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Hengistbury Head

A stone and iron age archaeology site and one of our most important local nature reserves. 

Hengistbury Head is home to over 500 plant species, 300 types of birds and a superb variety of insects, reptiles and small mammals. 

The reserve has several different habitats for wildlife, including woodland, heathland and saltmarsh. From the head there are amazing views across the Bournemouth area and beyond to the Purbecks and the Isle of Wight. 

Rare species 

In 1989 we reintroduced England’s rarest amphibian, the natterjack toad, to Hengistbury Head. The natterjack was last recorded on the headland in the 1950s and died out because of lack of habitats. 

Today we’ve got a large and successful population of natterjacks. If you visit Hengistbury Head in May as dusk approaches you can hear their distinctive mating call for miles around. 

Visitor centre 

We highly recommend you start your trip to Hengistbury Head at the visitor centre, which is just a five-minute flat stroll from the main car park. 

The centre is open from 10.30am to 4pm daily (except Christmas Day) and until 5pm in the summer. You can see displays of found artefacts and learn all about the wildlife that lives on this local nature reserve. 

There are different themed exhibitions in the centre, as well as talks and events throughout the year.  

The team at the visitor centre will tell you what you might see on your visit. And remember to ask them about our free nature trails. 

At the rear of the centre is a peaceful wildlife garden, where you can stop, enjoy the tranquillity and order a hot drink or ice cream. 

The centre’s gift shop has tasty local produce, including craft gins and beers. You’ll also find sustainable gifts, toys, jewellery, homeware, books and cards. 

Awards 

Hengistbury Head has been awarded several special conservation designations, including: 

  • Site of Special Scientific Interest 
  • Scheduled Ancient Monument 
  • Local Nature Reserve 
  • Special Area of Conservation 
  • Special Protection Area 
  • Environmentally Sensitive Area 
  • Site of Nature Conservation Interest 
  • Green Flag. 

Caring for Hengistbury Head 

Because of the delicate balance of our habitats, we use animal grazing at Hengistbury Head to manage the grassy areas and keep down unwanted scrub growth. 

We have several different cattle breeds at Hengistbury Head. We ask visitors to keep their dogs under close control when passing these animals. 

Please be aware that barbecues are not permitted anywhere on Hengistbury Head, including its beaches. Please help to keep the reserve a special place for all, and make sure you leave only footprints.

Getting there 

You can see the location of Hengistbury Head on our map.

A land train runs from the Hiker Cafe to the Beach Cafe on Mudeford spit every day except Christmas Day. It’s a great way to take in the sights. 

There’s a pay and display car park at Hengistbury Head.