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Dorset is an area of the UK that has numerous locations and attractions to cater each member of the family. From walks along the iconic Jurassic coast with stunning views to several museums to keep you entertained all day. In this article, we will highlight some of the places in the county to make your holiday in Dorset extra special.

Read more to find out some of the best places to visit in Dorset…

1. Jurassic Coast

Golden Cap

To start our list of places to visit in Dorset, we have the iconic Jurassic Coast.

Stretching from Exmouth in Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, the Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its dramatic cliffs, fossil-rich beaches, and scenic coastal walks.

The Jurassic Coast is approximately 95 miles long between Old Harry Rocks at Studland Bay in Dorset to Exmouth in East Devon.

The South West Coast Path runs the length of the Jurassic Coast and is the perfect trail to view all the Jurassic Coast has to offer. Why not try walking the whole route, if you feel brave enough you could walk the entire route in around 10 days! Or why not take a look at these Jurassic coast walks for some shorter options?

The Jurassic Coast is also the only place on Earth where rocks from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods can be seen in one place, representing 185 million years of Earth’s history. Make it your mission to find a fossil during your time along the coastline.

The Jurassic Coast should definitely be one of the places to see during your visit to Dorset.

2. Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove

Durdle door from Lulworth cove

Sitting as one of the most iconic landmarks along the Jurassic coast, Durdle Door attracts over 200,000 visitors each year on the walk down to the view and is one of the most photographed places in Dorset.

The natural limestone arch formed by the erosion of the waves now has its name Durdle derived from an old English word ‘thirl’, which means to pierce, bore or drill.

Durdle Door is located on the Lulworth Estate and in 2001 it was designated England’s first natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This now sees it alongside such natural wonders as the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef, making it one of the best places to visit in Dorset.

Durdle Door Beach is not recommended for wheelchair users, mobility scooters or those who have mobility problems due to the terrain. It is a 15 minute walk to the view point and then another 140+ steps down onto the beach, so walking boots or sturdy trainers are advised.

Just a short walk from Durdle Door is the picturesque horseshoe-shaped bay with crystal-clear waters of Lulworth Cove. Due to its beach and clear waters, this is an extremely popular destination to visit, especially during the summer season. There is a large car park close by but you may still have to arrive early to make sure you secure a place.

Make sure you tick both of these places off the list when visiting Dorset.

3. Weymouth

Weymouth Harbour

Another must-see in terms of places to visit in Dorset is Weymouth, this classic seaside resort town boasts a beautiful sandy beach, a picturesque harbour, and a lively esplanade lined with shops, cafes, and attractions like the Sea Life Adventure Park.

Discover over 2,000 creatures within over 15 different zones in the park, from tropical fish to harbour seals, there is a wide variety of fantastic animals to see at Weymouth’s SEA LIFE Adventure Park!

Also, check out Weymouth’s number one heritage attraction, Nothe Fort. The fort offers incredible 360-degree views across Weymouth and beyond. Take a look into the fort’s history and head your way into a vast amount of underground passages if you dare!

And of course, no visit to Weymouth would be right without a trip to Weymouth Beach, this Blue Flag-winning beach is consistently recognised as one of the top twenty beaches in Europe. This sheltered bay has a gradually sloping seabed so with this and its stunning golden sands, it’s perfect for beachgoers of all ages!

4. Lyme Regis 

lyme regis waterfront

Sitting in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty along the Jurassic CoastLyme Regis is renowned for it’s natural beauty, and it has a fascinating history stretching back to the 8th century.

Known as the ‘Pearl of Dorset’, Lyme Regis is also famous for the birthplace of Mary Anning, who was an important fossil collector and palaeontologist.

When Mary Anning found a near-complete ichthyosaur, a large marine reptile, here in 1836, Lyme Regis became famous for fossil hunting. Why not head to the Mary Anning rock statue close to Church Cliff Beach?

Walk along the marine parade, visit the Langmoor and Lister Gardens and continue along the woodland walk. Finish your trip to Lyme Regis by visiting the Royal Standard or Harbour Inn, one of our favourite places to eat in Lyme Regis.

5. West Bay

West Bay Beach

West Bay has some of the most stunning cliff scenery in the whole of the UK.

Enjoy scenic coastal walks along the South West Coast Path, which offers breathtaking views of the rugged coastline. Or why not walk along Chesil Beach and explore the rich geological history that makes this area a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Widely known as the village for the ITV series Broadchurch starring David Tennant and Olivia Coleman, the TV programme ran for 3 seasons, with a lot of this area of the coastline and the town itself being a part of the show.

There are many fantastic locations for a spot to eat and drink, from the ‘Windy Corner Café’ to ‘Rachel’s’ close to the harbour, to ‘The Station Kitchen’ and ‘Rise’ further into town.

For Fossil & TV fans, West Bay is a must-visit!

6. Poole

Poole is a bustling coastal town in Dorset, home to Europe’s largest natural harbour.

The town seamlessly blends its rich maritime heritage with modern architecture and amenities, making it a vibrant destination. Poole’s historic quayside is lined with charming pubs, eateries, and independent shops, so you have an array of things to do on your day’s adventure. Take a walk in some of the glorious parks and gardens around town and head down to the world-famous, Sandbanks Beach, to let the whole family run wild!

