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10 Best Seaside Towns In Dorset To Visit

These seaside towns in Dorset, a county along the stunning south coast of England, offer their own unique charm and character.

These coastal havens beckon with their picturesque beaches, historic landmarks, and a wealth of opportunities to savour the sea or embark on exciting adventures.


Seaside Towns In Dorset

Whether you’re seeking relaxation on golden sands, a glimpse into history, or a chance to explore the world-renowned Jurassic Coast, Dorset’s seaside towns provide an inviting and diverse coastal experience for every visitor.

Tip: For the perfect overall guidebook to Dorset the Dorset: Local, characterful guides to Britain’s special places (Bradt Guides) is a great choice for helping in planning your trip.


Bournemouth

Bournemouth is one of the largest and most popular seaside towns in Dorset. It offers a wide sandy beach, a lively pier, and a range of attractions and activities. The town is also known for its vibrant nightlife.

Bournemouth’s main attraction is its long and sandy beach, which stretches for miles along the coast. The beach is ideal for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports.

Bournemouth Pier is a prominent landmark, offering entertainment, arcades, and beautiful views of the coastline. It’s a great place to take a leisurely stroll.

Bournemouth is famous for its well-kept gardens, including the Lower Gardens, Central Gardens, and Upper Gardens, which provide green spaces for relaxation and leisurely walks.

The town centre features a wide range of shops, from high street stores to boutique shops. The pedestrianized shopping areas make it a pleasant place for shopping.

Bournemouth offers cultural attractions, including the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, which houses a diverse collection of art and artefacts.

Bournemouth is situated in a picturesque area with nearby natural attractions, such as the New Forest National Park and the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its geological significance.

Bournemouth’s location on the South Coast of England makes it a popular destination for those seeking a seaside getaway or a base to explore the surrounding natural beauty and cultural attractions and is easily one of the main seaside towns in Dorset to visit.

Book accommodation in Bournemouth here.

Weymouth

Weymouth is a charming seaside town with a beautiful sandy beach and a picturesque harbour. It’s a great place for water sports and boasts a historic waterfront and several interesting museums.

Weymouth’s main attraction is its award-winning sandy beach, which is one of the best in the UK. The beach is family-friendly and offers various water sports activities, making it a popular destination for sunbathing, swimming, and water enthusiasts.

The town’s historic and bustling harbour is a focal point for visitors. It features a picturesque waterfront with colourful buildings, seafood restaurants, and traditional pubs. You can also find fishing boats and pleasure cruises departing from here.

Nothe Fort is a Victorian-era fort that offers a glimpse into the town’s history and features military exhibits and scenic views over the town and harbour.

Nature enthusiasts can explore nearby nature reserves and parks, such as Radipole Lake RSPB Nature Reserve, where you can spot a variety of bird species.

Weymouth is close to the Isle of Portland (see further down the article), famous for its rugged coastal scenery and the Portland Bill Lighthouse. It’s a great place for hiking and birdwatching.

The town has a rich history, and you can explore historic sites such as Sandsfoot Castle and the Tudor House.

Weymouth is a popular holiday destination, especially during the summer months, due to its combination of natural beauty, historical charm, and a relaxed coastal atmosphere, which makes it one of the best seaside towns in Dorset to visit.

Book accommodation in Weymouth here.

Swanage

This small town is known for its sandy beach and classic Victorian pier. It’s a gateway to the Isle of Purbeck and the Jurassic Coast, making it a perfect base for exploring the natural beauty of the area.

Swanage boasts a beautiful sandy beach with clear waters, making it a great destination for sunbathing, swimming, and family outings. The beach is sheltered by cliffs and offers scenic views of the surrounding area.

Swanage is a perfect starting point for exploring the Jurassic Coast, known for its geological significance and unique rock formations. Popular nearby landmarks include Old Harry Rocks and Durlston Country Park.

Durlston Country Park is a nature reserve and country park that offers walking trails, a visitor centre, and the iconic Durlston Castle, providing educational exhibits about the Jurassic Coast and local wildlife.

Swanage is home to the Swanage Railway, a heritage steam railway that operates on a six-mile line through the picturesque Purbeck countryside. It’s a popular attraction for train enthusiasts and tourists.

Swanage Pier is a historic structure that has been restored and is now a popular spot for fishing and leisurely walks.

