Last Updated on October 31, 2022
Dorset County in Southwest England stretches along the English Channel west of Isle of Wight. Unique to Dorset is its Jurassic Coast where cliffs expose millions of years of geological history to the naked eye and exemplary fossil specimens are hunted by researchers.
When the light is just right in summer, the sandy beaches in Dorset County recall the Mediterranean, not the Channel.
Dorset remains largely rural with barley farms and dairies covering much of the inland area.
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Things to do in Dorset
Sure, Dorset has the standard lineup of castles, gardens and walking paths you’d expect most everywhere in England, but here you can also visit the Monkey World ape rescue centre, a 65-acre park housing rescued and endangered apes, along with the Tank Museum, displaying the world’s finest collection of armoured vehicles.
Adventure seekers will enjoy sailing aboard the Tallship Moonfleet.
Top Destinations Around Dorset
Bournemouth – The largest city in Dorset, this has been a popular tourist destination since the late 1800s. Why? It’s beaches consistently rank among the best in the world.
Bournemouth also hosts an annual Oktoberfest!
Christchurch – Birdwatchers will enjoy scanning the estuary at Christchurch Harbour while families will enjoy Christchurch Quay which has a splashpark, children’s play area, concerts in summer and boats for hire.
A combo tram, punt and gondola tour around town will introduce you to areas for further exploration.
Poole – Take to the water with a Poole Harbor and Islands cruise; relaxing while taking in new perspectives on Jurassic Coast.
Weymouth – King George III was a frequent visitor to Weymouth in the 1700s and it’s easy to understand why. The Georgian seafront takes its inspiration from him.
When the weather isn’t cooperating, visit Sea Life Weymouth for a look at otters, rescued sea turtles and the world’s smallest penguins.
Swanage – Walking to the end of Swanage Pier, a Victorian era icon, is a must for anyone visiting. The adjacent beach is just as highly recommended. So too is a ride on the historic steam powered Swanage Railway which offers stunning views of William the Conqueror’s Corfe Castle.
Lyme Regis – Situated on the World Heritage Jurassic Coast, and known as “The Pearl of Dorset,” Lyme Regis was founded more than 1,200 years ago by monks from Sherborne. There are many trails and bridleways here to explore, and guided fossil tours are popular.
Burton Bradstock – This pretty village along the Jurassic Coast is known for its iconic sandstone cliffs. A break in the cliffs reveals the National Trust owned Hive Beach with stunning views east and west along the Jurassic Coastline.
Where to Stay in Dorset
Jurassic View (West Bay)
Jurassic View is located in Pier Terrace, a listed building in the historic harbour of West Bay. A short stroll from the beach, you'll have great sea views from every window of this top-floor apartment. It's an easy walk to local shops, pubs and restaurants.
The Willows (Weymouth)
Situated on a working farm, The Willows is a recently renovated cottage for those seeking a quiet break. Chesil Beach is a quick walk away. Surrounded by open fields you can easily get to the Coastal Footpath. The village of Langton Herring is also walking distance with a pub.
Converted from an ancient cart shed/log barn and mid-century milking parlour, Hoods has been beautifully restored to be bright and contemporary. You'll enjoy expansive views across the Marshwood Vale and Colmer's Hill from a large decked terrace with a chance to see lots of wildlife. Pets allowed (up to 2 well-behaved dogs).
Holiday Home (Chideock)
Located in Chideock between Bridport and West Bay to the east and Lyme Regis to the west, this home is a great location from which to explore west Dorset. You'll have a large lawned garden with a patio to enjoy and can take footpaths to Seatown. Pets allowed (2 small/medium-size dogs).
Seaside Home (Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock)
This spacious seaside house is just steps from Hive Beach and its stunning views of the Jurassic Coastline. Enjoy the balcony views and large living spaces. You can walk both to the beach or the village from teh house for shops, pubs and coffee.
Mimosa Cottage (Studland, Nr. Swanage)
Looking for a peaceful stay? This quiet unspoilt village partially owned by the National Trust is an ideal mix of safe bathing beaches and beautiful countryside. You're within the Purbeck Heritage Coast at the gateway to the Jurassic Coastline. Purbeck Golf Course neraby offers stunning views over Poole Harbour while you play a round.
Water Garden House (Silverlake/ Dorchester)
This luxury home has everything you need for a first-class retreat. There's a heated infinity pool, private spa, roof bar, private beach, tennis, table tennis and more. You'll enjoy the open living, well-equipped kitchen and master bedroom with stunning views over Beaumonth Lake.
River House (Lyme Regis)
Full of character, this quirky house has many unique features. Large living area has exposed 200+ year old Blue Lias stonework and wood beams. Enjoy the covered outside kitchen with a wood-fired pizza oven and cooking herbs growing in the garden. A short three-minute level walk to the beach and shops. You can even bring your pet with you!