For a great British getaway, look no further than Dorset. A county in southwest England where the cliffs contain many fossils promises breath-taking views and a holiday on a truly monumental scale. What’s more, postcard-perfect scenery of Dorset is also a walker’s paradise. Whether you fancy a romantic coastal escape, or you would like to reveal some geographic marvels, Dorset is a haven for those looking to satisfy their need to explore. You’ll find no shortage of amazing things to do in Dorset with views to die for. Therefore, we take you on a journey and show you the best attractions in Dorset.
Things to do in Dorset
Take a look at some of the best things to do in Dorset.
1. Durdle Door
If there’s one thing that Dorset is best known for, it’s Durdle Door. This iconic rock archway over the sea is a geographical wonder and also one of Dorset’s best-loved attractions. The natural limestone arch, created by erosion million years ago, is a part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. In fact, a world-famous Durdle Door is one of the most beautiful things to see in Dorset. With such jaw-dropping views, you will never want to leave this place!
Durdle Door is an extremely popular beauty spot but is well worth your visit. South West Coast Path at Durdle Door offers incredible views of the Jurassic Coast. After exploring the area, walk down the steps, and dip your toes in the crystal clear waters. Access to the pebble beach via a path is steep, hence wear comfortable shoes.
2. Man O’ War
Another place that you can’t miss on your Dorset’s itinerary is Man O’ War bay. This famous beach of fine pebbles and sand is hard to miss when visiting nearby Durdle Door. The natural Man O’ War bay with the line of rocks is a part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage site. If you are looking for some water activities, O’ War with crystal clear waters is an excellent place for swimming, snorkelling and paddling.
3. Lulworth Cove
Just east of the nearby Durdle Door be sure to explore Lulworth Cove. A perfectly circular bay, surrounded by white cliffs, is one of the finest natural coves in the world. Walk along the pebbly beach and explore the Jurassic Coast. Not only it’s a World Heritage site, but it is also the area where you can find some fossils. Moreover, Lulworth Cove offers many scenic walks and is an excellent day out in Dorset for families, geographers, and photographers. For these reasons, a visit to Lulworth Cove is one of the most popular things to do in Dorset.
4. The Fossil Forest
There is nowhere like in the east of Lulworth Cove on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. Perhaps nowhere in the world, you will find the ancient Fossil Forrest from Jurassic times. The dramatic Fossil Forest offers not only an excellent photo opportunity but is also an educational experience. Although you won’t see any actual trees here, round holes of prehistoric forest are still visible. The Fossil Forest is a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site and is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Dorset. Walk around the area and look for preserved fossils of round holes where trees grew 135 million years ago.
Explore the remains of a Jurassic jungle from the period when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Fossil Forest is within Lulworth Firing Ranges and, therefore, you can visit it only in certain days. Hence, plan your visit accordingly.
5. Lulworth village
If you’ve ever wanted to visit a beautiful English village, you should also find some time to stop at West Lulworth. Stroll down the road and get a glimpse of the romantic countryside. A short walk will bring you to one of the oldest pubs in Dorset, where you can stop for a pint, or two. This lovely village, located only about half a mile from the cove, is a popular stop for visitors. A trip to picturesque Lulworth village is a must for all visitors in Dorset. Its close proximity to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door only adds to its appeal.
6. Old Harry Rocks
While Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are more frequently visited by tourists, a trip to the Old Harry Rocks is also a marvellous experience. Unique chalk formation, located on the Isle of Purbeck, is more than just a tourist attraction though. Old Harry Rocks formed millions of years ago and are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most eastern point of the Jurassic Coast offers stunning vistas, and therefore, a visit to Old Harry Rocks is one of the best things to do in Dorset.
This famous rock formation was once a part of a long stretch of chalk between the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Purbeck. A popular circular walk open all year round is well worth visiting no matter the season. Old Harry rocks are may be busier during the summer, but despite this, it is still one of the most beautiful attractions in Dorset.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Old Harry Rocks are constantly eroding, hence be careful when visiting, especially after the rain.
7. Agglestone Rock
If you’re looking to get well off-the-beaten-track in Dorset, there are few places more remote than Agglestone Rock. This massive rock formation perched on a hill and surrounded by unspoiled landscape is, undoubtedly, a natural marvel. Some say that the devil threw the rock from the Isle of Wight. The others say it’s the devils bowling ball to knock down Old Harry’s skittles. When watching this impressive rock, it’s excellent fun to speculate. Besides, it’s clear why a visit to Agglestone Rock is one of the best things to do Dorset if you love unique places.
Follow the path to Agglestone Rock and look out for dragonflies and damselflies. A moderately challenging walk with a few slopes offers beautiful views of the coast. What’s more, the area also welcomes herds of deer, which makes it perfect for anyone with dreams of spotting wild animals. Agglestone Rock formation also happens to be an ideal place for the local rock-climbing enthusiasts.
