Sitting in the southwest of England, the county of Dorset has a 155km long coastline on the English Channel stretching from Lyme Regis in the west to Highcliffe in the east. Also known as the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rich with fossils and rock formations with a geological history going back millions of years. With so much to offer, you are spoilt for choice for weekends in Dorset.
With rolling landscape and stunning beaches and cliffs, Dorset is a fabulous place for a weekend break or longer. I reached out to my fellow travel bloggers for their recommendations of places to visit in Dorset.
Where can you go in Dorset for the best weekend breaks
With its scenic seven long miles sandy beach and vibrant lifestyle, Bournemouth boasts the ultimate holiday destination in Britain. Whether you visit in the winter or the summertime, there is always something to do. Beyond doubt on the summertime, Bournemouth features one of the best choices to book your weekend break. Within two hours’ drive from London, Bournemouth, and Poole highlight a wide range of activities and things to do. Whether you enjoy a lovely walk along Bournemouth Pier, for a small fee, watch the surfers and explore Boscombe Pier or have an ice-cream, all the roads lead to the coast.
Gone to the beach and coming back, be sure to walk through the beautiful Central and Lower Gardens, observe the many squirrels, grab some food by the street food kiosks. Feel the magic of marine life! Discover the different species displayed in the Oceanarium, like fish, birds, and mammals. Worth, also, to visit Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, a luxurious villa and art gallery. A gorgeous museum in Bournemouth showcasing a stunning gallery and Victorian-style architecture.
The Durley Dean Hotel sits on West Cliff Road, offers a wide range of amenities ideal for families or solo travellers on a weekend break. To stay by the coast be sure to lodge one of the 250 colourful well-equipped beach-huts.
By Evelina from EvBeing
Find the perfect places to stay in Bournemouth
Though less well-known than Bournemouth and Poole, Christchurch makes a great base for a stay in Dorset. Proximity to the New Forest is a big plus, as is the fact that the town centre is compact and home to several sites of interest.
There is pretty Christchurch Quay, complete with a play park, bandstand and resident white swans. A path leads to town alongside the river, winding past the magnificent Christchurch Priory. Visitors can also snap themselves in the stocks or take a wander down the lane in search of the ducking stool.
Heading east you soon encounter the range of beaches. These stretch from Mudeford Quay, a popular crabbing spot from which you can see the exclusive overnight beach huts of Hengistbury Head. Avon Beach is popular with windsurfers, and there is a shop, restaurant, picnic tables and takeaway kiosks here. Beach huts can also be rented.
Friars Cliff beach also has a lovely cafe and a woodland path that leads from Steamer Point nature reserve to Highcliffe Castle, a gothic-style building that featured in Mr Selfridge. The man himself is buried in nearby St Mark’s churchyard. Highcliffe’s beaches can be reached via a gently sloping zig-zag path.
Beyond Christchurch are the larger towns of Bournemouth and Poole, which lie to the west. Christchurch is also on the edge of the New
Forest, so there’s no shortage of things to see and do in this scenic area.
by Polly from Let’s Travel UK
On the edge of Dorset-Devon border is the seaside town of Lyme Regis. Noted for its fossil-rich beaches and cliffs it has much to offer for a staycation or weekend in Dorset.
There are four beaches at Lyme Regis. Try the sandy Town Beach great for sandcastle building, relaxing or taking a dip in the sea. Church Cliff Beach for rockpool exploring in the mainly shingle beach. For the best fossil hunting head to the shingle Monmouth Beach, home of the famous Ammonite Pavement. East Cliff Beach is also rich fossil hunting ground, but keep away from the cliffs as they can collapse. The landslips, however, ensure more fossils are exposed to be discovered.
If you want to discover more of the history of the town, visit Lyme Regis Museum. You will see many of the collections of fossils found in the area as well at the life story of Mary Anning, the famous fossil collector and palaeontologist. The other museum to visit for fossils is Dinosaurland Fossil Museum with over 12,000 specimens to admire.
