10 reasons why Dorset should be on your travel list in 2018

Corfe Castle

I am lucky enough to live on the Jurassic Coast with 96 miles of truly stunning coastline to explore, stretching from Old Harry Rocks in Poole, Dorset to Exeter in East Devon.

Not one bit of this coastline is the same, offering  exceptional natural beauty as well reading like a book into the past, revealing the history of the earth across 185 million years as a near complete record of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

With almost all of the area’s highlights being outdoors, it’s also a very affordable place for a break in the UK and I can highly recommend staying in a cottage in one of the many pretty seaside towns and villages that Dorset has to offer.

Here are ten reasons why Dorset should be on your travel list in 2018.

1. Try your hand at fossil hunting

Fossil hunting is a fun activity for all the family and Charmouth and Lyme Regis are perfect for beginners. One of the best times to visit is during the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival in early May where they organise walks, talks, theatre, music, comedy, exhibits and lots of hands-on science with experts from all over the country.

View from Lyme to Charmouth

Don’t despair if you cannot visit that weekend as the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre is open all year round, offering the chance to see Attenborough’s Sea Dragon, an incredible ichthyosaur fossil, as well as running guided fossil walks for your chance to find and take home your very own Jurassic Coast fossil.

For those that don’t want to get their hands dirty, Kimmeridge Bay has visible ammonites set in rocks lining the shore, offers the chance to take out a glass bottomed kayak to view fossils and wildlife beneath the waves and in the village itself you can visit the Etches Collection, a lifetime collection of fossils lifetime Steve Etches from the local area on the Jurassic Coast.

Etches Collection

2. Follow in the footsteps of David Tennant and Olivia Coleman and discover West Bay’s Broadchurch

West Bay is a small harbour town in West Dorset whose dramatic landscape was central of the drama of Broadchurch; the stunning red sandstone cliffs, the rolling sea and the beach are all key elements of the story with West Bay providing the memorable backdrop for the picturesque coastal town of Broadchurch.  

Sandstone cliffs west bay

You can choose to explore at your own pace on foot, or there are several Broadchurch related tours which take you to see the Police Station, Newsagents, death cliff and more!

West Bay

If you head east along the shingle beach, you can gaze in awe at paragliders who use the lifting warm air currents to get the best view of the changing landscape beneath them. Once you reach the end of the sandstone cliffs you find  the stunning coastal village of Burton Bradstock which is home to the popular Hive Beach Cafe.

Burton Bradstock

You can sit outside on the terrace all year round which offers stunning views of Lyme Bay and Chesil Beach, or under canvas awnings if the weather’s bad, and enjoy a huge platter of seafood, including lobster, crab, langoustines and scallops, or choose fish from the counter, which has all been caught in the very waters in front of you.

Head 15 minutes up the road to Little Bredy and see the fictional Axehampton House and the infamous waterfall that featured so heavily in the final storyline.

Little Bredy

3. Visit the iconic Durdle Door

Eroded by the power of the waves over time, Durdle Door is a magnificent limestone arch which is one of the Jurassic Coast’s most photographed and iconic landmarks. If you are a keen photographer, it makes the perfect location for some night photography as the lack of light pollution offers the most spectacular views of the Milky Way above.

Durdle Door

Don’t just stop at Durdle Door, the southwest coast path takes you to one of world’s finest examples of a cove.

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove is a popular tourist destination thanks to its white pebble beach and crystal blue waters. For the kids, low tide reveals wonderful rock pools teeming with sea creatures, perfect to be caught and examined and if you walk round the top of the cove, you will find the fossil forest – the petrified remains of a cypress forest.

Lulworth Cove

4. Visit the traditional seaside town of Weymouth and Portland

The traditional seaside town of Weymouth is a must visit as it offers a huge number of activities and attractions for people of all ages including incredible sand sculptures, traditional Punch and Judy shows and the Jurassic Skyline which stands 53m above the town offering 360° of the Jurassic coast, Weymouth Bay and Nothe Fort.

