Great Beaches And Coastline To Explore In Dorset

Boy enjoying great beaches and coastline in Dorset
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Dorset has so many beautiful beaches spread along its coastline - including stretches of stunning golden sand or shingle, famous rock formations and impressive clifftops.

The county is largely known for its 'Jurassic Coast' - a long stretch on the English Channel where the cliffs contain many fossils that show millions of years of geological history. Two of the most famous and prominent natural landmarks are Durdle Door - an ancient stone arch, and the layered cliffs at nearby Lulworth Cove.

Many of us have been itching to get to the beach since lockdown began, and now since the government have loosened some sanctions - you may just be able to do so this summer. So, if you're looking to get out and about with the family soon, you should definitely check out one of these suggestions below.

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Burton Bradstock

This spectacular coastline with cliffs and miles of unspoilt beaches is owned by the National Trust and also happens to be one of the main gateways to the Jurassic Coast and the South West Coast Path. The estate offers spectacular cliff-top views along the many varied and picturesque coastal walks. Below the cliffs, are Hive Beach (shingle) and Bridport Sands (sandy) beaches, perfect for a day of exploring both terrains and seeing beautiful views from the clifftops.

Where? Spreads along the coast of Bridport, Dorset

Nearest train station? Weymouth, which can be accessed by London in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Amenities, facilities and information: There are baby-changing and feeding facilities that are currently closed. There are also accessible paths to both beaches and disabled parking spaces. The disabled and all other toilets are currently closed. Only guide dogs are allowed on the beaches.

Burton Bradstock
Image © Neil Barnes

Golden Cap

This is a must-see coastline as it's England's only natural World Heritage Site! The great rocky shoulder of Golden Cap offers amazing views from every angle. On a clear day, you can see across Lyme Bay to Dartmoor - if you and the kids are willing to walk up the hill! Also, they have an all-ability circular trail that takes you through the woodlands that are rich in wildlife and home to large numbers of blue butterflies in summer.

Where? Golden Cap Estate, Morcombelake, Bridport, Dorset

Nearest train station? Axminster, which can be accessed by London in 2 hours and 39 minutes.

Amenities, facilities and information: There are a further 25 miles of footpaths to explore inland through historic meadows and woodland and sea-kayaking is also popular along the Dorset coast. The small shop and information point at Stonebarrow shop is closed until further notice. The toilets next to the shop at Stonebarrow Hill are also closed until further notice. When open, there is a circular walks pack available to buy at Stonebarrow shop. Parking in the area is still open and ranges in price. Generally not suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs due to the undulating terrain, apart from Langdon Hill where there is a 1-mile circular path with a wide, level and compacted surface. Dogs are not allowed on the beaches in summer.

Golden Cap
Image © National Trust

Ringstead Bay

This is a not-so-busy tourist attract that features a small unspoilt beach, some farmland and cliffs on the Jurassic Coast. A calmer stretch of the coastline, it's a great area for families, especially if your kids are interested in dinosaurs; why not explore one of the ancient tracks? Plus the clear water is great for splashing about in.

Where? Ringstead, near Weymouth, Dorset, DT2 8NQ

Nearest train station? Weymouth, which can be accessed by London in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Amenities, facilities and information: Their car park is currently open, meaning that you can visit the open space. However please follow social distancing measures. Due to it being much quieter, dogs are also welcome on leads. There are a few information points. There is limited wheelchair and pushchair access due to the steep coastline.

Ringstead Bay
Image © John Miller

Bournemouth Beach

Bournemouth’s main beach has been catering for beach-goers since Victorian times and still remains one of Britain’s favourite beaches, which you may have realised from its mentions in the news recently. It is easy to see the attraction - stretches of golden sands set on the doorstep of a vibrant coastal resort town. In the summer Bournemouth beach often gets very busy, so please remember to follow the Bournemouth Official Tourism Website's advice, "Too Busy? Head Home". Or, find one of the quieter alternatives that this seven-mile stretch of sand has to offer if you can, such as Westbourne or Southbourne. Once the nation starts to open up again, Bournemouth will once again be hosting its vast array of tourist attractions and amenities.

Where? Bournemouth seafront.