Take a walk along The Cobb, a thick stone walled breakwater that curves aroud protecting Lyme Regis’ harbour. The Cobb gives you beautiful views back over the bay and harbour. The Marine Aquarium is also along The Cobb, a great place to visit with children to learn more about the sea life around Lyme Regis. Spend time on the water either on a two-hour cruise or an exhilarating 30-minute fast ride with Lyme Rib Rides.
by Larch from The Silver Nomad
Check out these places to stay in Lyme Regis
Lulworth Cove is a little corner of paradise in the beautiful county of Dorset. Perfectly formed by millions of years of sea erosion, the cove is an almost perfect circle, surrounded by cliffs and with a small opening to the sea of the Jurassic Coast beyond.
Not only is Lulworth Cove the perfect place to spend a beach day, rock pooling and messing about on the water, but the village of West Lulworth is also as picture-perfect as they come, with crooked thatched cottages built in distinctive Portland stone lining the main Street.
Close by is the magnificent limestone arch of Durdle Door, walkable from Lulworth Cove in twenty minutes. In the opposite direction along the soaring cliffs of the South West Coast Path, is a fossilised forest which is millions of years old. The whole Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a mecca for fossil hunters looking for dinosaur remains, which lay buried along this coast where the giants once roamed.
Slightly further afield are the seaside towns of Swanage and Weymouth, traditional bucket and spade destinations with great beaches and enough attractions to keep even the most fickle of family members entertained. Take a road trip in Dorset along this incredible coastline and you will find breath-taking landscapes, fun attractions and fascinating history.
By Izzy & Phil from The Gap Decaders
Check out these places to stay in Lulworth Cove for your weekend away.
Corfe Castle is located very close to the Jurassic Coast. It is one of the ideal stops on a short road-trip across Devon & Dorset. To begin with, this is managed by National Trust. This was built in early 12th C and is atop a 55m high hill. It held a lot of importance in that era. At one point of time in history, this castle had served as the home to the crown jewels as well as the prison for various important people after the Battle of Normandy. Later as London gained more importance, this Castle fell into ruins, esp. after the English Civil War. Later on, important buildings in London including Westminster Abbey were built using the stones of Corfe Castle ruins. Today, the castle is completely in ruins but extremely picturesque with splendid views.
The best time to visit is any time except winters when the fog can ruin the gorgeousness of the views from atop the castle. Pretty close to Corfe Castle is the Corfe Castle railway station of the Swanage Heritage Railway line. Today this railway line runs for entertainment with dine-in or driving experiences. The view of this railway line, railway station, church etc from atop Corfe Castle is just impressive.
by Bhushavali from My Travelogue by Bhushavali
Stretched between East Devon and Dorset on the southern coast of England an hour drive from Southampton the Jurassic Coast attracts many holidaymakers and weekenders that seek to immerse themselves in nature.
And, there is a good reason for that, the outstanding beautify of the Jurassic Coast was recognised by UNESCO and today the place is a World Heritage Site.
Imagine green pastures, white cliffs and turquoise sea glimpsing down below. There are various excellent walking trails along the scenic coast for adventurers and families alike. The most popular one is a medium difficulty hike between Durdle Door, an epic beach with a natural limestone arch, and Lulworth Cove a very picturesque village with traditional British ice cream and fish and chips shops.
In the Lulworth Cove, you can go kayaking, take up standup paddleboarding class or go on a boat tour to see more of the epic coast from a different perspective.
Stay in chic Lulworth Lodge which is built on the original Lulworth watermill and situated only 5 minutes’ walk from the beach. If you’re more of an outdoorsy type, rent a mobile home or stay in your own tent at Durdle Door Holiday Park situated right by the Durdle Door beach.
By Mal from RawMalRoams
Located at the southernmost point of the Jurassic Coast which is one of the most unique places to visit in Europe, the isle of Portland is connected to the mainland by Chesil Beach and the adjacent causeway. And with options for camping at Portland Bill Campsite, cottage rental, hostels and hotels like Portland Heights, it makes for the perfect weekend break in Dorset if you’re a lover of the outdoors who’s in
search of a remote but indisputably spectacular escape!
