Dorset is home to many of Britain’s hidden gems. With the Jurassic Coast, beautiful and mysterious beaches, and picturesque, poetic towns, maybe it’s time for you to head down South and explore Dorset. Whether you’re a tourist or just a local who’s keen to explore more of your beloved county, you’ll love these days out in Dorset. Just remember to bring your fleece, camera and adventurous spirit along with you for the ride!
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Mitoshka Alkova.
A classic destination and for good reason. Bournemouth is one of those places that everyone can agree makes for a beautiful getaway. With its long nine-mile stretch of golden sandy beach, it feels like a breath of fresh air from busy city life.
Park up at one of the multiple car parks facing the beach and get ready to relax. Walk along Bournemouth Pier to get a sense of the beauty of the beach, Old Harry Rocks and the busy waves below you. If you have children, drop them off at the rock-climbing arena on the pier or enjoy the thrilling zip line before heading for a long walk.
Walk to Boscombe
Head towards Boscombe Pier which you should reach in about 45 minutes. You’ll notice the colourful beach huts as you reach Boscombe’s famous musical pier. Play around with all the instruments and relax at the multiple seafront cafes and restaurants. This is a good place for a bike ride too if you have the means!
In need of some retro vintage items? Boscombe has everything you need. Its many vintage second-hand shops will quickly fill your bags and you’ll be left wishing you had more time to explore this wonderful and busy city.
Back in central Bournemouth
With so many places to eat it can be difficult to choose where to go, but the world-famous Harry Ramsden’s is always a good shout when you’re by the beach. Or if fast food or pizza is your thing, head to the new Bh2 Complex where you’ll be spoiled for choice. Here you’ll also find one of the biggest cinema screens if you’re in the mood for a movie!
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum will satisfy your need for art. Bought by Merton Russell-Cotes in 1901 as a birthday present for his wife Annie, it will surprise you with its lavished interior and architectural style. The museum is filled with an eclectic art collection from all over the world. And if you time it right, you’ll hear one of the staff playing on the grand piano as you wander through the many, cluttered rooms.
Right in the middle of the Jurassic Coast, Weymouth is one of the best days out in Dorset. But you may need more than just a day here! The Jurassic Coast is a beautiful place to explore, with its 185 million years of history making it a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The busy sea town balances the peace of the beach with your shopping or culinary desires. You have so many activities to pick from: a beautiful sandy beach, nature reserves, fossil hunting, shopping, a harbour, sailing, and restaurants and bars, just to name a few!
Starting with the long golden stretch of beach, sand isn’t just for sunbathing here. Weymouth is home to some of the most impressive sand sculptures! All defy logic and will leave you questioning if sand can really be manipulated like that. Take a long walk down the beach to discover what artists have created, and then give it a go yourself.
Continuing the sea theme, if you didn’t have time to visit the Oceanarium in Bournemouth, why not visit SEA LIFE here? You can walk under the ocean tunnel, take part in feeding sessions and learn more about life under the waves. However, some of us don’t want to get stuck indoors when at a place like this, which is why the Weymouth RSPB Reserve might be a better stop. Learn more about the wildlife here to truly immerse yourself in the beauty of the outdoors.
Food and shopping
For shopping, Brewers Quay Emporium is perfect for your antique and homemade needs. And if you don’t get your fix there, head to St Mary Street afterwards! Remember to stop for a classic Dorset apple cake too in one of the many independent coffee shops. It’ll be the perfect end to an amazing day in Weymouth.
You won’t find a beach in Bridport but that’s not to say it’s still not one of the best days out in Dorset. This little picturesque town is home to many beautiful facade shops and miles and miles of cycle routes and walking trails. Get into something comfy and head out into nature. The Eype Down walk is about 9 miles and will take you on a circular route with beautiful views. Make sure you also stop by the beautiful Colmers Hill too!
While you’re in the town, I recommend having a peek into Wild & Homeless Books and The Book Shop which are both close to each other. If you’re lucky, you’ll find beautiful vintage copies with little love notes hidden between the rustic pages. Take a gander down the main street and enjoy the lovely independent shops and cafes on offer too.
Food and drink
If you’re a fan of fine ale, Palmers Brewery is a must-see, with its thatched roof dating back to 1794. There are tours you can take and even enjoy a few samples of the ale they still brew here. If you prefer yourself a glass of wine, fear not! Furleigh Estate can offer you tastings and tours of the award-winning wine they brew here too. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this tasting!
As for food, The Stable serves up pizza you must try at least once. With so many delicious options, you’ll need a good minute to decide as you sit in the peaceful courtyard.
Bridport is home to many festivals and events, but Bridport Literary Festival is worth a mention. Taking place in November, it celebrates books and their portrayal on-screen, making it a must-visit for film enthusiasts too. With affordable screenings in beautifully preserved vintage cinemas, you won’t know if you should look at the screen or the auditorium more.
Just across from Weymouth, the Isle of Portland will transport you into what I believe is a place with a deeply hidden secret. Easily reachable by car, I suggest parking up the moment you arrive and exploring this little Isle on foot. There are many slopes so wear comfortable footwear!