Nearest train station? Bournemouth, which is accessible by London in 2 hours and 26 minutes.

Amenities, facilities and information: The sandy beach offers a lifeguard on the and currently and dogs are not allowed on the sand - although there is a path running along the beach for quite some distance. There are lots of disabled access points, and the area is relatively flat. You can also hire a beach hut on this beach for the day, in order to get your much-needed shade. Once lockdown sanctions loosen, there will once again be plenty of facilities such as toilets, disabled toilets and baby changing.

Studland Bay

This beach in Dorset features a huge area of sandy beach, next to heathland. It forms part of the stunning natural coastline in Purbeck featuring a four-mile stretch of golden, sandy beach, with shallow bathing waters and views of the Isle of Wight. If you're a fan of water sports, Studland Bay is a great place to visit, though it is home to the most popular naturist beach in Britain, with 1km set out for it, so you might want to have a talk with your kids before you go. It is marked very clearly, however, so don't let it put you off. Behind the beach lies heathland which is full of British wildlife, including all six of our native reptiles. There are a number of manmade trails through the sand dunes and woodlands allow for exploration and spotting of deer, insects and birdlife. Also, did you know that Studland was the inspiration for Toytown in Enid Blyton's 'Noddy'?

Where? Studland, near Swanage, Dorset

Nearest train station? Branksome, which is accessed by London in 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Amenities, facilities and information: Dogs are permitted here on short leads. There are toilets at Knoll Beach and Shell Bay that will open from 20 May, and at Middle Beach from 22 May. There are also disabled toilets and baby changing facilities that are currently closed. As Studland village is a small residential area, please be respectful of the residents of if you are visiting. There is plenty of parking available in the area at a small cost, as well as ample disabled parking.

Studland Bay
Image © National Trust

Brownsea Island

Famous for red squirrels and other wildlife, Brownsea Island is located just across from Poole Harbour, with spectacular views across to the Purbeck Hills. The Visitor Centre on the coast offers free family trails to help you explore the island and have insight into characters that have shaped the island into what it is today. Although the coastline on Brownsea Island is quite spectacular, visiting the rest of the island will give you a perfect day of adventure as it's full of wildlife who've created their own world here!

Where? Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, BH13 7EE

Nearest train station? Sandbanks Jetty, where you will then also get a ferry.

Amenities, facilities and information: The ferry operators can be found in kiosks at Poole Quay and Sandbanks Jetty. Once there, all toilets (including disabled and baby changing) can be located at the Visitor Reception, the Visitor Centre and at the Outdoor Centre. Although most commercial places are currently closed, usually there is food available in the Villano Cafe and touristy gifts from their Brownsea Island shop. Dogs are not permitted to visit the island, only assistance dogs - who must be clearly identifiable. Also, due to high fire risk at the moment, no barbeques are allowed on the island. Cycling is not currently permitted on the island during summer.

Brownsea Island
Image © Chris Lacey

Sandbanks Beach

The golden sand of Sandbanks Beach runs from Poole Harbour to Bournemouth, which is a distance of around 5km. Often thought of as Britain’s Palm Beach, because of the astronomical house prices, Sandbanks hosts a wide range of upmarket hotels and restaurants (that are currently closed). The Sandbanks Chain Ferry also connects Sandbanks with Studland, which is always a fun thing to do with kids. However, what is open currently is the huge, open, sandy beach, which is perfect to visit this summer, whilst social distancing measures are in place.

Where? Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset, BH13 7EE

Nearest train station? Sandbanks Jetty, where you will then also get a ferry.

Amenities, facilities and information: There is a lifeguard on the beach currently and dogs are restricted in the area. There are lots of disabled access points, and the area is relatively flat. There are usually a number of seaside entertainment areas open, such as mini-golf, but these are currently closed. The water quality also has a 5-star rating here - which is a big bonus for those wanting to swim!

Annabelle Beaumont
Passionate about recycling

Originally from Bournemouth, Annabelle spent her childhood travelling and exploring. She moved to Bahrain at the age of 13 and then to London at 19 where she attended Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. She loves all things creative - especially if they involve recycling materials, as this is what she is most passionate about. Aside from art, Annabelle also enjoys walking her dogs and cooking for friends and family.