Travel

Christchurch – a guide for visiting this Dorset town in 2023

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When you Google "Christchurch", you'll mostly be met with search results about the town in New Zealand, which by most reports is a lovely place to visit. But the real shame about this is that it means our town of Christchurch, tucked away on the South coast of England, is often overlooked. This is despite how great it is and how much there is to see and do there. We wanted to publish a guide all about visiting Christchurch in Dorset for anyone planning to visit the town in 2023, highlighting the best things to see and do there. Let's get into it:

Where is Christchurch?

We should start by specifying where Christchurch actually is - the town is located in Dorset, on the South coast of England. It's 4 miles to the East of Bournemouth, and it lies at the confluence of the Rivers Stour and Avon. You're about 2 and a half hours away from London by car.

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What is there to see in Christchurch?

Despite the relatively small size of the town, you've got lots to see and do in Christchurch. Here are some of the highlights:

Highcliffe Castle

This stunning Grade 1 Listed mansion is well worth visiting during your time in Christchurch - as an amazing example of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture, this building attracts thousands of visitors every year. Even if you're not a fan of stunning architecture, we're almost positive that you'll enjoy a visit to Highcliffe Castle. The building itself is full of interesting information panels explaining the history of Highcliffe Castle and the surrounding areas, plus the grounds are excellent to wander around. The Castle Tea Rooms are also a great place to visit if you want to enjoy some delicious home-cooked food or something a bit lighter like tea and cakes. Overall, a trip to Highcliffe Castle is a great way to spend a few hours. Learn more here - highcliffecastle.co.uk
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We'd highly recommend walking to Highcliffe Castle if you're able to - there is a walk you can take from the car park along Wharncliffe Road (which will appear in your sat nav as 'Highcliffe Clifftop Car Park'), and from there you can walk along Highcliffe Beach to the castle. It's only around 1 and a half miles in length, but it's a lovely way to approach Highcliffe Castle on a nice day. You can follow the Google map that we've created for this route here - google.co.uk

Christchurch Priory

Similar to Highcliffe Castle, visiting a priory might not exactly be top of your list when it comes to things you want to do in Christchurch. But hopefully, you can tell by the image that this is an impressive building and is well worth a look just for the stunning architecture. Highlights include the stunning stained glass windows and the sculpture of Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the major English poets. And like so many of the impressive English religious buildings, the cafe here is excellent too. Learn more here -
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Red House Museum & Gardens

This former Georgian workhouse has been converted into a museum which outlines the history of Christchurch, detailing the story of the town from the Ice Age all the way to modern times. The artifacts here are varied and fascinating - you'll find everything from prehistoric items to WW2 weapons. You can enter this museum for free, but a small donation is definitely recommended. And once you've explored the interior, the gardens are well worth a look. Not just because they're great for a stroll, but also because you'll find some dinosaurs! Learn more here - hampshireculture.org.uk
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Norman House

This historical building might not be as well-kept as some of the other buildings we've included in this list, but it's definitely got a fascinating story attached to it. Dating from the 12th century, the Norman House is one of the few remaining examples of Norman architecture in England. It once formed part of Christchurch Castle, a large Norman castle, which was founded by a Norman baron called Richard de Redvers. It's free to visit but very interesting. Learn more here - english-heritage.org.uk
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Bournemouth Beach

As we mentioned earlier, you're only a stone's throw from one of the best beaches in the UK while you're in Christchurch, and regardless of what the weather is like we'd recommend heading there. Bournemouth Beach consistently lands at the top of the guides to the best beaches in the UK, and it isn't hard to see why - whether you're looking to enjoy a relaxing stroll or you want to try something a little more high octane, there is something for everyone there.
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Steamer Point Nature Reserve

This amazing 24-acre site perched on a cliff top is an excellent place to head to if you want to spot some interesting wildlife and explore some beautiful scenery. The views of the sea below are amazing, and if you're lucky you'll spot woodpeckers and plenty of dragonflies.
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 Explore some of the other beaches

Bournemouth beach will get most of the press in terms of the beaches in this part of England, but there are a few other beaches within a reasonable distance of Christchurch which are well worth a look if you've got the time (or the tan accelerator handy). The highlights would be:

Avon beach - this is a great beach for families as you've got a number of amenities as well as a designated bathing area.

Hengistbury Head Beach - this is less of a beach for sunbathing and more of a beach for great long walks, no matter the weather. Plenty of wildlife to spot and excellent if you've got a dog with you.

Mudeford Sandbank - this beach is really interesting to mix as it has some really strange features - because it's technically a peninsula, it has spits of lands which need to be navigated. You'll get great views of the Isle of Wight, and it's a Site of Nature Conservation Interest so is well known as a hot spot for birdwatching.

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Christchurch Quay (and the Quomps)

This area of Christchurch is a great place to head to if you're looking for a bit of relaxation and a nice stroll. You're almost certain to see swans, and lots of them too - some people have reported seeing more than 60 at once. You're welcome to feed the swans and ducks here, but keep a safe distance especially if you're with kids. The Quomps sounds like something really strange, but it actually just refers to a patch of grass near the Quay which has a children’s play area and a splash park. This area is really fun in the summer months. Overall, you can't really avoid the Quay during your time in Christchurch, and we'd highly recommend a visit.
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Adventure Wonderland

There is so much fun to be had for children in natural places throughout Christchurch and the surrounding areas that you might not like the sound of taking them to a theme park, but we really think that Adventure Wonderland is worth a visit. This park is fun for all the family, but is perfect for kids between the ages of 3 and 10. With 30 rides and attractions included in the entry price, plus a large indoor play centre, dressed up characters and more, you can easily spend several hours here regardless of the weather. The staff here are all really friendly and enthusiastic, which is exactly what you want when you visit a place like this. And at less than £10 per ticket plus adults going free, it's seriously good value. Learn more and book your tickets here - adventurewonderland.co.uk
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What should you be aware of before visiting Christchurch?

You can probably tell from our list above that although there is plenty to see and do in the town itself, you'll probably want to factor in some extra time to explore the area surrounding Christchurch as there is so much more to see. So if you're visiting Christchurch for a few days, you might want to set aside an entire day for heading to some of the other locations in the vicinity. We'd also say that the town has an excellent selection of cafés, pubs and restaurants, and you'll definitely want to book if you want to check out the top-rated places to eat and drink.
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to visit this brilliant town. If you're interested in visiting other locations in Dorset, check out our guide to Lulworth Cove. We've also got guides to nearby towns such as Sidmouth and Lymington.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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