I was actually struggling to write this post, about the route I follow most often. That's because there's an unlimited number of variations of it, which I've been exploring since I moved to Bournemouth. It never gets boring.
The GPX route above is one of many exported from my Strava profile; this particular one will take you to Moordown in Bournemouth, but it's best to skip it and round the journey closer to the harbour. It doesn't matter where you start your ride, and there are dozens of magnificent places to stop by along the way.
I usually cycle anti-clockwise, starting either from Bournemouth or Upton, meeting my buddy Dan at often silly early hours on the weekends to enjoy 4-6 hours of traffic-free roads. I'll be writing more about certain variations of the route, but here are some highlights to begin with if you're planning a ride down here.
A beautiful, picturesque historic market town. Great for a coffee stop and to shop some snacks if you need to. There's a path along the river, but it's closed to cyclists (well, you may try to cycle there slowly in the morning when nobody's around, but you didn't hear that from me).
The Creech / Knowle Hill
Going on-road from Wareham through Stoborough, you'll find a road sign pointing at Creech. The quiet country road will take you up a very steep hill. If you're on a heavy loaded bike, it's almost definitely a push-bike situation, but it's worth the effort. Amazing views all round, perfect spot for a drink and several options to go next, all of which are great choices. If you decide to turn around and cycle further up and down the Knowle Hill, you'll be rewarded with a stunning downhill section, giving you a choice of going next towards Corfe Castle or Kimmeridge.
One of the best places to take a picture of your bike, I guess?! And there's more to Corfe than just a Castle. Right behind it there's a whole model village dating back to the 17th century. East from the castle you'll see a hill (called East Hill, easy to remember). You may want to climb on top of it to enjoy the perfect view. There are footpaths on both sides of the hill, I usually take the entrance branching off the main road B3351 at the Rollington Barn. You can carry on cycling on top of that hill and either drop down north or carry on towards the Obelisk and Old Harry Rocks.
If you're looking for gravel, traffic-free roads, then this part of the Harbour Loop is going to be your favourite. It's a bit of a maze, and it's easy to go in circles, but at the same time it's an excellent fun getting lost between the trees, farms and meadows. There are some campsites too if you're looking for a place to camp legally overnight.
Old Harry Rocks
An iconic place to plot on your route and personally one of my best places to visit in Dorset. It's best to get there from the South, where a lovely grassy stretch of the track drops downhill to a quite steep and technical (for a gravel bike) section. My advice: avoid cycling to Old Harry Rocks during weekends afternoon, as it's quite popular among walking tourists with dogs and children.
It's not unusual to stop at Bankes Arms pub to refuel mid-ride (try Fossil Fuel or Studland Bay - they quench the thirst like nothing else) before heading towards the Ferry and closing the loop cycling through Poole and Hamworthy.
These are just a few places to plot on the map if you're planning a Poole Harbour ride. There's plenty more which I'll try to cover in my next articles.