More active explorers planning to explore the area more can take a scenic walk to Old Harry Rocks.
8. Corfe Castle in Dorset
Of course, no trip to Dorset is complete without a visit to Corfe Castle. This thousand-years-old ruined castle, built by William the Conqueror, dates back to the 11th century. Explore the ruins at your own pace, and find out what life might have been like on the castle. Discover the secrets of these spectacular medieval ruins built on a steep hill and learn more about its history. With many events for families throughout the year, Corfe Castle is, without doubt, one of the best attractions in Dorset.
Corfe Castle, one of Dorset’s most famous landmarks, is also one of Britain’s most iconic survivors of the English Civil War. Moreover, Corfe Castle is thought to be one of the first castles built in England.
GOOD TO KNOW:
- The Corfe Castle is open to the public, however, due to the COVID you need to pre-book your tickets in advance.
- For another view of the Dorset’s renowned ruins, explore the nearby mountains. You will be rewarded with a beautiful view of Corfe Castle in its glory from above.
9. Blue Pool in Dorset
There are so many reasons to visit Dorset, and the Blue Pool is one of them. So what is it about the Blue Pool what makes it so special? Firstly, this colour changing lake beautiful and peaceful. Sometimes is green, and occasionally turquoise, or blue – it constantly varies in colour. Secondly, it’s a home to Britain’s endangered and protected reptiles. Yes, that’s right, the green sand lizard and the smooth snake, like to hang around here.
A visit to the colour-changing Blue Pool is an excellent day out in Dorset if you are looking for a peaceful place and tranquillity. This extraordinary lake, a former clay pit, is a unique attraction in the heart of the Isle of Purbeck. Follow several sandy paths in peaceful woodland and enjoy a tranquil walk around the lake. The walkways blend beautifully into the natural surroundings. Sit and rest in one of many benches around the pool and enjoy beautiful views of the lake. Besides, the Blue Pool is child-friendly and is an excellent place for a picnic.
A visit to the Blue Pool, located just a short distance from Corfe Castle, is one of the best things to do in Dorset. Now a popular tourist attraction in Purbeck Hills deserves your attention when exploring this part of the country.
After a long day hiking around the Jurassic coast, why not to spend a day relaxing on the beach in Weymouth? This lovely seaside town in Dorset regularly tops polls of the most beautiful beach destinations. Spend a day or two here, and it soon becomes obvious why. With its fine sandy shore, shallow waters and colourful beach huts it’s no doubt that Weymouth is an excellent choice for a staycation in Britain. Once here, make sure you check out the enchanting historic harbour backed by Georgian houses. Grab your towel, enjoy the fresh sea air and join the waves. Alternatively, rent a deckchair or pedalo and watch the yachts in the distance.
Don`t forget to visit Weymouth`s harbour. Colourful Georgian houses in the harbour are, perhaps Weymouth`s most iconic sight.
11. Isle of Portland in Dorset
You won’t want to leave Weymouth in Dorset without visiting the Isle of Portland. This dramatic island with rugged cliffs and hidden coves is wild and beautiful. Its quaint villages, museums, the rare wildlife, and coastal scenery are what make the Isle of Portland an excellent day out in Dorset. Climb the Portland Bill Lighthouse, located at Portland’s southeasternmost tip of the island, for the magnificent views. Not only the lighthouse is very photogenic, but also is an important landmark for ships passing. Moreover, Isle of Portland in a central part of the Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site – the island is joined to the mainland by unique Chesil Beach. Therefore, a visit to Bill Lighthouse is, without doubt, one of the best things to do in Portland in Dorset.
For everyone enjoying walking, follow the South West Coastal Path around the island. The coastal path is 13 miles long, but it doesn’t mean that you need to do all of it. The limestone is another big attraction for adventurous souls who love to try their hands to climb rocks.
12. Chesil Beach in Dorset
Walk on Chesil beach in Dorset should be on the bucket list of anyone excited about geography. Chesil beach is one of Dorset’s most iconic attractions and is a part of the Jurassic Coast. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most unusual beaches in Britain. This 28 km (18 miles) long undeveloped beach with more than 180 million pebbles is perhaps the finest barrier beach in the world. The Chesil connecting the island of Portland with the mainland at Abbotsbury separates the sea from the shallow Fleet Lagoon. Both the saline lagoon and the beach are important areas for wildlife. Your experience can go beyond just seeing it from a distance, though. Whether you walk it, or you just relax here, you will certainly fall in love with this unusual landscape. The Chesil is also an excellent place to watch the sun go down.
Those who would like to appreciate the beauty of Chesil beach in all of its glory should view it from a viewpoint at Portland Heights on the Isle of Portland.
