The 16 Best Things To Do In Dorset – Attractions, Sights & Tours

(Last Updated On: January 19, 2023)

The county of Dorset can be found in the southwestern region of England.

The south coast and inland areas of the county are breathtakingly beautiful, and offer a selection of cliff walks, rolling hills, quaint villages and beautiful beaches.

You can get a taste of some of the best that England has to offer as the cuisine is both delectable and locally sourced.

You can also discover your very own Jurassic marine life or track down Thomas Hardy novels.

The dramatic coastline of the southwest county is like an outdoor sculpture gallery with arches, stacks, and coves that nature has carved out of the rock.

The countryside is a beautiful place to go walking or cycling, or just to relax and take in the serene atmosphere.

Dorset is the perfect place to go on vacation if you want to unwind in a stunning setting and take some time for yourself.

There are also plenty of sites and attractions for nature lovers, art enthusiasts, history buffs and families with children.

Things To Do In Dorset

1. Bournemouth Beach

The beach at Bournemouth is consistently ranked as one of the top tourist attractions on the south coast.

It has seven miles of award-winning sandy beaches with the bay enjoying its own micro-climate.

Bournemouth beach is a stunning location with plenty to do for everyone.

Whether you want to relax in the sun, build sandcastles with the kids or try your hand at surfing, this is the place to be.

There is also a fantastic array of colourful beach huts available to hire if you want to take a break from the sun and enjoy some refreshments.

Address: Bournemouth beach, Seafront Promenade, Bournemouth BH5 1BN

2. Brownsea Island

Brownsea Island is an island of outstanding natural beauty with many different kinds of flora and fauna, and natural habitats, that can be found in the middle of Poole Harbour.

On the northern side of Brownsea Island there is an important nature reserve featuring rare wildlife including red squirrels and wading birds.

The island has a long history with the Boy Scouting and Girl Guiding movements both having their beginnings on the island.

Good for day trips the Island has a great variety of free activities, events, and trails for families to enjoy.

Visitors need to catch a foot ferry across to the island from Poole harbour as there is no vehicle access and the crossing takes about 20 minutes.

Address: Brownsea Island Ferry, Poole Quay, Poole, Dorset, BH15 1HJ

3. Jurassic Coast

The Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers a distance of 95 miles and is found in Dorset and Devon.

It begins at Old Harry Rocks in Studland Bay and ends in Exmouth in East Devon.

Famous for British fossil hunting, fossils dating back to the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, which occurred between 65 and 200 million years ago, can be found across this stunning coastline.

Due to the fact that the South West Coast Path runs the entire length of the Jurassic Coast, this area is ideal for hikers and explorers who are looking to see some incredible landmarks while taking in the coastal views.

When you’re in this part of Dorset, don’t miss out on the opportunity to stop by some of the county’s most charming seaside communities, like Swanage, Lyme Regis, and West Bay.

Address: Jurassic Coast, Dorset

4. Sculpture by the Lakes

Located in the Dorset countryside alongside the River Frome, Sculpture by the Lakes is a 26-acre sculpture park.

Created by Simon Gudgeon and his wife, Monique, the park’s landscape has been thoughtfully designed in order to highlight the sculptures while also blending in with the natural environment.

The Gallery Cafe is located on the premises, providing guests with a comfortable setting in which to enjoy fresh seasonal food, homemade cakes, as well as a selection of beverages.

Throughout the course of the year, the sculpture park plays host to a number of events.

Which include: All About The Garden, an extravaganza dedicated to gardening that lasts for three days and the Summer Festival, which features a variety of foods, arts, and crafts.

Great for art lovers there is a huge variety, and visitors can enjoy over 120 pieces positioned throughout the park.

Address: Sculpture by the Lakes, Pallington Lakes, Dorchester DT2 8QU

5. Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum is a must-see for art and history lovers visiting Bournemouth, Dorset.

The museum was founded in 1901 by Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife Annette, who were passionate art collectors.

Today, the museum houses a fabulous collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics and furniture from around the world.

Visitors can also learn about the lives of the Russell-Cotes and see some of their personal belongings on display.

The museum is located in a beautiful Grade II listed building overlooking Bournemouth seafront.

There is also a lovely garden to explore, which features sculptures, fountains and a café.

Address: Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, East Cliff Promenade, Bournemouth BH1 3AA

6. Corfe Castle

The fortification known as Corfe Castle can be found in the English village of Corfe, which is situated on the peninsula of the Isle of Purbeck.

The castle, which dates back to the 11th century, sits in a particularly advantageous position between Wareham and Swanage.

