Poole is a large coastal town, seaport and tourist resort in Dorset, south England. With a population of 138,288, it is also Dorset’s second largest settlement.
The town lies on the shores of the English Channel, on the northern and eastern sides of Poole Harbour – one of several which claim to be the world’s largest or second largest natural harbour.
Historically Poole has been an increasingly important port since the 12th century, and during the Second World War the town was one of the main departing points for the D-Day landings of the Normandy Invasion. Since the 1970s Poole has become one of Britain’s busiest ports, with cross-Channel freight and passenger ferry services and one of the UK’s largest registered fishing fleets.
Tourism, which was worth an estimated £158 million in 2002, plays a major role in Poole’s economy, with Poole Harbour, Poole Quay and award-winning beaches (which have been rated among the top five in the country) being some of the main draws for visitors. Cruises are available from the quay during the summer, and Poole Harbour and Poole Bay are popular for water sports.
Poole has attracted a number of other businesses, and has the largest number of industrial estates in south-east Dorset. The headquarters of Sunseeker (the UK's largest luxury yacht manufacturer), Merlin Entertainments and the RNLI are located in Poole, and the Royal Marines also have a base in the harbour.
The Guildhall is an iconic building, having played an important and varied part in the history of the town, while The Lighthouse is the UK’s largest arts centre complex outside London. Poole also has several urban parks, the largest being Poole Park.