11 places you must see on the Jurassic Coast, Dorset

The Jurassic Coast in Dorset is a perfect place for an action-packed holiday. This part of South West England is packed with fantastic things to do, fascinating, family-friendly attractions and beautiful scenery. If you choose the Dorset Coast for a break, you’ll find there’s plenty to keep you busy on the Dorset stretch of the Jurassic Coast.

During a week’s stay on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, on the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast, we rediscovered the joy of being holidaymakers straight out of a Famous Five book.

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Old Harry’s Rocks near Swanage on the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset… These rock stacks mark the official start of the Jurassic Coast. Photo by Anton Lammert on Unsplash.

Where is the Jurassic Coast?

The Jurassic Coast starts at Old Harry Rocks near Swanage in East Dorset and stretches for 96 miles along the south west coast of England to Orcombe Point in East Devon. It takes in part of two English counties, Dorset and Devon. The Jurassic Coast is one of the most beautiful parts of England and has been popular with visitors since Victorian times.

This part of the Dorset and Devon coasts is called the Jurassic Coast because of its amazing geology. The cliffs, stone stacks and beaches in this area date from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. If you’re lucky enough to see the Jurassic Coast from the sea, you’ll be able to see the different layers of stone – 185 million years of history right there in front of you!

The other reason for the name is that the Jurassic Coast is famous for its fossils. The cliffs along the coast are full of fossils, particularly in the area of the Dorset coast around Lyme Regis. Fossil hunting on Lyme Regis or Charmouth beach is still one of the best things to do on the Dorset Coast.

Things to do on the Jurassic Coast

Here are my favourite things to do in and around the Isle of Purbeck and the Jurassic Coast.

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1. Corfe Castle

This little village a few miles inland from Swanage is just perfection. Quaint stone buildings around a gorgeous marketplace, a picturesquely ruined castle and a steam train running through it all.

Corfe Castle station on the preserved Swanage Railway
Corfe Castle station on the preserved Swanage Railway.
Corfe Castle from the lovely marketplace
Corfe Castle from the lovely marketplace.

2. Tyneham abandoned village

In 1943 the 225 residents of Tyneham were forced to leave their homes when the whole village was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence. Most of the buildings are ruins but the church and schoolhouse are still standing. You can visit the abandoned village most weekends and at bank holidays.

The ruined post office at Tyneham ghost village
The ruined post office at Tyneham ghost village

3. Lulworth Cove

One of the main sights of the Jurassic Coast and a true wonder of nature. Lulworth Cove is an almost-circular bay with just a small opening to the sea. There’s a car park and visitor centre in the village and it’s just a short walk to the beach.

Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast
Lulworth Cove on the Jurassic Coast

4. West Bay

AKA Broadchurch. The cliff at West Bay has had a starring role in the TV drama Broadchurch since 2013 and attracts droves of David Tennant-seeking fans. The cliff rears up from the sand dunes and is a truly awesome sight.

The cliff at West Bay, Dorsete
The cliff at West Bay, Dorset

5. Monkey World

Monkey World is an ape rescue centre not far from Wareham. There are a lot of sad stories here about the residents’ previous lives and how they’ve been mistreated but the keepers obviously care deeply about the animals and their talks are both moving and informative.

A lemur at Monkey World
A lemur at Monkey World

6. Sandbanks

AKA Dorset’s millionaires’ playground. This small peninsula and spit of land boast some of the UK’s most expensive land and property prices. It’s also got a beautiful beach. To get there from the Isle of Purbeck, take the ferry from Studland across the mouth of Poole Harbour.

Beach huts on Sandbanks
Beach huts on Sandbanks
The chain ferry from Studland to Sandbanks
The chain ferry from Studland to Sandbanks
A welcome to Poole sign in Sandbanks
A welcome to Poole sign in Sandbanks

7. Portland Bill lighthouse

It actually rained the entire time we were there but it looks like it would be a cool place to go on a drier day.

Portland Bill lighthouse... maybe next time
Portland Bill lighthouse… maybe next time

8. Chesil Beach

We’d planned to go to Chesil Beach the same day as we went to Portland Bill so we didn’t get to see it close up, but we did see it from above on our way back from Lyme Regis. Chesil Beach is an 18 mile long and 15 metre high shingle beach, connected to the mainland at each end with water in between. It’s all-natural and an amazing sight.

Chesil Beach on the Dorset coast
Chesil Beach on the Dorset coast

9. Lyme Regis

A gorgeous traditional seaside resort, famous for the fossils that have been found in the cliffs around the town for hundreds of years, and also for the Cobb (the wall which protects the harbour). The Cobb features in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion and in John Fowle’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman. I was particularly interested in the story of Mary Anning, a cabinet maker’s daughter from the town who became one of the world’s leading authorities on fossils during the 1800s.

