If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do in Poole you’ve come to the right place. In this Dorset destination guide I’m sharing what to do in Poole with kids including free places to visit, things to do when it rains, family attractions and dog-friendly days out.
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Free things to do in Poole for families
Days out can quickly get expensive. That’s why we like to mix things up with cheap and free things to do.
Here are some of the places go in Poole for free:
1. Upton Country Park
Upton Country Park to the west of Poole has 160 acres of parkland to explore including playgrounds, wide open fields, wildlife areas and formal gardens.
There’s also a craft studio, children’s activity clubs (bookable), a splash fountain, pétanque area, Parkrun on Saturdays and Sundays (junior) and even Yoga sessions (bookable).
To explore the parkland, playgrounds and walled gardens you just need to pay for parking. Download the Ringo App for cashless payment.
Find out more about visiting Upton Country Park.
2. Explore Poole Old Town and Quay
If you want to relax by the water, pick up a boat trip around Poole Harbour or catch a ferry across to Brownsea Island then Poole Quay in the Old Town is the place to go.
It’s a vibrant area to look around with bottle green tiled pub fronts, timber frame buildings and more modern additions with open fronted restaurants.
As well as picking up a harbour sightseeing tour, you can climb up the ‘Sea Music’ sculpture by artist Sir Anthony Caro for a seagull’s eye view of the Quay (there’s an activity sheet about it for kids).
3. Poole Museum
Visit the free Poole Museum to discover the story of the town from pre-history to modern times.
The museum also has a dedicated area for arts and crafts for younger visitors and a programme of school holiday activities.
Find out more about visiting Poole Museum.
4. Sandbanks Beach play area
A lovely little distraction from the beach at Sandbanks is the playground, which is by the Pavilion.
There’s sand diggers, a large rope climbing frame and rockers. Dogs are allowed on a lead.
There’s also adventure golf beside the play area.
Find out more about Sandbanks Play Area.
5. Poole Park
This is the perfect place for a picnic with 110 acres of parkland, large play parks, a saltwater lagoon and lakes. Don’t forget some bird seed to feed the swans and ducks.
If you do have a few pennies to spend there’s an ice cream shop and crazy gold course.
Find out more about Poole Park.
6. Poole Lifeboat Museum
Poole is the home of the RNLI and you can find out more about its history at the Old Lifeboat Museum.
This free place to visit in Poole gives you a chance to see one of the historic lifeboats in a former lifeboat station. Call to check opening times.
Find out more about Poole Lifeboat Museum.
Things to do in Poole when it rains
Poole is a wonderful place to relax and explore when the sun is shining. But how can you entertain the kids when it rains?
Heres some places to go in Poole then it’s wet:
7. The Ark Soft Play
There’s three levels of indoor fun for kids aged up to 11-years-old at this soft play centre in Poole Park.
There’s indoor and outdoor seating for adults as well as a cafe.
Find out more about this soft play centre in Poole.
8. Pottery Studio at Poole Park
Great creative during a trip to the Pottery Studio in Poole Park where you can decorate your own pots while enjoying a cuppa and cake.
Find out more about the Pottery Studio.
9. Lemur Landings
If you are looking for soft play areas in Poole then Lemur Landings delivers this and more.
There’s imaginative play for little ones, a climbing wall and a great cafe. Perfect for a wet day in Dorset!
Find out more about Lemur Landings.
10. Bowling and cinema at Tower Park
Catch the latest flick or challenge your kids to a bowling competition at Tower Park where you’ll find Cineworld and Hollywood Bowl.
Find out more about things to do at Tower Park.
11. The Lighthouse Poole
Catch a family-friendly show at The Lighthouse – Poole’s theatre.
Find out what’s on at The Lighthouse.
12. Mr Mulligans Adventure Golf
Just down the road in Bournemouth you’ll find Mr Mulligan’s adventure gold centre with 18 indoor holes to keep you entertained on a wet day.
There’s also pool tables, ping pong and a shooting gallery, making this somewhere you can easily fill a few hours is it’s raining outside.
Find out more about Mr Mulligans in Bournemouth.
Beaches and water activities
Poole sits at the heart of the South Coast of England, so beaches and water based activities feature large of the list of things to do. Here’s a few of them:
13. Poole beaches
The Poole coastline is awash with sandy beaches – just head south and you’ll find one.
You’ll also find a strip of beach on the inside of Poole Harbour which is shallow and ideal for small children to paddle in at high tide. Be aware the bottom is slitty as the tide does out.
If you’re a family with a pet you have to do a little more research to find Dorset beaches that are dog-friendly all year round.
14. Water sports
If you want to learn how to paddle board or kite board look up Easy Riders.
They offer lessons from the edge of Whitley Lake at Sandbanks, also known as Poole Harbour. They provide all the equipment and a place to change in one of their vans.
Find out more about water sports sessions and equipment hire from Easy Riders.
15. Poole boat tours
There are several companies offering board trips along the Dorset coast from Poole Quay and Harbour:
Be aware that while dogs are allowed on most boats trips, they are not allowed on Brownsea Island.
Here’s some Poole attractions for families:
16. Upton House
Upton House was built in the 19th Century by Christopher Spurrier whose family made its fortune from the Poole and Newfoundland fishing trade.
After a succession of owners and tenants, the house and grounds were gifted to the borough of Poole and eventually opened to the public in 1976.
This and the country park are now looked after by the council and a team of volunteers. You can visit the park for free and take a tour of the house on selected dates throughout the year for a small fee.
In front of the house is a beautiful lawn where you can picnic, play ball games and relax.
Find out when Upton House is open.
17. Compton Acres historic gardens
Compton Acres is an absolute gem and perfect for a hot day when you want to find some shade with your kids and/or dog.
The gardens are split into themed areas from Italian inspired gardens complete with statues, grottos and a villa, to water gardens with waterfalls and a Japanese inspired space where you’ll find huge carp basking in the sun.
The gardens are very cleverly done, making them feel much bigger than the 10 acres that they cover. You get to see the gardens from lots of different angles with view points, criss crossing paths and stepping stones across ponds.
There’s also a children’s activity area with a teepee, station and animal sculptures.
Find out more about Compton Acres.
18. Farmer Palmers Farm Park
This activity farm to the west of Poole and is billed as a top day out for kids up to the age of about eight. It has animal petting, play areas and farm-themed rides.
Find out more about Farmer Palmers Farm Park.
This waterpark is the perfect place for families to head on a sunny or wet day in Poole.
It has 13 indoor and outdoor flumes ranging from gentle slides for beginners though to high-speed shoots for adrenline junkies, tyre rides with whirlpools, and black holes.
For toddlers there’s splash zones suitable for under fives and you can buy a combined attraction ticket to access the neighbouring Lemur Landings Soft Play.
Find out more about visiting Splashdown in Poole.
20. Brownsea Island
If your kids are into Scouting or Guiding then they will know all about Brownsea Island which was the site of Lord Baden-Powell’s first camp in 1907.
It’s also a haven for wildlife including about 200 endangered red squirrel which have found refuge here away from competitive grey squirrels on the mainland.
You can reach Brownsea Island by ferry from Poole Quay or Sandbanks. Please be aware that dogs are not allowed on Brownsea Island.
Find out more about visiting Brownsea Island.
Things to do near Poole
Here’s a video from our last trip to the area.
Find more days out in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in my big round up of 101 UK attractions for families.