Silicon Beach Bomo - Orientation Guide | Poole Downtown Area

Built on a sheltered peninsula on an inlet in Poole Harbour, downtown Poole remains relatively compact, with its High Street linking Quay and old Town Gate entrance area mostly pedestrianised and walkable in 15 minutes.

Poole’s downtown area consists mainly of the Old Town plus the new shopping centre and bus depot at the inland end of the High Street, near where the mediaeval Town Gate once stood (after which Towngate Bridge is named). The new top end was an exercise in land reclamation - largely built over a muddy tidal creek area when the railway line was being constructed.

It is three-quarters of a mile from this newer top-end development to Poole Quay, down the High Street. But this is mostly pedestrianised, from Falkland Square on, two-thirds of the way to the waterfront. The Quay is also pedestrian-friendly, with wide pavements.

Click on screenshot left to go to the current Google Maps version.

Historically, like most key towns in Wessex, Poole was a walled city. But as at Christchurch, a wall was only needed on the north side since the other sides were protected by water. This neck of land is now much wider as some of the area on the east side of the Old Town was land later reclaimed from the harbour’s tidal mudflats to accommodate the growth it experienced as a transatlantic port in the Georgian era. Later industrial development was mainly based on the New Quay on the S side across the channel from the original Quay.

The High Street leads from near where the Town Gate used to be down to the Quay, which was long the centre of the town as a thriving commercial port in the 18th and 19th centuries. The rest of Poole Old Town is a maze of twisting streets. Most of the eateries etc are on the High Street, especially its lower end.

Right: Our recon route takes us from the bus station and arts centre opposite it, through the shopping centre and out on the High Street, down to the Quay.

The top or inland end of the town, dominated by the Towngate bridge, the bus station and a giant shopping centre, is a graceless modern [1960s] addition. The Dolphin Centre is also closed in the evening, so that anyone heading for the High St from the bus station then must go right around it. Across the busy road, the refurbished arts centre, The Lighthouse, is accessible only by a pedestrian tunnel or a crosswalk at the far end. (Mouse over photo to see 2nd image.)
Poole has a mainly Georgian architecture, from its heyday as a commercial port linked to Newfoundland, though many of the red-brick (or red-and-white) buildings are Victorian or later, designed that way to be in keeping with the town's architectural heritage (it's a Conservation Area). Some late-mediaeval buildings have also survived (look for grey-brown stone walls made of cobbles, flintstone, rubble etc, supported inside by hand-carved wooden beams).  Thus, if you want to set up an office, it may well be inside the facade of a historic building.

Despite being something of a notorious local eyesore, the bus depot makes a natural starting point, though it would be easy for the first-time visitor to miss the Lighthouse arts centre opposite, accessed via a pedestrian underpass. The refurbished Lighthouse has a cafe [The Terrace bistro/café-bar] as well as a first floor bar for patrons of its cinema/theatre. Just W is the George Inn, by the roundabout named after it. Back through the underpass, on the S side, is a cafeteria-style Chinese buffet restaurant, The Real China.

The bus station leads directly into the Dolphin Shopping Centre. Upstairs is Poole Central Library, which despite its downsizing by the Council, still has a few places to sit and work, including an alcove with a workbench-style desk with laptop plugin points. There is also The Lookout Café at The Project Climbing Centre. The ground floor has a few coffee shops in the midst of the concourse, while upstairs is a cafeteria-style restaurant [Clipper] doing English breakfast and lunches. For North American cuisine, Roxy's American Diner opened last year on the Kingland Crescent side of the Shopping Centre, and a branch of Mexigo burrito bar recently opened by the Falkland Square exit.

Right: The Dolphin Centre mall with Viennese patisserie style cafe [Druckers], and [mouse over to see 2nd photo] the SW entrance/ exit by the Mixed Fillings cafe. (List of current eateries including takeaways here.)


