Six years ago I came here for a boot camp and decided I never wanted to leave. I fell in love with Southbourne the minute I first set eyes in on it. This genteel suburb, 3 miles east of central Bournemouth is small enough to feel cosy, yet big enough to have everything you need.
Southbourne may only be small, with a population of around 19,000, but it can boast two Blue Flag Beaches; Southbourne Beach and Fisherman’s Walk Beach, accessible from a series of zigzag paths along the coast. Or just take a stroll along the Overcliff and enjoy the view from above.
Southbourne Beach, accessed via St Catherine’s Path or Warren Edge Path, is in the midst of some renovation. In the meantime, a trendy new pop up, SOBO Beach has been installed, consisting of a row of brightly coloured shipping container food stalls selling burgers, Chinese and Ice Cream with a double decker bus bar and cocktail shack.
Fisherman’s Walk Beach
Fisherman’s Walk Beach is accessed via Fisherman’s Zigzag or Gordon’s Zigzag, or by the cliff lift. It has a kiosk, a lifeguard station and public toilets.
Running between the beach and high street (Southbourne Grove) is a pleasant tree lined linear park called Fisherman’s Walk.
Southbourne Grove has a small branch of three supermarket chains (Co-Op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco) for all your basic needs, plus a butcher, baker and greengrocer. However, it is more renowned for its independent stores. If bagging a bargain is your thing, there are plenty of charity shops to choose from. There’s also a library and a Post Office. When it comes to food and drink, it amply provides for my two favourite things; cheese and wine. Parlourmentary is mainly a cheese shop with an amazing array of cheese, but it also sells other local produce.
Haywood Wines has a huge selection of wine, plus some local beers, ciders and spirits, including Conkers Gin (manufactured in Southbourne). It is run by two sisters, who will give you great advice if you’re unsure what you’re after.
New to the Bournemouth area this year, are a plethora of pastel ‘Coastal Bid’ planters, which really give the place a touch of colour. There are bins to match too, but even I’m not sad enough to go round photographing bins!
Southbourne isn’t as arty as neighbouring Boscombe, but it does boast my favourite toilets. ‘You have a favourite toilet?’ You ask. Yes, I do. This previously unassuming building has been transformed by the very talented Tech Moon to display a maritime theme, with each side painted with different marine life and water gods. More about Southbourne’s Street Art can be found here.
There is a huge choice of great cafes and restaurants in Southbourne, but it’s the seaside, so it’s got to be Fish & Chips, right? So try Ricky’s, which also has some great street art into the bargain. And if fish isn’t your thing, there’s an extensive veggie/vegan menu too.
My two favourite things (cheese and wine, in case you forgot) are perfectly catered for at Renoufs. Here, you can order a cheese platter or a cheese and charcuterie platter accompanied by a flight of wine. Highly recommended.
The Larderhouse boasts a former top London chef and charges London prices. Great food, though.
Ludo Lounge does (among other things) good tapas and cocktails. It prides itself on being dog friendly. Unfortunately, nobody told the dogs to be friendly. Last time I came here, there was a dog fight in the middle of the restaurant.
The Wight Bear
Southbourne has its fair share of drinking establishments. My favourite is the Wight Bear. This small bar focuses on real ale, but has a wide selection of cider and locally produced wines. In addition, it offers food from other establishments, such as Parlourmentary and Ricky’s. There are regular events, such as music, comedy, quizzes and even the occasional beer run.
My other favourite is The Commodore. This cliff top pub, part of the Greene King chain, provides stunning views, a good range of beers, a great gin menu and a pub grub style food menu. On a nice day, there’s a beer garden out the front to even better enjoy the view. It does good Fish & Chips, but my favourite is the goat’s cheese and pumpkin tart.
So, like I said at the start, everything you need is catered for, especially if like me, your primary needs are cheese, wine and a beach.