NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies from this website.
I understand
More Info

If you're looking for a UK holiday for your adventurous family, you could do far worse than heading to Poole Harbour. Mike Walker gets to grips with the best that this little corner of England has to offer.

dsc 14

We're being treated to the aural wonders of the soothing sound of paddles brushing the calm waters as the ebb and flow of the azure blue sea gently laps against the front of our canoe. The sun beats down on us we marvel at the beauty of this natural harbour that cuts deep into the land. As we take in our surroundings we can't help but feel like we're somewhere special, paddling through the islands and outcrops which play host to internationally significant bird populations and a proliferation of exotic species.

We've chosen Poole Harbour as our base for an adventurous family holiday and what a surprise this place has turned out to be. The harbour borders three National Nature Reserves, including the internationally important Studland and Godlingston Heath. There's an unspoilt natural beauty here, despite being home to the harbour town of Poole and the glitz and glamour of Sandbanks.

We've chosen to base ourselves at Haven's Rockley Park Holiday Park which is nestled at the far end of the harbour overlooking Moor National Nature Reserve and the countless islands that dot the seascape.

We've been lucky, and Haven have upgraded us to a Platinum caravan which is situated right on the water's edge. As we step out onto the raised deck which overlooks the harbour's water we question why we've never been to this stunning corner of the country before.


It isn't just the scenery that's attracted us to Rockley Park though, with its own watersports centre and private beach it's the perfect place for an active family HQ.

Although partially man made with shipped in sand the beach is a joy and the view is one of awe and serenity in equal measures. Being a few kilometres inside this sheltered harbour has its distinct benefits, not least the pincer like defences of Sandbanks and Studland at the mouth of the harbour, which protect the waters within from the whims of the sea outside and create a safe playground for kids and adults to enjoy without fear of big waves or powerful sea currents.

We lug our family sized Sevylor Alameda inflatable kayak down to the beach at the first opportunity and set sail on our first adventure of the week. Apart from the sublime scenery, this ancient natural harbour, reputed to be the second largest in the world, also benefits from being incredibly shallow, with an average depth of just 48cm. We giggle childishly as we climb out of the kayak well clear of the shoreline and paddle around in water that's only knee deep. There's something wonderful and surreal about this feeling but more than anything else it allows our young children to safely enjoy the sea.


Having explored our little corner of the harbour we head out to the largest of the many islands here, Brownsea which is owned and managed by the National Trust. The mission is to hike around its one and a half miles by three quarters of a mile area. With a toddler and a days' worth of supplies on my back I feel like a packhorse as we set off on our mini adventure.

As the sun beats down on us the discussions between me and my wife are acutely focussed on how untouched, unspoilt and frankly gorgeous this scenery is. We take one of the easier circular routes to placate our 5-year old's PlayStation generation legs and he's quickly glad of a detour to visit a pebble beach where we picnic and take time to bask in the sunshine - a lucky touch indeed considering the fickle British weather. On the way back to the boat we criss-cross the coniferous woodland trails stopping to get snaps with the odd Peacock generously displaying its feathers. We make a mental note to avoid the rare red squirrels which, although a wildlife 'tick in the box', are the only population known in the UK to carry the human form of the bacteria stem Mycobacterium leprae that causes leprosy in humans.


After a half day hike punctuated with slews of 'oohs' 'aahs' and a few 'are we nearly there yet' comments we finally arrive back at the boat and the crowds to be taken on a tour of some of the harbour's other islands. The PA system crackles with stories of treacherous navigation and treasure, only not pieces of eight or gold laden chests. It seems it's not just footballers and celebrities that are attracted to one of this nation's finest sections of coastline, the oil barons are too. We are surprised to learn that, located in coniferous forest on Wytch Heath, on the southern shore of the harbour is the largest onshore oil field in Western Europe. It seems at odds with the nationally acclaimed and fiercely protected natural habitats and ecosystems of the area but it's clear that no land, however rich in wildlife and pleasing to the eye is safe from the relentless march of consumerism.

I dip a paddle into the water many more times on our week-long voyage of discovery, in part because of the ease that our prime location affords. I try my hand at paddle boarding and after a wobbly start get into a rhythm, exploring the coastline around the beach and making passes of the caravan to wave heroically at my family aimlessly passing the time on the deck of the caravan. Much as I thought I looked like a godly figure forging my way through the oceans the photos tell a different story!


As we pack up to leave we resolve to return to this most beautiful and surprisingly exotic corner of the country, I also make sure to pick out my ideal Sandbanks pad in case my inner Ronaldo suddenly starts to shine.


Where we stayed

We stayed at Rockley Park Holiday Park with Haven holidays in one of their Platinum caravans.

For more information and to book:

Share on