There is plenty of sand to get your bucket and spade into along Bournemouth’s seven-mile stretch of beaches, from the family-friendly Alum Chine to the hip redevelopment of Boscombe’s Overstrand, with “beach pods” designed by Wayne Hemingway.
As you’d expect for a town with a larger-than-average percentage of retired folk, Bournemouth does pretty well on beach access. Wheelchair users can travel free of charge on the land train between Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers, as well as on the cliff lifts and have free access to Bournemouth Pier. There is plenty of disabled parking along the promenade: contact the tourist board in advance for details of permits to park there. Several of Bournemouth’s beach offices have “sand buggies”, that wheelchair users can borrow to access the sand – advance booking and refundable deposits are generally required. Boscombe Beach now has accessible beach huts for rent, which include an adaptable space, capable of accommodating up to four wheelchair users at once. Other facilities nearby include accessible public toilets and a shower cubicle, plus mobility scooter power points. For availability and prices, contact the Beach Office on 01202 451773.
Away from the seafront, the Winter Gardens – home to the Bournemouth Balloon – provide a pleasant space to wander and picnic. Flights on the tethered hot-air balloon, allow a panoramic view of Bournemouth and its surrounds – especially stunning on a sunny day. The balloon is accessible to three wheelchair users at once, though the entrance to the gondola is tight and it is best to call ahead to check there is adequate space available. There are no seats in the gondola so anyone flying and not in a wheelchair, must be able to stand for the full fifteen-minute duration. The nearest Blue Badge parking to the gardens is around six minutes’ walk away, on Bourne Avenue. Public toilets, including disabled facilities are available 50 yards from the balloon in The Lower Gardens.
Food & drink: All Fired Up is a spacious ceramics café that serves drinks, snacks and light kids’ meals, where the young and arty can also paint pottery. It even has several disabled parking bays right outside.