Dorset is located in South West England on the English Channel Coast. This area is probably most famous for its stunning coastline, particularly the Jurassic Coast that you can see in the image above. It has been named England’s only UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site and consists of an impressive 96 miles of dramatic coastline. Surrounded by charming countryside and perfect coastal villages, it is abundant in natural beauty. You can find all about it in my Dorset travel guide!
1. Who Am I?
Hello, my name is Emily. I am a Dorset-based Travel Consultant. I love to research and plan trips for clients, making sure I find the perfect tailor-made holidays suited to their desires. Particularly, I am passionate about luxury travel and boutique hotels.
I graduated with a Fashion Journalism degree, specializing in Travel Journalism. Meanwhile, I have written articles for Southampton Airport Magazine, Style of Wight Magazine, and The Daily Echo in Southampton.
I am lucky enough to travel to a variety of places across the world, including Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Spain, the Czech Republic, Austria, Bali, America, France, Malta, The Channel Islands, and Hong Kong. Moreover, I love to plan itineraries when I am traveling to ensure I make the most of each destination. I especially love to seek out the best places to eat in the places I visit.
In March this year, I set up a Travel Instagram page. Here I document my travel photos and share reviews of the places I have visited and the hotels I have stayed at. Now, let’s keep on with the Dorset travel guide!
2. Duration of Ideal Stay and Visiting Season
Spring and Summer are perfect times to visit Dorset. Spring would be the ideal time if you like the idea of avoiding the crowds who flock to the seaside in the Summer months. You could easily spend a whole week exploring Dorset, though a weekend away would be the perfect mini-getaway. Dorset has 364 more hours of sunshine throughout the year than the rest of the UK, so it is clear to see why it is a popular tourist destination.
3. How To Get To Dorset From London?
Dorset has an excellent rail network from many UK towns. You are never far from a railway station in Dorset (there are 23 stations!). There are two direct routes from London Waterloo station to Dorset operated by South Western Railway. If you buy your ticket in advance, it will usually be cheaper.
4. Where to Accommodate in Dorset?
This part of my Dorset travel guide is one of my favourites, since I like to share reviews of the hotels I have stayed at.
For Couples or Families Looking for a Little Luxury
Stay at The Pig on the Beach, a 16th-century manor house known for its delicious kitchen garden and freshly caught seafood. This charming country house has luxe homely décor, a bar showcasing the prettiest of cocktails, and a shepherd’s hut offering spa treatments. Perched on the cliff-top overlooking the gorgeous waters in Studland Bay, it is a location and hotel you simply won’t want to miss. Prices start at approximately £145 a night.
A Romantic Getaway for Two
Alternatively, you can retreat to The Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa, a luxury boutique hotel set on one of Dorset’s most picturesque estuaries. Don’t miss an evening at their restaurant, The Jetty; take in stunning waterfront views whilst enjoying a meal cooked by Michelin starred chefs. Find your zen at their award-winning spa which offers natural and holistic therapies. The perfect romantic getaway in a location ideal for exploring all that this area has to offer. Prices start from £260 per night.
Eco- Friendly Indulgence for the Family
If you fancy self-catering accommodation and you really want to indulge, Montana in Lyme Regis is the place for you. Set in an Area of Outstanding Beauty, Montana is perched perfectly in a hillside spot with views over a magical wooded valley. This luxurious home with a contemporary Nordic style has been designed flawlessly by Award Winning Architects. This stunning home sleeps up to 10 people and 2 dogs. Prices start from £1,795 for a short break.
5. Dorset Transportation
There is a fantastic bus service which runs throughout the whole of Dorset. You will also find The Jurassic Coaster and Purbeck Breezer. These are great options for walkers, as you are given the option to walk one way and use the bus the other way. On many of these buses, you can sit on the top deck and enjoy amazing views out over the coastline and countryside. There are 23 train stations in Dorset, so this is another option you may want to consider. On a beautiful day, why not opt for a boat trip? You can take a boat from Poole, Wareham, Swanage, Lulworth Cove, Weymouth, and West Bay and take in the spectacular coastline from the sea.
6. Suggested Budget for Dorset
Dorset is the perfect place to visit for all types of travellers, whether you are looking to explore on a budget or you are happy to pay extra for a little more luxury. You can travel around Dorset using a bus ticket and tickets between Poole and Southbourne cost £3.70 for the day. If you like the idea of a boat trip then why not hop on board Poole Harbour & Islands circular cruise for £12 for an adult. Here you can take in fantastic views of Brownsea Island, Sandbanks Peninsula and Studland Bay, whilst sipping a glass of wine from the boat’s fully licensed bar. Children under 5 years old travel for free.
