Poole is a departure point for cross-channel ferry services to France and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. Some of the fastest Channel crossings in the UK are from Poole Harbour! You can also pick up a variety of boat trips and cruises including boat trips across to Brownsea Island. Blue Line Cruises operate a very popular cruise around Poole's naturally formed harbour all year round. The cruise lasts around 45 minutes with views across to Brownsea Island and the castle on Sandbank.
Brownsea Island is the largest island in Poole Harbour and the nearest to the mainland. It is cared for by the National Trust who run it as a publicly accessible island with walks through woodland and heathland. The island is known to have been inhabited since 500 BC. It's most famous as the location for the first ever Boy Scout Camp in 1907 which kick-started the movement. You can only access the island by boat - there is no traffic on Brownsea. There are a handful of ferry companies that provide services from Poole to other islands/ports around the Channel. Brownsea Island Ferries travel from Poole to Brownsea daily.
The island is particularly noted for its wildlife. It is one of the last remaining places in southern England where you can still see native red squirrels. The best time to spot them is in Spring and Autumn around sunrise and sunset. Dorset Wildlife Trust also manages a reserve area to the north of the island. The reserve is an excellent birdwatching location where you can see breeding common and sandwich terns, yellow-legged gulls, grey herons and little egrets in the saline lagoon. Other habitats include saltmarsh, reedbed, two freshwater lakes, alder carr, pine woodland, deciduous woodland and an arboretum.
Poole has a cross-channel ferry port that links the UK with France and the Channel Islands. Both Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries run regular services from Poole throughout the year. The Ferry Terminal is easily accessible via the A350 dual carriageway that takes you around Poole. Follow the signposts to the Ferry Terminal which lies south west of the town centre. Brittany Ferries run daily services to Cherbourg in France. You can take a high speed ferry crossing which takes around two hours or the more leisurely cruise ferry taking between four to six hours. Condor Ferries run "Fast Ferry" services from Poole to St Malo in France and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. They are also the only ferry operator that run services where you can take a car to the Channel Islands.
There is a regular ferry service from Sandbanks to Shell Bay on the Studland Peninsula. It's a quick shortcut avoiding a twenty five mile drive around the coast to Studland, Swanage and the Purbeck Peninsula. The Bournemouth-Swanage Motor Road and Ferry Company run daily services throughout the year - weather permitting. The ferries can take pedestrians, cyclists, motorbikes, cars, light vans, camper vans, buses and coaches. There is no advance booking system so you just have to turn up and wait. During busy periods this may mean you have to queue.