Above: There are two exit routes leading from the Dolphin Centre onto the pedestrianised High St, which converge on the square [Falkland Sq] just before the railway level crossing (where you may have to wait as mainline trains rush through, or use the overhead pedestrian bridge). If arriving by train, the main pedestrian route is E under the busy A350 at the Towngate Bridge, emerging in a corner of Falkland Square. On the square itself, there is Delfino Lounge, part of the 'Lounger' chain (which has places in both B'mth and Xch), on the site where Hollywood Movie Cells stood. On the W or train-station side of the A350, beyond Asda, there are a couple of eateries. One is in the new circular RNLI College building, whose posh upstairs staff canteen is open to the public, and the other, the award-winning Lakeside fish restaurant, which also has scenic views of the harbour.

Heading down the High St, and (as per our policy of favouring local enterprises) ignoring several restaurants run by the big international chains on the first block after the railway crossing, takes us to Lagland St. The High St. is pedestrianised (with some bench seating) most of the way to the Quay, with only a few vehicle crossing points. Lagland St is the first of these, where in a former public library building, is The Lord Wimborne, a Weatherspoons gastropub with garden area. Returning to the High St, on the corner next to NatWest is Cafe Aroma.
There are not many restaurants on this stretch. Wesley's Cafe, based in the Methodist church's Spire building, has been open since 2015. The lower end of the High St has most of the eateries, some tucked away in the side roads and lanes.
So moving quickly on, by the pedestrianised junction with Hill St is Sandwiches Etc with a few outside tables, and Coffee No 34. Just N up Hill St, on Market Close, is a historic 3-storey pub, the Blue Boar. Continuing along the High St is the Moni Cafe with outside tables, and on the other side of the street is the small Starfish Luncheonette. Farther down is The Globe Café Bar [a Marston’s establishment, with live ent in eves], which again has tables outside, and Butler & Hops pub. La Plaza Brasserie is one of those places tucked just down a side street [High Street Mews, entrance by Tony Newman Estate Agents to Carters Ln, on the N side]. The former On The Roxx bar, closed by police due to 'serious crime and disorder', reopened as Barque, which also then got shut down - current fate unknown. Next to it, with its own front courtyard, is Ginali's Italian restaurant. The Brewhouse is a a small Milk Street Brewery outlet, which follows the fashion by having a few tables outside.


Above: Moni cafe-bar and [mouse over] Ginali's, next to Barque [formerly On The Roxx bar].


Right on the next cross street, New Orchard St, is the New Orchard Cafe [vegan treats etc]. Yates's wine bar is in the other direction [turn left] on a side-side street [Prosperous St]. Just past Orchard St on the High St are The Courtyard Tea Rooms, a cafe with no frontage beyond a door but with a secluded courtyard garden [closed Mons/Tues], right next to Tandoori Nights curry house. On the corner of New St, Taj Mahal II Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant is right next to the Alcatraz Caffe Italian restaurant, which has a large area of forecourt tables.

Around the corner, right on New St several historic local pubs can be found: the Guildhall Tavern, and on Market St [turn right again], The Crown [signposted on the corner by Taj Mahal], and The Angel, a former coaching inn.

The High Street narrows at the lower end, becoming something of an inadvertent 'shared space' where pedestrians and cars overlap. Along this side of the block are half a dozen establishments: Karma Mediterranean Grill & Bistro [eves only; closed Mondays], The Thai Restaurant, Sakuna Khrua Thai restaurant, Storm Fish restaurant with fresh seafood dishes [owned by a local fisherman], and Bingley's Bistro, a small cafe. Calimero at #22 is a new Italian restaurant. Next is The Antelope Inn, a former coaching inn, reputedly the oldest hotel in Poole [now with bar and restaurant and courtyard down the side, and right next to it is The Kings Head, another venerable old pub (formerly the Plume Of Feathers), across the alley from the museum.
Across the High St are the Coffee Saloon, The Little Teapot [for high tea], Diva Italian café-bar, a pair of B&B establishments with their own storefront cafes, and The Fisherman Cafe.

The High Street turns S here, at the Museum [upstairs cafe with terrace], just before the Quay. Up the side street W past the Museum, is the Rope & Anchor pub restaurant [pictured here], with tables out front and garden in back.

Above: The view over the High St, north and south, from the museum's upstairs-cafe terrace. (Mouse over photo to see 2nd image.) Where the High St meets the Quay stands a large black wrought-iron art structure whose staircase you can ascend for a view of the Quay area.

