At Europe's largest natural harbour, there are plenty of pubs, restaurants, and shops dotted along the quayside.
You could even try crabbing, or just buy some fresh seafood if nothing's biting. Poole Pottery has a long history of local craftsmanship if you want to stock up on your ceramics.
For a little adventure, take a boat over to the Brownsea Island nature reserve. The site of the first Scouts camp, this is also where you can catch a glimpse of the endangered red squirrel.
You can also discover Sandbanks on the peninsula, Britain's best beach. The golden sands stretch for several miles, and there are plenty of quality restaurants and bars to have a drink overlooking the Channel while you're there.
Bournemouth is the largest seaside resort in Dorset.
The Victorian gardens near the seafront are Grade II listed, a nod to its status as an historic resort, but the main draw are the seven miles of golden sandy beaches.
The water's perfect for swimming in the summer months. If you're planning on spending a lot of time there, you can plant yourself at one of the 250 beach huts on the promenade. Hire them for the week or day and they come with deckchairs and basic cooking facilities.
Make sure you walk down the cliffs to the beach through one of The Chines. These sunlit wooded valleys can only be found on this part of the south coast.
If you're into watersports, try kayaking or a high-octane powerboat trip. Or head to the pier and zip wire over the surf instead.
In the New Forest National Park, you'll find ancient woodland and valleys, and a taste of the typical English countryside.
It's a big area to explore, so start at the New Forest Centre in the village of Lyndhurst. There, you'll find thatched cottages, historic pubs and tea rooms.
Another option is to take the New Forest Tour. This guided, open top bus is hop-on hop-off, and takes you around the whole park.
With gentle walks and easy cycling trails, the New Forest is a very family-centric place to visit.
There's also scores of wildlife to spot. Keep your eyes peeled for birds of prey and deer among other animals; the grazing ponies and donkeys keep the grass nice and trim.
Or pop into the New Forest Reptile Centre to meet the UK's only poisonous snake, the adder, which you can study safely along with other rare and slippery reptiles like the sand lizard.