Highcliffe Beach is the eastern most beach in the Bournemouth, Poole and Christurch (BCP) council area.
It is very much a natural beach and that is one of its great charms. A mix of sand and shingle it (like all other beaches along this part of the coast) has gained in width over the last 50 years. This is due in main to the wash down from the beach re-charges done at 10-20 year intervals along the main Bournemouth Beach stretch. Especially at Southbourne Beach.
Highcliffe Beach tends to be a quiet beach. So if you are looking for a natural and unhurried day at the beach this one is certainly worth a look.
Highcliffe Beach: Dog Friendly
This is a dog friendly beach. There is no life guard and except for facilities up in Highcliffe Castle and the nearby Highcliffe Cliff top car park, facilities (shops/toilets etc) are sparse to non-existent.
Highcliffe Castle and the Beach
The beach lies immediately below Highcliffe Castle. Although it is not really a castle at all, Highcliffe Castle is still a rather grand building. It dates from the 1830’s. Today it is in good order. But until quite recently it was a ruin. Up until the mid sixties Highcliffe Castle was a Catholic Seminary and there was no access to the public, either for the Castle itself or the beach below.. The seminary was eventually shut down and and the site sold on. A number of planning disputes arose. Then following a series of disastrous fires the building lay derelict for many years.
There was still no access to the beach from Highcliffe Castle as there is today. Consequently for many people back then, access to the beach was difficult. Access involved a walk of about a mile eastward from Friars Cliff beach. The beach was then a solitary and lonely place. Today Highcliffe Castle has a car park and also a ZigZag pathway down to the beach.
The Castle is a nice place to visit in it’s own right. It also hosts weddings and other group events. Today access to the beach is far easier. But still the beach is far less hectic than elsewhere along this coast. You can of course still walk eastwards from Friars Cliff beach to Highcliffe Beach if you want.
Just to the West of Highcliffe Castle is the absolutely beautiful Steamer Point Nature Reserve. This area was also once out of bounds to the public. This was due to the presence of a top secret communications facility known as SRDE (Signals Research and Development Establishment). This establishment stretched along the cliff top from the boundary with Highcliffe Castle down to the junction with Friarscliffe beach. This junction is known locally as Steamer Point.
Back at the turn of the 20th century an old paddle steamer was deliberately beached here to provide what was essentially a night club. Eventually it was destroyed in a storm. The boiler was washed down the coast. For many years (until the late 60’s) it was forlornly beached on the end of a stone groyne that demarcated the end of Highcliffe beach below Highcliffe castle.
The Wave Wall
Today a sea defence known as the wave wall sits immediately in front of the low cliffs at Steamer Point. This is an interesting structure and was built in the early 60’s to protect the SRDE radomes that were immediately behind it. It is about a 100 yards long and today you can walk along the top of it. Just be careful you don’t step over the front edge. It’s a long way down!
HighCliffe Beach Parking
The car parking information below is not guaranteed to be correct. Use it at your own discretion. I have done my best to ensure it is accurate but mistakes happen and things often change without warning.
Highcliffe Castle Car park (BH23 4LE)
This is withing the grounds of Highcliffe castle and has around 100 spaces. Even though this is one of the quieter beaches in the area this car park can still fill quickly. It also serves Highcliffe castle functions. I think I am correct in saying that function guests take priority over beach visitors. You may find some of the parking roped off when a special event (wedding etc.) is taking place.
Highcliffe cliff top car park (BH23 5DF)
This has around 420 spaces including about ten disabled parking spaces. There is also a nearby cafe and toilets to this car park.