This wonderfully picturesque corner of England, is renowned for its unspoilt countryside, pretty villages, bustling market towns, and over 95 miles of breathtakingly beautiful World Heritage Jurassic Coastline.
The stretch of Jurassic coast that fringes Dorset, is the only World Heritage site in England, and tells the story of over 185 million years of history with its dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, and sweeping barrier beaches. Here you can uncover ancient relics on guided fossil hunts, explore characterful seaside towns, enjoy an invigorating cliff top walk along the glorious South West Coast Path, or simply soak up some famous Dorset sunshine on one of the many family-friendly beaches. Summers are longer, and winters are milder, in this part of the world!
The highest point on the South Coast, the Golden Cap National Trust Estate near Morcombelake, offers breath-taking views in all directions from its rocky peak. Brace yourself for an exhilarating uphill walk and you will be rewarded with spectacular views as far as Dartmoor on a clear day, and a real sense of achievement for reaching the top. There are 25 miles of meandering footpaths to explore within the Golden Cap Estate, perfect for exercising children or four legged friends!
Further inland, the scenic countryside, much of which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is scattered with ancient woods and hedgerows, and winding country lanes that lead to charming villages, complete with thatched cottages, tempting tea rooms and friendly traditional country pubs. An extensive network of peaceful footpaths and bridleways snake the idyllic countryside making it a haven for walkers, and anyone looking to unwind, relax and reconnect with nature.
Active outdoor pursuits are an excellent way to enjoy Dorset to the full. Walking allows you to take in Dorset’s rural and coastal charms at a slower pace. The county also boasts a superb selection of circular cycle routes suitable for all levels. Another lovely way to explore the unspoilt countryside and bridleways is on horseback. Meanwhile, for those seeking adventure on holiday, and a view of the Jurassic Coastline from the sea, a variety of water sports are on offer, including windsurfing, Stand Up Paddle-boarding or power boating.
With so much to see and do, Dorset is the perfect destination for a UK holiday cottage break.
The stylish seaside town of Lyme Regis is renowned for its historic 13th Century Cobb harbour wall, beautiful sea-front gardens, and family-friendly sandy beach. Lose yourself in its tangle of narrow lanes where you’ll find quirky galleries, shops, and tea rooms to explore, then head to the sea front to blow the cob webs away and take in the spectacular coastal views.
The bustling market town of Bridport is famous for its eclectic mix of shops, art galleries, and abundance of award-winning food producers and restaurants serving locally made culinary treats. Less than 2 miles away, Bridport’s harbour, West Bay, offers a choice of two unspoilt sandy beaches, a quaint fishing harbour, and two piers from which more stunning views of the Jurassic coast can be enjoyed.
The pretty seaside village of Charmouth is a gateway to the world famous Jurassic Coast, with its stunning ancient coastline and dramatic cliffs. It's also a hot spot for fossil hunting, and a great spot to uncover an ancient relic along the beach beneath the receding cliffs.
Surrounded by rolling countryside and picturesque woodland, Charmouth is perfectly located for coastal or rural walks, boat or beach fishing, family days at the beach. Or simply take a relaxing stroll through the village and make the most of its friendly shops and cosy pubs.
A small and friendly horse riding stables, Vineyard Stables in Wooton Fitzpane is beautifully set on the edge of a forest with sea views and wonderful riding opportunities on bridle paths and country lanes with no main roads for miles. There’s a sand school as well as a cross country course, which are available for private hire, as well as off-road hacking. Lessons start at £10 per hour depending on your requirements, and they also offer personalised classes in dressage and jumping, which can be discussed over the phone to cater to the individual.
Having run deep sea and mackerel fishing trips in Lyme Regis since 1970, Harry May is an experienced and passionate fisherman. So much so that he’s been a regular face on the TV programme Coast. His is a moving story of dedication to what he does, and these days his two boats, including Sunbeam, the one that started it all, can cater to small and large groups of people of all ages. They’ve even had an 85-year old grandmother celebrate her birthday on board. Both the mackerel fishing trips and deep sea fishing are family friendly and good fun. Deep sea fishing is a three-hour experience costing £25 including a rod, bait and tuition. You can even take your catch home for dinner!
With one-hour trips, two to four-hour rod fishing trips, sightseeing excursions and private charters available, Nick’s Mackerel Fishing Trips provides a coastal adventure for the whole family. They provide the fishing lines, advice and oodles of encouragement for a memorable experience while you’re on holiday in Dorset. The area is also known for its visiting dolphin pods in the summer months, so they also arrange trips to see the friendly and sociable creatures that love to bob up to the boat and interact with the people on board.
