Seven 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 gently buzzing suburb 3 miles east of Bournemouth is small enough to feel cosy yet big enough to have everything you need. And, of course, it’s right next to the beach…
Southbourne, or SOBO as locals like to call it, is centred around Southbourne Grove, a 500 metre long stretch of road lined with a wonderful selection of shops, bars and restaurants.
Southbourne does, in fact, extend further along this road in either direction, although the road changes name, running for 1.2 miles from Pokesdown Station to Southbourne Crossroads.
One road further south is Southbourne Overcliff Drive, which follows the cliff top, from where the beach can be accessed via a series of zigzag paths or a funicular railway. Running between the two roads are a series of residential streets and Fisherman’s Walk park.
Below is my pick of what Southbourne has to offer:
The A35 runs between Bournemouth and Southbourne. Buses No 1, 1a, 1b, M2 and Unibus 3 all stop in Southbourne Grove, at the end of Fisherman’s Walk. Pokesdown station is 0.5 miles away.
There are parking bays along Southbourne Grove, but finding an empty space can be a mission. In central Southbourne there is a Pay & Display Car Park in Woodside Road, which costs £1 for an hour. Further details can be found here. There is a Pay & Display Car Park in Seabourne Road, same tariffs apply (details here) and a further Pay & Display at Southbourne Crossroads, with seasonal prices (2.10-£2.50 for an hour). Details here.
Southbourne Grove has a small branch of several supermarket chains, a chemist, plus butchesr, bakers and greengrocer )no candlestick makers) for all your basic needs. However, it is more renowned for its independent stores. When it comes to food and drink, Southbourne amply provides, especially for my two favourite things; cheese and wine. 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.
High Street Chains
- One Stop Convenience Store
- Sainsbury’s Local
- Tesco Express
Food and drink Shops
- Sancha – Japanese themed bakery
- Bacon & Cheese – Deli
- Bakehouse 24 – Artisan bakery specialising in sourdough
- Bennetts Family Bakers – Traditional bakery/cake shop
- Cake Box – Egg free cream cakes
- Deli Rocks – Deli and espresso bar
- Earth Foods – Health food shop
- Haywood Wines – A large selection of wine, plus some local beers, ciders and spirits, including Conkers Gin (manufactured in Southbourne).
- Parlourmentary – Primarily a cheesemonger, also sells other deli goods.
- Quaff & Tipple – Liquid deli, specialising in craft beer, and food deli.
- TD Fruits – Greengrocer
- Webster Family Butchers – Butcher
- Mark’s Meats – Butcher
- Tasty Bakes – Family run bakery
- Sweeties – Home made sweets from the jar.
- BH6 – Books
- Brilliant Lifestyle Store – Gifts
- Flaming Nora’s – Toys and gifts
- Haberdasherdo – Haberdashery, it also runs sewing, knitting and crochet workshops.
- Southbourne Cards – Cards
- Sugar Mango – Women’s fashion boutique
- Tilly’s – Gifts
- Party Store 4 U– Party supplies
- Southbourne General Store – Hardware
- Jamboree – Pre-loved ladies’ clothes
- Margery Daw – Ladies’ fashion
- Hope And More
- Oakhaven Hospice Trust
- British Red Cross
- Age UK
- The Salvation Army
- Dorset Blind Society
- St Martin’s Charity Bookshop
Eating and Drinking
There is a huge choice of great cafes, restaurants and bars in Southbourne. Southbourne Grove (plus the road extending slightly further in either direction from Pokesdown Station to Southbourne Crossroads) has been dubbed the Sobo Mile. This stretch of just over a mile boasts a plethora of foodie experiences.
- Tiien Thai – Thai
- Sobo: Fish – Fish restaurant. There is an alternative children’s/non fish menu. Why vegetarians are lumped with children is a mystery.
- Renoufs – Cheese and wine bar. Specialises in cheese (and charcuterie) platters accompanied by a flight of wine.
- Villa Toscana – Italian
- Casa Carlos – Tapas bar
- Makla – Moroccan
- The Larderhouse – Boasts a former top London chef and charges London prices. Great food, though. Upstairs are The Library cocktail bar and Ho’Oko rum bar.
- Loaf & Coal – Run by a Masterchef the Professionals finalist, focusing on locally sourced ingredients.
- Baffi – A popular pizzeria.
- Dicky’s – Brasserie. I’ve not eaten here as the vegetarian menu is rather sparse and uninspiring.
- Terroir Tapas – A tapas bar I’d have to remortgage my house to eat in. There are walk-in and pre-booked options. Walk-ins are not suitable for vegetarians.
- Cork & Lobster – Small plates and cakes.
