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Completely different to the rest of Dorset, the Isle of Portland is full of rugged charm. Sat right on the southernmost tip of Weymouth, Portland is attached only by the beautiful Chesil Beach and causeway, connecting it to nearby Weymouth.
Despite its rural characteristics, there are still plenty of things to do on the Isle of Portland…
Portland Bill is a naturally beautiful area. Ideal for walking, the path leading to the lighthouse is perfect for a good ‘ramble’ and the views are magnificent. The Portland Bill Lighthouse is still a working lighthouse to this day, necessary due to the treacherous stretch of water, known as the Portland Race. Visitors can climb up to the top of the Portland Bill Lighthouse and look down at the ‘Portland Race’ and further across the English Channel.
There is also now a Visitor Centre at the Portland Bill Lighthouse, which offers plenty to do. In recent years it has been given a substantial grant which has allowed it to feature some fun and informative maritime displays. Learn about the lighthouse, its keepers and encounter a stormy sea journey in the interactive feature zone, ‘Into the Dark.’
After your walk around The Portland Bill, you most definitely need to pop into Portland Bill’s Café or The Lobster Pot Restaurant, famous for their Dorset Cream Teas and fresh crab.
There is actually a walk right around the Isle of Portland, called ‘The Isle of Portland Circuit’ which follows the South West Coastal Path right around the island. This is 13 miles long, but you needn’t do all of it. Take the dog and follow the dramatic, rugged cliffs, taking in the rare wildlife, hidden coves and stunning views at every turn. When it’s time for a stop off, take your pick of the cosy Portland inns.
If you are coming from Weymouth, follow the road and cycleway from Ferry Bridge or Chesil Beach, to join the South West Coastal Path as it climbs to the top of the cliff and then away you go!
Portland is a major migrating point for birds. Because of this, bird watching enthusiasts have always flocked here, with the hope of glancing at rare species. There is even a Portland Bill Observatory running from the Lower Old Lighthouse, open from March to November, where everyone is welcome to join and wait for some glorious glimpses.
The area of Southwell is a happy hunting ground for the local Barn Owls, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Red-throated Divers and Kingfishers around Portland, to name but a few!
At the top of Portland, sits an abandoned stone quarry, which has now become a stone sculpture park. Tout Quarry Nature Reserve and Sculpture Park is sat on the clifftop overlooking Chesil Beach and was once one of over 100 quarries on the island, worked by hand. It really is a fascinating and inspiring place to walk, allowing you to see some remarkable structures being carved out of stone as you watch.
Visitors are welcome to take a walk around the old quarry, admiring the various stone carvings that have been produced over the years. You can also take a peek at some of Dorset’s local stonemasons working away in an area of the quarry.
Portland and Weymouth hosted the Sailing Events in the Olympic Games in 2012 and it is quite simply because sailing conditions here are just perfect! In fact, Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour are reputed to offer some of the best sailing waters on the planet, thanks to their sheltered location.
Why not try your hand at sailing around Portland? Try a ‘Taster Session’ to begin with by taking a course with The Weymouth Outdoor Education Centre Sailing Courses or if you have already had a taste, why not take a two or four-day sailing course!
There are several fishing boat trips operating from Portland Marina. They take you fishing at wrecks (of which there are many, as a result of the treacherous ‘Portland Race’) or on the reef or the bank.
You can even go on a ‘Predator Trip’ and look for Porbeagle, Mako and Thresher sharks, all of which have been spotted in the waters off Portland. Or how about a ‘Night Time Fishing Trip’ when the big fish come out to play?!
Climb up onto Pulpit Rock and gaze out to sea from this wonderful vantage point – but only in fine weather conditions! Pulpit Rock is a stack of rocks on the southern tip of Portland, which were left in the 1870’s by quarryman. Despite it not being a natural landform as such, Pulpit Rock has become something of a tourist attraction and is always worth a visit. On a stormy day, the waves crash over the top of the rock, a dramatic scene to behold!
And there have it, 7 exciting things to do during your trip to the Isle of Portland. Activities to enjoy with your significant other, family or even a group of friends! To plan your trip, you can see more fun things to do in Dorset on our blog or even browse our collection of Dorset cottages for longer stays.