Look west across the bay from Bournemouth and in the distance, just past the white cliffs of the Purbecks, you can glimpse Swanage. Only 12 miles from Bournemouth, on the other side of Poole Harbour, lies this pleasant town nestled in a bay lined by a long, sandy beach.
The most fun way to reach Swanage from Bournemouth is on the Breezer 50 Open Top Bus. The bus departs from Bournemouth approximately every 30 minutes for a scenic drive to Sandbanks, across the chainlink ferry to Studland and on to Swanage. A one day ticket costs £9.50 and can be used on a variety of routes. Ticket pricing can be found here.
You can catch the No 50 up from various locations in Bournemouth, starting from the station. We boarded in the town centre at Bournemouth Square. When we set off, there were thick, black clouds over Bournemouth, but in the distance we could see sunshine and clear skies over Swanage, so we were hopeful.
The bus wasn’t busy, so we went upstairs and managed to get the front seats, just like being back at school on a trip. Shortly after departing, the heavens opened and we got soaked. At this point, most passengers opted to go downstairs and keep dry. But undeterred, we leant forward in our seats, which allowed a small amount of shelter from the rain, and soldiered on.
At the chainlink ferry, the bus has its own parking area, which is an advantage on a busy day, as there is no need to join the queue of cars waiting to cross. We boarded the ferry, crossed the entry to Poole Harbour and drove on, across the beautiful Purbecks and into the sunshine.
The bus takes just over an hour to reach Swanage, where you can alight either just before the pedestrian area which runs along the seafront, or continue into town and the terminus at Swanage Station. We opted for the beach.
It was a lovely day in Swanage with plenty of people on the beach enjoying the sunshine. We walked the length of the beach towards the quay.
The area around the harbour is lined with cafes and bars, but being the seaside, we decided it had to be fish and chips for lunch. We went to The Fish Plaice, where the fish is so fresh that the name of the boat which caught it is written on the menu. I’m a vegetarian, so opted for a mushy pea fritter, which was really good – as were the chips.
There is plenty of seating outside the Fish Plaice, so you can have a great lunch with an equally great view across the harbour and the bay (keep an eye out for seagulls).
After lunch, we continued our walk along the harbour wall as far as the pier, then back to the station to catch our onward bus.
Lots of effort has gone into the Jubilee decorations in Swanage, from bunting along the prom, to some great window displays, to the huge crown at the station.
When you are ready to return to Bournemouth, there are two options; either return the way you came on the Breezer 50, or continue around Poole Harbour to Poole on the 40 and then return to Bournemouth on the 70. This gives you the opportunity to stop at Corfe Castle for more exploring.
There is also the option to continue your journey by steam train from Swanage Station to Corfe Castle.
The weather was much better for our return journey and we sat up top in the glorious evening sunshine enjoying the view over sea and countryside, before crossing back over the harbour to Bournemouth.
We had a thoroughly enjoyable day out, and I would recommend an open top bus trip to Swanage just for the sake of it, or combined with other activities, such as the steam train, Corfe Castle or maybe Swanage Carnival or a visit to Durlston Country Park. Oh, and did I mention the fish & chips?