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Welcoming visitors and members alike, Lyme Regis Golf Club occupies a cliff top location with views over the Jurassic coastline towards Portland Bill, and overlooking the historic town and World Heritage Site of Lyme Regis. Although originally just nine holes, the course was extended to the full 18 after 1934. These days the course measures 6283 yards par 71. Green fees for a full round start at £40 and there’s a clubhouse with a bar and restaurant as well.
Bridport is the oldest golf club in Dorset, celebrating their 125th anniversary in 2016 but enjoying modern facilities catering to the 21st century golfer. Located on the Jurassic coastline, the views stretch across Lyme Bay and along Chesil Beach to Portland. The 6213 yard, cliff top links style golf course is a challenging but fair test for all abilities and can be played on all year round.
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Surrounded by beautiful West Dorset countryside, the Craft Centre is situated on the edge of Broadwindsor village, with ample free parking, and offers a unique shopping, browsing and eating experience in the relaxed restaurant and conservatory which serves delicious, fresh, home-cooked food.
Broadwindsor Craft Centre, Broadwindsor, Beaminster, Dorset DT8 3PX (T: 01308 868362)
The Bridge House Brasserie Restaurant serves award-winning, locally sourced and home-grown modern British cuisine alongside an eclectic wine menu. A relaxed, lively atmosphere with a choice of dining al fresco on the terrace, or in the sun room conservatory.
Bridge House Restaurant, 3 Prout Bridge, Beaminster DT8 3AY (T: 01308 862200)
You'll find Café @ Cilla & Camilla hidden at the rear of the quirky Cilla & Camilla gift shop, on Beaminster's beautiful market square. A friendly, informal café with an attractive courtyard garden at the back, serving tea, coffee and delicious lunches, sandwiches, cakes and cream teas.
Cilla & Camilla, 22 The Square, Beaminster, Dorset, DT8 3AU (T: 01308 863477)
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Lovely shop and cafe very friendly and was great to be able to take the dog into the cafe
In the picturesque harbour town of Lyme Regis, Town Beach is covered in pebbles at one end thanks to the coastal protection scheme that placed them there to provide essential care for the Marine Parade and the buildings along it. At the other end the beach has been built up with sand, no longer gets covered at high tide and provides an extensive beach area manned by RNLI lifeguards in the summer. There are kiosks, cafes, shops and restaurants bordering the beach, so it’s ideal for visiting with family and spending the whole day on the sand if the weather allows. The main sandy beach in the area, it’s a delight and easy to get to when on holiday in Dorset. There is paid parking nearby, so don’t forget your change, and remember that dogs are not permitted from 1st April to 31st October, while from 1st November to 31st March they must be on leads.
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Excellent area and beach although extremely busy if the sun makes an appearance. I go to Lyme Regis whilst dogs are allowed on the beach (I do use it with my dog) and would like to see more policing re dogs off leads.
This pretty harbour town dates back to the 14th century, and is sheltered by a curving harbour wall, The Cobb, as its known contains a small sandy beach made famous in the opening shot of the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman. You reach the beach between the RNLI station and the slipway, and there is lifeguard cover in the summer months. Activities nearby include fishing, sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, surfing and water skiing, while facilities close to the beach include cafes and restaurants and toilets. There are lots of walks in the area including guided tours of the famous fossil bearing cliffs. There is paid parking nearby, Axminster train station is five minutes away as the crow flies and buses are available to the town centre. Dogs are allowed on the beach from 1st November to 30th March as long as they’re on the lead, but they are not permitted in the summer months.
Famous for its picturesque Jurassic coastline, as well as its array of fossils, Church Cliff Beach is on the edge of Lyme Regis town. Sandy in places, at low tide there is an extensive rock ledge with hundreds of rock pools where you can catch shrimp. The River Lym flows into the bay, so paddling is a necessity if you want to stroll on the sand. The beach is flanked by rock armour which protects the promenade, and the sand is covered at high tide. There’s paid parking close by, so don’t forget your change. There are facilities, restaurants and cafes in the town. There’s no lifeguard cover on this beach, and dogs are permitted all year round, which is great news for walkers as it also makes up part of the West Dorset Heritage Coast and its accompanying footpaths.