Lyme Regis harbour and the Cobb
Lyme Regis harbour and the Cobb
The cliffs at Lyme Regis where Mary Anning found fossils in the 1800s
The cliffs at Lyme Regis where Mary Anning found fossils in the 1800s

10. Studland Beach

As well as being stunning and full of nature, Studland Beach on the Isle of Purbeck has an interesting history. During World War II it was chosen to be used for D-Day rehearsals because of its similarity to the beaches of Northern France. The troops performed exercises using live ammunition and a new type of tank in front of VIPs including the King, who were safely hidden in a huge concrete bunker named Fort Henry. Today you can still see pillboxes on the beach and visit Fort Henry.

Beach huts at Studland
Beach huts at Studland
A pillbox on the beach at Studland
Inside Fort Henry
Inside Fort Henry

11. Durdle Door

Getting to Durdle Door is a bit odd because the car park is in a caravan site, so it definitely feels like you’ve taken a wrong turn. Once you’re parked up on top of the cliff, take the path down towards the edge, and there it is; a magnificent limestone arch standing proudly above its own sandy beach.

The Durdle Door arch (with a person for scale)
The Durdle Door arch (with a person for scale)

Which is the best part of the Jurassic Coast?

The Jurassic Coast area is mostly very rural and getting around can be slow. Rather than trying to take in all 96 miles of it in a week, I’d recommend picking either the eastern section, in Dorset, or the western section in Devon. Personally I really like the Dorset coast section, as that’s where you’ll find some of the best things to do, like Corfe Castle, Durdle Door, West Bay and Lyme Regis.

All the attractions above are easy to visit in a week-long trip to the Dorset part of the Jurassic Coast, staying near Swanage on the Isle of Purbeck.

Have you visited the Jurassic Coast and the Isle of Purbeck?

18 thoughts on “11 places you must see on the Jurassic Coast, Dorset”

  1. I’m from the UK and didn’t know about so many of these places! The Durdle Door is just wonderful…and as soon as you mentioned the Famous Five, well! I think a trip might have to be planned in the near future!

    Reply
  2. Your photographs are really gorgeous. I think the lighthouse would be my preferential pick. Somehow a cold rainy day and the lighthouse seem to ignite the poetic side of me.

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  3. I actually live in Poole and I have go regularly on the Jurassic Coast to hike or to cycle. It’s such a beautiful part of England, with so many natural wonders, like Durdle Door and Old Harry Rocks.

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  4. wow, thanks for this list. it has covered so many amazing places. I would love to visit this place someday and spend a great day with my family. It looks so much fun. what’s the best time of a year to visit it?

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  5. What a lovely list! Thank you for the photos and sharing. We’re off to Lyme Regis in a couple of days so looking forward to checking out a couple of the places on your list now that you’ve inspired me.
    Happy travels and look forward to reading more of your lists! 🙏🏼😃

    Reply
  6. Hi, thanks for a brilliant guide to places to visit. I am 67 (nearly 68) and partially disabled – I walk with two sticks. My husband is 72 and beginning to struggle with lots of steps- How feasible is it to visit some of these places? I really want to visit Portland Bill and see the lighthouse and see the Durdle Door Arch, and visit Lyme Regis. We are going for three nights and 4 days from 4th June to 7th June, staying at the Travel lodge. Any advice gratefully received. Thank You.

    Reply
    • Hi Judy, thanks for commenting. Will you be driving?
      Portland Bill will be absolutely fine for you both, there’s a car park right by the lighthouse and it appeared to be an easy, level walk from the car park to the lighthouse itself. Lyme Regis should also be ok as long as you can get parked close to the beach as the town is on a hill. It’s a relatively gentle slope though, not a Hovis-ad type hill!
      Durdle Door might be a bit more challenging I’m afraid. Access from the road is via a caravan site, you can drive through the caravan site then there’s a car park close to the sea. From there it’s a grassy downhill sloped path to the top of the cliff where you can see the Durdle Door arch. It was about 10 minutes’ walk for me. It’s not terribly steep but it’s a long slope.
      I hope that helps and that you have a fabulous holiday!

      Reply
  7. Nice round up of places to visit Helen. We recently moved from London to Dorset, for obvious reasons having a growing family and wanted a less stressful life. Also I’m a photographer and it’s just such a beautiful place to be and photograph. I thoroughly recommend Tyneham village, similar to Imber village on Salisbury Plain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imber Except this is loads better because it’s by the sea. Just a short walk to Worbarrow Bay which is stunning. Parking is donation in Tyneham and if your expecting a coffee or an Ice cream then go some where else. This is a haven for wildlife and not commerciality. This is top my list from your 11 places to visit in Dorset.

    Reply
    • I agree, Tyneham was top of my list when we went to Dorset. You live in a beautiful part of the world, I hope you’re enjoying your new life!

      Reply

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