With ancient woodlands, windswept heathlands, and freshwater lakes hemmed in by grassy sea cliffs and sandy beaches, Brownsea Island crams a startling variety of scenery into its small landmass. The mostly uninhabited island, which is run by the National Trust, is the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour.
The most popular way to explore Brownsea Island is on a day trip from Poole—it’s a short ferry ride from the mainland. Alternatively, a sightseeing cruise around Poole Harbour affords spectacular views of Brownsea Island, as well as the surrounding islands and mainland attractions such as the Sandbanks, Old Harry Rocks, Corfe Castle, and the Purbeck Hills.
Things to Know Before You Go
The weather on Brownsea Island can be wet and windy even in summer, so wear layers and bring a raincoat.
Getting around the island is only possible on foot—vehicles and bikes are not permitted on the ferries.
The Brownsea Island Visitor Centre, a short walk from the ferry port, has restrooms, a café, and a shop.
Wheelchair-accessible ferries are available, and you can rent all-terrain wheelchairs on the island.
How to Get to There
Brownsea Island is only reachable by boat. Regular passenger ferries set sail from Poole Quay or the Sandbanks and take around 20 minutes to reach the island. From Poole, buses and taxis run from Poole train station to Poole Harbour.
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When to Get There
Brownsea Island is open to the public from March to October and on selected winter weekends, depending on the weather. In peak summer season (July and August), book your ferry tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
Exploring Brownsea Island
The Brownsea Island Nature Reserve covers the whole island and offers nature trails and wildlife such rare red squirrels, sika deer, wild peacocks, and birds (avocets, black-tailed godwits, and wildfowl). Additional highlights include the beachfront Brownsea Castle, which dates back to the 16th century; the Brownsea Open-Air Theatre, which hosts performances throughout summer; and electric buggy tours, which traverse all the island’s most scenic viewpoints.