Left and Above: Two historic buildings converted to public use. The King Charles inn, which actually extends into the adjoining building, on Thames St. The half-timbered frontage is Tudor, while the redbrick part is built on the site of part of the mediaeval Town Cellars. The Hotel du Vin & Bistro above is a former Georgian mansion house just up Thames St.
To keep our tour as linear as possible, we briefly detour W up this side street [Sarum St.] to Thames St. Up here is the Hotel du Vin & Bistro, a very upmarket hotel with dining room and wine bar lodged in an ivy-clad Georgian building long known simply as the Mansion House, with its own courtyard and function rooms. Towards the waterfront, in a pair of historic buildings, is The King Charles, with a mediaeval-style "King's Hall".

The above photo shows [L to R] the iron-work sculpture/viewpoint at the foot of the High St, where it exits between what is now The Stable restaurant and Corkers cafe-bar [now closed after many years of operation] next to Purbeck Pottery, with the Portsmouth Hoy inn (repainted light blue) and the Poole Arms (dressed in green pottery tiles) at right.

Emerging from Thames St. takes us onto The Quay. All the amenities of interest are now on our left-hand to the E … except for La Lupa 3, an Italian-run restaurant of many years standing. It’s in an historic mill building, slightly hidden around the curve to the W of the main Quay area, and easily overlooked. Otherwise, our tour now takes us left, E along the Quay.

First up, at the intersection of the High Street and the Quay, with some plain benches outside in summer, is The Stable pizza restaurant [part of a regional chain] on the site of what was The Inn On The Quay. Across the street on the far corner Corkers café-bar closed after many years [before it became Corkers it was the Slurping Toad and before that, the Kings Arms]; in the way of things, the site will probably reopen as a new eatery.

Next along is a landmark building impossible to miss, and much photographed, the former HQ of Poole’s Customs & Excise. The Custom House dining room and lounge bar closed after many years in Feb 2017 but reopened in spring 2018 as the Custom House Café.

Continuing E from the mouth of the High St are a series of waterfront pub-restaurants, nearly all with quayside outdoor seating. First up are Drift Micro Bar (aptly named), and Da Vinci’s, a family-friendly Italian restaurant with upstairs dining room.

  Soup and cheddar lunch at the Portsmouth Hoy
Above: A soup and cheddar lunch at the Portsmouth Hoy
The Portsmouth Hoy, recently repainted, is the first of several Georgian-era quayside inns on this block, and is one of the oldest pubs in town (originally where passengers waited for a hoy, a small coastal vessel, to take them to Portsmouth).
The Poole Arms [pictured left], the oldest pub on the Quay, with its distinctive green pottery tiling dating back to the 17th C., is also a fish restaurant.
The Quay inn is a Wetherspoon's gastropub. Next to it, the Oriel Cafe Restaurant, with metal cafe tables out front, does pizzas etc. The Jolly Sailor is a Greene King pub. Next to it is the larger Lord Nelson (founded 1764) with new frontage of awning-covered outside tables in summer [live music in eves].
Just down the side street at the roundabout is The Cabin, a burger joint cum cocktail bar built out of recycled materials.
Along the waterfront is Banana Wharf restaurant [part of a regional chain]. At the front of the new Dolphin Quays residential complex, is the Deli On The Quay deli-shop/cafe, Rancho Steak House, and on the first floor, the Italian Gossip restaurant [with terrace]. The new Thistle Hotel opposite the old RNLI lifeboat station has the Harbour View Restaurant.

Anyone wanting more of a walk can continue E along the harbour-front path to Baiter Park [cycle path], and N from there under the railway line to Poole Park Boating Lake. Turning W from there onto Kingland Rd will take you back to the bus depot to complete the circuit.

The cruise boats glimpsed here on the quayside take you around the harbour (the largest in Europe) with its many islands, but unfortunately there is no landing dock at Sandbanks by the harbour mouth (like that at Mudeford Sandbank in Christchurch Harbour).
Click on screenshot left for live interactive version of Google Maps satellite view.

Below: The W end of The Quay, with the 1920s-built Lifting Bridge at left.
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