You can find simple self-catering apartments for as little as £50 a night, or middle-of-the-range hotels for around £120 a night. However, if you are travelling for a special occasion, there are hotels which offer something extra special for around £300.
There is a range of places to eat from country pubs to luxury dining. You could make a trip to one of the many friendly bakeries which Dorset has to offer. If you wanted to save a little money, you could stop off at a farm shop and pick up some fresh produce to cook in your accommodation.
7. Best Things To Do in Dorset
Let’s continue with the most exciting part of my Dorset travel guide! There are many activities you can enjoy in Dorset which are completely free. From fossil hunting on the many beaches Dorset has to offer, to exploring the historic quintessentially English villages or walking through one of the many magical nature reserves. You are sure to come home with some unforgettable memories and some Instagram-worthy photos…
Dorset is home to many stunning castles, one of which is Highcliffe Castle with views out across the English Channel to the Isle of Wight.
After admiring the castle and its beautiful gardens, take a 20-minute stroll down through the Nature Reserve Steamer Point. This route will lead you out onto Avon Beach, where you will find stretches of golden sand lined with pastel-coloured beach huts. Stop off at The Noisy Lobster for delicious seafood freshly caught by the local fishermen. If you time it well, you can finish off the day perfectly by watching the sunset from their beachfront terrace, accompanied by a gentle sea breeze and views of Mudeford Bay.
Durdle Door is one of the most photographed and iconic landmarks in Dorset (and possibly the UK). The natural arch frames the sea perfectly and is as pretty as a postcard. This impressive arch was created when the sea pushed its way through the limestone rock around 10,000 years ago. First, follow the natural cliff path down to the beach and marvel at the caves which have been carved by the sea. Then, this is the perfect spot to hunt for fossils; it is not uncommon to find fossils, ammonites, and belemnites.
The Dolls House
A short walk away is picture-perfect Lulworth Cove. On your way down the hill, stop off at The Dolls House, a pretty blue house offering local ice cream or tasty pieces of fudge. Overshadowed by Durdle Door this peaceful, pretty shingle bay is the perfect place to watch boats bobbing up and down and enjoy a sweet treat.
Other places not to be missed:
The castle ruins sit on top of a hill looking over a quaint and traditional English village. Stop to take in the breathtaking view across the Purbecks.
Take a trip on the award-winning Swanage railway. The 12-mile trip takes you on a journey through the Purbeck countryside, be sure to look out for Corfe Castle on your journey.
Moors Valley Country Park
Fancy a thrill-seeking experience? Swing from the trees and experience Go Ape. Or, if you don’t fancy that, there are 1000 acres of the forest waiting to be explored. Enjoy woodland, meadows, rivers, and lakes along the way.
An elegant 17th-century mansion set in beautiful gardens and woodland. (The perfect time to visit would be in Spring when the bluebells are in full bloom).
8. Where to Eat in Dorset?
Let’s move on to the most delicious part of the Dorset travel guide!
The Noisy Lobster
The Noisy Lobster is a family-run award-winning restaurant in a perfect setting. They specialise in fresh locally caught seafood, offering delicious dishes from Catch of the Day to Mussels Mariniere and Traditionally Dressed Crab. Enjoy a meal or some cocktails from their stunning terrace which only opened last year!
Stroll along the Avon River, taking in views of castle ruins and pretty houses dotted along the river. This will lead you to the quay, where you will find The Boathouse. This is the perfect place to stop for lunch after exploring the picturesque town of Christchurch or head there in the evening for cocktails in their chandelier bar.
Rick Stein’s Restaurant, Sandbanks
Head to Sandbanks, a small peninsula which is known for its luxury houses and golden beach. Rick Stein’s is a family and dog-friendly restaurant, with stunning panoramic views of Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island. The perfect place for fresh seafood and fantastic wine.
A few other places I recommend for food:
- The Paddle, Highcliffe
- Highcliffe Bakery
- Bigwigs Bakery, Southbourne
- Urban Garden, Bournemouth
- Ferndene Farm Shop
9. Warning Tips and Tricks
Dorset is a very safe place. During the pandemic, millions of tourists flocked to Dorset’s beaches. Durdle Door in particular was overflowing with tourists. Therefore, I would advise traveling to this popular landmark out of season to truly enjoy it. Oh, and don’t forget to wear sensible footwear because it is a steep, uneven walk down to the beach.
Hopefully, you enjoyed my Dorset travel guide! Don’t forget to let me know your thoughts about Dorset by leaving your comments below.