Campsites in Dorset: our pick of the best
From the stunning scenery of the Jurassic Coast to beautiful far-reaching countryside, Dorset has lots to offer. Explore this popular county from a base on one of our favourite, and best, campsites in Dorset...
- Why visit Dorset?
- Dorset attractions
- Campsites in Dorset near the beach
- Campsites in the New Forest
- About our magazines
Words by Claire Tupholme
Why visit Dorset?
(Photo courtesy of Toby Elliott on Unsplash)
Often overlooked by people heading further south into Devon and Cornwall, Dorset has plenty to offer for a short break or a week-long holiday.
For camping in Dorset there are a variety of stunning landscapes, from the sweeping beaches and rugged cliffs of the Jurassic Coast to the rolling countryside and picturesque chocolate-box villages inland. When choosing campsites in Dorset, for walkers there are over 300 miles of marked trails, including part of the South West Coast Path, with views that will take your breath away.
Dorset is home to many big draw destinations – Weymouth (with its Georgian town houses), Bournemouth (home to art galleries, amusement arcades and an annual air show), and Swanage (pure nostalgia with a steam train railway and Victorian pier) are just some of the main ones.
There's also the imposing hilltop ruins of Corfe Castle (from where you can hop on a steam train to Swanage), the extravagant mansions in Poole's pricey Sandbanks area, nature-rich Brownsea Island reached by boat from Poole Harbour, and the mysterious chalk figure – the Cerne Abbas Giant – carved on a Dorset hillside.
The iconic Dorset coastline
Put Dorset into a search engine and invariably an image of Durdle Door will appear. This natural limestone arch jutting out into the sea is an iconic feature of Dorset's World Heritage Jurassic coastline and well-photographed. Created when the sea pierced through the limestone around 10,000 years ago, Durdle Door forms part of a host of coastal attractions along this stretch of the South West Coast Path, which also includes the turquoise-watered bay of Lulworth Cove.
The Jurassic Coast actually begins in Devon and stretches for 95 miles towards Dorset’s Studland Bay, where you’ll find another iconic Dorset feature, the chalk-white cliffs of Old Harry Rocks. Another option for your coastal fix is to head to the Isle of Portland, where Portland Bill Lighthouse stands proud on the cliff edge, and then walk along the shingle barrier of Chesil Beach (which is 18 miles long) with the sea one side and the unique habitat of the Fleet Lagoon on the other.
It is worth noting that you can't actually camp at Durdle Door, or any of the Dorset beaches, as wild camping is not permitted in England. There are plenty of ideal campsites close by, though.
The New Forest
One of England's 10 designated National Parks, the New Forest is not actually located in Dorset, but lies on the western edge of Hampshire which borders east Dorset. This means the New Forest is easily accessible from several campsites in Dorset.
Known for its many trails, wild heathland and native ponies, the forest is an outdoor enthusiast's dream. Don your walking boots, or hop on two wheels, to discover the diverse wildlife and natural beauty, or wander the cobbled streets of the pretty towns and villages. For wet weather days there are several museums to explore, including the renowned National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, housing over 250 vehicles telling the story of motoring through the ages.
(Photo courtesy of Nick Fewings on Unsplash)
Wander around Wareham
The riverside market town of Wareham has a history going back more than 2,000 years and, until the fourteenth century, it was a busy port. These days Wareham is somewhere to relax, have something to eat, or take a trip along the river.
Dorchester is Dorset’s county town; a typical market town that has five excellent museums and exhibitions. The Dinosaur, Tutankhamun and Teddy Bears museums and the Terracotta Warriors and Mummies exhibitions are all within walking distance of each other.
Famed for the commanding castle that overlooks the village, Corfe Castle is also a picturesque place to take a stroll. There are two main streets, linked at the village square. Around the square is a small collection of shops, tea rooms, pubs and a church. You can enjoy sitting outside one of the cafés, with views of the castle high on the hill above the village, or watch the steam trains on the Swanage Railway as they make their way down from here to the Victorian seaside resort at Swanage. Of course, a visit to the castle ruins is also a must – with fallen walls and secret places, these romantic ruins have 1,000 years of history to share.
Campsites in Dorset near the beach
For anyone wanting a beach holiday in Dorset there are a selection of campsites on the Dorset coast offering access to glorious sandy beaches for a family trip to the seaside. If you're looking for a campsite in Dorset near the beach, you’ll find seaside resorts of varying sizes and styles, from genteel Lyme Regis to more lively Weymouth. Fossil hunters can head for the pebbled sands of Charmouth Beach, or if sunbathing and sandcastles is more your thing, spend a day on the golden sands of Bournemouth.
Monkton Wyld Holiday Park
Three miles from both Lyme Regis and Charmouth on the Jurassic Heritage Coast, Monkton Wyld can offer the best of beach and countryside. Why not combine both and walk through quiet meadows and woods and catch the bus back from the seaside? Monkton Wyld has been awarded the highest accolades for conservation work within and surrounding the holiday park.