Named after the Duke of Monmouth who landed here in 1685 in an attempt to take the crown from King James II, Monmouth Beach is a large pebble and sand beach that stretches over a kilometer southwest from the Cobb wall. There are beach huts, a bowling green, the Lyme Regis Power Boat Club and paid car parks close by. Meanwhile, for those wishing to have their own exploratory adventures, you can find a layer of limestone called the ammonite graveyard at Monmouth Beach, containing a large number of (you guessed it) ammonites. There are numerous walks close by and dogs are allowed on the beach all year round. There is lifeguard cover in the summer, and all the town’s cafés, restaurants and amenities are within easy reach.
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Great for fossil hunting and dog friendly!
A fine shingle beach with sand at the water’s edge, East Cliff Beach is a beautiful place to spend the day with the family on summer holidays in Dorset. There’s lifeguard cover from July to September in the summer holidays on East Beach itself, but that doesn’t really cover East Cliff Beach, so just be careful when and where you swim and stay away from the cliff base to avoid falling stones. There’s a long stay car park behind East Beach and a smaller short stay car park just before entering the harbour area in front of the Bridport Arms Hotel. Toilets are located at the main West Bay Road car park and baby changing facilities are provided as well. Dogs are permitted on the beach all year round, but it is a clean zone that’s regularly patrolled by wardens imposing fines, so don’t forget to clean up after your pets!
Perfect for family days out, Charmouth Beach is a mix of sand and pebbles, fossils (for which the area is famous), good swimming and good surf. It is divided into two distinct areas (East and West) by the mouth of the River Char, which often forms a lagoon suitable for boating or watching the ducks swim past. To get to the beach, simply find the centre of the village and follow Lower Sea Lane. There are ample car parks close to the beach as well as another one half way down Lower Sea Lane if those are full. Dogs are allowed on the West beach as long as they are on leads from 1st May and 30th September between the sea defenses and Lyme Regis but not on the area of beach in front of the beach huts and the Heritage Centre. From 1st July to 31st August dogs are not allowed on East Beach between 10:00am and 6:00pm, but are welcome outside these hours. At East Beach there is a beach café and picnic tables close by, and in the summer months there is a bouncy castle. There are also lots of beautiful walks close by to enjoy. West Beach meanwhile is about a mile and a half long and is a haven for fossil hunters and avid rock-poolers.
A small pebble beach close to the historic market town of Bridport, Eype Beach is a steep shelved beach (Eype means ‘steep place’) with beautiful views of the West Dorset coast. Dogs are permitted all year round and refreshments are available at Lower Eype. The beach is part of one of the most beautiful little villages in the area, where buildings can be traced back to the late 18th century. Consisting of Lower Eype and Higher Eype, it’s the lower part of the village that has access to the beach, which also boasts the magnificent Golden Cap, the highest cliff on the south coast at 191-metres above sea level. The beach is favoured by swimmers and fishing fans as well as avid fossil hunters, and there is parking nearby for a few cars as well as toilets and a pub.
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Very narrow single track access road with limited passing places. Would not recommend purely due to access difficulties.
Under the golden glow of the majestic sandstone cliffs and the Golden Cap, the highest cliff on the south coast, West Bay Beach (made famous by the popular drama series Broadchurch) is in the south of the historic market town of Bridport. At the western end of Chesil Beach, the area forms part of the Dorset Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site within Lyme Bay and is a wonderful location for family holidays. Bridport Town is a short bus ride away or a very pleasant 20-minute walk. The beach itself is shingle, sand and pebbles with steep shelving, a slipway and a harbour. There’s an auxiliary coastguard and lifeguards at your service, toilets, disabled toilets and a beachside refreshment kiosk. Nearby activities include kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, swimming surfing and jet skiing. There are also car parks close by and while dogs are banned from May to September, they are allowed out of the summer season.
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we loved West Bay very much did not eat at any of the restuarants there apart from the George Hotel (one night) as Gluten Free options were either poor choices or non existant.
A National Trust beach in Burton Bradstock, Hive Beach is part of an estate that forms one of the main gateways to the Jurassic Coast and the South West Coast Path. Around it are beautiful cliff top walks, and surrounded by the sandstone cliffs, Hive Beach perfect for visiting families. Made of shingle, it forms part of the larger Chesil Beach and is on a World Heritage Site that has the largest shingle ridge in the world. The nearby Burton Cliff is an example of extraordinary geology in the area, which appears to glow bright gold in the sunlight. Perfect for picnics, the beach has a car park and toilets nearby, linked to the Hove Beach Café which specializes in serving fish. From 1st June to the end of September there are restrictions for dogs on the beach, but they are welcome on at least part of it all year round.