Portland is home to some of the most rugged coastal scenery and highest cliffs on the Jurassic Coast! And one of the best ways to see the stunning vistas is to walk the coastal path that follows the top outer rim of the island (just steer clear of the edge). This walk will guide you to many vantage points which offer uninterrupted views across Chesil Beach, the English Channel and beyond! It will also take you to Portland Bill, where you can stop to visit the Lighthouse, and via Tout Quarry, which is great for small and big kids alike with its many Portland Stone sculptures!
Portland is not only a haven for walkers, but for the adventurous too! It’s a place where you can experience a multitude of adrenaline-fueled activities, like climbing, kite-surfing, coasteering, and stand up paddle-boarding. And it is home to some beautiful castles, like Portland Castle that’s located near to the swanky marina which was revamped for the 2012 Olympic Games, and Pennsylvania Castle!
by Michelle from The Scrapbook Of Life
Poole is a fantastic weekend destination in Dorset, with many things to do both in town and around it. There are two very popular areas that tourist love in Poole: the Quay and the famous Sandbanks. Poole Quay makes a lovely stroll along the water and the harbour. Here you will find some of the loveliest cafes in Poole, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and a cake with a nice view. The Quay is also the place where you can take a boat towards Brownsea Island or Swanage. In season there are all sorts of special cruises, like bird watching on the Jurassic Coast, fireworks displays on Thursdays or the Bournemouth Air Festival in August.
Sandbanks is considered one of the most expensive pieces of land in the UK. Many famous people such as Harry Redknapp or Celia Sawyer live or lived here. The peninsula is home to a sandy beach and gorgeous views over Poole Harbour. Crossing on the other side with the chain ferry, you will reach Studland, a natural protected area that leads to Old Harry Rocks. The land here belongs to the National Trust and engine boats are not allowed because of the endangered seahorse population living in the sea close to the shore. This makes the area perfect to be explored by kayak.
by Joanna from The World in My Pocket
Dorchester is the charm of the seaside county of Dorset. Getting to Dorchester for a weekend away from London is convenient and doable. A 2 hours drive, 2 hours 30 minutes train ride or a 4 hours bus ride on the National express will take you to the beautiful and famous town of Dorchester, Dorset.
If you are looking for the reasons to visit Dorchester and the best things you should do on your visit to Dorchester, read on.
Dorchester is the birthplace of the famous author Thomas Hardy. One of the best places to start your weekend away in Dorchester is at Thomas Hardy’s Cottage. This delightful cottage is in Higher Bockhampton, and the best way to immerse yourself in Thomas Hardy’s life and experiences is by going on a tour. The tour will take you from his place of birth in Higher Bockhampton to his home at Max Gate, then on to his ultimate resting place at St Michael’s church. You can also visit the Dorset County Museum to find out more about Thomas Hardy and to see his memorial.
The next best thing to do in Dorchester is to visit the Roman Town House. The Roman Town House is a free-to visit historic landmark and the only example of a fully exposed Roman Town House in the country. It has an amphitheatre style seating area and mosaic paths.
Take a stroll through The Borough Gardens.
Oscar-winning local resident Julian Fellowes re-opened the Borough Garden in 2007. The 4 acres garden is home to some fascinating items like the Clock Tower, which was gifted to the town in 1905, the Sundial, the fountains, the shield beds and the bandstand.
Explore Dorchester Mini-Museum of Osteology to see fascinating real and cast animal bones and skeletons. You can also visit the beautiful Athelhampton House and surrounding gardens, the Brewery square, All Saints Dorchester, the medieval church that was rebuilt between 1843 and 1845, St Peter Dorchester Dorset, the church built with Portland and Ham stone ashlar, with roofs of slate and lead and which dates back to the 12th century and the Plaza Cinema.
