Visiting Brownsea Island: what you need to know

In this article you'll find all you need to know to plan and book your visit to Brownsea. Whether you're visiting as an individual or organising a larger group visit or even staying overnight, we're here to help make your journey as smooth as possible.

Things may have changed since your last visit, so please read all the visiting information carefully and check out our FAQs further down the page.

In this article:

 

Opening dates 

Brownsea Island will be open 19 March to 30 October 2022.

Ferries to Brownsea

We can't wait to welcome you to the island, but things may have changed since your last visit so this information is here to help you plan your visit:

  • 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. 
  • You can now purchase a single ticket which combines the ferry fare and island admission. If you are a National Trust member, you will only need to pay for the ferry. You will need to bring your membership card with you. Ferry and admission prices can be found on our homepage.
  • The ferry service to the island will be operating to a timetable that may differ at certain times of the year. You can find the timetable further down this page.
  • The first number of ferries each day will be available to pre-book online, with a number of walk-in spaces available per crossing, on a first-come, first-served basis. The pre-bookable ferries are indicated on the timetable.
  • The majority of afternoon ferries will offer a walk-in service only. If you would like to visit, booking is the only way to guarantee your visit on a particular date or crossing time.
  • Tickets can be purchased via the National Trust website. Walk-in visitors will need to pay on the day.  Please see 'walk-in admission' further down for more details.
  • The island admission and ferry fare is free of charge for under 5s, but you are still required to book a space for them so we can count them as passengers on board the ferry.
  • The ferry is operated by a third party company, Brownsea Island Ferries. 
  • Dogs are not permitted on the island with the exception of assistance dogs who must be clearly identifiable as such.
  • We recommended wellies or sturdy outdoor footwear due to ongoing track replacement and conservations works in progress. As a result of works, some areas may need to be cordoned off at times for your safety.

 

Ferry timetable from 6 June to 24 July

The ferry crossing takes approximately 20 minutes. If choosing to pre-book your ferry, you will only need to book an outbound ferry.  You will be able to catch any returning ferry off the island.

When you purchase your ticket, you will be given a 15 minute arrival window in which you must arrive.

Please note that all bookable services also have a number of same-day, walk-in availability on a first-come, first-served basis.

Outbound ferries from Poole Quay to Brownsea Island: 

  • 09:45 - 10:00 arrival window. Boat departs 10:00 - Bookable service
  • 10:45 - 11:00 arrival window. Boat departs 11:00 - Bookable service
  • 11:45 - 12:00 arrival window. Boat departs 12:00 - Bookable service 
  • 13:15 - 13:30 arrival window. Boat departs 13:30 - Bookable service
  • 14:15 - 14:30 arrival window. Boat departs 14:30 - Walk-in service
  • 15:15 - 15:30 arrival window. Boat departs 15:30 - Walk-in service 
  • 16:15 - 16:30 arrival window. Boat departs 16:30 - Walk-in service

Return ferries from Brownsea Island to Poole Quay:

  • Boat departs 10:30, arrives Poole Quay 10:50
  • Boat departs 11:30, arrives Poole Quay 11:50
  • Boat departs 12:30, arrives Poole Quay 12:50
  • Boat departs 14:00, arrives Poole Quay 14:20
  • Boat departs 15:00arrives Poole Quay 15:20
  • Boat departs 16:00, arrives Poole Quay 16:20
  • Boat departs 17:00, arrives Poole Quay 17:20

The last ferry of the day can be busy, so we advise catching an earlier ferry off, particularly at weekends. 

Ferry timetable from 25 July to 4 Sept 2022

The ferry crossing takes approximately 20 minutes. If choosing to pre-book, you will only need to book an outbound ferry.  You will be able to catch any returning ferry off the island.

When you purchase your ticket, you will be given a 15 minute arrival window in which you must arrive.

Please note that all bookable services also have a number of same-day, walk-in availability on a first-come, first-served basis.

Outbound ferries from Poole Quay to Brownsea Island:

  • 09:45 - 10:00 arrival window. Boat departs 10:00 - Bookable service 
  • 10:15 - 10:30 arrival window. Boat departs 10:30 - Bookable service
  • 10:45 - 11:00 arrival window. Boat departs 11:00 - Bookable service
  • 11:15 - 11:30 arrival window. Boat departs 11:30 - Bookable service
  • 11:45 - 12:00 arrival window. Boat departs 12:00 - Bookable service 
  • 12:15 - 12:30 arrival window. Boat departs 12:30 - Bookable service
  • 13:15 - 13:30 arrival window. Boat departs 13:30 - Walk-in service
  • 13:45 - 14:00 arrival window. Boat departs 14:00 - Walk-in service
  • 14:15 - 14:30 arrival window. Boat departs 14:30 - Walk-in service
  • 14:45 - 15:00 arrival window. Boat departs 15:00 - Walk-in service
  • 15:15 - 15:30 arrival window. Boat departs 15:30 - Walk-in service
  • 15:45 - 16:00 arrival window. Boat departs 16:00 - Walk-in service

Return ferries from Brownsea Island to Poole Quay:

  • Boat departs 10:30, arrives Poole Quay 10:50
  • Boat departs 11:00, arrives Poole Quay 11:20
  • Boat departs 11:30, arrives Poole Quay 11:50
  • Boat departs 12:00, arrives Poole Quay 12:20
  • Boat departs 12:30, arrives Poole Quay 12:50
  • Boat departs 13:30, arrives Poole Quay 13:50
  • Boat departs 14:00, arrives Poole Quay 14:20
  • Boat departs 14:30arrives Poole Quay 14:50
  • Boat departs 15:00, arrives Poole Quay 15:20
  • Boat departs 15:30, arrives Poole Quay 15:50
  • Boat departs 16:00, arrives Poole Quay 16:20
  • Boat departs 16:30, arrives Poole Quay 16:50
  • Boat departs 17:00, arrives Poole Quay 17:20

The last ferry of the day can be busy, so we advise catching an earlier ferry off, particularly at weekends. 

