Weymouth Dorchester Attractions and Museums

Weymouth and Dorchester have many attractions and museums the county is steeped in history from both land and sea, dinosaurs to D-Day and beyond.

Weymouth Harbour

A very pretty harbour lined by historic buildings and old fisherman’s cottages that have been converted into shops, restaurants and attractions. The town has a bustling atmosphere with a mix of traditional fishing boats unloading their latest haul, or charters heading out on mackerel trips and deep sea fishing trips. Many private yachts and ‘Tall Ship’ adorn the quayside and jostle with the fishing boats.  Crabbing is great fun with adults and children alike leaning over the quayside with crab lines hoping to fill their buckets. With many alfresco dining options it’s a great place to watch the world go by.

Weymouth Esplanade

The Esplanade runs the length of Weymouth Bay, from the Jurassic Skyline (a viewing tower built for the 2012 Olympics) and Pavilion Theatre to Bowleaze Cove a distance of around 3 miles.  Along the way you can relax and soak up the sun on the beach, play volley ball, take out a pedalo, have a donkey ride or catch a Punch and Judy show.  Another iconic image is the Jubilee Clock, built in 1888 for Queen Victoria to celebrate the 50th rule of her reign. Cafes, restaurants, hotels and guest houses line the front. As as you leave the town centre there are opportunities to visit The Sealife Park and Lodmoor Country Park.  A miniature Weymouth land train runs from the Jurassic Skyline to the Sealife Park with stops along the way.  At the end of the esplanade is Bowleaze Cove and welcome refreshment at the Oasis Cafe.

 Nothe Fort and Gardens

A Victorian fort protecting Weymouth Harbour from a promontory position surrounded by beautiful gardens. The fort is a labyrinth of passageways over three floors with displays charting the fort’s history. It is the best view point from which to see the harbour. The gardens offer tranquil areas for relaxing and picnics and grounds run down to the sea where you can go crabbing and rock pooling.

Greenhill Gardens

Pretty gardens right on the seafront with two cafes, 18 hole putting green, tennis courts and a lawn bowls club.

Sandsfoot Castle

Built by Henry VIII to protect Portland Harbour the castle is now a ruin but surrounded by gardens with a cafe, just off The Rodwell Trail.

The Tudor House

A museum displaying how a 17th Century merchant would have lived.

Bennetts Water garden

Eight acres of water gardens specialising in water lilies.

The Fleet Explorer

Nestled on the edge of the Fleet Lagoon just before the causeway to Portland lies the Fleet Observer, a shallow drafted glass-bottomed boat designed specifically for the purpose of exploring the Fleet Lagoon. These relaxing one hour trips run six times a day and are fantastic value. The observer is staffed by volunteers so it’s important to book ahead to ensure that a skipper is available. The Fleet Lagoon is the largest salt water lagoon in the UK and provides a unique ecosystem with fascinating wildlife and marine life to view from the boat.

Portland Bill Lighthouse

The most southerly tip of the Jurassic Coast with a lighthouse, visitor centre and cafe. You can climb the 153 steps and take in the view of the beautiful Dorset coastline and the treacherous Portland Race. Open daily there are guided tours available given by retired lighthouse keepers.

Portland Museum

The people (convicts, smugglers, invaders, army and navy), the maritime history (from vikings, shipwrecks, the navy and the 2012 Olympics), quarrying (Romans to Sir Christopher and St Paul’s Cathedral), the fossils (Ammonites and Cycads) are all featured in this fascinating and well looked after museum.

Castletown D-Day Centre

An exciting new family attraction offering an immersive experience of a wartime dockyard on Portland, Weymouth, Dorset | open every day.

Portland Castle

This coastal fort, built by Henry VIII in 1540 to protect southern England from invasion, stands high above Portland Harbour. Step back into Tudor times, enjoy the stunning views and learn how the fort has changed over time and the role it played in the 1st and 2nd World Wars before relaxing in the Captain’s Tea Room.