Weymouth

Or you can just relax on the wide sandy beach in the shadow of the Osmington white horse, a figure depicting King George III carved into the limestone of Osmington Hill, which can be seen for miles around.

Osmington Horse

Once you have had your fill of all the seaside delights, Portland is the perfect location to explore.

The National Sailing Academy in Portland was the setting for the 2012 olympics and the Portland Stone Olympic sculpture offers spectacular views over Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon.

Portland Rings

If you head farther south, Portland Bill is the southernmost point of Dorset. One of its most popular attractions is Portland Bill Lighthouse which has been standing majestically for the past one hundred and eleven years at a height of 41 metres (135 ft). I highly recommend taking 153 steps to the top to witness the magnificent views of the coastline, in both directions, out of the picture-book windows.

Portland Bill

5. Visit Channel 4’s ‘Village of the Year’ finalist: Beer

Okay, so it is just over the Dorset / Devon border but it is well worth a visit. Follow the brook down through this picturesque seaside town, to find some seriously beautiful coastal views thanks to Beer’s shingle beach and the white chalk cliffs which surround it. Set on the beach is an impressive fishing fleet of luggers, used in drift netting, long lining and crabbing. If you are lucky, you may even see them launch straight from the beach into the sea.

Beer Devon

Other attractions locally are the enormous Beer Quarry Caves which have produced Beer Freestone, used in the construction of many cathedrals throughout the UK and the world, include Westminster Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.

For garden lovers and railway enthusiasts of all ages, Pecorama offers a perfect day out for all the family. The Beer Heights Light Railway is a must as it operates a mile long railway track through their nine acres of grounds offering stunning views over Lyme Bay.

Pecorama

6. Explore the coast by boat

As much as we love exploring the Jurassic coast on foot, seeing it from the sea is a real sight to behold. You can clearly see the changes in the rock formations of the cliffs, which are also home to a huge range of birds including Guillemots and Puffins who nest there. If you are lucky, you might even spot our own local Dolphin pod, who have been spotted all along the Jurassic coast and often come alongside boats to say Hello.

There are many boat tours available all along the coast from RIBs to pleasure cruisers, yachts to glass bottomed kayaks but one of my favourites is the City Cruise Jurassic cruise which runs from Poole to Swanage. The trip takes you past Old Harry Rocks to the seaside town of Swanage and allows you to disembark and explore the town, take the steam train to see Corfe Castle’s breathtaking ruins before heading back again.

Corfe Castle

If you have time, Swanage is also the location of Durlston Country Park which is home the great globe of Swanage, one of the largest stone spheres in the world and a real sight to behold.

Great Globe

7. Dorset is Brilliant for bird lovers

There are a few RSPB nature reserves along the Jurassic Coast and all offer something different to see.

Arne Nature Reserve

Arne, situated in Poole Harbour, remains one of the few places in the UK where all six of the UK’s native reptiles can be found. Radipole lake in Weymouth counts Kingfishers, otters and water voles amongst its residents and Abbotsbury is home to the world’s only managed colony of nesting mute swans which is a real sight to see, particularly in the spring when the cygnets hatch.

Abbotsbury Swanary

8. Dorset is home to one of the most famous streets in England

Head inland and stand on the ancient cobbles of Gold Hill in Shaftesbury. It is one of the most famous streets in England having been made famous in the much-loved “Hovis” advert.

Gold Hill Dorset

Rural Dorset has lots of offer visitors with stately homes, water mills and country walks by the mile.

Sturminster Newton Mill

Another thing Dorset does well are its traditional fayres and festivals. Some of our favourites include the Dorset Knob Throwing Festival (it’s a round biscuit), Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, Great Dorset Steam Fair, its numerous food festivals and Bournemouth Air Festival.

