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Exploring Dorset | A Weekend in Sandbanks

Exploring Dorset | A Weekend in Sandbanks

It’s hard to put into words just how pretty the millionaires playground at Sandbanks really is…. the coastal views are truly breathtaking  over the mouth of Poole Harbour. Plus the company has been even better!!! As this weekend has seen us leap at the chance to spend a few nights out of the van with the girl’s godparents. Dog walks along the South West Coastal Path have followed multiple dog walks on Sandbanks beach and even some family fun in the dunes……

The past month has been hugely busy up in North Yorkshire and included a stretch of 29 days of continuous ‘road schooling‘ without a break… so it’s been nice to head south and reconnect with good friends and to work out just where we hope to return in the summer.


For anyone considering taking a motorhome down here… you’ll be pleased to see there are ‘camper only’ spaces on the Sandbanks peninsula during the day (plus plenty of campsites  options like these). However Poole have banned motorhomes overnighting on roads near it’s harbour so if you’re considering wild camping… you’ll need to tread carefully!!

There are only 70 or so homes around the edge of the Sandbanks peninsula. With 40 or so houses having direct water access to Poole Harbour. These apparently go for a serious premium and when you see the types of property you walk past… you can see just why it’s termed a ‘millionaire’s playground’ (it’ currently holds the 4th highest land value in the world!)


Apparently just 100 years ago, before it became one of the world’s most exclusive and expensive addresses, it was little more than a windswept peninsula with 100ft sand dunes, cut off from the rest of the country and certainly  unrecognisable to today’s Sandbanks (see aerial view here)… Even being termed Parkstone on Sea rather than it’s more widely known name now.


The first houses appeared in the 1870s but were only a coastguard cottage and lifeboat station, with the Haven Hotel appearing a decade later. Apparently there was no roadway like there is today to the chain drive quaint ferry to Swanage. Apparently you went along the road on foreshore of the harbour and then came across the sand dunes in the middle. Now these sand dunes have been carefully cultivated and managed and now provide some fantastic opportunities for family fun (including playground and an array of beach side cafes and sporting facilities)…. Almost deserted in winter, we’d imagine it would be a thriving centre in the summer sunshine!!


Parkstone on Sea’s (or as we call it now Sandbanks) land was sold off in 1896 to fund a huge coastal protection programme to sto the peninsula being washed away. Plots were sold for just £125 and were often wooden shacks used as holiday homes (see image here), which the Edwardian owners could only reach by way of a steam engine charabang, or coach, that rolled over the sand dunes.

This provided us with a great chance to discuss ‘coastal erosion’ linking it to our week discovering the stacks, arches and caves on Portugal’s Algarve.

Whilst our recent Remembrance Day visit to Yorkshire’s Eden Camp inspired us to watch the impressive ‘Dunkirk’ movie (especially as it linked to our road schooling visit to the D-Day beaches in Normandy)… so we were even more surprised to  hear that Sandbanks was regularly patrolled by the Green Howards as it was feared it would be a clear target for any German invasion in 1940 (see here)…. Hence the reason it became a fortified military base until the 1960’s where the start of it’s journey towards a ‘millionaire’s playground began….’


It really is truly amazing what you can discover on this road schooling adventure!! But it’s now time to head back and finish off that game of Trivial Pursuits!!!


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About The Author


Ever wanted to pack your bags, just jump in a motorhome and go off and explore Europe as a family? Well, that’s exactly what my family has done since September 2015. Visiting 35 European countries, travelling over 54,000 miles and grabbing over 450 family experiences on the way… enjoying Bobsleigh in Norway, Climbing into Mt Etna in Sicily or Kayaking the River Dordogne.

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