Poole (/puːl/ (audio speaker iconlisten)) is a large coastal town and seaport in Dorset, on the south coast of England. The town is 21 miles (34 km) east of Dorchester and adjoins Bournemouth to the east. Since 1 April 2019, the local authority is Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council which is a unitary authority. Poole had an estimated population of 151,500 (mid-2016 census estimates) making it the second-largest town in the ceremonial county of Dorset. Together with Bournemouth and Christchurch, the conurbation has a total population of nearly 400,000.
Human settlement in the area dates back to before the Iron Age. The earliest recorded use of the town's name was in the 12th century when the town began to emerge as an important port, prospering with the introduction of the wool trade. Later, the town had important trade links with North America and, at its peak during the 18th century, it was one of the busiest ports in Britain. In the Second World War, Poole was one of the main departing points for the Normandy landings.
Poole is a tourist resort, attracting visitors with its large natural harbour, history, the Lighthouse arts centre and Blue Flag beaches. The town has a commercial port with cross-Channel freight and passenger ferry services, which connect with the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, as well as the French port town of Saint-Malo, Brittany.
The headquarters of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is in Poole, and the Royal Marines have a base in the town's harbour. Despite their names, Poole is the home of The Arts University Bournemouth, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and a significant part of Bournemouth University.