It is possible for the tourist to view Bournemouth’s seven miles of golden sands and surrounding countryside from a hot air balloon. However this is a recent innovation and the town has been a tourist resort for many years. The resort is an ideal centre for visiting well-known attractions such as the New Forest, Stonehenge and the Jurassic Coast.
Prior to the early 19th century, Bournemouth was little more than an inn near a bridge crossing the river. However it’s potential was recognised by a retired army officer, Lewis Tregonwell, who settled here and planted the first stand of pine trees, for which the town is now famous. By the latter half of the century, pleasure gardens had been developed and a pier had been built. Bournemouth had become a popular resort for the affluent Victorians.
In 1875, the glass Winter Gardens were built to house the town’s orchestra. Elgar, Holst and Sibelius are known to have conducted there. Unfortunately, the acoustics were bad and the town did not have a good concert venue until the Winter Gardens were rebuilt in the 1930s. Unfortunately the building is not in use at present. However, Bournemouth still has its own symphony orchestra and offers classical music concerts at various other venues.
About the time that Bournemouth was gaining popularity as a seaside spa resort, the Prince of Wales decided to build a house there for his mistress, Lillie Langtry. The mock Tudor house is now an hotel, but many of the original features have survived. The Prince of Wales was to become Edward VII, whilst Lillie became a successful actress.
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum has some wonderful exhibitions of Victoriana and a good collection of paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries. It also contains many interesting artefacts from around the world.
Various events feature on Bournemouth's annual calendar. One that has been particularly popular over the last five years is the weekly parade of classic cars along the promenade. This takes place each Sunday during the holiday season. Another annual event is a music festival, which takes place in June. This features a large selection of live music, including Jazz, blues and folk.
The town has plenty of restaurants and cafés. It has a well-stocked aquarium and various entertainment centres including cinemas, theatres and sports complexes. There is some delightful countryside within easy reach of Bournemouth. Within the town are several Art Deco buildings and other interesting constructions such as the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation, built in the early 20th century. The Victorian Church of St Peter dominates the town centre with its attractive spire.