* Prices may differ from that shown
Just back from a week nearby this beach. I used to go to this beach as a kid because my grandmother lived nearby in Highcliffe, but to be honest it didn't really jog any memories. However, it is less crowded and less commercial than, say, the beach at Bournemouth. On a good day, you get a great view of the Needles. Worth a visit is the refurbished Highcliffe Castle, which is essentially a 19th century creation, but nice nonetheless. You can approach it from the beach via some steps or drive there. The lifeguards' hut carries a warning about the Weever Fish, which can give you a nasty sting if you step on it in the shallows, so we all wore beach shoes - no hardship. The hut emphasises the point with a 'scorecard', which up to our departure read 'Weever Fish 4, humans 0'. Shame the weather was so poor while we were there. The parking is a stitch-up too - not cheap, and local roads are heavily double yellow-lined. You might want to make a trip to the nearby Hengistbury Head too.
I am going to admit that I must be mad. I am about to tell many readers about this little known beach in Mudeford, Christchurch, near Bournemouth and hence risk this quite little haven being bombarded with dooyoo members.
I have been a regular visitor to Mudeford for many years and never tire of this easy to reach beach . So it's about time I shared this secret area with you all, though I might regret this decision.
****** HOW TO GET THERE *******
Avonmouth Beach is in Christchurch, Dorset. Christchurch town centre with its very quaint shops is not over crowded even in peak season. With very easy parking facilities, this makes for an ideal holiday destination in the U.K.
Leave the M3 and join the M27 at the M3 J13-J14 junction direction Bournemouth, M27, So'ton Docks. M27 Eastbound J4 -J 7. M3 - Southampton East.
Leave the M27 and continue straight onto roundabout signposted Lyndhurst, The New Forest Via [a337].
Take the 1st Exit off the roundabout into A336.
After 540 yards take the 3rd Exit off the roundabout into A337 (Lyndhurst Road).
Continue straight onto A337 until you reach the high street, and then turn left. You are now entering CHRISTCHURCH, continue straight on the A35.
After 0.9 miles take the 2nd Exit off the Somerford Roundabout and turn left into Sandown Road. Continue straight onto Mudeford Lane, pass the Avonmouth Hotel and approaching the bend start signalling right. Drive down to the car park which is on the left.
This is a sharp turning and is not sign posted, hence hardly anyone but the locals known of this location.
**** THE CAR PARK *****
Do not be put off by the "FULL" sign as you approach the parking attendants hut. You might have to wait a few minutes but do not make the mistake giving up altogether. Most cars belong to locals who just drive down for a spot of body boarding, vehicles are in and out constantly and you will be directed to a space if patient.
However, you still need to get there by 10 am the latest if you want some hassle free parking. Spaces are extremely tight towards the back of the car park as some bright spark now allows cars to park down the centre reservation. This reduces the turning circle in your vehicle unless you have a smaller car. I find it hard reversing my Galaxy in and out in such a tight area and then unloading the kids. The earlier you get there, the more chance you have with parking by the wall. If this is the case, you just swivel over the side and you on the beach.
Parking costs £6 all day but if you return you ticket to the attendant in the wooden booth by 4pm the latest, you receive a large percentage back for staying there all day. The car park is open from 7 am until 9 pm when it is locked. Camper vans and caravanetes are welcome but not towing caravans.
**** THE BEACH ******
Not as busy as Bournemouth, Sandbanks or Boscombe Beach, Mudeford still has all the amenities needed for a good day out on the sand or even a longer stay if you so wish. Great disabled access, there is a large walkway along the brick wall where most wheel chair users sit and admire the coast line.
The part shingle and part sandy beach is clean and tidy. When the tide goes out you can paddle with your children over to the sandbank. With no nasty dips in the water, it's quite safe for smaller ones to walk out to this point.
There are no water sports equipment for hire, the only Jet Ski's you see belong to the locals. If you own your own jet ski, there is nothing stopping you from bringing it with you. The current is usually quite calm so not very good for windsurfers, though you do see the odd one or two trying to stay afloat.
There is no lifeguard attendant like Baywatch but the beach hut situated next to the gift shop has coast guard facilities.
