If you’re looking for some glorious UK beaches, then it’s hard to go past those down in the southern coast county of Dorset.
Home to beautiful sandy stretches, dramatic cliff bases, long pebbly ridges and of course, the fossil-filed ones on the UNESCO-listed Jurassic Coast, Dorset has so many beaches to choose from, compiling this list of the best ones has been no easy task, let me tell you!
But after spending a week down exploring this part of England (and thankfully the weather was good enough for me to sample a bucket load of beaches!), I’m glad to say I’ve now found my top picks.
So if you’re a coastal lover like me and want to see experience some of the top stretches of sand in the UK, here’s my list of the 13 best Dorset beaches – giving you plenty to choose from…
- 5 Best Dorset Walks + How to Enjoy Them
- Top 21 Places to Visit in Dorset
- 50 Best Things to Do in the UK
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#1 Man O’War
First up on the list it’s definitely one of the most striking Dorset beaches.
A beautiful sandy cove, located in one of Dorset’s most famous areas, the Man O’War beach is a picturesque gem, where turquoise waters lap this curved sandy strip below some beautiful dramatic cliffs.
The Man O’War Beach actually sits between Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove and parking in the same place as Durdle Door means when you visit this beach, you can easily tick a few other gems off your bucket list at the same time!
Do be aware of the climb though, there’s quite a steep path to get down here… and back up!
#2 Durdle Door
And right next to Man O’War Beach, Durdle Door is the beautiful sandy strip that sits at the base of one of the country’s most incredible and recognisable sights.
Yes Durdle Door is actually the name given to the amazing natural stone arch in this part of the British coastline and lounging on the sand, looking up at this gem from your picnic blanket, is an absolutely amazing thing to do.
Durdle Door is certainly one of Dorset’s best beaches, but it understandably gets busy here, so making sure you arrive early to park, walk down and pick a spot is crucial!
#3 Lulworth Cove
And another beach in Dorset that often gets really crowded is the gorgeous Lulworth Cove.
Primarily this is down to the iconic status of the gorgeous beach, but also the fact that it’s quite small – well the clue is in the “cove” name I suppose!
There is some parking at Lulworth Cove, but it can be a bit of a nightmare to get in here, so if you want to avoid the traffic, I recommend parking at Durdle Door instead and then taking the Southwest Coastal Path across to Lulworth Cove.
This clifftop hike will take you less than an hour, but will give you stunning views, especially as you approach Lulworth Cove and view it from above.
A beautiful way to take in the Dorset coastline, this path does have some step ascents and descent however, so do beware of that,
#4 Kimmeridge Bay
And just along from Lulworth Cove is another stunning Dorset beach that is an absolute heart-stealer.
You can actually continue on the Southwest Coastal Path from Lulworth cover to discover this hidden gem, which promises more off the beaten track and crowd-free rocky action.
The lack of parking and public transport to this spot means it tends to dodge the crowds, but the dramatic views from this little cove, complete with amazing rockpools and Clavell Tower situated up the headland, makes this a winner for sure!
And from quiet cove, we now move to some of the main beaches in Dorset – the family-friendly crowd pleasers thanks to the nearby towns.
First up is Weymouth Beach, a huge sandy strip that is adjacent to The Esplanade and has loads going on.
Great for swimming and water sports, with donkey rides and pedalos thrown in for good measure, this award-winning Dorset beach is a huge hit with families.
After a day on the sand, you then have the opportunity to stroll into Weymouth and enjoy all the eating and drinking spots this top UK beachside town has to offer.
#6 Boscombe Beach
And eastwards along the coast, Boscombe Beach, very near the town of Bournemouth, is definitely another top Dorset beach for families and groups of friends.
Gentle-sloping and with Blue Flag status, there’s lifeguards stationed here during the summer months to keep everyone safe.
Wonderfully sandy and clean, you can stroll along the Promenade here to Bournemouth’s iconic Pier, before hiring deckchairs and parasols to help you enjoy your day on the sand.
Boscombe does get very busy however, so once again it’s best to get here early to grab your parking spot and patch on the sand.
If you’re a bit late to the party, or you want to avoid the crowds, then heading further towards Christchurch provides lots more opportunities for top Dorset beach finds!