- Restaurant Roots – Michelin listed restaurant offering a tasting menu for £115 a head.
- Smithson’s – Traditional fish and chip shop. They also sell ‘cat fish’; bags of leftover fish scraps for cats. My cats love it when we go here!
- Unicorn Ice Cream Parlour – Ice cream, shakes, waffles, crepes
- Rory’s American Diner– Burgers and hotdogs
- Da Nino – Italian
- Southbourne Tandoori – Indian
- Thai Kitchen – Thai
- China Lounge – Chinese
- Southbourne Fried Chicken
- All India – My favourite Indian
- Golden Oryza – Chinese
- Harmony – Chinese
- Ricky’s – Great fish & chip shop which also sells street food. There’s an extensive veggie/vegan menu too. It has some excellent art to admire while you’re waiting for your order.
- Southbourne Fried Chicken – Burgers etc
- The Indian Ocean – Indian
- Fanelli’s – Pizza, fast food
- Velo Domestique – Primarily a bike shop, but also has a café, particularly popular for its breakfasts.
- Coffee#1 – Local chain of coffee shops.
- Bake House – Sandwiches, burgers etc.
- Costa Coffee – Chain of coffee shops.
- Hungry Husky – Traditional café, particularly popular for its breakfasts.
- Isesi – Mediterranean coffee shop and Greek deli.
- Harry’s Coffee House – Coffee, breakfasts, sandwiches, cakes
- The Peppermill – Traditional café specialising in breakfasts.
- Jubilatte – Church based community café.
- Brown Dog Coffee – Pet friendly coffee shop selling organic coffee, breakfast and sandwiches.
- The Schooner – Family run coffee shop which also sells sandwiches and cakes.
- Cafe Riva – Cliff top café/bar with a great view. A popular place for coffee and cake. (I’ve never eaten here as everything is stored together in one unit, so not allergy friendly). Unfortunately, the food isn’t as outstanding as the view. According to Google, Café Riva is Soutbourne’s lowest ranked café.
- Little Perth – Coffee and flower shop.
Pubs and Bars
- Sobo: Sommelier – Wine bar with wine school
- The Way Outback Brewing Company – Microbrewery with taproom
- Brewhouse & Kitchen – Chain of microbrewery pubs
- The Grove Tavern – Traditional pub offering live music, quiz nights and TV screens for live sport.
- Ludo Lounge – Tapas and cocktails
- The Wight Bear – Focuses on real ale, but has a wide selection of cider and locally produced wines. There are regular events such as music, comedy, quizzes and even the occasional beer run. It also offers food from other establishments, such as Parlourmentary and Ricky’s.
- The Commodore – A cliff top pub with a beer garden, part of the Greene King chain. Provides stunning views, a good range of beers, an extensive gin menu and pub grub style food.
- The Spyglass and Kettle – Another cliff top pub from Greene King.
- SoBo Beach – Beach front pop-up with bar in a double decker bus.
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 various points along the cliff top. 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.
Parks and Gardens
Running between the clifftop and Southbourne Grove is the pleasant tree lined linear park called Fisherman’s Walk. This Green Flag winning park consists of woodland, formal and informal planting, lawns and an ornamental pond. There is a 1920s bandstand, which still hosts various events throughout the year, and public toilets.
Green Flag recreation and sports ground with a bowling club, tennis courts, public toilets and a children’s play area.
Gardens with riverside walks, golf course, café and toilets.
This Green Flag Award winning Site of Special Scientific Interest is both a stone and iron age archaeology site and a nature reserve. Hengistbury Head is home to over 500 plant species, 300 types of birds as well as insects, reptiles and small mammals. It has a Visitors Centre with Gift Shop, two cafes and a ferry to Mudeford.
The Southbourne based Conker Distillery boasts being Dorset’s first gin distillery. Coincidentally, it started around the same time I moved here! It also produces coffee liquor. Tours are available on Fridays for £25 per person, including a guided tasting.
Southbourne isn’t as arty as neighbouring Boscombe, but it is home to 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.
Various events are held throughout the year, mainly centred around Fisherman’s Walk. The key event is the Shake & Stir vintage festival, which this year takes place on 24/25 June.
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.
Southbourne for Children
I’m not advocating wine for children, they’ll have to stick with cheese and the beach. Other activities for children in Southbourne include:
- Fisherman’s Walk – Play area and mini golf
- Seafield Gardens – Play area, tennis courts and tennis lessons
- Tuckton Gardens – Play area
- Igloo Soft Play & Sensory Room
- Pokesdown & Southbourne Children’s Centre – Baby massage, holiday club and youth club
- Haberdasherdo – Craft workshops
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