Just because you may not be able to travel abroad right now, doesn’t mean you can’t still visit some amazing beaches! Britain has some beautiful beaches – and that’s especially the case for Dorset beaches. Home to the Jurassic Coast which extends for 95 miles from East Devon all the way to Swanage, it’s not just the only natural World Heritage site in England but it’s also recognised by UNESCO for the beauty of its fossils, beaches, and picturesque towns. Famous for its Jurassic age marine life, Dorset is a fossil lover’s dream. So, let’s explore some of the best beaches in Dorset that you absolutely need to visit.
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Mitoshka Alkova.
1. Ringstead Bay
Address: Ringstead, near Weymouth, Dorset DT2 8NQ
If you stop anyone along the streets of Dorset, they will share a memory with you that takes place in Ringstead. And rightfully so! Set on the West Dorset coast, Ringstead boasts beautiful views of Weymouth Bay and Portland. The pebbly beach offers the perfect place for a barbeque. Or in the winter months, a thermos full of hot chocolate or tea will keep you cosy as you stare out towards the never-ending body of water. There’s a car park here which usually charges a daily fee of £4. And a little shop too where you can find all your beach needs including fishing bait. Head down the cobbled path to the beach or make a left turn along it to enter a little green walk behind the beach.
The clear water makes Ringstead the perfect place for a quick swim, paddle or just a safe space to splash around in, especially as the long stretch of beach allows for privacy. It’s also great for a long walk. A 35-minute walk from the beach takes you to White Nothe, a chalk headland that offers spectacular views. This walk also takes you above Burning Cliff. The cliff got its name from the fact that in 1826 a landslip caused trapped oil and gas to ignite! The cliff burned for three whole years which must have been a sight to see. Even if completely safe now, this offers a little insight into how magical and mystical this part of the coast is.
If you head west, you’ll reach Bran Point, a small headland of a beautiful yellow limestone colour where you’ll find many trace fossils. These are little burrows made by Jurassic sea creatures.
2. Osmington Mills Beach
Address: Osmington Mills, Weymouth, Dorset DT3 6HF
I’d recommend exploring and swimming at this hidden treasure when the weather isn’t so perfect. You might just be the only person there! Osmington Mill is a tiny village which holds a rugged and stone beach perfect for exploring and daydreaming.
The little thatched-roof inn is the first thing you’ll notice as you park up on the road. You’ll also spot a small, fairytale-like bridge crossing a tiny stream. Here you’ll find little tables which you can feast at before or after your long walk. Head right through a little path surrounded by the most dreamy, colourful houses which will make you wish you lived here. Top tip: keep an eye out for the house covered in a rose bush! Down this path, you’ll reach the beach, so if you weren’t impressed yet you sure will be now.
The beach is covered in boulders and pebbles of all shapes, sizes and colours. These are great for rock hopping, searching for fossils or just being mesmerised by all their details. An occasional inscription will catch your eye! When the tide is low, you can spend hours exploring the rock pools where you’ll find the occasional crab or sea life. Take a long walk down the beach to notice how the rocks change. You can even play around with your photography skills here to make it look like you’re on an alien planet. It really is fascinating to explore.
If this isn’t convincing enough yet, possibly the largest pliosaur skull was unearthed right beneath your feet! The marine reptile was discovered in these cliffs in 2009 and is almost 2.4 meters long. If you want to see it, head to the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, which is only a short drive away.
3. Church Ope Cove
Address: Pennsylvania Rd, Isle of Portland, Portland, Dorset DT5 1HT
If you needed another reason to visit the Isle of Portland, here it is: a secluded beach made from soft limestone pebbles. Park up on the road and head down the marked path beside the church. You’ll enjoy a lovely green walk down surrounded by a shade of beautiful, aged trees. The ruins of old St Andrew’s Church are along this footpath, offering an insight into the history of this place. It definitely aids the mystical energy of Portland.
After you’ve finished exploring the ruins, you’ll come to a clearing to catch sight of Church Ope Cove from above, quiet, secluded, and surrounded by little beach huts. Be careful on the steep steps down and remember to also turn around to see the cliff face behind you.
This is one of the best beaches in Dorset for quiet relaxation. The cliffs provide needed shelter from the wind and as its south-facing, there will be sun throughout the day. However, I would avoid swimming here if you aren’t experienced as there’s no lifeguard here and the current can be strong. There are some great cliffs to climb if you are confident too!
4. Chesil Beach
Address: Chesil Beach, Weymouth, DT6 4RJ
Staying close to Portland, as you head back from Church Ope Cove, stop by the Portland Heights viewpoint to see the phenomenal 18 mile stretch of one of the best beaches in Dorset in all its glory. This is the perfect place to be as the sun sets. Weymouth and Chesil Beach will take your breath away when bathed in a golden sunset. There are usually people here every night, so come early to grab one of the perfectly positioned benches.
