Dorset Tourist Information

Durdle Door, Dorset Jurassic Coast

Durdle Door, Dorset Jurassic Coast

Dorset is an ancient English landscape containing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Heritage Coastlines and age old market towns. The region is famously the home territory of one of the UK’s most celebrated authors, Thomas Hardy. His cottage in Higher Bockhampton village near Dorchester is essential visiting for Hardy fans. Large parts of Dorset either have AONB or Heritage Coast status, and the Dorset and East Devon Coast is one of the UK’s Natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The coast with the most - Dorset's Jurassic Coast

The coast with the most – Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

Heritage Coast

Dorset’s Jurassic Coast flanked by the South West Coast Path National Trail offers some of the country’s most spectacular coastal walking, dazzling rock formations and magnificent beach bays framed by high cliffs. The heritage coast sweeps either side of the Portland & Weymouth peninsula. To the west of Weymouth sits the sweeping 18 mile long Chesil beach, cliff framed beach bays like West Bay, fossil hunting rich locations like Charmouth and beautiful Lyme Regis with its iconic Cobb harbour wall.

To the east of Weymouth and Portland is the Purbeck Heritage Coast and the most spectacular of the Jurassic Coast rock formations including Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. Coast path walking along here is a magical experience, and continuing east is the beautiful Isle of Portland with hotspots like seaside favourite Swanage and beautiful beach bays and rock formations around Studland including the famous Old Harry Rocks. Inland Portland is home to one of Britain’s most famous castles – Corfe Castle which was partly destroyed by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War in 1646.

Weymouth's Award-winning beach

Weymouth’s Award-winning beach

Bournemouth's award-winning beaches

Bournemouth’s award-winning beaches

Seaside, Beaches & Marina

The Dorset coast is where you’ll find some great family friendly seaside resorts including one of the South Coast’s most popular resorts – Bournemouth with several award-winning beaches, best family attractions and nearby boat trips to Brownsea Island from Poole Harbour. Weymouth is another popular family resort with family rides lining beautiful sandy beaches. Since the 2012 Olympics and Portland Marina’s starring role in sailing championships, this area of Dorset has become a real hub centre for world class sailing.

Wareham Quayside

Wareham Quayside

East Dorset Heaths & Forests

East Dorset bordering the New Forest is where you’ll find the region’s ancient forests and heathland criss-crossed by an extensive network of cycling and walking trails. Discover top spots for birdwatching like Holt Heath National Nature Reserve and families will find much to please in Moors Valley Country Park and Forest with its many family trails, outdoor activitities and golf centre, restaurant and more. Fine heathland golf courses are also dotted about the area and you’ll find a wealth of accommodation options in and around historic market town Wimborne Minster and in the Verwood area. Wareham alongside the River Frome has a charming old quayside and is ideal for touring East Dorset’s Heaths and Forests, the Isle of Purbeck and the Heritage Coast.

Hardy's Cottage in Higher Bockhampton village near Dorchester

Hardy’s Cottage in Higher Bockhampton village near Dorchester

Hardy Country & Market Towns

Much of the Dorset interior around Hardy’s Dorchester and ancient market towns like Blandford Forum is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. County town Dorchester is the largest centre, featuring several fantastic museums and a Thomas Hardy Trail. Georgian market town Blandford Forum, home to real ale brewers Badger Ales, is also a great base for exploring central Dorset. In the far north of the country close to the Somerset border you’ll find charming hill top towns within the chalk hills of Cranborne Chase, most famously Shaftesbury whose steep cobbled street ‘Gold Hill’ as featured in the 1970s/ early 80s Hovis advert is one of England’s most famous views.

Wimborne Minster church - Dorset's beautiful inland market towns & villages

Wimborne Minster church – Dorset’s beautiful inland market towns & villages

Getting Here

The area is incredibly accessible either via Bournemouth Airport or on various ferry routes to coastal locations such as Weymouth, Poole and just across the county border in Southampton and Portsmouth. Fast direct rail links (South West Trains) run from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, Weymouth and beyond. Dorset is closer than you think – Bournemouth is only around a 75 minute drive from the M25 via the M3, and scenic A31 across the New Forest. For a watersports getaway, a coast or country walking break or literary tour of Hardy Country, Dorset is where to head.

Portland Bill Lighthouse & Visitor Centre

Portland Bill Lighthouse & Visitor Centre

Where to Stay

Discover a fantastic choice of holiday cottage accommodation across Dorset’s heritage coast and AONB countryside, many with spectacular views. Seaside resorts like Bournemouth and Weymouth contain numerous stylish apartments ideal for couples and families, or book a character B&B in one of Dorset’s many ancient market towns and villages close to Hardy’s Cottage or one of the county’s precious Bronze or Iron Age Sites. Beautiful historic hotels sit around Bournemouth’s delightful coastal Chine valleys and you’ll find many Grade Listed boutique hotels and luxury country house hotels in the region, whether you’re looking for a luxury spa hotel in Portland, a luxury hotel with restaurant or a coastal apartment in Lyme Regis near the famous harbour. Find your perfect Dorset accommodation online now and book with iknow.

Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.