Poole’s premier Blue Flag Beach is one of the best beaches on the South Coast and many millions of holidaymakers would agree.

It is set among five kilometres of golden sand along the Sandbanks peninsula in Poole Bay. It has flown the European Blue Flag more times than any other British resort – 20 years – and was rated among the top five beaches in the country by a Tidy Britain Group resort survey.

The Blue Flag Award is an international benchmark for the best beaches worldwide. It has very strict criteria for bathing water, beach safety and supervision, good beach management and clear information for the public. It was also awarded to neighbouring beaches Shore Road, Canford Cliffs Chine and Branksome Chine.

Dorset Beaches: Sandbanks

Picture taken with the help of Bournemouth Helicopters

Where is it? Three miles from Poole town centre. Follow the sandcastles painted on the B3369 from Poole Civic Centre.

Best features: A safe swimmers-bathing-only zone is marked out in the sea, and there are endless things to see and do if you want more than digging sandcastles and paddling. Wide selection of watersports available including pedalos, catamarans and windsurfing. Volleyball posts and nets can be hired locally. Barbecues are allowed after 6pm – seven days’ notice is required by the council. Every Thursday in August, Shore Road’s beach party, Summer Time in the South, culminates in a spectacular firework finale at 10pm. There is a beach office, RNLI Beach Rescue lifeguards, deckchairs and beach huts available.

Local facilities and shops: Café, ice cream kiosks, plus shops and hotels just across the road. Beach wheelchairs available.

Great for the kids? The gradual slope to the beach makes it safe for paddling children. There is also a putting green, volleyball, windsurfing, sailing and fishing and one of the UK’s best 18-hole crazy golf courses. Lost children patrol from May to September.

How far are the loos? Toilets on the prom, facilities for the disabled and for baby changing in the ladies. At the Haven (harbour mouth) there are men’s and women’s toilets, facilities for the disabled but not for baby changing.

Parking: Large car park for 550 vehicles and parking on the road. Fills up quickly in good weather so make an early start.

Public transport: Wilts and Dorset buses from Poole are open-top on most 152 buses which run daily until late September. Similar open top service 150 runs from Bournemouth and Swanage. Yellow Buses open top service 12 runs through here on its way to Sandbanks.

How about pets? No dogs allowed on the main beach from May 1 to September 30. But there are is a designated dog beach.

Other points of interest: Shell Bay across sandbanks the harbour mouth can be reached by chain ferry which takes vehicles and pedestrians. There is a pedestrian ferry from Sandbanks to explore the delights of Brownsea Island and the three-mile Evening Hill Discovery Trail runs adjacent to the beach.

Fancy that! Between 1984 and 2000 a total of 29 metres of sand had been lost from the width of the beach. Six new Purbeck stone rock groynes were built which successfully reversed the shrinking beach.

Wet weather options:

Poole town centre Three miles away, the town centre has shops, a museum, swimming pool, sports centre, library, cafes, restaurants, bars, amusements, road train, and new Poole Pottery Experience.

Poole Stadium, off Wimborne Road Greyhound racing every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings. Trackside restaurant bars. Entrance £5, kids under 16 free. Wednesday night is Poole Speedway.

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