13. Abbotsbury village
While the crowds concentrate around Dorset’s Jurassic coast, Abbotsbury located just 1 mile from the coast is often overlooked. However, it shouldn’t be. A charming village, with picture-perfect buildings, is not only steep in history but also is surrounded by beautiful scenery. What’s more, Abbotsbury is home to some of Dorset’s unique attractions. After exploring Abbotsbury’s streets, make sure you check out Sub-Tropical Gardens with rare plants and the Swannery.
14. Abbotsbury Swannery
If you would like to see a different side of Dorset, make sure you visit Abbotsbury Swannery. This popular tourist attraction, situated at the western end of the Fleet Nature Reserve, is where swans nested for hundreds of years. Around 1000 years ago, Benedictine monks farmed the swans to provide meat. Today, swans are no longer a source of food. Abbotsbury Swannery is the world’s only managed colony of nesting mute swans. The area was transformed into a beautiful sanctuary which conserves the swans and the other wildlife.
Get lost in the giant maze, learn more about swans and walk through the heart of a colony of nesting Mute Swans. If you are looking for an unusual day out in Dorset, visit Abbotsbury Swannery at 12.00 noon or at 4 pm and help to feed Britain’s heaviest flying birds. With its picturesque surroundings, Abbotsbury Swannery is, without doubt, one of the best things to see in Dorset, if you are a family or nature lover.
15. St. Catherine’s Chapel
After exploring the Abbotsbury Swannery, you’ll want to explore what else this picturesque area has to offer. One such a place to see is St. Catherine’s Chapel, situated on a hill above Abbotsbury village. This small chapel, dating back to the late 14th century, has been built by monks for pilgrims to Abbotsbury Abbey. Make your way up to St. Catherine’s chapel which is set on the hill, overlooking the coast and Chesil beach. A visit to St Catherine’s Chapel is undoubtedly a unique thing to do in Dorset.
16. Fossil hunting in Dorset
One of the beauties of Dorset is fossils – the remains animals and creatures that were alive millions of years ago. Although the Jurassic Coast is packed with the traces of prehistoric life, they are not always easy to find. For starters, always check the tides – the falling tide is what you are looking for. You can find some fossils with a little patience, but it’s mostly about luck.
Stroll along a beach and start your fossil hunt – it’s an exciting activity for kids and adults. Many fossils lie exposed amongst the beach pebbles, while others are deeper in the ground. The whole Jurassic coast is famous for fossils and, therefore, you can find them almost everywhere. However, the most famous fossil-hunting spots in Dorset are between Lyme Regis and Charmouth Beach.
17. Gold Hill in Shaftesbury
Once you’ve explored the south coast, make your way to beautiful Shaftesbury. This idyllic town looks like something out of fairy-tale and nowhere is this more apparent than at Gold Hill. Walk one of Dorset’s most picturesque streets and enjoy panoramic views of the Saxon market town. A cobbled street lined with chocolate-box cottages is very steep, but that is its charm. Gold Hill, with a taste of fame, is undoubtedly one of the prettiest sights in England. Therefore, Shaftesbury is a must for everyone visiting North Dorset.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The town is quite small, so getting around on foot is easy.
18. Maiden Castle in Dorset
Maiden Castle is also the perfect place for a day out in Dorset. Dorset may be home to several hill forts, but this one is unique. An oval-shaped hill fort is the largest hill fort in Britain and also one of the most complex Iron Age hillforts in Europe. What’s more, this massive area with the size of 50 football pitches was first occupied around 3000 years BC. Today, this fortified hill-top offers beautiful views of the landscape. Explore the place rich in history and walk this stunning hillfort with ramparts and ditches.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Maiden Castle has plenty of free parking spaces.
19. Cerne Abbas Giant, Dorset
Take a walk on the Cerne Abbas Giant and enjoy beautiful views of the Dorset Downs. The origin of a 60 m high naked male figure, carved into a chalk hillside, is mysterious, though. Some say it’s an ancient fertility symbol, while the others believe it may have been cut in the Medieval times. Either way, it’s a great way to spend a day out in Dorset if you like walking in the countryside.
Other things to do in Dorset
- visit tranquil Brownsea Island for hiking and wildlife
- explore Europe`s largest natural harbour in Poole
- Kimmeridge Bay for fossil hunting
- Swanage railway for a steam-train ride on the Purbeck line
- visit Lyme Regis – a historic seaside famous for fossil hunting
- Golden Gap for Dorset walks
- the Tank Museum for the world`s best collection of tanks
Things to do in Dorset in the rain:
- Sealife in Weymouth
- Russel Cotes Art Gallery and Museum
- Oceanarium in Bournemouth to explore marine ecosystems
- Dinosaurland Fossil Museum for local Jurassic marine fossil displays in Lyme Regis
- Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre to learn more about fossils, fossils hunting and marine wildlife
Have you been to Dorset in England? What was your favourite thing to do there? Let us know in the comments below 🙂
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