St George’s Church

An historic church with two pulpits and a graveyard chronicling the bloody history of Portland, murder, piracy, press gangs and convicts.

Dorset County Museum

Currently closed for refurbishment – keep an eye out for pop-up museums in Dorset throughout the year.

Roman Town House

Discovered in the 1930’s during some excavations this beautifully preserved Roman Town House is open all year and free to view – just behind Dorchester County Hall.

The Keep Military Museum

Situated in a castle on top of Dorchester hill, the museum charts 300 years of Devon and Dorset’s military history over three floors; ending on the roof with unmissable views of Dorchester and the surrounding countryside.

Shire Hall

Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum is now open, bringing over 200 years of justice and injustice to life.

Concentrating on the “time capsule” Georgian courtroom and cells where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were imprisoned and tried and Thomas Hardy was a magistrate. The theme of the centre is going to be Justice!

Dorset Teddy Bear Museum

A family museum with Edward Bear and his family of life-sized bears. There are also displays of some the earliest antique bears running through to today’s TV stars.

The Dinosaur Museum

A mix of life size models, fossils and skeletons where you are encouraged to have a hands-on experience!

Tutankhamun Exhibition

A recreation of the young king Tutankhamun’s tomb and treasures, as if you had discovered it in 1922.

The Terracotta Warriors Museum

The Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor of China’s famous Terracotta Army: a display of replicas of the 8000 strong Terracotta Army that guarded the Emperor’s tomb. It also features some recreated examples of the Emperor’s and his uniformed officers’ regalia.

Kingston Maurward Park and Gardens

A Grade II listed gardens with an animal park specialising in rare breeds; all set in the grounds of an 18th Century Manor House.

Cerne Abbas Giant

Otherwise known as the “Rude Man”, The Cerne Giant is an 180ft tall naked chalk hill figure of a man with a substantial erect penis. In local folklore he was used as an aid to fertility by women spending a night on the giant.

Athelhampton House and Gardens

A 15th Century Manor House and gardens. At the heart of the house is the Great Hall, which is a fine example of Tudor Architecture. The Great Court garden is famed for its pyramid shaped yew trees.

Minterne Magna Gardens

The valley was landscaped in the style of Capability Brown in the 18th Century. The garden is horseshoe-shaped and lies below Minterne House, with a chain of small lakes, waterfalls and streams; and is famous for its Autumn colours. There is also a unique collection of Himalayan Rhododendrons and Azaleas.

Hardy’s Cottage

Thomas Hardy’s birthplace: a thatched cob cottage, which was built by his grandfather and has changed little since the family left. There is a Visitor Centre close by dedicated to the novelist and the surrounding landscape.

Max Gate

Thomas Hardy’s home designed by him and built by his brother in 1885 and now looked after by the National Trust.

Maiden Castle

Located to the south west of Dorchester with free entry. Maiden Castle is one of the biggest and most complicated Iron Age hillforts in Europe – it is the size of 50 football pitches. Massive ramparts, mainly built in the 1st century BC, were defended by hundreds of its inhabitants. When it was first built, there would have been gleaming white chalk ramparts towering over the surrounding countryside, it still dominates the skyline today, with great views from the top.

Hardy’s Monument

The Hardy Monument is 72 foot tall and stands on a hilltop over 800 feet above sea level overlooking Dorchester and the surrounding coast and countryside. You can see for miles from the summit of the hill. It was built in 1844, but, not for Thomas Hardy the writer, as many people think, but in the memory of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, the Flag Captain of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. He is famed for being the man to whom Nelson uttered the immortal words ‘Kiss me Hardy’ as he died in Hardy’s arms at the Battle of Trafalgar.

If you like to know before you go, visit these great websites to enhance your stay in Dorset: South West Coast PathJurassic CoastFossil HuntingVisit Dorset and i Coast.

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