During the course of the English Civil War, the castle was captured by forces loyal to Parliament on more than one occasion, before finally falling into their hands.

Corfe Castle withstood two sieges by the Parliamentary forces, but it was ultimately taken by assault in 1645.

The National Trust now own the ruins of Corfe Castle which means that it can be visited at any time of the year.

Corfe Castle is open daily and visitors do not need to book in advance.

Address: Corfe Castle, East Street, BH20 5DR

7. Dorset Adventure Park

The Dorset Adventure park is a wet and wild location for an exciting time for all the family.

The waterpark features two lakes, each with its own unique set of challenges, making for an enjoyable day trip.

The mud trail is also a lot of fun, and it features fifty different challenges that put your abilities to the test.

There are many opportunities to check it out because it is open from April until October, on weekends, during school holidays, and during the week for school trips and other groups.

A sizable picnic area with a view of Corfe Castle, free parking, showers, and changing facilities are all located on the premises.

Address: Dorset Adventure park, Arfleet Mill Lakes, Studland Road, Corfe Castle BH20 5JG

8. Moors Valley Country Park and Forest

The Moors Valley Country Park is an exciting location for a visit with a narrow-gauge steam railway, play trail, Go Ape tree top adventure, golf course, country shop, restaurant and more.

The Play Trail is fun for children of all ages and features several one-of-a-kind wooden play structures, such as a snake, Bewildernest, and Crocodile Crossing, among others.

Swing through the canopy of the forest on the Go Ape Tree Top Challenge if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush.

On the Tree Top Adventure course, even the tiniest of monkeys are welcome to have fun (for ages 6-12).

Take a trip along Moors Lake on the genuine narrow-gauge steam train for a more relaxed experience, or go off the beaten path in the forest on a Go Ape forest Segway for an adventure.

There are also plenty of opportunities to explore the 1000 acres of country park and forest along footpaths and cycle routes.

Address: Horton Rd, Ashley Heath, Ringwood BH24 2ET

9. Chesil Beach

This shingle beach is a barrier beach of approximately 18 miles long and stretches from West Bay to Portland.

It provides nice views of the rugged coastline, which is characterised by powerful waves and majestic cliffs.

Pebbles on Chesil Beach are comprised of a combination of flint, chert, and Bunter pebbles from Budleigh Salterton.

The sizes of these pebbles range from the size of small potatoes near Portland to the size of peas near Bridport.

Because of this singular combination, the beach has a one-of-a-kind personality, which contributes to the beach’s popularity as a destination for surfers and walkers alike.

Address: Weymouth

10. Weymouth Harbour

Visitors can take in the picturesque views while gazing out over the active Weymouth harbour, watch the boats sail by, and be amazed by the historic bridge lift.

There is also the option of going to Brewers Quay, a charming antiques emporium with many different traders selling everything from vintage furniture to artwork and militaria.

Visiting in the evening, you can choose to have dinner at one of the numerous restaurants or bistros that are located along the Weymouth harbour front.

Several exciting events are held along Weymouth harbour picturesque waterfront on a year-round basis, including the Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival.

This wildly popular event features cooking demonstrations by some of the world’s most renowned chefs, as well as delectable seafood dishes.

The day is filled with a variety of activities, including live music, dancing, and more.

Address: Weymouth Harbour, Weymouth, Dorset

11. Old Harry Rocks

Old Harry is a chalk formation that’s a component of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and is found at the southernmost tip of Studland Bay.

The name “Old Harry” comes from the fact that there is one single stack of chalk that is located the farthest out to sea.

There was an additional stack that was known as Old Harry’s Wife up until the year 1896; however, erosion caused her to fall into the water, leaving behind only a stump.

Old Harry and The Needles, another chalk rock formation on the Isle of Wight, were once connected to one another by a line of hills that disappeared during the most recent ice age.

Visitors can reach the rocks from South Beach Car Park at Studland Bay and then its a 1 mile walk along the grasslands to reach the dramatic cliffs.

In the surrounding area of Old Harry Rocks, there are open areas with grass where you can have a picnic.

Address: Old Harry Rocks, BH19 3AN

12. Bournemouth Pier

Bournemouth Pier is a Grade II listed structure and one of the town’s most iconic landmarks.

The pier was opened in 1880 and originally served as a landing stage for steamships travelling to the Isle of Wight.

It was later used as a promenade, before being redeveloped in the 1990s.

Today, Bournemouth Pier is a popular tourist destination, offering stunning views of the coastline, as well as a range of shops, cafes and restaurants.

