Brownsea Island

Sandwich Tern islands on Brownsea Island by Paul Williams

Sandwich Tern islands on Brownsea Island by Paul Williams 

Avocet © Andy Fale

Avocet © Andy Fale

Brownsea Island © Brian Bleese

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Dorset Wildlife Trust manages 100 hectares of land on the northern side of Brownsea Island - it is an internationally important nature reserve featuring rare wildlife including red squirrels and wading birds. Located in the heart of Poole Harbour, the reserve is managed in partnership with the National Trust and forms part of the Purbeck National Nature Reserve and also a legacy of the Great Heath Living Landscape.

Scroll down to see our Brownsea Island webcam.


Brownsea Island
BH13 7EE

OS Map Reference

A static map of Brownsea Island

Know before you go

101 hectares

Entry fee

Small donation on entry to the reserve. Please note that groups larger than 15 need to book directly for entry to the nature reserve. Email: or phone 01202 709445 to make a booking.

Parking information

Public car parks at Poole Quay

Bicycle parking


Grazing animals


Walking trails

Good viewing from hides and a system of paths and boardwalks give access to most of the habitats.

Please click here for more information and guidance about dogs on Dorset Wildlife Trust nature reserves.


The main track, Brownsea Wildlife and Wetland Centre and two hides for lagoon views can be easily accessed.  Please note that only guide dogs are allowed on the island. 


Guide dogs only
See above for more information about dogs on nature reserves.


Visitor centre
Bird hides
Picnic area
Accessible toilet

When to visit

Opening times

Brownsea Island is open from 19 March 2022 to 30 October 2022. If you're planning a trip to Brownsea, then you'll need to catch a foot ferry which runs every day from Poole Quay only. The Sandbanks service is suspended until further notice. Visit for more information.

Best time to visit

Early in the year for winter bird visitors, summer for breeding terns and autumn for red squirrel watching.

About the reserve

Brownsea Island has now reopened for visits departing from Poole Quay only. Please refer to the National Trust's Brownsea Island page for more information and to book. Telephone bookings can be made on 0344 249 1895.

Brownsea Island is a very special place. It is one of the few places left in the UK where you can catch a glimpse of a red squirrel. We estimate that 250 of these iconic creatures live on the island and are often seen scampering up and down the trees gathering and devouring nuts. If you have adopted one of these beautiful and playful creatures from Dorset Wildlife Trust, this is the chance to see them for yourself – a wonderfully comical sight in autumn when they busily start caching food for the winter ahead, searching out just the right spot to hide them in- a process that can take some time! Read more about our exciting #WildBrownsea project here - we have big plans to attract more wildlife and people to Brownsea.

And it’s not just the red squirrels that the nature detectives in the family will be able to spot – the lagoon plays a vital role in providing a safe haven for overwintering birds including 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 bird 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.

We are very fortunate to have such a fascinating reserve on this beautiful island which we share with the National Trust, the Scouts and John Lewis Partnership. Brownsea Island was saved for wildlife and people to enjoy in 1962 when the National Trust took ownership and leased the northern part to Dorset Wildlife Trust. Since then we have worked to protect the habitats of rare and threatened wildlife, which find sanctuary in its woods, reedbeds and lagoon. Take a walk through the woods following the footpaths to see glorious views across Poole Harbour.

Our Wildlife and Wetland Centre is situated in the middle of the reserve. Why not bring a picnic and sit on the benches in the sun, watching birds and squirrels nibbling seeds from the nearby feeders? 

You can read more about Brownsea Island's place in the new Purbeck National Nature Reserve here.

Contact us

Environmental designation

National Nature Reserve (NNR)
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

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Map of Brownsea showing nature reserve

Upcoming Events on Brownsea Island

Brownsea Lagoon webcam

Due to technical issues, the Brownsea lagoon webcam in collaboration with Birds of Poole Harbour is not currently available. We are currently looking at upgrading the system and hope to have it back in action for the autumn/winter period.