12 Best Beaches In Dorset

view of Lyme Regis beach in Dorset from the gardens

If you are staying at a Dorset holiday park, you might want to know what some of the best beaches in Dorset are – there are so many to choose from, it can be tricky to know which one to pick.

The southern county of Dorset is home to some of the UK’s prettiest and most serene beaches.

We hope this round-up of some of our favourite Dorset beaches will help you decide.

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1. Bournemouth Beach

Lifeguards: Seasonal on marked stretches

Bournemouth Beach For Kids, 12 Best Beaches In Dorset

World-famous, and voted the best beach in the UK, Bournemouth’s large, award-winning, the open beach stretches for 7 miles between Christchurch and Poole, and the soft golden sands are backed by beautiful green cliffs.

Many sections have lifeguards on duty in the summer, so Bournemouth is a firm family favourite, with calm, shallow waters. There are many local amenities including Bournemouth Pier, arcades and an aquarium on the promenade.

However, be aware that on very hot days, this beach can be very busy.

2. Sandbanks

Lifeguards: Seasonal on marked stretches

view from the sky of Sandbanks beach in Dorset

Located on a spit, and home to many insane house prices, Sandbanks is a lovely wide beach overlooking the Isle of Purbeck (which isn’t actually an island!).

Backed by sand dunes, Sandbanks stretches out into the world-famous Poole Harbour, one of the biggest natural harbours in the world, and is at the far western end of Bournemouth’s award-winning seven-mile coastal stretch.

This beach also has seasonal lifeguards, making it the ideal location for a beach day!

Related: Static Caravans For Sale Poole

3. Shell Bay/Knoll Beach/Studland

Lifeguards: None

Studland Bay Dorset

Although technically more than one beach, this stretch was too good not to include!

Located on the Isle of Purbeck, these beaches form part of the Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve, and as a result, are examples of beautiful, almost untouched nature and are very pretty beaches, backed by heathland and woodland.

This 3-mile stretch of coast comprises several beautiful beaches, where, at the southern end, you can visit yet another fabulous beach (South Beach), walk up to Old Harry’s Rocks, or enjoy a lovely pub lunch in Studland Village.

If you are looking for a beach with a bit more infrastructure, try South Beach, where there is a little café on the beach, and toilets nearby too, as well as Studland village.

It is worth noting that due to Poole Harbour, if arriving from the northern or eastern direction, you will need to take the Sandbanks chain ferry, and it is worth checking their website/Facebook page to see if it is operational before travel, or if you will have a 25-mile trip around the harbour!

4. Durdle Door

Lifeguards: None

Durdle Door
Durdle Door

Perhaps Dorset’s most famous landmark, Durdle Door is a lovely rough-sand beach with crystal clear waters.

The waters are so clear that this stretch of coast is home to the UK’s only underwater diving trail.

Located on the Jurassic Coast, this beach is backed by steep cliffs, however, the steep walk down them makes this unsuitable for wheelchairs or those who may have trouble walking, as the car park is a 10-minute walk from the beach.

On the walk down, you will also see Man O’ War Bay, also home to a smaller beach, just the other side of Durdle Door, and this may be a good alternative to go to if you are after a slightly quieter space in the summer months.

It is worth noting that this beach is privately owned and is part of the Lulworth Estate, and so the car park is locked at 6 PM in summer, 4 PM in winter.

Always exercise caution around cliffs, and never sit directly underneath them as some are prone to rock falls.

🚘 From Bournemouth: Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door Trip 🚘

5. Lulworth Cove

Lifeguards: None

Lulworth Cove, Dorset
Lulworth Cove, Dorset

Also a part of Lulworth Estate, this is perhaps the best example of a cove in the UK, with its almost perfect circular shape, and very visible rock layerings, Lulworth Cove is a great beach, and even though it is shingly, it makes a great place to visit.

Accompanied by a cute village, Lulworth Cove is only a short walk from Durdle Door atop the cliffs (about 25 minutes, just over a mile), and passes many scenic spots, including Stair Hole.