A National Trust beach, Cogden is a little known, secluded sand and shingle beach that comes complete with a members’ car park. It has a wonderful sense of feeling remote but being surprisingly easy to access – the bus even stops there! There aren’t any facilities, but it’s a beautiful setting, and in truth, the lack of goings on is part of its charm. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round and it’s a haven for walkers looking to explore the area with the National Trust’s two mile/one-hour circular walk passing through it from flower-filled farmland, past ground nesting birds and along this striking section of the Jurassic Coast, known for having the largest shingle ridge in the world.
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There's a lovely 2 mile circular walk through the fields from the NT car park - through late spring and early summer orchids are to be found
A shingle beach that shelves steeply, West Bexington Beach is in Bridport, and like many beaches in the area is popular with walkers with beautiful views in all directions. There’s parking close by so remember to bring cash, as well as toilets and facilities, shops, restaurants, a refreshment kiosks and a picnic area. Dogs are allowed on the beach but there are restrictions and seasonal bans, so keep that in mind before you visit. The village of West Bexington itself is a small coastal village surrounded by National Trust land, so as you can imagine, it’s all suitably scenic. The area is perfect for sea fishing off the beach, catching mackerel in the summer and bass in the autumn on a landscape that consists of the beach, a reed bed, wet meadow and scrub – it’s a birdwatchers paradise. The beach is also good for swimming, but only if you’re a strong swimmer, and the entire Jurassic coastline is ideal for budding adventurers to hunt for fossils.
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Always quiet, usually sunny and sometimes dramatic. Treat the pebbles like a beanbag and you can settle in for a sunbathe.
A pebble beach that stretches 18 miles along the South West coast, Chesil Beach encompasses a number of smaller beaches between Portland and West Bay. Much of it is separated from the mainland by an area of water called the Fleet Lagoon, which varies in size according to the tide. Hamm Beach is the eastern side of he beach facing Portland Harbour and both beaches are important areas for wildlife with a number of designations to help protect resident species. It lies in the centre of the Jurassic coast and is a World Heritage Site. The beach is popular with visiting families, walkers and anyone visiting the area. Made of pebbles and shingle, it’s popular with local anglers and mackerel fishing families. Close to the village of Abbotsbury which is about a mile away, there are cafes, pubs and facilities within the vicinity, as well as surrounding attractions. Parking is also available and dogs are allowed on the beach
By the seaside town of the same name, Sidmouth Beach is a long stretch of pebbles that stretches from the River Sid at the east of the town, West to Chit Rocks and Jacobs Ladder Beach and beyond. From the town you go over a footbridge and a number of steps down to the beach, however there are also access points along the sea front esplanade. There are a number of car parks close by, most of which are a few minutes’ walk from the beach itself, and it benefits from nearby facilities, cafes, restaurants and shops. Dogs are not allowed on the beach from 1st May to the 30th September, however there is a small area at the East end of the beach where dogs are allowed all year round. It’s a delightful spot for swimming sailing and surfing if the weather permits it, but you do have to take your own equipment.
Nestled into a valley that reaches down to the sea, Branscombe Beach is tucked away on the Jurassic Coast, and is linked to a timeless, magical village of the same name. Surrounded by woodland and farmland, the area is peppered with thatched houses, a working forge and a restored windmill. It’s a National Trust location, with a number of charming walks and trails to follow, one of which leads to the Old Bakery tearooms. The beach itself is a long pebble beach below the village. It has a large car park close by where there are toilets available, as well as a picnic area. The beach is a haven for fossil hunters and adventurous rock-poolers. If you want to catch your supper it’s a wonderful place to fish for Mackerel and Pollack, although there is also a restaurant close by.
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A pretty place down narrow lanes - the village is a must for keen photographers too - loved it!
Set on a small peninsula, just a stone's throw from some of the most expensive and exclusive homes in the country, the world-renowned Sandbanks beach is one of the most beautiful and clean beaches on the South Coast of England.
This spacious, family-friendly beach is blessed with soft golden sand, crystal clear waters and breathtaking views of across the English Channel; and has earned the coveted Blue Flag status for 30 consecutive years.
Beach facilities include a crazy golf course, children's play area, barbecue area, toilets and a cafe.
There is a designated area for dogs at the western end of Sandbanks beach (near the chain ferry). Dog owners are requested to always keep dogs on a lead on the promenade.
Hamworthy Beach is a family-friendly sand and shingle beach with a promenade, fringed with pretty beach huts and offering stunning views of Arne Nature Reserve, Brownsea Island and the Purbeck Hills in the distance.
