Brownsea Island sits in the middle of Poole Harbour. It is an internationally important nature reserve and features rare wildlife including red squirrels and wading birds. Located at the heart of Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island is managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the National Trust. Brownsea Island is also part of the Purbeck National Nature Reserve and is part of the Great Heath Living Landscape initiative.
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.
The lagoon plays a vital role in providing a safe haven for overwintering birds. These include avocets, black-tailed godwits and large numbers of wildfowl. In winter it’s also possible see huge groups of spoonbills. These tall white birds can be seen swishing their spoon-shaped bills through the water as they feed. In the summer, the lagoon’s hides are a great place to watch common terns, sandwich terns and gulls. The reedbeds and alder carr are home to water voles, sika deer, kingfishers and water rails.
Brownsea Island is steeped in history. Several industries have thrived here over the years, including cattle farming, daffodil farming and pottery. Pottery Pier is still surrounded by shards of the ceramics that were once crafted there.
You can also see the remains of the village of Maryland, which once housed scores of workers and their families. Today only the Castle, now a hotel owned by the John Lewis Partnership, the church St Mary’s and The Villa, now Dorset Wildlife HQ and a visitors centre remain.
Brownsea Island is also the birthplace of the Scouting and Guiding movement. It was here that Lord Baden Powell developed his idea for Scouting and trialed some early Scout-style camps.
How to get to Brownsea Island
Escape the hustle and bustle of life and arrive at a place of peace and tranquility.
A ferry service for foot passengers operates from Poole Quay.