Always exercise caution around cliffs, and never sit directly underneath them as some are prone to rock falls.

6. Chesil Beach

Lifeguards: None

Chesil Beach in Dorset

The UK’s longest beach, Chesil Beach is very unusual in that it features a huge bank of pebbles that stretches along the whole beach. This stands out from all the sandy beaches in the area, and also the fact that the stones are unlike any in the area – it is still a bit of a mystery as to how it got there.

It’s a great place to look out over the crashing waves, or the Fleet lagoon behind the beach.

However, swimming is not recommended here, even in the lagoon, due to strong currents and riptides, so if you want to swim, try going to West Bay, or Weymouth Beach.

7. Swanage

Lifeguards: Yes

Swanage Beach Dorset

A quaint, traditional seaside town on the Isle of Purbeck, Swanage is what many may think of when they imagine a British seaside town.

Lovely sandy beaches with sheltered, calm waters paired with a promenade filled with many amenities including arcades, cafés, beach shops and deckchair rentals, Swanage Beach is a must-visit if you’re in the area.

Swanage is also home to a historic steam railway and can be got to via this train in the summer from the national rail network, via car, or by bus from Bournemouth and Poole.

8. West Bay Beach

Lifeguards: Yes

West Bay Beach

At the far end of Chesil Beach, West Bay is a beautiful beach located on the Jurassic Coast near the town of Bridport.

It is actually comprised of 2 beaches, East Beach and West Beach. West Beach in particular is popular with families as it has shallow, calm waters perfect for paddling or swimming (as it is sheltered by rock groynes and the harbour wall), as well as both beaches being under lifeguard patrols. East Beach, which is considerably larger, boats an impressive cliff line typical of the Jurassic Coast.

Always exercise caution around cliffs, and never sit directly underneath them as some are prone to rock falls.

9. Avon Beach

 Lifeguards: Yes

Avon Beach

Located in Christchurch, Avon Beach is a popular sandy beach and has its own watersports area in Christchurch Harbour away from the beach visitors.

Cute beach huts line the promenade along this lovely beach in East Dorset.

Its clear waters and relatively rock-free sea make it a great place for swimming or a beach day, and although it gets busy in the summer months, it is usually less busy than nearby Bournemouth Beach.

Just west of Avon Beach, by the car park, Mudeford quay is a popular place for crabbing, which is well worth a try!

10. Weymouth Beach

Lifeguards: Yes

View of Weymouth Beach in Dorset from the promenade

Weymouth is another great example of a traditional British Victorian seaside town. The long, golden, sloping beach is right in Weymouth town centre and is home to a whole host of amenities including Punch and Judy shows, donkey rides, and an amusement park at the southern end of the beach.

The wide beach has calm waters ideal for paddling in, and Weymouth also has a harbour, which makes a great place for a walk or crabbing!

11. Southbourne/Hengistbury Head

Lifeguards: Yes at Southbourne

view of Hengistbury Head

At the far Eastern end of Bournemouth’s award-winning seven-mile stretch of coastline, Southbourne is a great beach to go to, as it usually is comparatively quiet to Bournemouth in the summer while providing a very similar beach, with a few shingly patches.

Like Bournemouth, this open, golden beach is backed by pretty cliffs, and the lifeguarded sea provides a safe area to swim and enjoy the summer sun.

Car parks are right by the beach, and apart from the hottest days of summer, you can often find free on-road parking nearby.

12. Lyme Regis Beach

 Lifeguards: Yes

view of Lyme Regis beach in Dorset from the gardens

Located on the Dorset/Devon border, Lyme Regis is perhaps the best place for fossil hunting, due to frequent nearby cliff falls exposing new rock.

This quaint seaside town has a lot of history, dating back to the 8th Century.

It has a couple of beaches, all within close proximity to each other, and for the most part are large, flat and sandy, and is a great location whether you are a sun worshipper or fossil hunter.

It is nicknamed “The Pearl of Dorset”, and for good reason, the town, the harbour and the beach are all so picturesque, and are well worth a visit if you can.

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