Visitors can also enjoy a range of activities, including pier to shore zip wire, mini golf and amusement arcades.

Address: Bournemouth Pier, Pier Approach, Bournemouth BH2 5AA

13. Adventure Wonderland Family Theme Park

Adventure Wonderland Family Theme Park is a great place to take the kids for a day of fun when you visit Dorset.

The park is themed around Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and has more than 30 rides and attractions including Battle Boats, Turbo Teacups and Wild Bill’s Runaway Train.

With rides, games, and other activities, there is something for everyone at this family-friendly park.

There is also an indoor Aztec adventure play centre, so with rides, games, and other activities, there is something for everyone at this family-friendly park.

Address: Adventure Wonderland Family Theme Park, Merritown Ln, Hurn, Christchurch BH23 6BA

14. Portland Castle

Standing tall and proud on the cliffs above Portland harbour, Portland Castle is widely regarded as one of the most impressive coastal fortifications in England.

Anyone who is interested in exploring the beautiful area surrounding Portland Bill and Chesil Beach should make a point of stopping by this historic Tudor fortress.

Inside the castle, you have the opportunity to explore the expansive Great Hall, which was once used by King Henry VIII himself to hold court.

You should also checkout the Captain’s House, which is furnished with antiques from the time period and gives visitors a glimpse into what life was like for those who lived and worked in this ancient fortress.

If you pay a visit to the kitchen, you will be able to get an idea of how the staff at Portland Castle prepared and cooked food for the soldiers who were stationed there.

Visiting the outside you can walk along the upper gun platform to get a closer look at some of the powerful cannons that were used to defend England’s coasts in years gone by.

A contemporary heritage garden can also be found in the grounds of the castle and features a variety of art installations and sculptures in addition to beautiful native plants.

Visitors can take an audio tour that helps bring this impressive castle to life and takes you through its surprising history.

Address: Portland Castle, Liberty Road, Castletown, Dorset, DT5 1AZ

15. Durdle Door

Durdle Door is a natural rock arch that rises out of the sea on the Jurassic Coast not far from the sheltered bay of Lulworth Cove.

With the walk from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door being a very popular coastal walk for visitors.

This stunning rock formation is one of Dorset’s most photographed and iconic landmarks.

Visitors can access the pebble and shingle beach on foot by a path from Lulworth Cove or down from the Car Park.

Durdle Door is part of the Jurassic Coast Heritage Site and a visit to this stunning location will stay long in visitors memories.

Address: Durdle Door, Wareham BH20 5PU

16. Kingston Lacy

One of the most interesting places to visit in Dorset, Kingston Lacy is a 17th century country mansion re-imagined as a Venetian Palace.

Located near Wimborne Minster, the interior of the house is lavishly decorated and furnished, with fine paintings on display as well as a large collection of Egyptian artefacts.

Surrounded by acres of parkland and formal gardens, visitors can take one of the mapped out walks or take a stroll around the 32 acres of gardens.

Kingston Lacy also has a cafe, shop, kitchen garden, and woodland valley play area for children.

Address: Kingston Lacy, Wimborne Minster, Dorset, BH21 4EA

FAQ

Where is the best place to holiday in Dorset?

There are so many great places to see, and stay in Dorset.

Some of the top spots are: Lyme Regis, Bournemouth, Charmouth, West Bay, Beaminster, Burton Bradstock, Bridport and Studland Bay.

How far is Bournemouth beach from Bournemouth town centre?

This is a very nice walk that takes about 20 minutes.

Where is the best place in the UK to go fossil hunting?

One of the best places to go fossil hunting is in Lyme Regis, West Dorset.

Many fossils become eroded from the cliffs near Lyme Regis during storms and then fall down onto the beaches.

What is Gold Hill, Dorset famous for?

This famous Dorset street, Gold Hill, has been used many times as a setting for films and television.

Gold Hill has an incline of 16.09º, making it very steep and a challenge to tourists and residents.

Where is Lulworth Castle?

Lulworth Castle is located south of the village of Wool, in East Lulworth, Dorset.

Built in the 17th century this magnificent castle also has extensive parkland, woodland walks and a children’s playground.

Author

  • Tamara M

    Hey there! My name is Tamara, welcome to my little world! I’m a 20-something-year-old from Toronto, Canada (though I’m rarely there) and I’m super passionate about exploring the world, photography, and cooking delicious plant-based recipes. I created this blog to share my favorite places, adventures, restaurants, accommodations, and travel tips with all of you and keep a bit of a travel diary for myself.

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