Poole is a large coastal town and seaport in the county of Dorset, on the south coast of England. The town is 33 kilometres east of Dorchester, and adjoins Bournemouth to the east. The local council is the Borough of Poole and was made a unitary authority in 1997, gaining administrative independence from Dorset County Council. The borough had an estimated population of 151,500 making it the second largest in Dorset. Together with Bournemouth and Christchurch, the town forms the South East Dorset conurbation with a total population of over 465,000. 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. The headquarters of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution are 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.