I grew up hearing stories about Mudeford. My grandpa bought a beach hut there in the late 1950s, and my dad and his siblings spent summer vacations in Mudeford for years. While the hut was sold a few years back, my aunts and uncles continue to cherish the memories made at this small beach community. In fact, they’ll jump at the chance to rehash all their adventures, mischievous antics, and summer romances.
The first time I visited Mudeford, I was a year old, so my memory of it was pretty much nonexistent. On my last visit to England, I decided I had to go there and finally experience this magical place my family raved about. I’ll be honest, the town isn’t very big, and the Mudeford Spit consists mostly of residential huts that barely fit two people comfortably. Still, this place mesmerized me.
Mudeford is a perfect day trip for anyone staying in nearby Christchurch or Bournemouth. We drove down from Southampton, which was a little over an hour drive away. Because of it’s small size, you can actually accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Here are a few things to see and do in Mudeford.
Bird Watching on the Nature Walk
The Mudeford Sandbank extends from Hengistbury Head, creating a long strip of beach separating Christchurch Harbor from the Ocean. The whole area has been designated a site for nature conservation. The Nature Reserve features numerous habitats (grassland, woodland, wetland) and is home to many plant and bird species, as well as small mammals and reptiles. From the Hengistbury Head Visitor Center, you can set out on foot on one of the many trails available. I recommend taking the route up Warren Hill, where you can take in the views of Mudeford and the Isle of Wight, located just a few miles off shore. As you take in the scenery, be sure to keep your eyes open for one of the many bird species that call this area home. We spotted a few different ones on our walk, including swallows and osprey.
Get Out on the Water
With the harbor on one side and the ocean on the other, Mudeford makes for the perfect water sport destination. Many people who own huts also have small boats or kayaks, and if you rent from them, you have access to these amenities. If you’re just visiting for the day, there are a few places where you can rent boats, kayaks, SUPs and more. You can even sign up for some training courses if you’re looking to improve your skills.
ShoreSports operates from Mudeford Quay, and has lessons in sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and more. Join a guided tour or just rent equipment to explore on your own. Hengistbury Head Outdoor Education Center is another great option for outdoor recreation. They have courses for sailing, rowing, power boats, paddle sports and windsurfing. Bournemouth Boating rents self-drive boats from Tuckton Tea Gardens, Wick Ferry and Christchurch Quay. You can rent these by the hour, and they are only allowed on the river and in the harbor.
Ride the Noddy Train
Due to the fact that Mudeford Sandbank is a nature reserve, vehicles of any kind are prohibited. The only way to reach the beach is by foot, ferry or land train. If you’re active, walking is probably the best option, since it’s not too far from the parking lot. However, if you want a truly unique Mudeford experience, take a ride on the Noddy Train. I heard many stories about this train, and my dad and uncle even operated it a few summers to earn some extra money. It’s a fun, easy and relatively inexpensive way to reach the spit, and gives you a chance to experience Mudeford’s natural beauty without any physical exertion. (Tickets: Adults £2.00 one way; children £0.50)
Relax on the Beach
Mudeford Spit is a small, but beautiful beach. It’s the perfect spot to lay out a towel and soak in the sun. Bring a good book, or your favorite tunes and just relax on the soft sand. If you feel up to it, go for a quick dip in the water, but fair warning, it’s pretty chilly. I also recommend taking a stroll along the water (on both sides of the spit), admiring the decor of the beach huts. Many owners have named their tiny getaways, and often decorate to correspond with the name.
Grab a Sweet Treat at the Beach House Cafe
The only restaurant on the Mudeford Sand spit, the Beach House Cafe is open throughout the summer. The Cafe features a small beach shop where hut guests can pick up small necessities and order their morning paper. There’s also a grab-and-go window serving up a variety of swiss ice cream flavors, the perfect treat on a warm day. Looking for something a little stronger? You can order one of the cafe’s signature cocktails to sip on the patio and enjoy the view. If you want something more substantial, the cafe also has a full breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, as well as a gluten-free menu. (Opening times vary depending on the season.)
Explore Mudeford Quay
Mudeford Quay began as a small fishing town, and is separated from Mudeford Sandspit by a small opening to Christchurch Harbor called “The Run.” The strong currents in the run make it very dangerous to cross by swimming or small boat, so the ferry is the best option. The Quay features some of Mudeford’s oldest buildings, including the Haven House Inn built back in the 1830s. The Quay Head is a popular place for visitors to spend time, and is surrounded by many old fishing cottages.
Make a visit to Sandhills, the summer home of Sir George Rose, a prominent member of parliament and good friend of King George III. Stop at Gundimore, a house built in the 1790s near Avon Beach for poet William Rose. There are many other historic buildings still in existence in Mudeford Quay, and it’s worth a stroll through the streets to be transported back in time.
Mudeford’s colorful huts, pretty ocean views, lush green marshes, historic buildings, outdoor adventures and smiling families stole my heart. Even though I only spent a few hours there, I finally understand why Mudeford is so special to my dad. I found myself wishing the beach hut was still in the family, then I could spend a few blissful days enjoying Mudeford at my leisure.
If You Go…
Location: Mudeford is located in Christchurch, Dorset in southern England.
How to Get There: You can drive to Christchurch and park your car in the parking lot near Hengistbury Head and the Hiker’s Cafe. This is where the Noddy Train picks up visitors to take them to the Sandspit. You can also take a ferry from Christchurch to Mudeford.
Times to Visit: The Sandspit is accessible throughout the year. The most popular times to visit are between May and October. The Beach House Cafe is often closed in the winter, or has limited hours, and ferry operations are not as frequent.
Where to Stay: If you’re visiting for longer than a day, there are accommodations on Mudeford Quay or in Christchurch. If you want to stay on the Sandspit, holiday apartments are available to rent at The Black House (rentals are only available for week-long stays). You can also look into renting one of the beach huts.
Have you ever visited Mudeford? What’s your favorite thing to do there?
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