Portland is home to the Portland stone which you can find in some of London’s most famous landmarks, such as Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral. That is why you might stumble upon many quarries here. Make your way through the narrow streets and alleyways to the prison which overlooks the town from above. When at the side entrance, turn left towards the petting zoo (a great choice for anyone in need of some quiet time!) and explore the cliff faces and hidden walking routes here.
Portland is also home to some of the best rock-climbing spots in Britain. With more than 4000 routes, the area is great for climbers of all levels. The inland craig, The Cuttings, is a good place to start. And you’ll most definitely meet an enthusiast to help you learn the ropes.
Secluded and sheltered from the wind, Church Ope Cove is one of the best beaches in Dorset. But I don’t recommend swimming here as the currents are strong. You should also visit Portland Bill Lighthouse. You may know how notoriously dangerous Chesil Beach and Portland Bill are, so this lighthouse is of utmost importance to navigate many vessels through the strong currents. Dress warm as the wind here will blow you away!
As the day reaches an end, head to Portland Heights. The sunset here will truly take your breath away as the golden colours spill over Chesil Beach and Weymouth. Dorset does sunsets well, so catching one is the best way to end any of these days out in Dorset.
I won’t share any other recommendations as Portland is a place you have to unknowingly explore with an adventurous spirit. Be ready to climb over boulders, through grasslands and suddenly discover some WWII tunnels! You might just feel like a treasure hunter.
A side note for any visitors: avoid saying the word ‘rabbit ‘on the island. There’s a local fear that the utterance of this word causes great damage – quarry collapses and other occurrences. You’ll notice the word ‘bunny’ is used instead… just another thing that makes this Isle so mysterious!
Located in West Dorset, or Devon depending on who you ask, this quaint town is one of the best days out in Dorset, even if it’s a little drive away. Seaton is also on the Jurassic Coast and the only place you can see the Jurassic, Triassic, and Cretaceous periods in one place. You might have heard of this tiny town for this reason exactly. It’s internationally known for its geological habitat and landscape. The stunning natural environment really makes a day out here feel like learning made fun.
There’s a great Jurassic interactive display in Seaton which takes you on a journey through the long 250-million-year history but in a way that you won’t notice the time pass. The Seaton Tramway will satisfy your need for nature and countryside with three beautiful miles of heritage and untouched landscape. You travel along the River Axe and nature reserves abundant with birdlife. You can grab a day explorer ticket for £10.90 and enjoy the views on a sunny day.
Food and drink
Take a stroll through Seaton itself to discover many little independent shops. Be on the lookout for Passiflora, a beautiful and peaceful plant and coffee shop that knows how to make a good brew! While you’re here you can experience what it’s like living in a jungle.
Back on the beach, enjoy the mile-long shingle beach and the delicious fish and chip shop you’ll find tucked away down a narrow street. Enjoy a nice walk along the seafront to the Cliff Field Gardens. This is a great place to get lost in the labyrinth which will once again show you the history of the geological earth. There’s a lot to explore in this little town. But even just sitting on one of the many benches on the seafront with a fresh Fish Medley will make it worth your time.
6. West Bay
Aside from the stunning West Bay Cliffs, there’s a lot more to do in West Bay. Canoeing is one of those things; it’s a great activity for those looking for more adventurous days out in Dorset. Spend time with family and friends exploring the twists and turns, while also having the challenge of navigating upstream.
You’ll be surrounded by nature on all sides as this is an oasis for wildlife. And you’ll get cooled down by the water as you splash around. The two-hour tour from West Bay Canoes costs £20 per person but it’s so worth it on a lovely sunny day.
After you’ve finished canoeing, give into your natural instinct by visiting one of the many fish and chip huts right next to where you start and end your guided tour. You won’t regret this fresh delicacy. If you’ve had enough of fish and chips at this point (though I think fish and chips should be one of the highlights of your days out in Dorset!), The Cornish Bakery offers an equally delicious treat.
After you’ve satisfied your hunger and relaxed by the beach, visit The Customs House at West Bay to find anything and everything you might need to expand your antique collection. Lose yourself in the array of stylish, retro items and keep an eye out for the owner to explain what those strange objects were used for!
Enjoy this little quiet preserved town that is nothing but a treat to explore. Stay for sunset and take a walk along the beach for stunning views of the cliff face.
Dorchester is home to everything you’d need in a big city but on a small, picturesque, quieter scale.
Museums and heritage
If museums are your thing, you’re in luck! There’s The Dinosaur Museum, Teddy Bear Museum, Dorset County Museum, The Keep Military Museum, Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum… the list goes on. You won’t go wrong with visiting any of these! There’s also plenty of heritage around the area, such as Maiden Castle, Maumbury Rings, Remains of the Roman townhouse and walls, and the Thomas Hardy monument which overlooks Dorset.
Cinema, food and gardens
The Plaza Cinema offers a cosy movie night at the same time as supporting an independent business! Around the city centre, you’ll also find an array of book shops, charity shops and little cafes which offer all kinds of cakes and pastries. Why not get some on the go and head to Borough Gardens to enjoy them on a sunny day? These colourful gardens are always well cared for and offer the perfect place to unwind with a book.
So there you have it, some lovely days out in Dorset for the next time you have a day to fill! You’ll find adventure in each of these places, and nothing but an exciting time for all ages. These days out in Dorset really will surprise you with their outstanding natural beauty and charm.
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