Ten Must See Places on the Dorset Coast
Published: Saturday 19th Jul 2014
Written by: Betheny Ellis
Dorset’s Jurassic Coast stretches over a distance of 96 miles from Orcombe Point near Exmouth, in the west, to Old Harry Rocks on the Isle of Purbeck, in the east. There is so many must-see places to visit along this coast that you will struggle to fit it all in in one holiday. Here are ten locations you should add to your wish list:
Accessed by boat from Poole Quay, Brownsea Island is an enchanting nature reserve run by the National Trust and located in Poole Harbour. With natural habitats including woodland, heathland and a lagoon, visitors will find one of the last colonies of red squirrels in England here, as well as a wide variety of birdlife. This was also the location of the first ever Scout camp led by Lord Baden-Powell in 1907 and the story of this pioneering event is told at the visitor centre on the island.
Chesil Beach and Fleet Lagoon
A magnificent shingle bank stretching 18 miles and estimated to contain 180 billion pebbles, Chesil Beach runs north-west from Portland to West Bay. For much of its length it is separated from the mainland by a stretch of salt water called the Fleet Lagoon. Known for its valuable wildlife, the beach is best viewed in all its glory from the elevated position of Portland.
One of the most treacherous parts of the English Channel, a lighthouse has stood on Portland Bill for more than 300 years. Visitors come to this southern tip of the Isle of Portland to take in the superb views of the sea and rugged Jurassic coastline. Kids will love clambering over the rocks here – especially the iconic Pulpit Rock. The lighthouse can be visited and there’s also a cafe that does superb cream teas.
Old Harry Rocks and Studland Beach
More iconic rock formations can be found at Old Harry Rocks by the tip of a chalk headland between the bays of Studland and Swanage. Made up of two chalk stacks standing proudly in the sea, Old Harry Rocks take on different shapes depending on the direction they are approached. Combine a visit here with a wander along nearby Studland Beach – four miles of golden sand with nature walks through the adjoining dunes and woodland.
An attraction that fascinates professional geologists and sightseers alike, Lulworth Cove is a stunning horseshoe-shaped cove widely regarded as one of the natural wonders of southern England. Filled with an aqua green sea due to the sand and rocks that form this natural gem, it is a location that people return to again and again. Nearby Lulworth village offers a range of tea rooms, restaurants and hotels.
Situated just west of Lulworth Cove is yet another iconic coastal formation – the famous Durdle Door. A natural limestone arch close to the beach this beautiful setting has to be seen close up to truly appreciate its size and wonder. Only accessible via a steep path, the shingle beach does get crowded in high season so get there early. Also popular is Man O' War beach on the east side of Durdle Door. Consisting of sand and small pebbles, the beach offers safe bathing in shallow water.
There are some wonderful seaside towns along the Dorset coast and Weymouth is one of them. Situated half way along the Jurassic Coast, Weymouth’s exquisite Georgian seafront is a fine backdrop to the long arc of golden sand that follows the whole seafront around. Host venue for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sailing events, this popular seaside holiday resort has everything for a great family day out.
The Cobb at Lyme Regis
Winding dramatically out into the North Sea, the Cobb is the name of the harbour wall at Lyme Regis. It was made famous by actress Meryl Streep who walked to the end through a dramatic storm in a famous scene from the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman. While it can get a bit precarious in bad weather you only need to venture out a short way to take in stunning views back at the shoreline and the cliffs. One of the buildings on the Cobb is now a small aquarium housing giant lobsters and crabs.
The Swanage Railway
The marvellous Swanage Railway is a heritage steam railway that runs through the Isle of Purbeck and takes in some of sights on the peninsula. The six mile long track joins Swanage, Herston Halt, Harmans Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden, and runs every weekend from mid-February to the end of the year and every day of the week between April and October.
Arne RSPB Reserve
Four miles from Wareham overlooking Poole Harbour, the RSPB Reserve at Arne offers visitors a vast expanse of open heathland and old oak woodland and provides a fantastic place for family walks at any time of year. There is a variety of wonderful wildlife to see here including Dartford Warblers, Nightjars and Ospreys who visit on migration in late summer and in autumn.