Arriving in Christchurch

We parked up at Christchurch Priory car park was a great option as it’s right in the middle of everything between the centre with the shops and food and drink spots and the town quay and waterfront area. There is free parking on Sundays in a few of the local roads such as the one leading to the priory car park, but unfortunately we just missed out on a space!

We then strolled past the large priory which according to their website is one of the longest parish churches in the country at 311ft. Lots of other quirky history around too, as when we got to the gates of the priory entering the high street, there is a old football stadium style turnstile which still works, which the kids pointed out and then had a go at. The high street of Christchurch has plenty to offer from independent shops to lots of cafes and restaurants to plenty to choose from.

Address – Quay Rd, Christchurch BH23 1BY

Breakfast at Maw

We discovered this spot after putting out a post on our Facebook page for any recommendations for brekkie spots and there one came up a couple of times. We may have chosen it ourselves anyway, as looks very aesthetically pleasing outside the front of it, so easy to spot from the high street.

It specialises in Brunch, Coffee & Cocktails and their Instagram page passed the ‘good looking food’ check on first glance. Walking in, they do normally recommend bookings on the weekend as it’s a popular spot, but staff were nice enough to accommodate a table of four if we were just here for an hour which we were.

Nice coffees and the meals came out in good time and well presented, we had seen the pancakes on social media and the biscoff dish certainly lived up the hype, kids certainly enjoyed it, light and fluffy. Full English had all the right stuff to set the day off right and nicely cooked, and the avo dish was…delicious with the crumbled feta on top and addition of a poached egg. All the dishes were around the tenner mark so pretty standard prices and an enjoyable time inside.

43 High St, Christchurch BH23 1AS

Things to see in Christchurch centre

The high street was very photogenic with it’s colourful bunting lining it and many old buildings full of character and each unique in style. We didn’t really plan much in advance, but luckily we didn’t need to as it’s a great spot just for a self guided stroll as we did just that. We find it’s very much part of the fun, to not plan every single detail during a trip, and instead see what you stumble across instead.

Walking down a side street just opposite our breakfast spot we walked past colour terraced houses, before coming to the edge of the river Avon where they had ‘the ducking stool’. Resembling something you’d see in Massachusetts or a Hollywood movie about witches etc, it’s essentially a large wooden structure which has a wooden chair teetering over the water at one side and the other side a large block of wood to weigh down. Very peculiar and great for a photo as you can clamber in the replica chair yourself for a picture of imagine yourself as one of the poor souls that actually had to undertake it.

There’s an info board next to it with the history of what it was for…Ducking stools or cucking stools were chairs formerly used for punishment of disorderly women, scolds, and dishonest tradesmen in medieval Europe

The earliest documented evidence for a ducking stool in Christchurch is in the Borough Records dating from the mid-14th century.

We then followed a boardwalk along the small river until we came to a clearing with yet more history including Norman house which is a ruined keep and 12th century house, and the tower of the former large castle. At the entrance to the tower, yet another great photo opportunity as you can get your hands in the stocks and kids enjoy to ‘pretend’ throwing veg at us! Then you can take the winding stairwell up to the top of the tower and a nice viewing point over the town’s rooftops and Christchurch priory.

Heading back down the stairwell closer to the priory, we then enjoyed strolling through various gardens and more views of the riverside before circling back to the priory car park where we then popped down to the town quay and waterside.

Christchurch town quay

Another area of Christchurch with so much to do and see, from enjoying some food and drink from one of the many restaurants of cafes like the old mill tea rooms, the boathouse or the captain club, to getting on the water by hiring a boat from quay leisure boat hire or bringing your own sup or kayak, or the kids enjoying the large playground and field by the waterfront.

I predicted the sunny weather and had brought the stand up paddleboard along, so obviously just had to get on the water after spotting many others out there. I asked one of the staff at one of the foodie spots if you needed a permit or anything, but they confirmed you didn’t so off we went. This is part of the river stour, and you can paddle west inland where you will pass a park, the sailing club and then plenty of rather fancy looking waterside houses and holiday homes or east which will take you out to Christchurch harbour and eventually the bay. It’s a pretty busy area by the town quay with both sail and motor boats moving around, so you do have to be mindful and courteous of those around. It was a great paddle in the sunshine, as we did a bit of both ways to see what it had to offer and there was quite a few areas on the quayside with steps leading down for you to board safely.

The town quay also hosts a large annual event called ‘Stomping on the Quomps which is a family friendly jazz festival so worth heading down for that too.

A nearby hidden gem sandy beach – Highcliffe beach

When down on the dorset coast, you’ve just got to visit a sandy beach, they are some of the very best in the UK! There are many to choose from, the main beaches of Bournemouth are not far from Christchurch, but we love getting away from the crowds so we headed just a 12 minute drive away to one of our favourite spots.

Highcliffe beach is a mix of shingle beach but plenty of large sandy patches too.

We parked up at Highcliffe Castle Car Park which is worth a visit in itself as you will see as in order to get to the car park, you drive through the grand gates and driveway leading up to the grand building.

Once at the rear of the estate, there is a car park in the woodland which also has a handy public toilet block too. As with all coastal car parks it’s not cheap, but the proximity to the beach makes it worth it.

From the car park you can access the beach, one of two ways, either by a Highcliffe Beach sloping zig zag path, simple for wheelchairs or pushchairs or the route we took which was 100 steps down to the beach. Full of energy from an exciting day this wasn’t a problem for us and this route also makes for a very impressive first sighting of the stretching beach with blue sky backdrop as you get closer and closer down.

Once on the beach, there was plenty of spots to choose from, as it is a quieter area of coastline due to the busier avon beach with it’s famous noisy lobster restaurant which does ace fish and chips a lot busier. Located also near there is mudeford quay which is a top spot for crabbing for families and they also have a small taxi boat going to and from Hengistbury head.

We love Highcliffe beach as there is enough sandy for beach games like the ones we played such as frisbee as well as the views from the water with the woodland at the top of the cliff. Another positive of this fantastic beach is that the water quality is excellent so a great spot for a swim which we of course just had to do on a late spring day like this.

You can read more about visiting the castle here –

Parking info –

Highcliffe Castle Car Park – Highcliffe, Christchurch BH23 4LD

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