Visit Christchurch for harbours, history and riverside retreats

Can’t decide between seaside or countryside, historic town or pretty harbour?  Dorset's Christchurch offers the perfect solution with a choice of award-winning beaches, coastal nature reserves and heritage attractions.

Two delightful rivers to boat upon and walk along, two historic Quays to discover and two Castles to explore - it's twice the fun in Christchurch!

The historic Priory Church and Castle ruins help give an olde world charm to the attractive, bustling town centre with its range of independent shops, high street stores and regular markets. And together with a packed events calendar, there is always something to see and do.

Nearby villages include Highcliffe with its Castle and Mudeford with its Quay - very popular for crab fishing and boat trips.

And with Christchurch being sandwiched between the New Forest National Park on one side and the bustling resort of Bournemouth on the other (with the rest of beautiful Dorset beyond), it is perfectly located for a fantastic holiday or short break.

Christchurch's beaches and coastline

The waters of the Solent are glistening in the sun, the skies are blue - so is it a bucket and spade kind of day, a day to fly a kite or a great time to go for a refreshing swim?

With four miles of beautiful coastline, including sweeping views over to the Isle of Wight, and six safe sandy beaches, each with their own character and facilities, you are spoilt for choice.

But why compromise when you can easily pack it all in to a wonderful family day out.

Fun for all

Two picturesque rivers, a stunning natural harbour, outdoor Splashpark and wonderful beaches offer the ideal holiday playground. 

Younger members of the family to entertain? Fear not, there are indoor and outdoor attractions to keep them out of mischief all year long with a number of play and adventure parks for children of all ages.

And there is no bigger playground than the great outdoors. Christchurch’s numerous nature reserves are wildlife havens and with the New Forest National Park on the doorstep, all the family can easily enjoy time together in the fresh air. On Christchurch Quay you will find a Splashpark (which is fantastic for sunny days) and the Quomps where you can enjoy a picnic or play outdoor games. The annual 'Stompin on the Quomps' festival is held here every August.

Nearby Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway is a delight to walk around and explore the extensive grounds, and once you've worked up and appetite, stop by at the tearooms for some refreshments.

Action and Adventure

If relaxing on the beach isn’t your thing, there are plenty of water and land based activities to enjoy. 

Hire a bike for a leisurely ride, play a round of golf, or perhaps try something new or a little different - a thrilling rib ride, kayaking, paddle boarding or perhaps body surfing. 

With a huge selection of activities available, you will have to book another holiday to fit them all in!

The Priory

The Priory is one of the few monastery churches to have survived Henry VIII’s rule and is reputed to be the longest church in England. The current building of Christchurch Priory was built in the 11th century, although the medieval roof still exists and is visible above the newer one. The roof includes the Miraculous Beam which lies above the south aisle and was once the object of pilgrimages; the medieval builders found that a vital beam was too short but when they returned the next morning it was miraculously not only the right length but also in the right position!

There is an impressive alabaster tomb for Margaret Countess of Salisbury; once described by Henry VIII as “the most saintly woman in England”. There is also a memorial to the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (his wife Mary’s mother lived in nearby Bournemouth and his heart is buried in a grave in Bournemouth).

If you fancy a challenge take a Tower Tour and climb the 176 steps up to enjoy panoramic views of the town and harbour. 

In the grounds of the Priory are a 12th Century castle and Constable’s house which survive as ruins.

The town was a base for smuggling – underneath the town are old tunnels used by smugglers and the salmon weather vane on the Priory was used by smugglers as a sign for when the excise-men were approaching!

Events in Christchurch

Christchurch is renowned for it’s annual Food and Wine Festival, but that is really just the icing on the cake! 

Throughout the year, the town and surrounding area host hundreds of fairs, festivals, fetes, shows and exhibitions - so whenever you visit you will certainly find your stay in Christchurch enjoyably eventful!

Eating Out and Takeaways

Whether it is a simple ice-cream by the sea or an amazing gourmet meal, food is an integral part of your holiday and Christchurch, with its sea-faring history and celebrity chef connections offers a wonderful choice of foods and restaurants.

Afternoon tea by the Quay watching the boats, fish and chips on the beach listening to the sea or a romantic meal by the harbour as the sun sets, eating out in Christchurch is a pleasure for all the senses, not just the tastebuds!

There are many eateries now offering a takeaway service to enjoy on a day out in Dorset or delivered to your door.


Christchurch has a thriving High Street leading into the pedestrianised Saxon Square - filled with a mix of national brand shops and small, independent retailers. There is also a weekly street market on a Monday.

So whether you are looking for some beachwear, a souvenir of your holiday or some delicious local food and drink, you will find exactly what you want in Christchurch.

And don't forget you can take a break from shopping in one of the many coffee shops, cafes or pubs in the town centre.

And so to sleep…

With all the fresh sea air and an action packed day visiting the beach, castles, museum or shops, you’ll need somewhere comfortable and appealing to relax and talk the day over.

Choose from a wide selection of welcoming B&Bs and guesthouses, apartments and cottages, as well as caravan and campsites.

Wherever you lay your head, you are assured of a friendly welcome, so book your holiday or weekend break today.

Highlightedfor you

Adventure Wonderland

All visits to the park will need to be pre-booked and there will be a limited amount of tickets available each day. You can watch their latest video about the recent changes they have made to be COVID...

Highcliffe Castle

Highcliffe Castle is not only a beautiful and historical building, but the surrounding grounds are perfect for a relaxing stroll or a family picnic on the lawns. There is direct access to both...

Riverside Park

We are located on the banks of the River Stour in the centre of the beautiful historic town of Christchurch, within walking distance to the shops, restaurants, spectacular natural harbour, Hengistbury...


Places to Stay

Riverside retreats, luxury hotels, welcoming B&Bs and fantastic campsites await you.

Things to see and do

Choose from sandy beaches, Adventure Wonderland, nature reserves, Highcliffe Castle, harbours and quaysides.

Shopping and Markets

Visit the high street and Saxon Square with its mix of unique shops and well-known brands.

We handrawn heart beaches

Dorset Beaches

Dorset has a huge variety of beaches and is one of the most spectacular stretches of coast in the...

You may also like...

Accessible Guide

An accessibility guide for the towns of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

Dorset's Harbours

Dorset's harbours have a rich maritime heritage and history with great leisure facilities.

Nature & Wildlife

Dorset has some of the best wildlife and natural landscapes found anywhere in the UK.