Stretching from Portland to West Bay, there’s enough here to explore for days. The rumour of 180 billion pebbles on this beach is one I’m happy to believe in. It makes it even more special to walk along! The pebbles reduce in size as you travel along the beach, which I recommend you do as the beach’s size allows for isolation and peace. You should also be happy to take on the challenge of walking on pebbles. So be sure to wear comfortable shoes and a warm fleece (the tools required for many of our beautiful British beaches!).
Chesil Beach is the most sensory of these Dorset beaches. The pebbles roar and speak to you with every wave. It can be very calming to sit and listen to the rhythm of nature. Bring a blanket and find a pebble section that looks comfortable to settle on and watch the sunset. It’s something the locals treasure, and for all the right reasons. Isolation, the sound of waves over pebbles and a drink in hand will make you remember this sunset spectacle for a long time.
I wouldn’t recommend swimming here. It’s mostly a beach for a walk or sit down. The current is strong even if it doesn’t look it so be careful. West Bay is the place to go along Chesil Beach for a nice, safe swim!
5. West Bay Beach
Address: Bridport Tourist Information Centre, South Street, Bridport, Dorset DT6 3NY
One of the best beaches in Dorset, West Bay will make you question if you are in Britain at all. Especially if you stay until sunset – trust me you won’t regret it. The scenery is truly breathtaking. A golden cliff rises 50 metres above you with its rugged, out of this world texture. You can choose to climb to the top through a footpath and see Chesil Beach and Portland in their full glory.
Should you choose to walk along the beach, you are in for a treat. Fossil hunting is a great idea here, but I doubt you will do anything but gaze up at the cliff face. For some, this will elicit a feeling of being so small, whereas others will be in awe with the feeling this golden cliff holds. Truly a spectacular view that is hard to describe.
You’ll notice a lot of boulders and parts of the cliff on your walk, as this cliff is very famous for its erratic nature. Please be careful not to get too close especially after heavy rain as it’s known for crumbling. Same goes for when at the top – stay away from the enticing edge! You will eventually come to a clearing where you can enjoy pebbles and not be enclosed by the golden beast of West Bay. There is a little pebble ‘mountain’ which if climbed reveals a little stream you can paddle in or practice skidding stones on.
6. Castle Cove
Address: Castle Cove Beach, Old Castle Rd, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8QG
Of course, you should visit Weymouth Beach, one of the best beaches in Dorset. I mean, how could you not? But how about a little hidden away secret beach just off Weymouth? Access Castle Cove from a footpath from Old Castle Road for a taste of where the locals go.
Castle Cove is located within Portland Harbour, very close to Sandsfoot Castle which you should also visit if you have time. This is a sandy beach, which will instantly put it on your list. Plus, it’s perfectly secluded by low-rise cliffs and the right amount of green.
The water is shallow here so it’s perfect for a swim but even more so to launch a kayak or paddleboard from. Safe and peaceful, it’s where you’ll find many more paddleboard enthusiasts that you can share the water with, and discover some beautiful views! Bring snacks and appropriate water activities for a lovely, hidden away afternoon.
7. Bowleaze Cove
Address: Bowleaze Cove, Bowleaze Coveway, Weymouth, Dorset DT3 6PL
Just two miles northeast from Weymouth, this sand and pebble beach is great to relax by. With a row of benches on the higher ground, it’s the perfect spot to sit and watch the cruise ships and Isle of Portland. You can observe the stretch of water from higher ground and become super jealous of all the modern houses behind you!
At low tide, rockpools are visible as you walk down the beach. This is a great place for a swim with a view and it’s usually busy so there’s always something happening here. Bring your friends and have a nice barbeque on a sunny day.
8. Lyme Regis Beach
Address: Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3JT
I’ve saved the most famous of these Dorset beaches till last. You may think ‘Obviously?! Not even worth mentioning!’ but until you visit you can’t truly appreciate how special Lyme Regis really is. There’s a reason they call it the ‘Pearl of Dorset’.
East Cliff, Town Beach, Church Cliff and Monmouth Beach are just some of the beaches you can visit. Start at the Cobb Lower Walkway and descend the beach towards the Lyme Regis Museum. This long walk will give you the best views of Lyme Regis and eventually you’ll come to a lovely beach where everyone looks down rather than across.
Spend thirty minutes flipping over stones and breaking others open and you’re bound to find a little fossil to take home. You’ll feel a little rush of hope with every misshaped pebble. I suggest staying away from the cliff and searching along the middle of the beach. This is where I’ve had the most luck in finding a little piece of the Jurassic coast to take home.
These are just some of the best beaches in Dorset. There really is a lot to discover here, even if we sometimes chose to ignore the rugged, raw and colder British coastline in favour of warmer, foreign destinations. These are perfect in every weather, as long as you have a flask and fleece, and can be enjoyed by everyone. Dorset really is a beautiful place to discover, and it seems some of these have been a secret the locals have kept to themselves for a while. When you visit the best beaches in Dorset, you’ll discover why.
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