Home | News | TRAVEL GUIDE: How to make the most of Bournemouth Air Festival 2023

Bournemouth Air Festival is the UK’s largest free air and land festival by the sea. It’s a long-established staple in the area’s summer calendar, with four days packed full of aerobatics from the iconic RAF Red Arrows to wing walkers and parachuters. But the excitement isn’t limited to the skies: with funfair rides right on the beach alongside the Armed Forces Villages and plenty of trade stands, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy.

Bournemouth Air Festival draws in hundreds of thousands of spectators every year, so if you’re one of the lucky people getting to experience it for the first time this year, keep reading to find out all the tips and tricks needed to get the most out of it!

When is Bournemouth Air Festival?

This year, Bournemouth Air Festival will take place from Thursday the 31st of August to Sunday the 3rd of September, which is the weekend after the August bank holiday.

The festival site opens at 10am every day, with flying usually starting early in the afternoon. On Thursday, the programme ends around 9pm, with fireworks rounding off Friday and Saturday at about 10pm. On Sunday, the flying will end around 5:30pm.

Where is Bournemouth Air Festival?

The clue’s in the name, here: Bournemouth Air Festival does indeed take place in Bournemouth. However, you don’t need to be within arm’s reach of Bournemouth Pier to catch all the action, as the trade stands, funfair rides and many of the best plane-watching points stretch 1.5 miles down to Boscombe Pier. We’ll be discussing the best locations from which to watch the air show further down in this blog, so don’t go anywhere…

Self-catering holiday properties near Bournemouth Air Festival

How to get to Bournemouth Air Festival

With upwards of half-a-million attendees expected over the four days of fun, it should be no surprise that the roads and car parks in the area can get incredibly busy. Therefore, for maximum enjoyment, it’s important that you plan your journey wisely! The last thing you want is to be stuck searching for a parking space whilst the Red Arrows soar overhead…

By train

Bournemouth’s main train station is about a 25 minute walk from Bournemouth Pier, and about a 30 minute walk from Boscombe Pier. This is the closest train station to all the action, and is served by the most direct train lines.

You can jump on a train which goes directly to Bournemouth from locations such as Dorchester, Weymouth, Southampton, Winchester, Woking and London Waterloo. From further north, there is one train per hour running directly from Manchester via Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Oxford, Reading and Basingstoke.

There are also smaller train stations located in Boscombe to the east (Pokesdown Station) and Branksome to the west. The walk from Pokesdown Station to Boscombe Pier is also around 25 minutes.

By bus

If you don’t fancy walking from the train station, there are regular buses which run up to every 3 minutes throughout the day, operated by More Bus. The main Bournemouth bus station is ideally situated directly opposite the train station.

There is also a Park and Ride service which will be running every 15 minutes for the duration of the festival. Parking is free, with a £15 charge for a return bus ticket, which allows up to 7 people per vehicle to use the bus. The bus runs from Kings Park, Boscombe, BH1 4NN to Manor Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3EZ. It’s then about a 5-10 minute walk to the Overcliff, where there’s plenty going on with great vantage points to watch the planes, with access to the beach via Toft Zigzag.

By bike

Skip the traffic and travel to the air festival by bike! You can ride your own bicycle and park it in one of the cycle parking bays in the area, or hop on a Beryl Bike or E-Scooter from a local Beryl Bay.

By car

The volume of festival goers expected each year means there are many roads in the area which will be closed to cars. This includes parts of East Overcliff Drive, Manor Road and Gervis Road – check Dorset Council’s live travel updates for full details. Even if you know the area, we suggest pre-planning your journey based on this information.

As you may expect, the car parks in the area get incredibly busy during Bournemouth Air Festival. You’ll have better luck the earlier you arrive, with the festival itself opening at 10am. We highly recommend parking further away and walking down to the seafront – we’ll let you know where to park in the next section – or, better yet, using one of the transport options above.

Best Places to Park at Bournemouth Air Festival

The closest car parks to Bournemouth Pier are the two Bath Road car parks. It would be nothing short of a miracle if you managed to find a space here, so instead, cast your gaze slightly further afield…

If you’re arriving earlier in the day, you could try:

However, whatever time of day you’re arriving, your best bet will be:

Or consider parking closer to the Boscombe end of the air festival and walk to Boscombe Pier:

We recommend you avoid parking on the road where possible, as any vehicles parked illegally during the festival are liable to be towed.

What to expect at Bournemouth Air Festival

With four whole days of action in the air and on the ground, there’s a huge array of sensational air display teams, funfair rides, refreshment stands and other stalls. There’s something for everyone whether you’re 8 or 80, with many must-see performances taking place throughout the festival. Here are just some of the things you can expect to see at Bournemouth Air Festival:


Here are the details of just some of the air displays you can look forward to at Bournemouth Air Festival.

RAF Red Arrows

The UK’s favourite aerobatics team, the RAF Red Arrows, will be performing their jaw-dropping air display every single day of the air festival. They’re one of the focal points of the festival and for good reason, so do yourself a favour and catch one of their performances. Bursts of red, white and blue will stream behind the jets as they hurtle through the air, and you’d be remiss to look away. Our favourite part is when two of the planes work together to paint a heart in the sky – the perfect photo op!

The Red Arrows will be performing at Bournemouth Air Festival at 5:30pm on Thursday, 5pm on Friday and Saturday, and 2:45pm on Sunday.


Creator: SAC Iwan Lewis RAF
Copyright: UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

There’s no way you’ll miss the sound of the almighty Typhoon – its roar echoes throughout Bournemouth and Poole as it rips through the skies. The RAF Typhoon display team will also be performing on each of the four days, both during the daytime and at dusk. If you haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing this jet stop conversations and draw the attention of every person at the festival, then we encourage you to plan your day accordingly as the noise can be frightening for little ones and dogs. We definitely recommend ear defenders (which you can buy on-site) for the kids, especially babies and toddlers, and that you take the dog for a walk after the Typhoon has finished thundering through the air.


