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A scenic sunset over corfe castle, a popular dorset attraction

During your next getaway to the South West, you’ll find an array of incredible tourist attractions in Dorset.

From museums and forts to theme parks and adventure farms, Dorset has it all. Enjoy an adrenaline-filled day at Adventure Wonderland or spend an afternoon exploring one of Dorset’s historic buildings.

Here is our ultimate list of the best attractions in Dorset…

Castles in Dorset

Corfe Castle and the Purbeck Hills

1. Corfe Castle, Purbeck

An iconic survivor of the English Civil War, the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle are a must for anyone visiting Purbeck. Known as one of the most haunted locations in Dorset, Corfe Castle has a colourful history.

The National Trust property stands proudly on a natural hill, guarding the principal route through the Purbeck Hills. Discover 1000 years of history as you stroll around the romantic grounds, whilst taking in the stunning views of the Purbeck countryside. Corfe Castle has to be one of our favourite places to visit in Dorset.

2. Portland Castle

Overlooking Portland Harbour stands one of Henry VIII’s most dramatic coastal forts. Portland Castle was built in the early 1540s, in order to protect against French and Spanish invasion. Spend an afternoon exploring the castle and journey back through 500 years of history, before enjoying a spot of light lunch or a gentle stroll through the Contemporary Heritage Garden.

3. Lulworth Castle

Known as one of the most beautiful castles in the South, Lulworth Castle is a delightful Dorset attraction, offering panoramic views and interesting history. Originally built in the 17th Century as a hunting lodge to entertain aristocracy and royalty, the magnificent castle is home to extensive parkland, spacious grounds and plenty of woodland walks. Located just a short drive away from the breathtaking sights of Lulworth Cove, a trip to the castle will ensure your Lulworth holiday is one to remember.

Museums in Dorset

Dinosoar Museum Dorset

4. The Dinosaur Museum, Dorchester

Life-sized reconstructions of dinosaurs, fascinating fossils and an array of dinosaur skeletons found along the Jurassic Coast will fascinate the young and old. Team that with real hands-on learning about dinosaurs that roamed the land around 65 million years ago and you have the makings of an educational but fun day out at The Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester!

5. The Tank Museum, Bovington

Learn all about the story of tanks and their crews from 1915 to the present day at The Tank Museum. The museum, located in Bovington, is home to the world’s best collection of tanks, boasting 300 military machines from every major conflict since the First World War.

Experience a great day out with the whole family, from interesting exhibitions to watching tanks roar around the arena! There is also a lovely restaurant, indoor play area and picnic area for the lesser tank obsessed.

6. Blandford Fashion Museum, Blandford

The Blandford Fashion Museum showcases a collection of fashions from the 18th century to the 1970’s. Set in the beautiful Georgian Lime Tree House, built by the Bastard brothers after the great fire of Blandford Forum, this Dorset museum exhibits 13 displays over two floors. There are lots of great collections and exhibitions and a lovely tea room where you can finish your day with a delightful Dorset cream tea.

8. Bridport Museum, Bridport

An engaging museum where you can appreciate fossils found on the Jurassic Coast and discover captivating stories from Bridport’s past.

Learn all about the people of Bridport from times gone by and the fascinating industry they worked in. The Bridport Museum runs multiple events and exhibitions throughout the year, so it is worth calling up before your visit to see what’s on.

National Trust Properties in Dorset

Hardys Cottage, a National trust Property in Dorset, surrounded by countryside

9. Thomas Hardy’s Cottage, Dorchester

Visit Hardy’s Cottage, an idyllic thatched cottage, where Thomas Hardy was born in 1840. Built from cob and thatch by his grandfather, the cottage has barely been altered since the family left.

Experience how it would have been for Hardy to live there in the 19th century, with cold stone floors, small windows and open hearths. Pretty roses adorn the door of this lovely enchanting cottage. A joy to visit at any time of the year.

10. Clouds Hill, Bovington

Clouds Hill, a popular National Trust property in Dorset, was the rural retreat of T.E Lawrence. ‘I’ve a hut in a wood near camp wherein I spend my spare evenings’; the famous words spoken by Lawrence of Arabia, about the tiny isolated cottage.

The austere rooms are just as he left them and with no electric light, it may be best to time your visit during the longer, lighter days of the summer.

11. White Mill, Sturminster Marshall

White Mill is a corn mill complete with its original wooden machinery, nestled within a peaceful riverside setting. You can enjoy a guided tour around the mill and follow it with a gentle stroll over White Mill Bridge or simply relax in the garden and soak up the beautiful setting alongside the River Stour.

