Location Guide: Dorset's delightful beaches
Dorset is well known for its impressive Jurassic Coast and stunning shorelines that stretch for almost 100 miles and provide many beaches to visit. Not only do they offer breathtaking scenery, but also provide many activities for all ages including fossil hunting, walking, swimming and, of course, sandcastle building.
Dorset’s dramatic coastline was designated as a natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001, recognised for the geological importance of its rocks and fossils. It is part of the 95-mile stretch of coast known as the Jurassic Coast that stretches from Exmouth in Devon to Swanage in Dorset. Along the way, rocks that record 185 million years of geological activity are clearly visible.
The many coastal villages and towns of this area are full of charm and character. There are spectacular coves such as Lulworth and Durdle Door, huge pebble beaches including Chesil, and even the biggest natural harbour in the world, at Poole; this area really has it all. If you enjoy walking, this region is brilliant; there are many well-signposted walks, including a stretch of the South West Coast Path.
A straight pebble beach stretching 18 miles from Portland to West Bay, Chesil is one of just three major shingle structures in Britain and is the longest in the UK. This is a beautiful beach and, although popular, it feels far from the crowds; a peaceful place to be, with the relaxing sounds of waves hitting the pebbles along the shore and crisp sea air. Dogs are welcome which makes this a wonderful place for a walk, to be enjoyed whatever the weather. Just behind the beach, Fleet Lagoon is home to the only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world. This is Abbotsbury Swannery, where visitors can meander among the swans, getting quite close to nests and observing swans in a way that’s not possible anywhere else.
Images: Above left: Durdle Door (Pixabay). Above right: Bournemouth beach (Pixabay).
The iconic sea arch at Durdle Door has to be one of the most recognisable natural features of Dorset. Being part of the Jurassic Coast, there are great fossil-hunting spots and perfect photo opportunities as well as a lovely sandy beach.
As well as a picturesque seven-mile stretch of sand and cliffs, Bournemouth has some of the warmest sea temperatures in the UK. The beach is classed as one of the safest in the country and has retained the international Blue Flag award since it was introduced in 1996. The Victorian pier has an abundance of entertainment, attractions and shops. You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to food, with fresh seafood, cream teas and fish and chips.
The beach is close to the village of Charmouth, where there are a number of eateries and shops selling beach essential. Charmouth Beach is split into two by the mouth of the River Char, separating East and West Beach which sometimes creates a lagoon. A perfect place for a day of fossil hunting, the beach is also ideal for families beacuse the sand shelves gradually. This is a beach where you need to know tide times; low tide enables you to walk a long way along the shore but high tides make much of the eastern side of the beach impassable. You can enjoy exploring this beach by yourself or join one of the regular guided walks from the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre. Fans of the ITV drama series Broadchurch may recognise the beach huts that are available to be hired here; they were featured in the series, which ran from 2013 to 2017.
Studland Bay is an area with heathland full of wildlife and famed for its four miles of sandy beaches. These are Shell Bay, Knoll Beach, Middle Beach and South Beach. Studland Bay is very popular for water sports including kayaking, and windsurfing. Boats can be hired here and the gentle bathing waters make it perfect for all of the family to enjoy. The heathland is a place where wildlife can be observed, including deer, rare insects, birds and reptiles. Dogs are allowed all year on the beaches, with some restrictions in the summer months.