The town centre features a range of shops, cafes, restaurants, and pubs, making it a pleasant place to explore and enjoy the local cuisine.

Swanage hosts various events and festivals, including the Swanage Jazz Festival and the Swanage Folk Festival, which celebrate music and the arts.

Swanage is surrounded by beautiful walking and hiking trails, including the South West Coast Path, which offers breathtaking views of the coastline.

Swanage is known for its relaxed and traditional British seaside atmosphere, making it a popular holiday destination for families and nature lovers.

Book accommodation in Swanage here.

Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a historic coastal town and one of the best seaside towns in Dorset. part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, it’s famous for its fossil-rich cliffs, charming streets, and beautiful beach.

The Cobb is a historic stone harbour wall and promenade that has been featured in novels and films. It offers scenic views, and you can explore its history at the Lyme Regis Museum.

Lyme Regis is a renowned location for fossil hunting, and you can often find ammonites, belemnites, and other ancient relics along the coastline.

The town’s main beach is known as Lyme Regis Beach, and it is a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and fossil hunting. The nearby cliffs are famous for their layers of rock, which reveal the Earth’s history.

Lyme Regis Museum showcases the town’s history, its role in the development of geological science, and its famous fossil discoveries, including those by Mary Anning, a pioneering female palaeontologist.

Dinosaurland Fossil Museum is dedicated to fossils and the history of palaeontology. It features an impressive collection of prehistoric specimens.

Lyme Regis is a great base for exploring the surrounding natural beauty, including coastal walks and hikes in the rolling hills of Dorset.

The town is also known for its arts and cultural scene, with galleries and workshops showcasing local talent.

Book accommodation in Lyme Regis here.

Poole

Poole is a bustling coastal town with a large natural harbour. It’s a gateway to the Purbeck Hills and the Jurassic Coast and offers plenty of water-based activities.

Poole Harbor is one of the largest natural harbours in the world, and it plays a significant role in the town’s identity. The harbour is a hub for water sports, yachting, and boat trips.

Poole’s Old Town features a historic quay and buildings, including the Old Town Market, which is home to various shops, cafes, and restaurants. The area is rich in maritime history.

Poole Quay is a bustling waterfront area with bars, restaurants, and entertainment options. It’s a popular spot for strolling and taking in the view of the harbour.

Located in Poole Harbor, Brownsea Island is a nature reserve managed by the National Trust. It’s known for its wildlife, including red squirrels, and its historical significance as the birthplace of the Scout Movement.

The Sandbanks Peninsula, which is part of Poole, is famous for its beautiful Blue Flag beaches and upscale residential areas. It’s one of the most expensive places to live in the UK.

Poole’s blend of natural beauty, maritime heritage, and modern amenities makes it a popular destination and one of the best seaside towns in Dorset.

Book accommodation in Poole here.

West Bay

Also known as Bridport Harbour, West Bay is a small but picturesque coastal town with stunning cliffs. It’s the setting for the TV series “Broadchurch” and is a great spot for fishing and walking.

The town boasts a pebble beach with scenic views of the cliffs and sea. It is a popular spot for walking, picnicking, and beach climbing.

The eastern part of the beach is known as East Beach and offers different views and amenities. It’s a great place for swimming and sunbathing.

West Bay has a historic harbour that is still used for fishing, and you can watch the fishing boats come and go. The harbour area features seafood restaurants and stalls where you can enjoy fresh catches.

West Bay Pier is a popular spot for walking and enjoying views of the coastline. It also has a seasonal amusement arcade and a café.

The South West Coast Path runs through West Bay, making it an ideal starting point for coastal walks with stunning vistas.

West Bay is located near Chesil Beach, a long shingle bank that is an important part of the Jurassic Coast and offers opportunities for birdwatching and coastal exploration.

The Jurassic Pier, located at the west end of the beach, is a popular spot for fishing and provides views of the surrounding area.

Christchurch

This town sits on the confluence of the River Stour and the English Channel. It has a historic priory, a quay, and beautiful river walks, and is one of the best seaside towns in Dorset to choose from.

The Christchurch Priory Church is a magnificent parish church and a former priory, dating back to the 11th century. It is a prime example of Norman architecture and features stunning stained glass windows and a beautiful interior.