The Chinook is a hardy and reliable support helicopter, instantly recognisable in the air due to the craft’s iconic twin rotors. The RAF Chinook Display team exists to demonstrate the capability of the Chinook Force, and is made up of front-line aircrew who still have important primary roles outside of the display team. The Chinook is only performing at a handful of venues this year, so Bournemouth Air Festival is a great chance to see it in all its glory on both the Saturday and Sunday.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

The unmistakable Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will be back this year with the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster soaring through the skies commemorating those who have fallen. The three aircraft are of massive historical importance, having played incredibly important parts in World War Two. It’s a great honour to be able to witness the BBMF at Bournemouth Air Festival – they will be performing every day.


Photo: Richard Crease

Guaranteed to make your jaw drop in awe is the world’s only formation wingwalking team, The AeroSuperBatics Wingwalkers. The display team features an array of 1940s biplanes to which the professional wingwalkers are strapped as they perform all manners of acrobatics and handstands. All the while, the pilots fly through a daring routine full of spectacular aerobatics and close formation flypasts!


Aircraft won’t be the only thing to keep an eye on in the skies at Bournemouth Air Festival: one of the British Army’s leading parachute display teams, The Tigers, will be performing their dynamic routines which feature impressive formations before they land on the beach, smoke trailing and flags flying.

Night displays

The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down at the Bournemouth Air Festival! In fact, the dark sky provides the perfect backdrop for night displays including aircraft with smoke and sparks flying behind them, and fireworks on both Friday and Saturday. The fireworks go off from Bournemouth Pier, so get yourself situated on the beach and watch the drama unfold above you.


To keep you occupied between air displays, there’s plenty to do on the ground with stalls, funfair rides and refreshment tents set up along the promenade and up on the Overcliff between Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers. Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect:

Armed Force Villages

Get up close and personal with British Army equipment including the Challenge 2 Main Battle Tank and an array of other interactive attractions and demonstrations by members of the Navy and Army who are happy to answer your questions. Here you’ll also find a range of service charities and merchandise stalls.

RAF Village

ith a static Hawk display! Find out more about what it’s like to serve in the Air Force and discover what the service men and women do day-to-day.


There will be a plethora of food stalls offering a range of different cuisines dotted along the 1.5 mile stretch of promenade between the piers. Along with plenty of places to stop for ice creams, sweets and slushies, you’ll be kept fed and watered throughout the day.

As well as the refreshment stalls, you’ll be able to stop in at one of the seafront al fresco bars and restaurants to watch the action in the skies in style.

There is even a VIP Hospitality Marquee located right on the beach, under the central flight line, if you really want to treat yourself! Click here for more information or to book.

Funfair Rides

If the incredible air displays aren’t enough to tempt the kids, the array of funfair rides along the beach certainly will! The range of classic rides can vary, but expect rides such as bumper cars, merry-go-rounds and swing carousels!


The Lower Gardens, near Bournemouth Pier, will be the setting for a wide range of entertainment across the four days. This will include music from The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, who will be performing on Sunday morning between 11am and 12pm, and the Beat Retreat Sunset Ceremony at 6:45pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The Big Screen

Also in the Lower Gardens will be the Big Screen which will show some classic family favourites throughout the four days. Last year’s Big Screen schedule featured films such as Casablanca and Some Like It Hot.

The best places to watch Bournemouth Air Festival

If you’ve never been to Bournemouth Air Festival before, it’s easy to assume the only place to watch the action is from the beach. In fact, whilst the golden sands of Bournemouth Bay provide the most popular place to enjoy the festival, the Overcliff is part of what makes this air show so unique amongst its kind.


Between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier is a 1.5 mile stretch of beach and promenade where the stalls and rides will be located. The central flight path runs directly over the Hospitality Marquee close to the centre of the beach. This area will give you the most central viewing point, and will be packed full of people enjoying the show. If you’re planning to set up for the day with your beach gear, make sure you get there early to secure a spot and remember that it will get busy!

This beautiful beach runs beyond the piers all the way to Sandbanks in the west and Hengistbury Head in the east. Whilst your view won’t be quite as close as the main beach, you’ll still be able to catch the action from nearby beaches such as Alum Chine, Branksome Dene, Boscombe East and Southbourne. Keep in mind that the refreshments available at these beaches will be limited to the usual summer offerings which vary beach-to-beach; and that they will still be pretty busy, especially if the weather is nice!

If you want your own space where you can set up for the day, consider renting one of the beach huts which run along the back of the promenade – just remember that the stalls will be set up at the front of the promenade, so you’ll be situated behind them. You’ll still have a fantastic view of the skies!

The most comfortable and luxurious way to enjoy Bournemouth Air Festival is from the VIP Hospitality Marquee itself.


The East Overcliff provides the perfect vantage point to watch the day’s aerobatics. The Overcliff runs from the Russell Cotes Museum near Bournemouth Pier to Manor Road and Boscombe Gardens in the east and is accessible from the beach via zigzag paths. Up here you’ll find a few more stalls, ice cream vans, plus the RAF Village. Many people choose to set up their chairs and picnic blankets up here instead of down on the beach as it’s slightly away from the main hustle and bustle of the festival.

For something more relaxing, consider booking in with one of the hotels on the Overcliff for the day. A lot of them are located directly below the main flight path with incredible views out to the sea. Enjoy the air show poolside with a drink in hand and your belly full of food!

We’ll see you there!

Family Holidays in Bournemouth with Quay Holidays

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