#7 Canford Cliffs
Away from the crowds however, Canford Cliffs between the Dorset towns of Poole and Bournemouth, provides the perfect peaceful retreat.
With Blue Flag status, sandy cliffs and cute wooden huts, Canford is a local favourite, which is situated near the village of Canford and between the more popular Shore Road and Branksome Chine Beaches.
With a long sandy strip of sand, and a far less built up feel, the beach huts, cliff backdrop and stunning ocean here make it a dream!
Carry on just along the coast and you’ll discover the millionaires’ playground of Sandbanks, where expensive properties and top-notch restaurants can also be found!
#8 Lyme Regis
Now we head over to the western edge of Dorset and the Victorian seaside town of Lyme Regis.
Making a popular resurgence thanks to its historic charm and fossil-filled potential, Lyme Regis’ 13th-century harbour, called the Cobb, is undoubtedly the jewel in its crown.
With a mix of sandy and shingle beaches around here, it’s the town beach – also known as Sandy Beach – which I’ve chosen to add to this list of Dorset’s top beaches.
That’s thanks to its great swimming and lifeguards on watch, plus the fact you can easily explore the cute cafes and shops Lyme Regis has to offer from here too.
Just around the headland, Monmouth Beach is another great option near Lyme Regis, especially for those who’d like a dog-friendly, pebbly alternative.
#9 Charmouth Beach
And just to the east of Lyme Regis, Charmouth Beach is another gem you have to visit if you’re exploring this part of the county.
Part of Dorset’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Charmouth is great for fossil-hunting, which means it’s ideal for kids and the cute village behind is a must-see too.
A shingle delight, this part of the coast often makes it onto the list of British Beaches and the picnic areas, cafes and safe swimming all make it a hit on my list of Dorset beaches too.
#10 Chesil Beach
Made famous by Ian McEwan’s novel, Chesil Beach is a huge shingle strip that’s 29km long and runs between the Isle of Portland and Abbotsbury.
One of Dorset’s most famous natural structures, this place is wild and rugged with only a few walkers of SUP-ers around.
Tales of smugglers abound, but if you’re lucky, this is the perfect place to get a strip of Dorset to yourself!
#11 Hive Beach
And continuing along the coast, Hive Beach, which can be found to the west of Chesil Beach, lies just outside the gorgeous village of Burton Bradstock and is another popular spot.
The great swimming and stunning cliff backdrop at Hive Beach make it a firm favourite and the lovely café here also means it’s very popular.
The parking here is limited however, but as it’s a National Trust car park, if you’re a member you can park here for free!
Dog-friendly and great for views all the way to Devon, to be careful of swimming here however as no lifeguards are on duty and the coastal shelf is steep.
And in at number 12 on this list of the best Dorset beaches, it’s the sandy gem of Swanage.
Situated the other end of the county – towards the east – if you’ve been hiking near Old Harry Rocks, or you’ve visited Corfe Castle, Swanage Beach is a lovely spot to spend the afternoon.
In fact, you can walk here all the way from Corfe Castle before getting the train back.
With a beautiful promenade behind and some lovely views too, as well as the town and surrounds of Swanage to explore, this is another family-friendly beach with loads of great facilities in easy reach.
#13 Studland Bay
And last but not, in at magic number 13, it’s the amazing beach of Studland.
Actually, I’ve kind of cheated here as Studland Beach is actually made up of 3 beaches – Knoll Beach, Middle Beach and South Beach – but all of them are well worth a visit!
Walking between them and then using the Southwest Coastal Path to check out the dramatic cliffs of Studland, including Old Harry Rocks, The Pig On the Beach here is well worth popping into for a treat of a drink if you can!
Top Dorset Travel Tips
When to Visit Dorset?
There’s no question the best time to go glamping and walking in Dorset in my opinion is between the months of June and September when the weather is at its driest, sunniest and warmest.
Not only does this make for a more pleasant beach experience, but the better weather at this time of year will also allow you to enjoy more of the region’s beautiful landscapes too – whether that’s walking, cycling or hitting up the coast.
Within the summer months, do remember that the school holidays and sunny weekends will be by far the busiest months down here, so if you want to get the best prices or the thinnest crowds, it’s probably best to avoid these times!