Unfortunately I had the mishap of asking for help last time we drove to Mudeford. I was holding my friends baby and looking after "our camp" whilst she was in the sea with her two other children. My husband had taken my children out to the sandbank (which is easily reachable and not in deep water). I presumed my little girl was with him and he thought she was with me. It wasn't until I looked over to him and noticed my daughter was not there that my heart sank. I screamed out to him and to my friend and a search party of families began looking for my little girl.
One of the men in the guards hut began to call for helicopter assistance, another set out on his cycle whilst the other two went on foot along the seashore. It was the longest ten minutes of my life but my husband found her, waiting outside the ice cream shop! We were all relieved to see her even though I was in floods of tears and fearing all sorts of things. The guards are there to help in a crisis and help us they did; I am very grateful and hope I never need to use them again.
Dogs are not allowed on the beach during May to October but they are allowed further on towards the quayside close to the caravan park.
One downside to the beach is the seaweed. Yes I know it's a natural substance but I cannot stand in a pile of dark green slime that winds itself around my legs like a boa constrictor. I have a phobia of seaweed and refuse to go into the water unless I can find a break in the green sludge.
Most of it is situated around the rocks so usually I can find a space to take a running plunge. Once into the water it becomes clear, not as clear as the mediterenean waters but enough for you see your feet. In all the years I have been going to this beach, I haven't yet trod on a fish but still take not chances and wear swimming shoes. The shingle is very painful if you tread on it so I recommend wearing some sort of foot protection if you are close to the shore.
As this isn't a real "touristy" beach, there are no deck chairs for hire so bring your own or some picnic mats and a windbreaker. Not really for the wind but for privacy when you camp up. I always pack our pop up sun shelter come tent for the children. Even on over cast days, the sun can and will burn their tender skin, so it just gives them some protection when they are not in the water or making sand castles.
Rubbish bins are everywhere so please remember not to leave your litter on the beach, if seen littering you may get a fine. I always take a spare carrier bag for any rubbish and at the end of the day just deposit it at one of the many points.
When you tire of sitting on the sand, take a leisurely stroll towards the other end of the beach where there is another café equally as good as the one near the beach huts, a pub, a small gift shop and a mini harbour or quay.
It's here in the early evening that you will find may people crab fishing and proudly displaying the catches of the day. There are further parking facilities but if you can, aim to get as close to the main beach area as possible.
If you like fresh fish, then do not leave without a trip to the fish stall next to the café. The prawns are so fresh they almost shake you by the hand. If you are there longer than just a day trip, then sea fishing and boat trips are booked around the harbour. Prices vary as do the times the boats leave , so please check the notice boards situated by the booking office.
Just behind the pub is a lifeboat in all its glory. You are able to walk around and see this magnificent boat as long as it's not on a call.
*** THE GIFT SHOP ******
Situated by the toilets and café, is the Avonmouth gift shop. Once inside this Aladdin's Cave of curiosities and necessities you will notice that the prices are somewhat expensive.
Gifts such as mini wooden lighthouses are around £1 but the children's buckets; spades, body boards etc are almost double in price.
There is a good selection inside which includes sun lotions, swimming costumes, newspapers, ice creams, fudge, chilled drinks and postcards. If you already have buckets and spades and a football, take them with you, as it will cost you dear for those items.
The staff are always friendly and accept all credit cards and debit cards. There is no cash point facility here.
The shop is open until 7 pm including Sundays in peak time.
**** THE CAFÉ IN THE CAR PARK ****
With amazing views overlooking the beach, the Avonmouth Beach Cafe overlooking the coast makes a wonderful brew. There is something relaxing about drinking a cup of Earl Grey by the sea whilst watching the world go by.
A very popular place to eat with reasonable prices starting from £1 upwards; you may have to wait a while to get a seat, especially on the terrace. A large jacket potato will cost you £5 with ample salad, sandwiches are £3 depending on what you have., chips are £2 for a large portion. Personally I recommend the apple pie, delicious with a hot chocolate to wash it down.
For both the shop and café there is disabled access via a ramp to the side of both buildings.
Quite clean and situated next to the café as mentioned above. A great place to change into dry clothes and save your modesty. There are no shower facilites but there is a tap outside to wash your legs and feet down.
Disabled visitors are catered for as equally but the toilet often remains locked. Ask inside the shop for a key, as they are responsible for the upkeep of the toilet block.