Attractions to look out for include the Lighthouse Arts Centre, with music performances, guest talks and film evenings. From the end of 2024, head to the redeveloped Poole Museum. The restoration aims to offer three brand new maritime galleries showcasing more of their collections, increased interactive and engaging displays and much more to help rediscover Poole’s Maritime Heritage.

Head to Splashdown just on the outskirts of Poole, Splashdown is home to 13 indoor and outdoor rides and 3 under 5’s splash zones, from The Screamer to Dragon’s Lair. Pack your swimming trunks and get ready to ride!

Poole is a fantastic location to visit in Dorset – a charming gem on the southern coast of England.

7. Bournemouth

Bournemouth Pier and Beach.

Just down the road from Poole is the town of Bournemouth.

Head down to the Bournemouth seafront with its golden sandy beaches, for a day of endless fun. Don’t forget to bring your buckets and spades! Head down to Bournemouth Pier, with a wide selection of amusements to entertain. Also visit RockReef, featuring a rock-climbing wall, ropes course, zip line & cave-themed tunnels with ball pits.

Why not time it right and get tickets to see your favourite artists in the 02 Academy in Bournemouth for what will be an unforgettable evening?

After a day exploring golden sandy beaches and admiring stunning coastal views, head to one of these mouth-watering restaurants in Bournemouth to refuel and reflect on your day in Dorset.

8. Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle Walk

Nestled in the heart of the Isle of Purbeck, Corfe Castle is a must-visit historical site in Dorset and popular National Trust Property in Dorset. This ancient ruin, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, offers a glimpse into over 1,000 years of history. As you explore the castle’s impressive remains, you can imagine the battles and sieges that took place here.

Perched on a hill, Corfe Castle provides stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The village of Corfe itself is equally charming, with its stone cottages, quaint tearooms, and cosy pubs. Don’t miss the chance to ride the Swanage Railway, a heritage steam train that runs between Corfe Castle and Swanage, providing a unique way to see the beautiful landscape.

The National Trust manages Corfe Castle, offering engaging historical exhibits and activities for children. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or just looking for a picturesque outing, Corfe Castle is an unforgettable destination in Dorset.

9. Shaftesbury

Gold Hill;

Shaftesbury, one of the oldest and highest towns in England, is another jewel in Dorset’s crown. Known for its steep cobbled streets and historic buildings, Shaftesbury offers a charming blend of history and natural beauty. The town’s most famous landmark is Gold Hill, often called “one of the most romantic sights in England.” This steep, cobbled street provides stunning views over the Blackmore Vale and was famously featured in a classic Hovis bread advertisement.

The town is home to Shaftesbury Abbey, founded by King Alfred in 888 AD. Although now in ruins, the site includes a fascinating museum and peaceful gardens, perfect for a leisurely stroll. Another highlight is the Shaftesbury Arts Centre, which hosts a variety of performances and exhibitions, adding to the town’s cultural appeal.

Shaftesbury’s vibrant high street is lined with independent shops, cafes, and markets, making it an excellent place for a relaxed afternoon of shopping and dining. With its rich history, stunning views, and welcoming atmosphere, Shaftesbury is a must-visit location in Dorset.

10. Brownsea Island

Brownsea Island red squirrel

Situated in Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island is a unique and tranquil haven, perfect for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Managed by the National Trust, this island is renowned for its diverse wildlife, including the rare red squirrel and various bird species. Visitors can enjoy peaceful walks through woodland, heathland, and along the scenic shores.

Brownsea Island is also steeped in history. It was the site of the first experimental camp of the Boy Scouts in 1907, led by Robert Baden-Powell, marking the beginning of the worldwide Scouting movement. The island’s visitor centre provides fascinating insights into this history and more.

Accessible by ferry from Poole Quay or Sandbanks, a trip to Brownsea Island offers a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. With its breathtaking views, rich biodiversity, and historical significance, Brownsea Island is a must-visit destination in Dorset.

11. Kingston Lacy

Views of Kingston Lacy manor house

Kingston Lacy, a lavish country mansion set in extensive parkland, is one of Dorset’s premier heritage attractions. Managed by the National Trust, this stunning estate showcases the opulence and artistry of the Victorian era. Inside, you’ll find an impressive collection of fine art, including works by Rubens, Van Dyck, and Titian, along with beautiful furniture and ornate ceilings.

The grounds of Kingston Lacy are equally impressive, featuring formal gardens, a Japanese garden, an ancient Egyptian obelisk, and lush woodlands. There’s also a restored kitchen garden and Victorian fernery, making it a delightful place for a leisurely stroll.

Throughout the year, Kingston Lacy hosts a variety of events, from garden tours to seasonal celebrations. Whether you’re exploring the lavish interiors or wandering through the picturesque grounds, Kingston Lacy offers a splendid day out in Dorset.

Are you ready to explore Dorset? Book one of these large cottages in Dorset for the whole family to enjoy or view the full collection of Dorset cottages and start your adventure today.