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17 September 2014
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Estuaries | Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island

Poole Harbour location map

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Poole Harbour on the Dorset coast is the second biggest natural harbour in the world with 96 km of coastline and several unspoilt islands.

One of those islands is Brownsea which was once a sanctuary for deer from Japan imported by Victorian landowners with a penchant for exotic species.

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Estuaries are fantastic habitats for wildlife. Great tidal flows, deep and shallow waters, and salt marshes all provide rich places for wildlife.

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  • Our estuaries offer amazing opportunities for wildlife watching. Why not take a few tips from the Nature's Calendar team - from bird watching to reptile hunting.

Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island - Visitor Guide

Address:Brownsea Island, Poole, Dorset.

Arne Reedbeds, near Wareham, Poole, Dorset.

Postcode BH13 7EE
Telephone:National Trust - 01202 707744
Dorset Wildlife Trust - 01202 709445
Fax:National Trust - 01202 701635
Essential kit:Binoculars for bird watching.
Nature watching:

Bird and nature watching. Sailing and water sports in harbour. Nature trails. Cliff-top walk and nature trails at Brownsea Island.


Arne Reedbeds near Wareham on the edge of Poole Harbour is a good place for bird watching run by the RSPB - nature trails and bird hide. Open all year.

Access:We suggest that wheelchair users contact ferry operators for information about boat trips to Brownsea Island.

Brownsea Island National Trust area - island tracks are rough in places. Adapted WCs. Grounds partly accessible - map of accessible route available. Braille guide.

Most of the Brownsea Island nature reserve trail and its three bird hides are accessible by wheelchair.
Getting there:Brownsea Island - half-hourly boat service from Poole Quay (tel. 01202 631828 or 01929 462383) and Sandbanks (tel. 01929 462383). There is also a service from Bournemouth and Swanage (tel. 01202 558550).

Poole Harbour is served by trains and buses.
Opening times:

Brownsea Wildlife Reserve: Open March-June and September-October for a self-guided nature trail from 10:00am until dusk. July and August - access by guided tour daily from 2:00pm.

Brownsea Island - open late March-late October 10am-4pm.

Charges:Admission to Brownsea Island: Adults £4.40, children £2.20, group rates. Nature reserve is Adult £2, 12-18 year olds £1, children under 12 go free.
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