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Things to do in Swanage

An idyllic seaside town, situated on the Isle of Purbeck, Swanage makes for the perfect coastal getaway.

With an array of things to do in Swanage, the Isle of Purbeck and beyond, there’s plenty to keep your whole family entertained. From kayaking amongst towering limestone cliffs to relaxing on a golden sandy beach, Swanage proudly showcases the very best of Dorset.

Here are our favourite things to do in Swanage …

Swanage Attractions

1. Swanage Beach

Arial shot of Swanage Beach

The crowning glory of Swanage is its unspoiled beach – consistently awarded the Blue Flag and Seaside Award for its quality of water, beach cleanliness and access to some fantastic facilities. One of our favourite dog-friendly beaches in Dorset (dogs are welcome off their lead between the months of 1st October – 30th April), Swanage Beach is lined with colourful huts available to hire and provides the perfect day out for the whole family.

2. Swanage Railway

Swanage Railway

The Swanage Railway offers a nostalgic way to see this beautiful area. The six-mile journey takes you through some wonderful scenery, including the historic ruins of Corfe Castle – a must-see for anyone visiting The Isle of Purbeck. If you’re looking for that extra special experience, you can book onto a dining train or attend one of their special events, such as a railway photography day.

3. Swanage Pier

Swanage Pier

Admire picture-perfect views of the Jurassic Coast from the end of Swanage Pier, a delightful Victorian pier built in 1895. On clear days you can even see all the way to the Isle of Wight! Not only is it perfect for relaxing and taking in the surrounding breath-taking scenes of the Jurassic Coast, but the far end of the pier is also a popular spot for both fishing and crabbing.

4. Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre

The front of Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre

Take a step back in time and discover the interesting history of Swanage. The Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre reflects on the importance of the Victorian stone trade in the town’s history. Sitting along the charming seafront, the museum welcomes people of all ages, with an array of interesting displays and exhibitions to entertain the whole family.

Outdoor Activities in Swanage

5. Walking along the Jurassic Coast

Two people walking hand in hand along the Jurassic Coast

As a gateway to the Jurassic Coast, Swanage is the ideal base to explore the dramatic coast of the Isle of Purbeck peninsula. Marvel at the magnificent views as you walk along the Jurassic Coast to Old Harry Rocks or head along the South West Coast Path to Durlston Castle. Both options provide unrivalled views of impressive white cliffs and miles of crystal clear waters.

6. Watersports in Swanage

Man kayaking by rock formations near Lulworth Cove

Swanage Bay is popular with water-sport enthusiasts from near and far. Hire a kayak and spend the morning exploring the bay and surrounding cliffs, keeping your eye out for a friendly dolphin or two. Or why not learn the art of water skiing or wakeboarding, the perfect activity for you and your friends to enjoy! For those looking for a more relaxing experience, let someone else put in the effort as you experience a sightseeing trip to Old Harry Rocks.

Things to do near Swanage

7. Old Harry Rocks

Arial view of Old Harry Rocks and the white cliffs of the Jurassic Coast

A spectacular cliff formation, Old Harry Rocks are an iconic landmark along the Jurassic Coast, located just a few miles north of Swanage. The name ‘Old Harry’ actually refers to the single stack of chalk standing furthest out to sea. Until 1896, Old Harry’s Wife stood proudly next to Old Harry, before erosion caused her to tumble into the sea. Enjoy a coastal walk from Swanage to Old Harry Rocks or hire a kayak and join a guided tour to get a closer look at one of Dorset’s most popular attractions.

8. Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle and the Purbeck Hills

As one of Britain’s most iconic survivors of the English Civil War, Corfe Castle is a favourite amongst adults and children alike. Enjoy breathtaking views across Purbeck as you explore the romantic castle ruins and discover 1000 years of history. Corfe Castle is one of Dorset’s most loved National Trust properties, dramatically rising above the village of Corfe Castle itself.

9. Studland Bay

White sandy beach at Studland Bay

Miles of golden sand line the sheltered waters of Studland Bay. With four miles of pretty beaches, Studland Bay is the perfect location for a day of beach games, building sandcastles or simply sitting back and soaking up the views. After a morning paddling around the bay, enjoy a spot of lunch at Pig on the Beach, with uninterrupted views of Dorset’s sandy coastlines.

10 Durlston Country Park

Coastal path leading along the edge of Durlston Country Park

Situated just one mile outside of Swanage, Durlston Country Park is a wonderful nature reserve, offering 320 acres of charming countryside paradise. Experience dramatic sea cliffs, enchanting woodlands and breathtaking wildflower meadows.

11. Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove

The rock formation of Durdle Door

Head along the Jurassic Coast and you’ll be greeted by the wonders of Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. Durdle Door is one of Dorset’s most photographed locations and it’s not hard to see why! A spectacular stone arch, created around 10,000 years ago when the sea pierced through the Portland limestone. A little further along the South West Coast Path, you’ll find Lulworth Cove, home to crystal clear waters and world-famous geology. A visit to the Isle of Purbeck wouldn’t be complete without a glimpse at these two natural delights of Dorset.

Places to eat in Swanage

View of swanage houses and swanage bay

12. Enjoy Stunning Views from The Coast Restaurant

With views across Swanage Bay, The Coast Restaurant offers a fine-dining experience, using fresh, local produce. In addition to their restaurant, Al Fresco dining can be enjoyed in the hotel gardens, overlooking the bay.

13. Grab a Bite to Eat at The 1859 Pier Cafe & Bistro

The 1859 Pier Cafe and Bistro, located on Swanage Pier, is open every day serving snacks, drinks and hot food. Enjoy a coffee and cake, whilst soaking up the views of the Jurassic Coast.

14. Soak Up the Atmosphere at The Cabin

Overlooking Swanage Bay, The Cabin is a three-tiered Beach Cafe and Bar. With tables along the promenade, The Cabin offers stunning views and a quiet beachfront location.

We hope our list of things to do in Swanage inspires you to visit this delightful location. Why not make a holiday out of it and enjoy a stay in one of these charming Swanage holiday cottages or check out these 7 wonderful activities on the Isle of Portland for some other local attractions.

Image Credits: Phil Champion (CC BY-SA 2.0), Sarah Charlesworth (CC BY-SA 2.0), Jim Champion (CC BY-SA 2.0)