Getting away from it all

The perfect day’s adventure – this island wildlife sanctuary is easy to get to but feels like another world from the moment you step ashore. This tranquil island in Poole Harbour has spectacular views and is famous for red squirrels, wildlife and Scouting!

Take a closer look

Brownsea Island sits in the middle of Poole Harbour, with dramatic views to the Purbeck Hills. Thriving natural habitats, including woodland, heathland and a lagoon have created havens for wildlife, such as the red squirrel and a huge variety of birds, including the Sandwich Tern. You’ll find peacocks and hens wandering near the 19th-century church.

The island is steeped in history. Several industries have thrived on Brownsea Island over the years, including cattle farming, daffodil farming and pottery. You’ll see remnants of all of this on the island – with Pottery Pier still surrounded by shards of the ceramics that were once crafted there.

It’s a family friendly island with free walking trails, natural play areas and plenty of fun activities to try during the school holidays and if you want don’t want your adventure to end then camping overnight is also available (it’s not just for Scouts!) You can even hire a tent – Find out more

Red Squirrel (c) Kevin Cook

A wildlife haven

The island is home to over 200 rare red squirrels. Keep your eyes peeled for these cheeky woodland creatures on your visit. They are most active in the spring and autumn, so these are the best seasons to spot them. In spring they are out and about feeding on emerging foliage and in autumn they are busy hoarding their winter stores and can be seen scuttling about on the woodland floor!  They can generally be spotted on the island during quieter times of the day; first thing in the morning and later afternoon.

This really is a special sight to see as the UK population of red squirrels has dropped from a one time high of 3.5 million to under 140,000.

Our top five squirrel spotting tips:
1. Look up as they live in the trees

2. They are easier to spot in the morning and late afternoon

3. Listen for rustling in the treetops

4. Falling pine cone seeds mean a squirrel is munching above you

5. Stand still and be very quiet as soon as you spot one

Good luck!

Take a look at the National Trust guide to red squirrels on Brownsea Island before you set off.

Poole Harbour (c) Sue Macpherson ARPS

Bird watching on Brownsea Island

The lagoon, to the north of the island, is an internationally important wildlife haven.

Over 20,000 birds visit Poole Harbour each year to feed and roost, including Britain’s largest ever recorded over-wintering populations of Spoonbills and Avocet in the UK, plus internationally important numbers of Black-tailed godwit, Shelduck and Oystercatcher.

Numbers of Avocet can peak at over 1,000 and Black-tailed godwit at around 2,000, which is quite an impressive sight, especially when one of the over-wintering Merlin or Peregrines starts hawking over the lagoon.

Spoonbill is another lagoon favourite with numbers often reaching 40+ by mid-October.

This part of the island is managed in partnership with Dorset Wildlife Trust

Other places to visit