Knob Throwing

9. Home to the best beach in the UK

Trip Advisor has ranked the best beaches in the UK, Europe and the world for 2018 and Bournemouth Beach claimed the number one spot for the UK and fifth in Europe overall.

Pier Zip

Bournemouth is a popular tourist destination and its main claim to fame is the 11 miles of golden sand running from Sandbanks in Poole to Hengistbury Head and Mudeford Spit, famously home the most expensive beach huts in the country.

Mudeford Spit

Bournemouth Beach is home to many attractions including the Rockreef and the Pierzip, Bournemouth Oceanarium and many fabulous restaurants including Urban Reef and West Beach. The beach also hosts Bournemouth Air Festival each year and there is something about relaxing on the beach and watching planes roar overhead.

#bmthairfest

10. Dorset is home to some interesting attractions

From Bovington Tank Museum to Monkey World, Dorset is home to some great attractions which offer brilliant days out for all the family.

Monkey World

One of our favourites is Moors Valley Country Park as it offers a huge play trail, the Highway Rat trail, a light-gauge railway, Go Ape and miles and miles of woodland walks and cycle tracks to explore.

Moors Valley - Fox

For National Trust members, the beaches of Studland are a must-visit, whether you choose to go kayaking in the shallow water or just explore the dunes. Kingston Lacy House offers beautiful gardens which come to life in the spring, right the way through to Autumn and visit Hardy’s Monument for some stunning views over the Dorset countryside

For a bizarre, but fascinating day out a visit to Tyneham is a must. Tyneham village was evacuated in 1943 during WWII and has been deserted ever since. The Church and School have exhibitions about the village and villagers and its a short walk to the stunning Worbarrow Bay.

Tyneham Village

This post has been written in collaboration with Wyke Dorset, who have been providing holiday cottages in Dorset for over 30 years.

Wkye Cottages

They offer a wide-selection of properties across Dorset – whether it’s a cosy cottage for two or a large house that is ideal for family and friend get-togethers.

Dorset Cottages

Wyke Cottages are part of the Original Cottages family which started as an idea at the dining table of a family cottage, in the heart of Norfolk. They are now the UK’s largest, family-owned, independent holiday cottage company with 25 brands, 400 members of staff, and more than 4,300 different properties.

Have you visited Dorset before – where is your favourite place to visit?

33 thoughts on “10 reasons why Dorset should be on your travel list in 2018

  1. Dorset is so beautiful! Completely #TravelGoals! Wish I could go there this year!

  2. We’ve only been to Dorset once to visit Swanage and Corfe Castle but we definitely need to go back, it really is such a beautiful part of the country.

    Stevie x

  3. Dannii says:

    Dorsetbis so beautiful. We spent a couple of days there last summer after a festival and we want to stay for longer this year.

  4. I highly recommend Dorset as a place to visit too. Fossil hunting is so fun!!

  5. Stephanie says:

    We live in Hampshire but I love Dorset. So many beautiful places and you have listed so many I want to go to. We’ve ticked a few of them off already!

  6. So many beautiful and fun things to do. I used to live in Lyme Regis and I loved exploring the surrounding area, especially finding fossils on the beaches. There are lots of things from this list I missed out on though. I definitely want to go back with my daughter. x

  7. Jem says:

    We lived in Dorset for a year, right on the beach front. I loved it there.

  8. Moors Valley is one of our favourite places ever to visit. I love running about there. I want to go to Durdle Door this summer so the boys can see it. Love that Fox suit, we have it too, it’s been so snuggly for Beans!

  9. Dorset looks like an awesome place to visit! I would LOVE to go fossil hunting. When I was a kid I used to want to be an archaeologist xxx

  10. Lynne Harper says:

    I have never been but have a friend who lives close by. She is always out exploring and there are so many wonderful places to visit and things to see. The coast line is absolutely stunning im sure its wonderful to live so close to so many amazing places 🙂

  11. Justine says:

    I think I visited Dorset as a child, but would love to return with my family now, and maybe cycle down Gold Hill!

