakes hemmed in by grassy sea cliffs and sandy beaches, Brownsea Island crams a startling variety of scenery into its small landmass. The mostly uninhabited island, which is run by the National Trust, is the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour.
The most popular way to explore Brownsea Island is on a day trip from Poole—it’s a short ferry ride from the mainland. Alternatively, a sightseeing cruise around Poole Harbour affords spectacular views of Brownsea Island, as well as the surrounding islands and mainland attractions such as the Sandbanks, Old Harry Rocks, Corfe Castle, and the Purbeck Hills.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The weather on Brownsea Island can be wet and windy even in summer, so wear layers and bring a raincoat.
- Getting around the island is only possible on foot—vehicles and bikes are not permitted on the ferries.
- The Brownsea Island Visitor Centre, a short walk from the ferry port, has restrooms, a café, and a shop.
- Wheelchair-accessible ferries are available, and you can rent all-terrain wheelchairs on the island.
How to Get to There
Brownsea Island is only reachable by boat. Regular passenger ferries set sail from Poole Quay or the Sandbanks and take around 20 minutes to reach the island. From Poole, buses and taxis run from Poole train station to Poole Harbour.
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When to Get There
Brownsea Island is open to the public from March to October and on selected winter weekends, depending on the weather. In peak summer season (July and August), book your ferry tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
Exploring Brownsea Island
The Brownsea Island Nature Reserve covers the whole island and offers nature trails and wildlife such rare red squirrels, sika deer, wild peacocks, and birds (avocets, black-tailed godwits, and wildfowl). Additional highlights include the beachfront Brownsea Castle, which dates back to the 16th century; the Brownsea Open-Air Theatre, which hosts performances throughout summer; and electric buggy tours, which traverse all the island’s most scenic viewpoints.
Address: Brownsea Island, England
5 Tours and Activities to Experience Brownsea Island
Settle in for a round-trip cruise from Poole to Swanage, and see the renowned Jurassic Coast from the water. As you listen to the captain’s commentary, gaze out at the sights of Poole Harbour, Sandbanks, and Brownsea Island. Travel along the UNESCO-listed Jurassic Coast, learn about its geology, and look out for key landmarks such as Old Harry Rocks and Studland Bay.
See the sights of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast by boat, then hop on a heritage steam strain to explore the countryside between Swanage and Norden. The half-day experience starts with a cruise from Poole Quay, taking in sights of Brownsea Island, Sandbanks, and, of course, the UNESCO-listed Jurassic Coast. Stop at the Victorian pier of Swanage for a walk along the beach to the railway, enjoy a hop-on hop-off ride by old-fashioned steam train, then cruise back to Poole.
Get acquainted with the seaside splendor of Poole during a cruise around Europe’s largest natural harbor from Poole. Climb aboard a traditional fishing boat and enjoy spectacular views of the famous Sandbanks, the Blue Lagoon, and Corfe Castle. Listen to illuminating commentary from your expert guide as you sail from the picturesque town of Poole to Brownsea Island. Hear of how Poole Harbour was formed in the last ice-age and absorb the tranquility of the ocean before returning to Poole Quay.
Why not see the best views of Poole Harbour while you tuck into tea, scones and all the trimmings of a traditional afternoon tea? Our homemade scones are made freshly every morning in our café situated on Poole Quay. Along with a selection of sandwiches filled with some of our best local produce and traditional cakes to showcase our wonderful county. All of which will be served by our friendly waiters whilst you enjoy the amazing scenery as you pass Brownsea Island, Sandbanks Peninsula and more. On board you will also have access to unlimited tea and coffee as well as other beverages from our fully licensed bar on board to purchase.
With good food and great views, a Poole Lunch Cruise is both relaxing and rather stimulating. While you enjoy a delicious Ploughman's lunch we'll take you on a relaxed mini voyage through the heart of Poole Harbour. Our friendly waiters will serve you a scumptious meal made with local produce to showcase our wonderful county. To accompany your meal our fully stocked bar is certain to have something to tempt your palate. When you have finished you can take a stroll on our top deck to round off your experience
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What's the best way to experience Brownsea Island?