Accepting walk-in visitors

If you're in the area and have not pre-booked your tickets, the majority of our afternoon ferries departing Poole Quay are 100% walk-in services, please see the timetable for details. You will need to head to the Brownsea Island Ferries' (yellow) kiosk to enquire about availability. Tickets will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Payment for the ferry and admission is made at Visitor Reception on the island, and we accept card and cash payment, although card payment is preferred. If you want to guarantee your entry on a preferred day or particular ferry crossing, you are required to pre-book your visit.  

How to find the ferry 

Departure point address 

Brownsea Island Ferries (yellow kiosk), Poole Quay, Poole, Dorset, BH15 1HJ

Brownsea Island ferry kiosk on Poole Quay
Brownsea Island ferry kiosk
Brownsea Island ferry kiosk on Poole Quay

Closest parking to quay

If you are travelling by car, follow signs to the Quay visitors multi-storey car park, where you can use pedestrian signage to locate the quay - a 5 minute walk away.  Note there is a height restriction (1.90m) at the Quay Visitors car park. For taller vehicles use surface car parks at Baiter (BH15 1UX) - approximately a 15 minute walk from here to the Quay 

Other parking further afield

For a car park slightly further afield that provides the option for a stroll along Baiter Park to Poole Quay, there's the Harbourside car parks. Walking from here will take approx. 15-20 mins.

Upon arrival at Poole Quay you will need to head to Brownsea Island Ferries' yellow kiosk.   If you have pre-booked you will need to show your booking form to the member of staff which can be done via your phone or print out.  After you are checked in, you will be asked to join the queue and await boarding.

Staying safe onboard and at Brownsea

To help keep everyone safe, please pay attention to instructions from staff, crew and skippers whilst boarding, on board and alighting the ferry. 

Once seated we will ask you to remain there for the duration of the crossing. Passengers will be able to sit both outside on the upper deck and inside on the lower deck. 

What's open?

  • Most of our countryside areas are open, although some areas may been cordoned off while essential conservation works are taking place. You can find out more about our Countryside Stewardship Project here.
  • Toilets are open across the site.
  • The Visitor Centre is home to our conservation stories and The Engine Room is the place to explore the island's history.
  • Free family trails and daily guided walks are all avaliable. 
  • Villano Café will be serving hot and cold food with indoor and outdoor seating available.
  • The Outdoor Centre campsite will be open from 1 April - 30 September and the bunkhouse is open year round. Holiday cottages are open.
  • Sadly our island shop has closed, but you can visit the Trading Post, based at the Outdoor Centre for Scouting and Guiding goods (including neckers and badges) and to pick up a Brownsea souvenir.

How to book

Please note all visitors will be asked to pay the ferry fare, but island admission is free for members, so please bring your membership card with you. 

  • Please book one ticket per person. Under 5s will be free, but you still need to book them a ticket so we can manage numbers on the ferry.
  • Tickets are for your use only and are not available for resale.
  • We'll send your booking confirmation by email. Please make sure you fill in your correct email address when you book to ensure you receive your confirmation email and remember to check your emails (including Junk folder) in case of notice of cancellation in the event of exceptional weather. If we need to close the island due to the forecast, a decision to do so will be confirmed to you by email by close of business the day before your visit.
  • Tickets are released throughout the working day on a Thursday.  Sales will end one hour before each timeslot, so you can book right up to this time to visit on the same day.
  • Tickets are released every Thursday and you can now book up to four weeks in advance. 

Cancelling your visit

On occasion we have to close the island due to bad weather.  In this instance we will make the decision to close by 3pm the day before and all those with pre-booked tickets will then be contacted via email and offered a refund.  If you have any questions, please contact the box office on 0344 249 1895

Group bookings for day visitors

Booking for group visits

We advise all groups to use the booking system which currently allows groups of up to 80 to book their tickets four weeks in advance. For groups of more than 80 and up to 120, you will need to book your tickets in multiple blocks.  If you require to book your tickets more than four weeks in advance, you can call the Brownsea Island Property Office on 01202 707 744, option 8, and we will make special arrangements for your group to be booked in, in advance.  There is no group rate currently available, but you may be eligible for Education Group Membership (EGM). Learn more about EGM here.

Campsite visitors - booking your ferry
Camping at Brownsea Island

Booking travel for campsite stays

As per your booking information, campers currently need to book their travel in advance using our the National Trust booking system on the Brownsea Island page. Island entry is included with your campsite booking so select a 'member' ticket and insert 'camper' where it asks for your membership number. You will then only be charged the ferry fare and will be asked to show your campsite booking on arrival at reception. Ferries are operating from Poole Quay only during 2022. Tickets are released every Thursday, and currently you can to book up to four weeks in advance.

Booking as a member of Dorset Wildlife Trust

Visiting Dorset Wildlife Trust

If you're visiting the Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) area only, book online as a National Trust member, and you'll only be asked to pay the ferry fare. When you land, you'll go through our Visitor Reception and be asked to show your DWT membership details and will be directed to the DWT-managed area of the island. If you'd like to explore the National Trust area, you'll need to pay an admission fee. National Trust members and non-members may also visit the Dorset Wildlife Trust area. A suggested donation of £2 applies if you're not a member of DWT.

Brownsea Seahorse bringing wheelchair users to the island

Accessible Brownsea

On Brownsea Island we welcome all visitors and try to make everyone's day out enjoyable. This article explores how to get to and explore the island if you have additional access needs.