Much of the northern coast is developed and includes the town Poole. At one time the majority of development was the result of international trade, or in support of businesses dependent on it. Although much of the modern development is still dependent on the harbour it is now focused on recreational use, specifically the growing number of pleasure vessels that call the harbour home or visit it on a frequent basis.

Not only is the harbour naturally situated in a way that makes access to the English Channel, and thus nearby destination waters, easy it also affords users favorable conditions for many recreational activities. Due to its generous size and favorable wind conditions it is especially popular with windsurfers and kite surfers, while also enjoying popularity among water skiers, wakeboarders and general recreational boaters as well. Due to the increase in recreational boating activities an increasing number of watersport related businesses have established in the area, further increasing its popularity with users.

Due to the increase in both watersport activities and the businesses they support the PHC has designated several local areas for specific watersport programs. These areas are specially regulated, and patrolled, to allow watersport users to safely enjoy their sport without the restrictions or hazards normally associated with a busy port community.