Along the coast from Barton-on-Sea is Highcliffe Castle. As its name suggests, the mansion and gardens are perched high up on the cliff. There is a clifftop walk through the Steamer Point Nature Reserve and the village of Friars Cliff. The beach is long and sandy with patches of shingle, reached by sloping tarmac paths at either end. It is backed by a promenade featuring some well-maintained beach huts where locals and visitors can while away a sunny hour or two.
Mudeford Quay is the centre of the local fishing industry. Piles of lobster and crab pots, nets and buoys are littered at the end of the large car park. Salmon are still caught in nets using methods that have little changed in the last 200 years. A few old fishermen’s cottages remain along with the original Haven House Inn, the site of a battle between smugglers and the Royal Navy in the 17th century. In the summer a passenger ferry crosses the narrow stretch of water, called the Run, which separates the Quay from the beach at the tip of Hengistbury Head.
Hengistbury Head is a narrow, finger of land comprising two miles of heath, woods, marsh and meadow that juts out into the English Channel. On its northern tip a strip of sand dunes reaches out across the entrance to Chicester Harbour to Mudeford Quay. The spit is home to over 300 privately-owned beach huts, which are amongst the UK’s most expensive. The beach can be reached by the ferry from the quay. A small mock train used to run from Double Dykes, two defensive ditches that were built in Viking times, but this was stopped in 2018 following an accident with a cyclist.
Further up this long, soft-sandy beach, backed by grassed cliffs, is the charming village of Southbourne with its promenade and, in places, beach huts. It is a bustling and thriving coastal suburb of Bournemouth, with a whole range of eateries, buzzing bars & exciting retail opportunities. Fisherman’s Walk Nature Trail is a stunning walk along the cliff top through a narrow strip of wooded land and a nature trail with woodland flowers and shrubs and plenty of wildlife. There is a lovely walk down the zig zag path to the beach or you can take the cliff lift. Built in 1935, Fisherman’s Walk Cliff Lift operates every day between Easter and October. Two passenger cars move up and down, tied to the opposite ends of a single cable on this funicular railway.