Strangford Lough was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1972 and covering an area of 28,010 hectares, it is an almost landlocked inlet of the of sea set within a diverse lowland topography. Within the lough tips of drowned drumlin hills create a spectacular myriad of islands, while on shore, the hills form a pleasant rolling landscape. The lough is of international importance for wintering wildfowl while the shores, woodlands, meadows, streams and marshes together with the well tended farmland provides landscape diversity and greater nature conservation interest and is home to some of Northern Ireland's most visited attractions.
There are many great attractions and activities for visitors to experience in the area, not to mention high quality accommodation and excellent restaurants and cafes. The Lough forms the centre of the area, and is home to National Trust properties Mount Stewart and Castle Ward, Castle Espie a World Wildlife Trust Centre, Exploris - Northern Ireland's only aquarium, The Somme Heritage Centre. For activity seekers there are opportunities for cycling on the Strangford Lough Cycle Trail, the Comber Greenway which links the area straight into the Titanic Quarter in Belfast and for canoeists, the Strangford Lough Canoe trail and also the East Coast Canoe Trail.
Within the Northern Ireland Tourist Board Strategy for 2020 NITB indicated the desire for the development of nine key tourism areas, Strangford Lough is one of these areas. NITB wish to see the local authorities play a full part in the delivery of the development of these areas as destinations with Northern Ireland. In May 2010, Ards Borough Council and Down District Council formed a partnership with key industry representatives from both the private and public sectors who have responsibility/ownership associated with Strangford Lough. The Strangford Lough Tourism Forum was formed and the Developing Destination Management Action Plan for Strangford Lough 2010 - 2013 was developed.
The strategic aim of the partnership is to develop Strangford Lough as a tourism destination and market it by various channels of delivery, including this website!