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The best hotels in Bournemouth 2023: Where to stay for a chic beachfront break

The best places to stay in this classic coastal town

Lottie Gross
Thursday 23 February 2023 12:23 GMT
Victorian splendour awaits in Bournemouth
Victorian splendour awaits in Bournemouth (iStock)

Bournemouth was a favourite seaside haunt of the Victorians, and today it’s still near the top of the list for Brits looking for a brilliant beach break in England (when the sun is shining). Its sweeping, soft-sand beach is the main draw, and the pier that slices down its centre offers a wonderful combination of classic seaside arcades and a modern adventure complex, complete with a zipline that lands on the sand and an indoor climbing centre.

Directly behind the seafront is the Lower Gardens, where a bandstand provides a jolly score to a summer’s day and a huge helium balloon takes passengers soaring above the town for glorious views of the Dorset coast. East of the main beach is the town’s top surf spot: Boscombe. Here you’ll find Bournemouth’s hippy types catching waves, or practising yoga on the beach before sipping flat whites at Urban Reef on the promenade.

The most sought-after rooms in Bournemouth are on the east and west cliffs that back the main stretch of sand, where sea views will cost you a pretty penny. Cheaper hotels can be found in the Boscombe area, which is also much quieter, while the town centre is the best option if you want after-dark entertainment in clubs, bars and restaurants.

The best hotels in Bournemouth are:

Best for an eco-conscious trip: The Green House

Neighbourhood: The West Cliff

The Crab Apple room at The Green House Hotel (The Green House Hotel)

Keeping it green is on trend these days, so book into the Green House Hotel in Bournemouth and you’ll sleep easy knowing you’re doing your bit to protect the environment. The hotel is an elegant, Grade II-listed Victorian manor on the outside, but inside it’s all fresh decor, in-room roll-top baths and sustainability focused policies.

There’s solar power to help heat the water, electricity is generated on site, the carpets are environmentally friendly 100 per cent wool, furniture is sourced from small-scale manufacturers in the UK – even the wallpaper is sustainably sourced and printed using vegetable inks. The company car runs on cooking oil, and – of course – breakfast and dinner in the restaurant is locally sourced, with meat and dairy originating from producers with high animal welfare standards. The food is truly exceptional and beautifully presented, gaining the Arbor restaurant two AA Rosettes.

Neighbourhood: The East Cliff

Stare at the sea from The Cottonwood's pristine lawn (The Cottonwood Boutique Hotel)

Atop the East Cliff, overlooking the ocean, The Cottonwood Boutique Hotel is a beautiful place to spend a weekend. The sea-view bedrooms are the best – sleep with the window open to hear the ocean from your bed – but all rooms are modern and spacious, with neutral colours and plenty of natural light flooding in.

There’s a pretty lawn out the front for al fresco afternoon tea or Sunday lunch – it’s also the perfect spot for watching the famous Bournemouth Air Festival – and the beach is just a short walk away down the Toft Zig Zag footpath.

Best for spa and seaside: The Hilton

Neighbourhood: Town centre

Relax in The Hilton's indoor pool (The Hilton)

The opening of the Hilton in 2015 really upped the standard of accommodation in Bournemouth, with this huge hotel just a five-minute walk from the beach finally offering a modern destination for spa days, stylish stays and excellent food.

Rooms are colourful with Ted Baker furnishings and some have balconies that open to views of the Lower Gardens. The rooftop bar has fantastic views out to the ocean and mixes excellent cocktails, while the ground-floor restaurant serves up succulent local steaks and a fabulous ceviche. Breakfasts are a real feast and well worth investing in.

Best for a family holiday: Ocean Beach Hotel & Spa

Neighbourhood: The East Cliff

Families will appreciate the facilities at Ocean Beach (Ocean Beach)

Lording over the East Cliff among a few huge but tired old hotels, Ocean Beach is one of the best family friendly options in this area of Bournemouth. Not only do many of its rooms offer calming sea views, but there’s also an on-site day spa with Asian-inspired massages and treatments and a small outdoor pool.

The hotel is part of a group in the area, which means you get access to the other hotels’ facilities, such as the heated indoor and outdoor pools, the sauna and squash courts next door – perfect for quality family time. The on-site Italian Cafe offers all-day dining with favourites such as pasta and pizza, and The Atlantic Restaurant has pool views.

Best for a post-party pad: Holiday Inn

Neighbourhood: Lansdowne

Pre or post-party, Holiday Inn offers cool and contemporary touches (Holiday Inn)

While it might not be the sexiest brand, the Holiday Inn (formerly the Ramada) had a refit in 2019 and now offers good-value rooms and reliable service right in the heart of the action. Its bedrooms are light and airy with cool, colourful touches, and the bright restaurant has a lounge menu offering dining for any time of day.

The hotel is on Bath Road, just around the corner from the main drag of bars and restaurants on Old Christchurch Road, and is in good proximity to many of the university’s halls of residence in Lansdowne. Student Union bar The Old Firestation is a five-minute walk away, while both the town centre and beach are just 15 minutes on foot.

Best for a quiet escape: The Connaught Hotel

Neighbourhood: The West Cliff

Escape the crowds at The Connaught Hotel (The Connaught Hotel)

The range of facilities at this large Best Western Plus hotel sets it above the rest on the West Cliff. There’s a spa offering massages and a sauna, steam room and hydrotherapy pool, plus an 18m indoor heated pool.

Rooms are decorated with blue hues to match ocean views and the leafy patio outside is perfect for afternoon tea or sundowner gins. Dinner at the hotel’s AA Rosette-awarded brasserie is excellent, with superb dishes created with the catch of the day and rope-grown mussels.

Best for beach access: Highcliff Marriott Hotel

Neighbourhood: The West Cliff

Bournemouth or Barbados? Dive in to the Highcliff Marriott (Highcliff Marriott Hotel)

This is as close as hotels in Bournemouth get to the wide sandy beach. The West Cliff funicular, which is well over 100 years old and still operates daily, runs directly between the Highcliff Marriott and the sand below. The hotel’s enviable location is complemented by the exceptional Brasserie Blanc – a Raymond Blanc institution – and a large outdoor pool with glorious sea views and sun loungers aplenty.

Right below the hotel on the beachfront, there’s a small arcade for nostalgic seaside moments and a New Forest Ice Cream stand. It’s just a 10-minute walk into the town centre or to the tip of Bournemouth Pier.

Best for fabulous food: Park Central Hotel

Neighbourhood: The West Cliff

Fresh fish and seafood are the order of the day at Park Central Hotel (Park Central Hotel)

Dinner is the main event at this hotel – onsite, two-Rosette restaurant The Crab is a favourite among locals for special occasions. Its simple, rustic decor with exposed brick and wood doesn’t try to take away from the highlight: expertly prepared local fish and seafood. Expect dressed crab, perfectly seared scallops and mussels cooked to perfection, all presented with elegance.

In the hotel itself, the rooms are luxurious with the occasional four-poster bed, fresh flowers and sea views. Being directly opposite the Bournemouth International Centre and a five-minute stroll from the Pavilion makes the Park Central an ideal overnight hotel after an evening of music, comedy or theatre.

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