The Jurassic Coast is Dorset’s biggest attraction, with dramatic beaches ready for you to unearth fossils – as well as top up your tan. This gorgeous stretch of coast proves that there’s more to Dorset than just ice-cream and paddling
When is the best time to visit Dorset?
Dorset’s fabulous Jurassic coastline has not gone unnoticed by the British holiday-making public, which means it’s busy in school holidays. July is its hottest, driest month, and the best time to take advantage of its many sandy bays. Be open-minded about your travel dates too, as the weather can be fairly mild at any time of year. In general, December gives you the most chance of rain, with some hope of snow making its many little villages all the prettier.
In high season, the place comes into its own, with ice-cream vans lined up by beaches, and teams of ramblers taking the coast line one splendid mile at a time. In early summer, at the beginning of May, the Frome Valley Food Festival kicks off festivities with its famous Dorset Knob Throwing event, which gives rise to many amusing headlines in local papers as visitors and locals compete to throw the furthest knob (a locally made bun). Other activities include a ‘guess the weight of the big knob’ competition, knob archery, knob and spoon racing and the knob-eating cup. Turn up to observe and you’ll probably find yourself participating – just try and keep a straight face. Following a buzzy, family-friendly summer, autumn sees many of the county’s charms still in full effect, but a little less footfall, making for a calmer short break. September can be just as warm as summer, with long days to walk the much emptier beaches.
With celebrated chef, restaurateur and food writer, Mark Hix’s HIX Townhouse in Lyme Regis, and fantastic farm produce and seafood close at hand, Dorset ‘s foodie events are a year round delight to those on a short break. That said, October is the true foodie month in Dorset. The Wimborne Minster Food & Drink Festival hosts a farmers’ market, produce displays and cooking demonstrations in pretty locations around the town. The Dorset Food Fortnight takes place in locations across the county over two weeks, and celebrates fabulous local produce. As well as promotions in local shops and markets, there are events and tastings – look out for the Cheese & Chutney Day, Apple Day at Washingpool Farm, plus many local cider and beer festivals. These change dates each year, so check local tourist offices for times.
In November, the focus shifts to culture with the renowned Bridport Literary Festival. This boasts a sophisticated line up of writers and critics, and has a thoughtful roster of events that will give you a good excuse to visit in November. Make sure your visit coincides with one of the many fabulous firework displays which illuminate the coastline on the 5th.
In December, the Christmas lights come out and Dorset’s little villages and stately homes host charming Christmas markets and festive events – Poole, Poundbury, Wimborne, Chesil, Swanage and more host events that give those taking a short break in Dorset the chance to see the area while doing their Christmas shopping.
What are the best beaches in Dorset?
For picture postcard sand and scenery, head to the Purbeck Heritage Coast between Weymouth and Poole. Weymouth, a favourite of George III (who hoped the beautiful waters here would help cure his ‘madness’ – or porphyria), is a lovely traditional seaside resort with Punch & Judy shows, deck chairs and donkey rides. Much of the architecture is Georgian/Regency and very handsome indeed. Studland Bay is a National Trust resort with a nice family-friendly beach – and a designated nudist section. Poole is fun for beachlife, as well as a lively little town populated with cafés and bars, while Bournemouth’s beaches attract a more youthful crowd (there is a popular University here.) For those who like to keep active rather than sunbathe, head further west to Chesil Beach, a 17-mile stretch of shingle. The beach is made up of millions of pebbles which decrease in size west to east. It’s thought that the bigger, heavier stones move more quickly – accounting for the segregation in size. It certainly makes for some stunning and unusual scenery.
What’s the best way to get to Dorset?
Dorset is easily accessible by air, land, sea and train. There are airports at Bournemouth, Southampton and Exeter, ferries ports at Poole and Bournemouth, and South West Train services running across the county. The M3 brings you right into Dorset – but be mindful of big jams during high season and changeover days (usually a Saturday).
Take a look at our hotels in Dorset and see the great mix of attractions that this destination has to offer.