The campsite is known for its genuinely spacious pitches, all with 16A electric hook-up, plus a great children’s play area, dog walk, and separate paddock where you can let them off the lead, and dog wash. The shower blocks are large and spacious. Electrics bikes are available for hire.
Find out more: Monkton Wyld Holiday Park
Bagwell Farm Touring Park
This family-run campsite is set in a quiet valley yet within five miles of Weymouth's sandy beach and harbour. With just a short walk from the park to the South West Coast Path and Fleet Lagoon, it's an ideal base to explore Dorset's Jurassic coastline.
This award-winning campsite has super pitches with 16A electric, water and drainage, plus a TV point. The campsite is open all year, with heated facilities as well as a warm water dog wash. There’s an on-site shop open daily, and The Red Barn bar and takeaway is open at weekends during mid-season and nightly during high season. There's a bus stop within half a mile making it easy to tour the attractive coastline.
Find out more: Bagwell Farm Touring Park
Ulwell Holiday Park
Nestling under the Purbeck Hills, Ulwell Holiday Park is surrounded by beautiful countryside and a coastline of dramatic cliffs and clean, safe beaches. The Victorian seaside town of Swanage has many attractions for all the family to enjoy, including a Blue Flag beach, restored pier, watersports, boat trips and the Swanage Railway to name a few. There are also plenty of walkways and cycle paths to explore Purbeck’s countryside and the Jurassic Coast.
Facilities on the campsite include hardstanding and grass pitches with electric, and some fully serviced pitches. There are toilets, showers, an indoor pool, shop, play area and WiFi.
Find out more: Uwell Holiday Park
East Fleet Farm Touring Park
(Photo courtesy of East Fleet Farm)
East Fleet Farm is a beautiful location set in the heart of Dorset, based on the shoreline of the Fleet Lagoon overlooking Chesil Beach. Running along the shoreline at the edge of the campsite is the World Heritage Jurassic Coast footpath. It is wonderful to stroll along the shore of the Fleet, admire the sunsets and enjoy stargazing. For a traditional seaside resort day out, Weymouth’s golden sands are only three miles away.
The campsite has a range of pitches, including hardstandings, alongside fully serviced pitches with water, drainage and electric hook-up. On the campsite there is a bar and restaurant, an entertainment venue, toilets and showers with individual cubicles, plus an accessible shower room.
Find out more: East Fleet Farm Touring Park
Newlands Holiday Park
For owners of larger units, this Dorset campsite has easy access direct from the main road. Set in the countryside, the site is within walking distance of Charmouth, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast. Sand and sea lovers will be pleased to note that the beach is less than a mile away. The village has a selection of shops, pubs and restaurants. The pretty seaside resort of Lyme Regis is also only three miles away.
Newlands Holidays has hardstanding pitches with electric hook-up set on terraces. There are also premium pitches that are fully serviced. The extensive facilities comprise toilets, showers, a bar and restaurant, a launderette, a shop, plus indoor and outdoor pools.
Find out more: Newlands Holiday Park
Campsites in the New Forest
Set in Hampshire, bordering the county of Dorset, the New Forest makes for an ideal place to visit during your camping holiday to Dorset. Choose a campsite in, or near, the New Forest and be surrounded by nature and wildlife. You can also easily access the many walking trails of the forest within a few miles, or some almost direct from your pitch.
Harrow Wood Farm Caravan Park
Harrow Wood Farm Caravan Park is set in 80 acres of farmland on the edge of the New Forest just inside the New Forest National Park. It has hardstanding pitches with electric hook-up and some grass pitches for camping. This small family park is in the village of Bransgore, from which you can explore the New Forest and surrounding areas. The park is situated just five miles from Christchurch and two miles from the open forest.
There is an on-site coarse fishing lake and a one-mile circular farm walk to enjoy the animals and surroundings. You can explore pretty villages with country pubs, head to the famous Beaulieu Motor Museum or spend a day at the coast.
Find out more: Harrow Wood Farm Caravan Park
Back of Beyond Touring Park
On the Dorset/Hampshire border, Back of Beyond is an adults-only, dog-friendly campsite spread over 30 acres. The campsite has extensive private woodland for walking and where dogs can roam free. The site also supports wildlife and has a lake in a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Back of Beyond’s location means that the New Forest, Bournemouth and the south coast are all accessible.
There are electric hook-up pitches, and hardstanding and fully serviced pitches are available. There’s a nine-hole pitch and putt on the campsite, a licensed shop, plus Monty’s bar with covered outside seating. If heading off the campsite, a pub and country park are less than two miles away and a cycle route is nearby. For anyone travelling to Dorset with non-camping friends, the site also has various glamping units for hire.
Find out more: Back of Beyond Touring Park
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