Steamer Point Beach (Christchurch)
© Mike Faherty and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Steamer Point is a dedicated Local Nature reserve (LNR) between Friar's Cliff and Highcliffe Castle on the Dorset Coast. The 24-acre site offers outstanding views from the cliff tops to the beach below and out over Hengistbury Head in one direction and the Isle of Wight in the other.
As well as trails through the woodland, and two ponds, there are picnic areas with benches overlooking the sea. An award-winning information point offers fun activities for children. There are quite a few dead but standing trees in the reserve, which may look a little messy, but provide an excellent environment for woodpeckers and other wildlife to thrive.
The sand and shingle beach below the cliffs is generally fairly quiet and remains largely undeveloped. At low tide a good expanse of sand is exposed.
The beach can be accessed either from Highcliffe Castle or by taking the mile-long path from Friar's Cliff Beach. For much of the length of the beach a raised promenade runs along the base of the cliffs.
The site of the nature reserve was once part of the gardens and grounds of Highcliffe Castle. It was once planted with exotic plants from around the world, but in modern times, efforts have been made to replace exotic species with native plants and trees.
Around 1830 Lord Stuart de Rothsay had an old paddle steamer beached in an inlet on the beach, to use as a site office for castle builders. This is why the beach is called Steamer Point. Today nothing remains of the paddle steamer except its legacy.