Family-Friendly Attractions in Dorset

Small boy being lifted into air

12. Adventure Wonderland Theme Park, Bournemouth

Adventure Wonderland is suitably packed with rides, attractions, animals and fun fairy tale entertainment for children throughout the day. Enjoy a gentle ride on the Flying Elephants or prepare yourself for a speedy adrenaline-filled adventure on the Wild Bill’s Runaway Train.

Situated in Bournemouth, there is also a huge indoor soft play centre ‘Wild Thing’ with three tube slides and a super-fast piranha slide.

13. Tower Park, Poole

Tower Park is a never-ending galaxy of entertainment. You could spend days in this Poole based attraction and still not do everything! The perfect Dorset attraction for the whole family come rain or shine.

Tower Park is home to a Splashdown Water Park, Empire Cinema, Bowlplex tenpin bowling, kids soft play, Bingo and a range of delicious restaurants.

14. Farmer Palmers, Poole

Perfect for any weather, Farmer Palmers is great for kids to run around the indoor or outdoor play areas and explore the farm park. Visit all the animals, go on a deer safari, watch the pigs racing or take a woodland walk. There are bouncy castles, water play and sandpits. A fantastic day out in Dorset, particularly suited if you have under-eights in your family.

Zoos and Wildlife Parks in Dorset

Cygnets at Abbotsbury Swannery in Abbotsbury

15. Monkey World , Wareham

An absolute must-visit Dorset attraction and a charming day out for the whole family. Monkey World is the largest monkey and ape rescue centre in Europe, assisting governments from around the world to stop the smuggling of primates since 1987.

The monkeys and apes are rescued and brought back to Monkey World in Wareham, where they are given space, love and a permanent, stable home. With a large adventure playground for the kids to enjoy once they have visited all the animals, this is a fantastic day out for the whole family.

16. Putlake Adventure Farm, Swanage

Putlake Adventure Farm is a real working farm, replete with animals, tractor rides, outdoor play, indoor soft play, pedal go-karts, trampolines, birds, a pet centre and tea and cake!

As the only adventure farm and soft play area in Swanage, Putlake Adventure Farm is the perfect venue for children’s parties and family-friendly days out. Whilst in Swanage, why not check out our blog: 11 of the Best Restaurants in Swanage.

17. Abbotsbury Swannery, Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury Swannery is the only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world. You can walk through all the darling cygnets and watch them being fed. A beautiful way to spend the afternoon! Open every day from 10am to 5pm, Abbotsbury Swannery is definitely one of the best things to do in Dorset and a perfect day out for all.

18. Kingston Maurward Gardens, Dorchester

Beautiful gardens, an animal park and free entry – what could be more perfect for a family day out! Kingston Maurward Gardens and Animal Park is a stunning setting for a day amongst nature. The gardens were created between 1915 and 1922. They are beautiful and intimate with lovely defined sections with their own features within.

When you have finished strolling leisurely through the gardens, you can visit the charming animal park. Feed the sheep, alpacas, chickens and goats. Meet the cute piglets, miniature Shetland ponies and giant rabbits. Finish with a bite to eat in the café then head back to your holiday cottage and relax!

Aquariums in Dorset

Child looking at fish in Aquarium in Dorset

19. Weymouth SEA LIFE Adventure Park

Visit the Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park and experience a fantastic adventure above and below the ocean. With over 1000 fascinating creatures to observe, an underground sea world, attractions and splash pool, the whole family will be completely entertained in this lovely traditional seaside town.

20. Oceanarium, Bournemouth

The Oceanarium is a Bournemouth aquarium, full of amazing creatures, daily animal talks and interactive creature experiences. You will always be excited at being face-to-face with a shark, no matter what age you are!

Visit the penguins, reef sharks, stingrays, little Nemo Clownfish, crocodiles and turtles. As a family, take part in the Adventure Trail and then relax with a coffee while the kids play in the Play Zone.

21. Lyme Regis Marine Aquarium

Walk down the famous harbour Cobb and pay a visit to the Lyme Regis Marine Aquarium. Get close to the local fish and marine life of the Jurassic Coast. The kids can hand feed the mullet, hold the starfish and stroke a lobster. Then wash your hands and head for fish and chips on the seafront in Lyme Regis!

If we’ve inspired you to visit one of these fabulous Dorset attractions, then be sure to check out these Dorset holiday cottages for the perfect place to stay.

Or why not check out our favourite restaurants in Dorset or rainy day activities in Dorset to make sure you have the best Dorset getaway come rain or shine!