The town is situated on the banks of the River Avon, and the Quay is a popular area for walking, relaxing, and enjoying riverside views. It’s also a departure point for boat trips.

Located just a short distance from Christchurch, Highcliffe Castle is a stunning Grade I listed mansion set in beautiful grounds overlooking the sea. It’s a popular attraction for its architecture and gardens.

Hengistbury Head is a nature reserve with walking trails, panoramic views of the coast, and archaeological sites dating back thousands of years.

Avon Beach is a sandy, family-friendly beach that stretches along the coast, offering opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and water sports.

Christchurch and its surroundings have several nature reserves, such as Stanpit Marsh Nature Reserve, which is a haven for birdwatching and wildlife enthusiasts.

Christchurch is a charming town with a rich history, stunning natural surroundings, and a relaxed, seaside atmosphere.

Charmouth

Another seaside town along the Jurassic Coast, Charmouth is renowned for its fossil-rich cliffs, which contain a wide variety of ancient marine life, including ammonites, belemnites, and even dinosaur fossils.

Charmouth Beach is a beautiful and family-friendly location for sunbathing, swimming, and fossil hunting. The beach also offers stunning views of the surrounding coastline.

The village is a gateway to exploring the Jurassic Coast, which is famous for its geological significance and unique rock formations. Nearby landmarks like Lyme Regis and Golden Cap are easily accessible.

Charmouth offers access to several walking and hiking trails along the coastline, including the South West Coast Path. These trails provide breathtaking views and opportunities to explore the natural beauty of the area.

Charmouth Village itself is small but charming, with a selection of shops, cafes, and restaurants where you can find refreshments and local products.

Charmouth’s primary draw is its connection to the Jurassic Coast and its significance as a fossil-hunting destination which makes it one of the best seaside towns in Dorset if that’s what you’re looking for.

Isle of Portland

Although technically an island, Portland is closely connected to Weymouth by a causeway. It’s famous for its rugged coastal scenery, the famous Portland Bill lighthouse, and stone quarries.

The island is world-renowned for its Portland stone, which has been used in the construction of notable structures, including St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Portland Bill is the southernmost point of the island and is known for its iconic red-and-white striped lighthouse. The area is popular for birdwatching, hiking, and enjoying coastal views.

Chesil Beach, a shingle bank stretching 18 miles, connects the Isle of Portland to the mainland. It is a unique natural feature and a great location for birdwatching and water sports.

Portland Castle is a well-preserved coastal fortress that offers historical insights and scenic views over Portland Harbour.

The island is home to unique plant species, and its coastal areas provide habitats for a variety of birds, making it an excellent spot for wildlife enthusiasts.

Tout Quarry Sculpture Park is within an abandoned quarry and features a collection of contemporary sculptures created by artists using Portland stone.

The Isle of Portland is a fascinating destination for geology enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and those interested in coastal landscapes and history.

Mudeford

This is a small fishing village near Christchurch. It’s famous for its colourful beach huts, quay, and access to the stunning Hengistbury Head nature reserve.

Mudeford Quay is a popular waterfront area featuring a small harbour, fishing boats, and stunning views of Christchurch Harbor and Hengistbury Head. It’s an ideal spot for leisurely walks and enjoying the sea breeze.

Hengistbury Head is accessible by a short ferry ride from Mudeford, offers hiking trails, panoramic views of the coast, and a nature reserve. It’s a favourite destination for walkers and birdwatchers.

Mudeford Spit is a long sandbank that separates Christchurch Harbor from the sea. It is popular for beach huts, fishing, and watersports.

The area surrounding Mudeford features nature reserves, including Stanpit Marsh Nature Reserve, which is known for its diverse birdlife.

Mudeford is a hub for fishing, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding, thanks to its sheltered waters and various water sports facilities.

Mudeford Sandbank is located at the entrance to Christchurch Harbor, this sandbank has colourful beach huts, which are a picturesque sight and a symbol of the area.


Dorset

These seaside towns in Dorset are perfect for relaxing on the beach, exploring geological wonders, or enjoying coastal walks. Dorset’s seaside towns have something to offer everyone.

For the perfect overall guidebook to Dorset the Dorset: Local, characterful guides to Britain’s special places (Bradt Guides) is a great choice for helping in planning your trip.

Check out more places by the sea in Britain with the 10 best seaside towns in Devon to visit.


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