  12. oh ive never been but love the idea of fossil hunting, there looks so much to do!

  13. NMDIARIES says:

    I have always wanted to visit Dorset! It doesn’t even look as though its part of the UK – it looks more like a holiday destination! The sun, the sea & the sand! Can you go wrong? It’s definitely on my list of places to visit and uncover!!! Hopefully this summer fingers crossed!

    http://www.nmdiaries.com

  14. Claire says:

    I have never been to Dorset before. It looks great and so much to see and do. I would love to visit. We would have lots of fun visiting all these places on your list.

  15. I like the sound of Dorset. I would like to visit one day.

  16. I like the sound of Dorset. I would llike be yo visit one day.

  17. We love Dorset and regularly go to Bournemouth beach and Moors valley! Such a beautiful part of the country

  18. I am so jealous that you live so near Jurassic Coast as I have been dying to go fossil hunting, I am a little bit of a nerd like that. The last time I went to Dorset, I stayed in Purbeck in Year Six for a school trip and went to Corfe Castle, Swanage and other exciting attractions. I definitely want to come back it has been far too long!

  19. We’re lucky enough to be your neighbour in Hampshire and we love exploring Dorset! We’ve only ever been for day trips and would love to stay for longer. I’d like to go fossil hunting!

  20. Sonia Cave says:

    I had planned a big home ed trip here for a week with lots of your ideas on my to do list. We then moved countries, but I’d still like to do some of the things if we come back for a visit

  21. Alex says:

    We recently spent a long weekend in Dorset near Shaftesbury – was such a pretty area. I’d love to go back to explore the coastline next time!

  22. Joanna says:

    I am lucky to live in Poole so I have visited most of the sights on your list. You can never beat going on a day trip to Durdle Door on a sunny day or having a bbq on the beach.

  23. Helen says:

    This has come at the perfect time, as we’re heading to Dorset very soon! I’ve made a long list of places to visit, thank you 🙂

  24. Dorset looks so lovely. Its a county we never had the chance to visit but as there’s so much to see and do I’d love to visit. My son would love the dinosaur exhibition and visiting corfe Castle while I’d love to see the home of Broadchurch, one of my favourite TV shows.

  25. Talya says:

    We are big fans of Dorset and it’s our preferred place for a UK break – we can’t wait to get back to the coast there again this year!

  26. My friend did a walk by the jurassic coast and it looked absolutely stunning and so dramatic, I’d love to go there in the summer x

  27. Alison Rost says:

    There’s so much to love about Dorset! I think it’s a must visit especially with all the different places that you can explore there. I just also love the views. Everything is so lovely!

  28. Sarah Bailey says:

    Do you know I don’t think I have ever been to Dorset but this makes me really want to go! What an absolutely stunning area it looks to be and it seems like there is so much to do and see.

  29. Emma Raphael says:

    Will definitely be referring back to this post over the summer Kara, there really is so much to see and do! 🙂

  30. We have only been to Dorset once before that was before the kids were born, so thinking of heading there with the kids in Summer. We have heard about fossil hunting so that will be high on our list if we do go.

  31. I have GOT to explore more of Dorset, it looks so beautiful and so much to do. My kids would especially like all the dinosaur fun going on!

  32. I definitely need to explore more of the UK, it sounds like Dorset is a fantastic place to visit!

  33. I have been to dorset about 35 times now and in July will be going for another 2 weeks. I always holiday in Weymouth EVERY year without fail. So I have been many places on your list. Monkey world is brilliant, and I just love Lulworth cove, we often visit there and I love the walk over the hill all the way to Durdle door. But I have no been to some of the places crazily, mostly because I normally have a week to try and fit in all the fun things in weymouth to do. The first week I am going on holiday there, we don’t have a car. Can you suggest places to go maybe by bus or train??

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