There are no baby changing facilities that I am aware of so its best to be prepared and take your own mat with you.
*** WHERE TO STAY *****
I am lucky in that I do not live that far from Mudeford Beach so within 40 minutes traffic permitting, we are normally unpacking our picnic gear and settling down on the sand. If however you would like to stay there for a week or so, then I can recommend two places.
Directly on the beachfront is Sandhills Caravan Park now owned by Cinque Ports Leisure. The site is extremely clean though some of the caravans need some updating. The vans over looking the sea are privately owned and last year one was for sale at the price of £160,000.
These vans are superb, top quality complete with balconies and some with a small private garden; these proud owners obviously take great care in maintaining their investment.
The rental caravans are adequate and quite spacious. Perfect for a week's stay. Every van has the basic utensils needed such as fridge, oven and microwave a television. Linen is included but take your own towels and tea towels.
There is a toilet and shower but no bath.
On site there is a good-sized pool, though it is outside it is heated. There are a few sun lounges around the pool but not many; you need to be at the pool area by 8 am sharp to grab one.
The shop which is called "Everydays" has most basic essentials but as Sainsburys is just around the corner, it works out cheaper to go there for your provisions. By car Sainsbury's supermarket is 5 minutes drive away (1 Lyndhurst Road (A35) BH23 4RY.
The bar and clubhouse are not brilliant and neither is the entertainment, its bearable especially after a few vodka's. The children enjoy it so that's the main priority for me. Facilities include Chalet Hire, Food Shop as mentioned, Launderette, Telephone, Licensed Club, Restaurant/Cafe, Games Room, Child Play Area, Outdoor Pool, Wheelchair access, No Dogs, Fishing Available, Sailing and mini Golf Course.
Tel: 01425 274584
Prices start around £100 per person depending on which caravan you book and what season you go in.
If you are not on a budget, then the Avonmouth Beach Hotel is superb. With stunning views across Christchurch Harbour I believe this must be one of the finest Hotels in Dorset. With its comfortable soft furnishings, chandelier and feature fireplace this 1930's built hotel maintains its high standards.
The bedrooms are decorated to a high standard with ensuite bathroom, television, trouser press and tea making facilities. Some rooms have a private ground floor balcony overlooking the harbour or the hotel pool.
The Quays restaurant is rather expensive but superbly presented, more a la carte than Harvester. Do not expect to be full after your meal.
There is ample parking both at the front and rear of the premises.
Avonmouth Hotel, 95 Mudeford, 3-minute walk from the beach. Tel: 01202 483434, www.avonmouth-hotel.co.uk
Weekend(Friday & Saturday) Midweek(Sunday - Thursday)
D B&B B&B D B&B B&B
Jan - Feb £74 £54 £69 £49
Mar - Apr £79 £59 £74 £54
May - Jun £84 £64 £79 £59
Jul - Sep £89 £69 £84 £64
Oct - Dec £79 £59 £74 £54
Prices shown are per person per night for a minimum of a 2 nights based on 2 adults sharing inclusive
**** ARTICLES TO TAKE ****
Apart from the usual, towels, sun lotion, hats etc , if you have children then buckets, spades, footballs and a sun shelter are important. Items for your comfort should include a flask of tea, few picnic rugs or fold up chairs, a picnic in a coolbox and a wind breaker.
Yes I know I said the café made a good cup of tea, but being an avid tea o holic, I just cannot be asked to keep going upto the café each time I fancy a brew. I know its not far from the beach itself but I like to save the best till last and always have a cuppa prior to packing up and going home. Many visitors take portable BBQ's but that's something I haven't tried and unlikely to.
*** FINALLY ****
Mudeford Beach is littered with beach huts and some are for sale. If you are interested then you can contact either the guards in the beach hut or the staff in the shop for further details. Prices for a basic hut start at £40,000. Bear in mind these huts are nothing more than wooden sheds that are selling at B and Q for a fraction of the price, what you pay for is the views and the ease of being able to store all your beach gear in one place. Some have a small kitchen area and seating.
Ok, so now I have let the cat out of the bag and I can say is, have a great day out on the beach. The beach has enough to keep you occupied all day without breaking the bank.
Probably see you down there in the summer