The resort's amusements are varied, and this is a much more upmarket and tasteful resort than jazzy Brighton. It's a bit staid during the day; but at night swarms of young people flock to its bars and clubs where brassy, loud sounds pierce the night. At the Pavilion Theatre, you can see West End-type productions from London. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is justly famous in Europe. And there's the usual run of golf courses, band concerts, variety shows, and dancing.

And, of course, this seaside resort has a spectacular beach -- 11km (7 miles) of uninterrupted sand stretching from Hengistbury Head to Alum Chine. Most of it is known simply as Bournemouth Beach, although its western edge, when it crosses over into the municipality of Poole, is called Sandbanks Beach. Beach access is free, and a pair of blue flags will indicate where the water's fine for swimming. The flags also signify the highest standards of cleanliness, management, and facilities. A health-conscious, nonsmoking zone now exists at Durley Chine, East Beach, and Fisherman's Walk. Fourteen full-time lifeguards patrol the shore and the water; they are assisted by volunteers during the busiest summer months. The promenade is traffic-free during the summer. There are two piers, one at Boscombe and the other at Bournemouth.

Amenities at the beach include beach bungalows, freshwater showers, seafront bistros and cafes, boat trips, rowboats, canoes, jet skis, and windsurfers. Cruises run in the summer from Bournemouth Pier to the Isle of Wight.

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The traffic-free town center, with its wide avenues, is elegant but by no means stuffy. Entertainers perform on the corners of streets that are lined with boutiques, cafes, street furniture, and plenty of meeting places. Specialized shopping is found mainly in the suburbs -- Pokesdown for antiques and collectibles, Westbourne for individual designer fashion and home accessories. Victorian shopping arcades can be found in both Westbourne and Boscombe.

The best golf course is Bournemouth & Meyrick Park Golf Club, at Meyrick Park (tel. 01202/786000; www.theclubcompany.com), one of the South Coast's most beautiful courses. It's laid out across challenging terrain. Greens fees range from £22 to £25.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.