As an FYI, I visited Dorset in mid-April and experienced idyllic weather that saw me hiking and glamping under brilliant blue skies every day, but this isn’t a given!
How to Get to Dorset?
Situated in the south of England, Dorset’s main town is Bournemouth and this place has the most regular train connections from London, along with frequent services from the nearby coastal cities of Southampton and Portsmouth.
Otherwise, the larger Dorset towns of Dorchester, Lyme Regis, Poole, Weymouth and Swanage also boast train stations and you can choose between them depending on where you are coming from and where you are basing yourself when you’re down here.
Regardless of which station you choose to arrive at, my top tip is to use Trainline to find the cheapest deals on rail tickets across the UK, as these guys use split-fare technology to get you the best prices.
Booking in advance with Trainline can throw up some surprisingly cheap fares, especially as this site also allows you to easily compare routes and journey times.
Alternatively, you can drive to Dorset – this will grant you the most flexibility when you are down in this rural county, especially if you are planning to hike and glamp off the beaten track.
If you don’t have a car, you may consider renting one and I highly recommend Discover Cars for the job, as they offer some super deals on short-term hires and are very reputable.
Learn more about how to score a great deal when renting a car in the UK, thanks to these handy top 12 tips I swear by!
How to Get Around Dorset?
There’s no doubt that the easiest way to explore Dorset is via 4 wheels, however there are several good bus services (especially in the summer) that can help you get around if you don’t have a vehicle.
The Jurassic Coaster and Purbeck Breezer buses are probably the most useful for beach go-ers, especially those who want to enjoy parts of the Southwest Coast Path.
These tourist-friendly routes are also ideal for those who just plan to sightsee, and sitting on their top deck sure does give some epic views!
Learn more about the Purbeck Breezer here.
If you don’t want to catch public transport, then cycling is also an option for getting around Dorset.
Although there are some designated trails, as well as calm and quiet country roads to enjoy, do beware there’s plenty of hills too!
Where to Stay in Dorset?
Bournemouth, Weymouth and Lyme Regis all have a heap of accommodation options.
However, Swanage would be my pick when it comes to a quieter beachside place to base yourself.
It’s just so beautiful there, and so near to many of Dorset’s best beaches and attractions, that it’s hard to pass up!
When it comes to accommodation in Swanage, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the YHA Swanage, which has both private rooms and dorms.
For something more suited to groups looking for some self-catering accommodation, this Shepherd’s House, also in Swanage is a top-rated 2 bedroom house that gets regular rave reviews thanks to its excellent comfort, cleanliness and location.
Just down the road, The Bear Hotel, in Wareham offers lovely double and family rooms with an onsite bar, restaurant and a charming boutique feel.
Otherwise, over in West Dorset, the wonderful Pumpkin View Cottage is the perfect Airbnb spot for 1-2 travellers near Dorcester. The owners are delightful and the property is beautifully peaceful and clean.
5 Packing Essentials for Dorset
#1 Good Walking Shoes – like these ones from North Face
#2 Waterproof, Windproof Jacket – this is a great option
#3 Swimwear & Towel – I thoroughly recommend taking swimwear and a travel towel with you, especially if you’re coming in the summer!
#4 Camera – like my Sony A6000, which never leaves my side!
#5 Portable Charger – 2 fully charged Anker portable chargers are a must to keep your phone and camera going!
Where to Head After Dorset?
If Dorset has wet your appetite to explore more of the south of the UK (and who can blame you?!), then you’ll be glad to know it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to several other stunning areas around.
To the south, the wonderful Isle of Wight can easily be accessed by ferry and offers more great walking and glamping opportunities. Learn more in this list of the top things to do on the Isle of Wight.
Otherwise, to the west you have Devon and all the coastal hiking wonders this county provides or, to the east, the magnificent New Forest provides loads of great walks and cycling opps, as well as some fab pubs too!
Alternatively, to the north, the county of Somerset with the magnificent Cheddar Gorge and historic icons of Glastonbury and Wells shouldn’t be missed. Check out my list of the top 10 things to do in Somerset for more ideas.
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So there you have it, my list of the top 13 Dorset beaches, plus all you need to know to enjoy them!
Have you been to any of these before?
Which was your favourite?
Or have I missed your top pick out?
Please join the conversation in the comments box below…