Brownsea Island

Brownsea Island is the largest of the islands in Poole Harbour, with spectacular views across the harbour and to the Purbeck Hills. The island is owned by the National trust with the northern half managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Official Brownsea Island website:
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Aerial photo of Poole Harbour showing the Sandbanks Peninsula at the front and Brownsea Island in the middle. At the back is Poole Quay and Poole.

The island is an interesting mix of woodland, heathland and a lagoon creating an ideal habitat for wildlife such as the red squirrel, sika deer and a wide variety of birds such as oystercatchers, kingfishers, avocets, spoonbills, common and sandwich terns.

Brownsea Island. The ferries from Poole Quay and Sandbanks disembark at the public jetty seen on the right, behind which is the National Trust Visitor Reception, information centre and shop. Just to the left is the coffee shop / cafe (with clock tower) which has a nice garden area to relax in. The castle to the left flying a flag is Brownsea Castle. The castle is not open to the public. The castle has its own very ornate landing jetty.

On the island you can also find a Scout Commemorative Stone. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement, held the first experimental camp here in 1907. Scouts and Guides from all over the world still make pilgrimages to Brownsea for camps and day trips.

A visit to Brownsea Island makes for a perfect family day out. There are plenty of trails to explore around the island, a visitor centre, peacocks roaming free and pretty little beaches and coves.

Brownsea Island as viewed from a ferry approaching from Sandbanks.

Boats to Brownsea Island

There is a regular ferry service that runs from from Poole Quay to Brownsea Island everyday from around Mid-March to the end of October. The ferry service is operated by Brownsea Island Ferries. The first ferry departs Poole Quay at 10am. Ferry tickets can be booked online on the National Trust website. National Trust non-members will also have to pay for entrance to the island – See prices below. Ferry tickets can also be bought on the day of departure at the Brownsea Island Ferries kiosk on Poole Quay but if you want to guarantee availability then we recommend booking online in advance especially during the summer months and if you want to depart on one of the earlier ferries.

Brownsea Island Admission Charges

Entrance to Brownsea Island is free for National Trust members but everyone still has to pay for the return ferry from Poole Quay.
Click here for National Trust membership fees.

Brownsea Island Entrance Fees given below includes the price of the ferry: 

Brownsea Island Ticket TypeNT MembersNon-Members
Adult£12.50£21.50
Child£7£11.50
Family 2 adults + up to 3 children£32£54.50
Family 1 adult + up to 3 children£19.50£33
Prices subject to change, check National Trust website for up-to-date information

Dogs are not permitted on the island except for assistance dogs. No bikes either.

Brownsea Island Map. You can view a better quality version of this map on the National Trust website click here (external link). The map suggest various walks around the island.
This is a private jetty for access to Brownsea Castle. The castle is leased to the John Lewis Partnership for use as holiday accommodation for its staff.It is not open to the public.
Brownsea Island
Brownsea Island Castle (not open to the public)
Brownsea Island Ferry arriving at the National Trust jetty
National Trust Visitor Reception, ticket office, shop and toilets.
Just after arriving on the island and passing through the Visitor Reception you’ll find the Villano Cafe with outside seating with lovely harbour views.
This is the public hide 5 minutes walk on your right after arriving on the island. From the hide you can spot various bird species on the lagoon including curlew, avocet, shelduck, black-tailed godwit, oystercatcher, spoonbill, sandpiper and dunlin.
St Marys Church was built in the 1850s. In the early days it served quite a large population though the original village has now gone. A service is held at 3pm every Sunday from May to September, visitors are welcome.
Island beach with stunning views of the harbour entrance. You can just make out Sandbanks Ferry on the left side about to cross the harbour entrance to the Studland Peninsula on the right. You can just bout make out Old Harry Rocks in the far distance.
A photo taken from the same position as above but with a telephoto lens. Old Harry Rocks is now clearly visible. The little beach with a few permanent house boats moored up is known at Bramble Bush Bay. It make for a very pleasant walk in the evening as its one of the few beaches in Dorset where you can see a decent sunset. To the left towards the Sandbanks Ferry out of view is a really nice restaurant The Shell Bay Seafood Restaurant & Bistro https://shellbay.net that also takes advantage of beautiful sunsets making an ideal place for a romantic evening (bit expensive though).
There are plenty of interesting walks around the island. A wooded clifftop trail is ideal on a hot day. Take plenty of water as the only shops are at the entrance to the island.
The Scout Stone – a commemorative stone in honour of Lord Robert Baden-Powell taking a group of boys camping here in the summer of 1907. This is widely accepted as the origin of the Scouting movement, the association was formed in 1910. In 1976 girls were allowed to join and now make up around 27% of all-age participants. Girls now make up 71% of all new members (Scouts Annual Report 2016/17).
One of the more secluded beaches at the western end of the island.
Woodland walks.
The Red Squirrel – a popular resident on Brownsea Island. About 200 red squirrels live on the island. A particularly good place to see them is at the back of St Marys Church. Autumn is the best time to see them. If you want to get up close then take a handful of peanuts preferably in their shells (monkey nuts). Do not use salted or roasted nuts. Don’t feed directly out of your hand as you may get an accidental bite and don’t use camera flash or you’ll scare them away.

Related Pages: National Trust Membership / Boat Trips / Poole Harbour / Poole Quay / Sandbanks / Shell Bay Beach