Brownsea Island Lagoon is a Breeding Bird Sensitive Area April to June and an important haven for migrating and wintering birds at other times. Please avoid disturbing the birds at any time by keeping to paths and the hides provided. No access is permitted along the northern shoreline of the island.
Know before you go
Entry feeSmall donation on entry to the reserve
Parking informationParking at Sandbanks- There is metered road parking available on the peninsular leading up to the ferry and Sandbanks car park is a 10-minute walk from the Sandbanks jetty. Parking at Poole- There are well signposted car parks at Poole Quay, where the boa
Good viewing from hides and a system of paths and boardwalks give access to most of the habitats
The main track, Villa Wildlife Centre and two hides for lagoon views can be easily accessed.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen for winter, weekends only from Saturday 10th February 2018.
Full time from Saturday 17th March - Sunday 28th October 2018.
Best time to visitEarly in the year for winter bird visitors, summer for breeding terns and autumn for red squirrel watching.
About the reserve
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. 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 DWT, you can get the chance to see them – 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!
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’s hides are a great place to watch common terns, sandwich terns and gulls from. 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 Villa is situated in the middle of the reserve and features a visitor’s centre and newly refurbished gift shop. Why not bring a picnic and sit on the benches in the sun, watching birds and squirrels nibbling seeds from the nearby feeders? We have some exciting plans for the future of our reserve with our #WildBrownsea project will hopefully see a new information gateway installed into the reserve. You can read more here. (Link to plans)