Enjoy everything the South Coast of England has to offer with a trip to the shoreline towns of Dorset. Nothing beats rising in the morning to the sight of the English Channel and the feeling of sand beneath your feet. From exploring the natural beauty of local gardens and parks to taking a trip back in time along the Jurassic Coast, visit Dorset for a holiday the whole family can enjoy.
Dorset is the home of action, adventure, and education with its range of activities and attractions. Be sure to pack not only your walking boots, but also your swimming gear, as the sandy beaches are not to be missed. There’s so much to enjoy, you might not know where to start! Luckily, we’ve put together a list of places to visit and things to see, to ensure you make the most out of your time away.
Places to Visit
Home to over 2,000 acres of beautiful parks and gardens, visitors can see rockeries, art exhibitions, and all the tropical plant life on offer with a stroll through Bournemouth town centre and along the River Bourne. You can also enjoy the sites from two wheels, with cycle hire available throughout the town, ready to take you down to the beach promenade. Take to the water for a variety of sports, including paddle-boarding, kayaking, and sailing, or take in the whole town at once, with a trip in the Bournemouth Balloon! Stonehenge and the New Forest are just a quick trip away too, making Bournemouth the perfect place for your adventure to begin.
Nowhere in Dorset provides a picturesque English setting better than Sherborne. An ancient market town that is still home to a wealth of independent shops and food stalls, the true beauty of Sherborne is found in its magnificent buildings. Delve into history with both Sherborne Castle and Old Castle, neighbouring sites that will take you back to the 12th century. The Old Castle is a beautiful ruin, with remnants of its gatehouse and towers providing the perfect backdrop for local wildlife and blooming flora. Close by is Sherborne Castle, built in 1594, it hosts art collections from throughout history and is surrounded by 42 acres of beautiful gardens to explore.
Poole and Brownsea Island
Come and see why Poole is part of the ‘Coast with the Most’, by relaxing on its sandy beaches or grabbing a bite to eat along the quay. While the town itself has wonderful parks to enjoy, we recommend hopping aboard one of the famous yellow boats to take you across Poole Harbour to Brownsea Island, owned by the National Trust. With luxury bars and buffets, the boats themselves are cause for celebration! Brownsea Island itself is filled with breath-taking views, daffodil fields, and woodland trails with gorgeous chestnut trees. There’s always something new to find, with regular nature walks and activity days, so you and your family can enjoy archery, scavenger hunts, and even squirrel spotting all around the island. This is truly a place for those with the spirit of adventure in their hearts.
Journey to the south of Dorset to find the seaside town of Weymouth - the site of Olympic sailing for the London 2012 Games. Relax with a day by the sea or take in the city lights with a coastal stroll at night-time. Cast a line off Stone Pier, a perfect site for beginners and seasoned fishers alike, with bass, wrasse, garfish, and conger eel among the sea life to be found. Or, if you’re not up for catching fish, you can learn more about them at the Sea Life Centre. The town also hosts a range of music festivals throughout the year, from a showcase of traditional folk music at the Wessex Folk Festival to the all-encompassing ‘Tea on the Quay’ event in the summer. Whether you’re looking for long walks or lazy days, Weymouth has something for everyone.
Dig for unseen treasures and fossils on the Jurassic Coast, Dorset’s premier historical and archaeological attraction. A World Heritage Site that spans 96 miles and holds 185 million years of geological history, who knows what you’ll find digging on the shores of Weymouth, Exmouth, and West Bay. Educational events run in various towns throughout the year and fossils have been found on the coast from the Triassic, Jurassic, Tertiary, and Quaternary time periods, so get ready to get your hands dirty! If you’re not up for a spot of archaeology, you can trek along the sandy shores and take in the refreshing sea air. If you want to rest your legs, take in the true scope of the coast with an aerial view from the Jurassic Skyline tower in Weymouth.
Go Ape at Monkey World
Take a walk on the wild side with a day out for all the family at Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre in Wareham. With 65-acres to explore, you’ll be able to find over 20 different species of monkeys and apes who have been rescued from all over the world to be given a safe home. On-site care staff are there not just to look after the inhabitants, but also to teach you all about their behaviour and habits. With regular events throughout the year, including Easter Egg hunts and Halloween surprises, Monkey World is the perfect place for children and adults alike to learn more about our primate brethren.
Local Attractions in Dorset
Bovington Tank Museum
Delve into our country’s military history and be transported back to World War One at Bovington’s Tank Museum, filled with over 300 vehicles from the annals of time. From the world’s first completed tank prototype, Little Willie, to the modern designs of the Challenger 2, learn how tanks have evolved and changed the face of warfare for the past 100 years. Step into the shoes of a World War One soldier on the frontline with the trench experience, and learn about the museum’s involvement in the hit Hollywood movie Fury, complete with props and footage from the set and the Sherman M4 tank itself. Look out for re-enactments and demonstrations hosted throughout the year, including the chance to see special vehicles in action!
Sherborne Abbey Festival
For four days in May, every year, Sherborne Abbey is transformed into a venue for music-lovers of all kinds. The abbey’s music festival has run for the past 16 years, growing to feature concerts across Sherborne for a long weekend of choir, jazz, and classical music from all over the world. It’s a fantastic opportunity for young musicians to take part in workshops with music professionals, as well perform in the festival itself. And with over half of the concerts free to enter, Sherborne Abbey Festival is a fantastic opportunity to take in the wonder of the abbey itself, while enjoying the diverse sounds on offer.
Grab the whole family for two fun-filled days of attractions at Weymouth Carnival in August, featuring live music, international food stalls, fairground rides, and a mystifying torchlight procession along the beach. You can even get in on the fun yourself with your own torch! Weymouth Carnival is growing each and every year, welcoming both the Red Arrows and the Weymouth Wildcats stunt riders in 2016. The carnival is topped off with a magnificent fireworks display, and the entire two-day event is done in the name of raising money for local charities. Enjoy the local sights and sounds while giving a little back to the community.
My Perfect Stay
Dorset is an incredible and historic part of the world, there is so much to see and do, with some of the most stunning views in the country. You can walk for miles and never get bored of your surroundings.
You truly are spoilt for choice choosing a UK break in Dorset. From luxurious lodges and spa resorts in the woodlands to family fun caravans by the sea, there is also a great selection of hot tub accommodation and pet friendly units to choose from.
My perfect stay in Dorset would be in a luxury lodge with hot tub somewhere by the sea, close enough that I can smell the West coast air and walk my crazy spaniel on the sand with pockets full of tennis balls. We can then retreat back to the lodge to snuggle up with a good book before an evening dip in the hot tub whilst my fiancé cooks the dinner (a girl can dream!).