Swanage is a beautiful family friendly seaside resort on the east Purbeck coast. Originally a fishing port, it became popular as a Victorian seaside resort and famous children’s author Enid Blyton regularly took holidays in Swanage. Nineteenth century businessmen shaped the town, developed transport links and brought back pieces of architecture from London – literally! Today it’s a sunny, family-friendly seaside resort with an award-winning beach, numerous watersports and the South West Coast Path runs through the town, perfect for year round coastal walking breaks. A great place to start your tour of Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck is the tourist information centre on Shore Road (just opposite the beach) with a variety of brochures, leaflets and guides on local attractions, walks and heritage trails and maps.
The award-winning three mile long sandy beach is just a short walk from Swanage town centre and ideal for families with safe bathing waters and magnificent views towards Old Harry Rocks. Watersports including sailing, diving and windsurfing are all popular, and you can hire boats, canoes and pedalos on the beach. A wealth of boat trips and boat charter opportunities are available around the Pier including summer sailings on the famous Waverley Paddle Steamer. The historic pier originally built in 1859/60 by James Walton of London for shipping stone is a real centrepiece in the resort. It took off as a pleasure pier when George Burt began a steamer service between Swanage, Poole and Bournemouth in 1874 which was popular with day trippers. Today the pier offers a host of attractions and activities including fishing, diving, watersports, shops, a cafe and craft stalls.
Head off along one of the three town trails in Swanage. There’s the Stone Trail which takes in the Bankers where the quarried stone was once stacked for shipping to London, the Victorian Trail which takes you up the coast path to Durlston Country Park and the Town Trail which guides you around buildings of historic interest, many of which seem to have pilfered from places in London! Swanage’s Town Hall seems rather grand for a small seaside town. The reality is that the 17th century facade was once that of Mercer’s Hall in Cheapside, London. George Burt who helped modernise the town in the 19th century brought the entire building front to Swanage when the original building had to be dismantled to widen the road!
Following the Trails you’ll find all sorts of former London landmarks like the Gothic Wellington clock tower brought back from London Bridge, a stone archway from Hyde Park Corner in Purbeck House gardens and the entrance pillars and bollards that once welcomed you to Millbank Prison in London. The Town Trail leaflets are available from Swanage’s Tourist Information Office for a small fee. There are other sights in the town such as St Mary’s Church and Mill Pond where the town’s water was sourced. Find out more about local history at the Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre.
Beach, Pier & Watersports
The real jewel of Swanage is its gently shelving sandy beach and clear, quality bathing waters. The beach is consistently awarded a Blue Flag award, and the waters off Central Beach regularly meet the highest of European standards. A safe bathing zone is clearly signposted within the three mile stretch of fine sandy beach which is close to town centre amenities. Facilities adjacent include wcs, baby changing facilities, cafes and seaside shops. Views from the beach looking north over to Old Harry Rocks are stunning. Watersports including sailing, diving and windsurfing are popular in Swanage and you can hire boats, canoes and pedalos. Dogs are welcome on Swanage beach off peak between October and April every year. In peak season (May to September), dogs are welcome on ‘Monkey Beach’ situated near the old stone quarry and Swanage Pier.
There are designated areas for boat launch and jet-ski use in the bay from March to September. Vessels can be launched from the Boat Park just off Broad Road car park and small craft can also be launched off the Parish slipway. Sailing is incredibly popular around the Bay and you’ll find the long-standing Swanage Sailing Club at the head of the Pier on Buckshore. During summer, diving in the crystal clear waters around the pier is incredibly popular, and you’ll find numerous boat charter and boat trip companies here. The pier end is also a top spot for fishing with magnificent views across to the Isle of Wight. Fishing rates are great value and Seaclean bins for discarded fishing lines are provided on the pier.
The Swanage Railway is a restored standard gauge steam railway that runs for six miles from Swanage on the coast through the Purbeck countryside to Corfe Castle. The Trust is hoping to eventually run a regular service all the way up to Wareham where the line could connect with the mainline network. It’s one of the resort’s top attractions, passing through some of Dorset’s most beautiful countryside to Corfe Castle village with its famous castle ruins and quaint model village. The railway runs regular themed events through the year from steam galas to Santa specials and evening/lunch dining services.
Where to Stay
Swanage and the surrounding Purbeck area offers a superb range of accommodation including family friendly holiday parks close to the beach, cosy holiday cottages perfect for both couples and families, period guest houses and charming seaside hotels, a selection of which include swimming pools. Spacious luxury holiday homes are perfect for large family groups and most seaside guest houses in Swanage offer the warmest of welcomes to families, and usually the family pet too. Whether you’re looking for a beach holiday home in high summer or a coastal walking weekend retreat on Purbeck, browse Swanage accommodation below and book online or direct.