The beach is popular among locals, boasting a jetty offering an excellent spot for fishing, large green gardens behind, a children's play area and a large seasonal paddling pool. There are also several opportunities to partake in watersports, including windsurfing, sailing and kitesurfing.
Dogs are welcome on the beach all year round, but not in the play parks or paddling pool.
Facilities include parking, toilets and cafe as well as nearby shops and public transport connections.
Shore Road is a golden sandy beach with a promenade that stretches for miles along the beautiful Sandbanks peninsula - perfect for a seaside stroll or cycle (except during peak times in July & August from 10am to 6pm when cycles are not permitted).
Famed for its Mediterranean-style cafes and outstanding views across the harbour to the Purbeck hills and Brownsea Island, this beach is very family-friendly thanks to its gentle slope into clean waters and seasonal lifeguard cover.
Dogs are not allowed on the main beach from 1st May - 30th September, however they are permitted on the promenade on a lead all year round.
This Blue Flag standard beach has several watersports hire shops and many other beach facilities, including plenty of parking, cafe/restaurant, beach shop, beach huts and deck chairs for hire, toilets and outdoor showers, and reusable water bottle drinking water refill points.
Shell Bay beach is an unspoilt sandy beach, backed by dunes and heathland which gives it a beautifully wild feel. With spectacular views across the bay to nearby Bournemouth, it also provides a good vantage point for watching the ships passing in and out of Poole Harbour.
Except during the busiest summer months, the beach is usually a haven of tranquillity. Situated on the south side of the mouth of Poole Harbour, at the very tip of the National Trust owned Studland Peninsula, it's harder to reach but well worth the effort. Either drive along the full length of the peninsula from the Swanage end, and you'll find Shell Bay is the last of Studland's beautiful beaches. Alternatively, catch the ferry from Sandbanks which runs regularly and carries vehicles, foot passengers and cyclists across the entrance to the harbour to the opposite shore.
The beach is great for family-friendly bathing, fishing and a variety of watersports including sailing and windsurfing. It also has toilets and plenty of parking. There is a designated naturist area between Shell Bay and Knoll Beach.
Dogs are welcome all year round, during the winter months there are no restrictions but between 1 April and 30 September they are required to be on a short lead (max 2m).
Shell Bay Seafood Restaurant lies opposite the beach - an outstanding, Michelin-listed eatery with fine views out over Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island.
Alum Chine is a wide sandy beach with a paddling pool and large adventure playground, making it the perfect beach to visit if you have young children in tow.
Meanwhile, the scenic sub-tropical gardens behind the beach with stunning views out to the Solent are a big draw for the older visitor. Due to the mild micro-climate along this stretch of the south coast, it's possible to grow many exotic species successfully.
The beach also boasts Blue Flag status, beach huts for hire and a large car park, as well as a regular bus service to and from Bournemouth Centre. The popular Land Train also links Alum Chine with other beaches along the long sandy stretch of Bournemouth seafront.
There's a popular family-friendly Italian restaurant, Vesuvio, and many ice cream vendors to keep you refreshed during the day.
A variety of watersports are available here including kayaking/canoeing, fishing, swimming, sailing and windsurfing.
Dogs are allowed on parts of the beach throughout the year although they are banned from certain areas - check local signage for details.
Branksome Beach is a wide, golden stretch of sand popular among locals and visitors alike, in part due to its Blue Flag status which highlights high standards of cleanliness on the beach and in the bathing waters.
The beach benefits from a promenade behind and many facilities including beach huts, shop, bar and restaurant. There is also good disabled access and a safe swim zone.
Watersports include swimming and windsurfing and there is lifeguard cover in the summer months.
Dogs are not allowed on the main beach from the 1st May - 30th September, however they are allowed on the promenade on a short lead.
Four miles of beautiful sandy beaches fringe the Studland peninsula, stretching from the boundary of where the Jurassic Coast starts, with its views of the iconic chalk landmark Old Harry Rocks, northwards to Studland's tip at Shell Bay, with its ferry link to Poole and Bournemouth.
These idyllic beaches backed by windswept dunes and wild heathland offer a peaceful haven for simple family beach days, coastal walks or relaxing afternoons watching the waves gently lap the shores, and soaking up the sea views stretching from Old Harry to the Isle of Wight.
Gently shelving bathing waters and convenient parking make these beaches very popular with families. Activities include kayaking, snorkelling, paddleboarding, pedaloes, sailing and cycle hire.
Dogs welcome all year round but between 1 May and 30 September they are required to be on a short lead (less than 2m) on the beach.