Dominated by the stunning Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, it goes without saying that there are plenty of things to do and see in Dorset, not just at the coast, but throughout its unspoilt countryside too. We’ve searched high and low to find the very best things to do in Dorset for all kinds of visitors, from keen walkers and sightseers to those visiting with children!
Need somewhere to stay? Browse our collection of cottages to find the perfect base from which to enjoy these fantastic Dorset activities.
For the sightseers
As some of the most photographed places in the UK, you will likely recognise some of these incredibly beautiful places of interest in Dorset.
This natural limestone arch is Dorset’s most iconic landmark, eroded by the power of the waves. It’s not difficult to see why it’s probably one of the most photographed scenes in the UK and therefore one you must see for yourself! The best way to access the beach at Durdle Door is from the cliff-top car park at Durdle Door Holiday Park or via the short stroll from Lulworth Cove.
Old Harry Rocks
Just as famous, these unique chalk formations rise out of the sea at the end of Studland Bay within the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Visit via The Old Harry Rocks Walk, an easy 3.5-mile route which starts at South Beach car park in Studland and conveniently passes The Bankes Arms Inn for some refreshments!
Standing at 627ft (191m), Golden Cap is the highest point on the south coast with views as far as Dartmoor in Devon and along the coast to Portland Bill and Start Point! The flat-topped sandstone hill sits on the cliffs between Charmouth and Bridport. Several fabulous walks on the Golden Cap Estate also take in Stonebarrow hill and Langdon Hill woodlands.
Portland Bill Lighthouse
This distinctive red and white tower has been watching over the waters around the Isle of Portland for over 100 years. As well as an interesting and informative visitor centre, the view from the top will take your breath away – if you’re not already short of it from the 153 steps you’ll have just climbed. Gazing out for miles along Chesil Beach and the Jurassic Coast, the climb will be worth it!
This picture-perfect hill will probably look familiar to you! The picturesque, cobbled street in Shaftesbury was made famous by Hovis after it featured in the 1970s TV advert. Described as “one of the most romantic sights in England”, the view from the top should be added to your list.
Read our guide to the Dorset Coast to discover even more incredible landmarks and amazing scenery!
Keep the children of your group entertained with some family-friendly days out in Dorset that the kids will love too. We’ve picked a few of our favourites!
As seen on the TV shows ‘Monkey Life’ and ‘Monkey Business’, this sanctuary for rescued and endangered primates is one of the most popular days out in Dorset for children. Gain an insight into life at the park during daily keepers' talks, book on to a guided tour, watch the apes interact and allow your own little monkeys to burn off their energy in the play area. Keep an eye out for special family events throughout the year, including the Easter Egg Extravaganza!
Take the kids on a fascinating journey through an underwater world! Get up close to over 1,000 creatures including otters, sharks, sea turtles and fairy penguins – the world’s smallest penguins and the only colony that you can see in the UK! The Caribbean Cove play area and Pirate Adventure Mini Golf will bring an extra dose of fun to your family day out and during the summer, you can cool down in the Splash Zone with an outdoor pool and fountains.
Make sure the little ones are well-rested because Farmer Palmer's offers a full day out of family fun with will a daily timetable of hands-on animal events. Every half an hour, children will have the opportunity to feed, groom and cuddle everything from guinea pigs to donkeys! After a spot of lunch in the Hen House Restaurant, kids will love discovering an array of fun activities including bouncy castles, go-karts, tractor rides, the sands and splash zone, and so much more.
Water sports enthusiasts
The Dorset Coast is one of the best UK locations for water sports, peppered with sailing clubs, academies and training centres – and plenty of opportunities for visitors to hire equipment. If you are looking for things to do in Dorset or adults and children, then look no further!
Test your nerve and explore Dorset’s Jurassic coastline up close and personal. Book a coasteering experience, and you will find yourself swimming through caves, jumping from the clifftops, scrambling across rocks and climbing through tunnels!
Water sports tuition
Located on the water’s edge within the grounds of the National Sailing Academy on Portland, OTC Watersports offers expert tuition and the chance to try your hand at windsurfing, kite surfing or stand up paddleboarding under the watchful eye of the experienced OTC team.
Based in the beautiful port of Weymouth, embark on a variety of deep-sea fishing trips with Snapper Charters. Catering for all abilities and ages, it’s not only a fantastic way to try a new hobby, but it offers you a completely different perspective on the beautiful Dorset coast.
Kayaking & SUP
Book on to one of Fore / Adventure’s sea kayak or stand up paddleboarding tours for a unique insight into the Jurassic Coast, set within the sheltered Studland Bay against the backdrop of Old Harry Rocks. Choose from a two-hour taster session to master the skills or full adventure days – families welcome too!
Hire jet skis
Like to take life at a faster pace? Have some fun out in the bay and hire jet skis from Jet Ski Safaris, located in Poole Harbour, near Sandbanks. Choose from a two-hour experience to the ‘ultimate day on the water’ which also includes jetpack experience with sister company Aquatic Jet Packs!
Delve into Dorset’s past with a trip to some of these historic local attractions and discover lost villages, ancient castles, the Jurassic heritage and so much more.
Nestled between Kimmeridge Bay and Lulworth Cove, Tyneham is Dorset’s very own lost village. In 1943, it was commandeered by the War Office for training and the people who lived there were given only days to leave their homes. Today some of the original buildings remain, with information on the families who lived there. Combine with a 1-mile walk from the village to the remote Worbarrow Bay.
Recognised for the world’s best collection of tanks, The Tank Museum offers over 100 years of history through powerful exhibitions and almost 300 armoured vehicles - including the world’s first-ever tanks! From today’s frontline to First World War trenches, prepare to be transported!
With over 20,000 specimens on permanent display, there is lots to see at this intriguing museum. It’s not just for adults with a geological interest either – kids will love learning about the fascinating collection and in the map room, you can discover where best to find your own fossils!
Described as ‘one of Britain’s most iconic and evocative survivors of the English Civil War’ this royal castle now managed by the National Trust is an enjoyable day out for the entire family. Not only can you delve into the captivating past of this stunning ruins, but special events and stunning walks will keep you entertained too. Catch the train from Swanage to Corfe on the heritage steam line for an extra dose of history.
Take a trip to one of Europe’s largest and most complex Iron Age Hillforts, covering 47 acres – the equivalent to 50 football pitches! Open throughout daylight hours, enjoy a stroll to the top and take in the countryside views.
For the walkers
Where do we start? Dorset is quite simply a walker’s haven, from incredible cliff-top walks along the coast path, to countryside rambles through nature reserves. We mentioned some fantastic walks to reach landmarks such as Durdle Door and Old Harry Rocks but for more ideas, check out our guide to Dorset coastal walks.
For wildlife watchers
Rich in beautiful natural habitats and carefully protected RSPB nature reserves, it’s no wonder that wildlife lovers are drawn to Dorset. Home to a huge range of animals and birds – including squirrels and little terns – and alive with a stunning mix of fauna and flora, here are a few of the favourite places to spot wildlife.
- Arne RSPB Nature Reserve
- Brownsea Island
- Studland Beach & Nature Reserve
- RSPB Weymouth Wetlands at Radipole Lake Nature Reserve
- Abbotsbury Swannery
- Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Stanpit Marsh
We told you there was a lot of things to see in Dorset! So, where do you start? Find a lovely cottage to call home for a few days and start ticking some of these fantastic things to do off your list. Whether it’s just the two of you, or you’re treating the whole family to a break, we have plenty of cottages to suit all!
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please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.