Bournemouth is a large coastal resort town in the county of Dorset, England. According to the United Kingdom Census 2001 the town has a population of 163,444, making it the largest settlement in Dorset. It is also the largest settlement between Southampton and Plymouth. With Poole and Christchurch, Dorset Bournemouth forms the South East Dorset conurbation, which has a total population of approximately 400,000.
Founded in 1810 by Lewis Tregonwell, Bournemouth's growth accelerated with the arrival of the railway, becoming a recognised town in 1870. Originally part of Hampshire, it joined Dorset with the Local Government Act 1972. Since 1997 the town has been administered by a unitary authority, meaning that it has autonomy from Dorset County Council. The local authority is Bournemouth Borough Council.
Bournemouth's location on the south coast of England has made it a popular destination for tourists. The town is a regional centre of business, home of the Bournemouth International Centre and financial companies that include Liverpool Victoria and PruHealth.
In a 2007 survey by first direct, Bournemouth was found to be the happiest place in Britain with 82% of people questioned saying they were happy with their life.