Visiting Dorchester for a weekend away is definitely worth it and you will have a splendid time to explore this charming town.
by Bolupe from 13 Weeks Travel
Swanage, on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, is a popular holiday destination for families, couples and budding palaeontologists, all are drawn to the sweeping sandy beach. It’s the perfect spot for building sandcastles, cliff-top walks at sunset or fossil hunting. In the summer, swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding are also popular pastimes.
The town itself is picturesque and easy to explore on foot as you browse the antique shops, art galleries and craft stores, stroll along the Victorian pier or learn about the town’s history at the local museum.
Another must is taking the steam train from the restored historic railway station through the countryside to Corfe Castle, a charming village in the shadow of a magnificent ruined castle.
When it comes to food and drink, seafood plays a starring role but you’ll also find numerous friendly, cosy cafes as well as several excellent traditional pubs including The Black Swan and The Red Lion. While chocoholics should head to Chococo on Commercial Road for a delicious mug of hot chocolate.
The town’s biggest attraction is without a doubt though, the wonderful sandy beach, part of England’s only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its unique geology.
by Kathryn from Travel With Kat
The lively market town of Bridport is a great place for exploring Dorset. The town, and neighbouring West Bay, are the gateway to the Jurassic Coast. This magnificent stretch of coastline extends from Dorset to Devon and hides millions of years of history in its majestic coastal cliffs.
Bridport itself is a pretty town, home to hundreds of listed buildings. Many of these were built during the town’s heyday as a centre for rope-making, as well as twine, netting and sailcloth. Today there’s a good selection of independent shops, a thriving food scene and a popular Saturday and Wednesday market. Other popular things to do in Bridport include the regular farmer’s markets, vintage and antique market and the artisan market.
Nearby West Bay means you get the best of both worlds; the charm of a country town combined with beachside living. West Bay is a charming fishing village home to two stretches of sand: East Beach and west Beach. East beach is a shingle beach bordered by golden sandstone cliffs. West Beach is smaller and quieter with a protected cove and shallow waters.
After a day at the beach, wander around the harbour stopping for traditional fish and chips along the way. Don’t miss a scoop or two of the local Purbeck ice cream while here.
by Katja from globetotting
Studland is a small idyllic village located on the peninsula of Dorset’s northeastern tip, known as the Isle of Purbeck. Famous for its unspoilt beaches (including a nudist one) and heathlands teeming with wildlife, it’s also the starting point for some spectacular coastal walks.
An easy one mile walk from the village takes you to Old Harry Rocks and the South West Coast path. The chalk stacks are part of the breathtaking Jurassic Coast which stretches for 95 miles all the way to Exmouth in Devon.
Head to the Bankes Arms Inn a traditional 16th century smugglers haunt. Not only will you find some fine pub grub and a refreshing beverage, but also the best beer garden in Dorset overlooking the sea.
Studland Bay is also the perfect place to relax with its sandy beaches backed by dunes or enjoy water sports in the clear waters. The area is managed by the National Trust and it includes Shell Bay, Knoll Beach, Middle Beach and South Beach.
History buffs will relish the crumbling walls of the 1000-year Corfe Castle and its stunning views over Purbeck. The onsite 18th century tea room and its homemade Dorset cream tea is not to be missed.
After all the fun and adventures one of the best places to rest your head is The Pig on the Beach. The 16th-century manor is classed as a restaurant with rooms full of rustic charm and luxury comfy vibes.
by Sima from The Curious Pixie
There is a range of places to stay in Studland.
Places to stay in Dorset
Map of best weekends in Dorset
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Larch lives a semi-nomadic life. Her life changed 20 years ago when a silly accident left her with restricted use of her right arm and neck and was told she would never work again. She turned her life around, retrained herself and set up as a self-employed website designer. This allowed her to work wherever she was in the world. Her passion for travel led her to start up her travel blog The Silver Nomad, to inspire over 40s to explore new destinations and expand their horizons. In 2019 Larch qualified as a CAA Drone Pilot which she combines with her travels.