Poole Harbour is one of the world’s largest natural harbours and plays host to recreational, commercial and military interests and a range of environmental designations. Most of the foreshore is designated as a Special Protection Area under the European Habitats Directive whilst the southern shores hold Heritage Coast status
The Island lies within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which was established to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the western area of the harbour. The archaeological value of the harbour has also been recognised in its designation as a Wetland of National Importance by English Heritage. Nearby Green Island was the subject of a 2003 Channel 4 ‘Time Team’ episode which revealed the Island to be a major trading post within southern England.
The ecological importance of Poole Harbour is recognised internationally with its designation as a Ramsar wetland site and as a Site of Special Scientific Interest which protects its valuable intertidal and coastal habitats. It is also classified as a Special Protection Area under the European Birds Directive as a result of its important assemblages of waterfowl and populations of certain regularly occurring resident and migratory species. There are three local nature reserves, as well as Dorset Wildlife and the RSPB managed areas, one of which lies directly opposite the Island pier.
A wide choice of Marinas and Swinging moorings can be found in Poole Harbour, and most recently, a new boat haven was opened in Spring of 2011 which offers 100 visitors berths immediately adjacent to the Town Quay.
Poole is served by a large fishing fleet and is home to several boat builders, including Sunseeker Yachts who have been based in Poole since the 1970s, and the RNLI Headquarters.
Sharing the harbour with recreational craft are sightseeing vessels, cross channel freight and passenger ferries and bulk cargo vessels. The commercial port itself covers an area of 60 acres.
Poole Harbour is easily reached via motorway standard roads from both London (2 hours) and the Midlands (3 hours) and by rail from London (1.5 hours).