If you are looking for things to do in Swanage, you won’t be disappointed!
Swanage is a charming coastal town on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, offering a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and exciting activities.
As the starting point of the renowned Jurassic Coast, Swanage boasts fascinating landmarks like Corfe Castle and endless outdoor adventures.
Explore the scenic coastline, or indulge in delicious local cuisine featuring seafood and traditional British fare.
Discover the diverse attractions and activities that make Swanage a beloved destination.
1. Explore the Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site spanning 95 miles of breathtaking coastline. The geological marvel tells a 185-million-year-old story through its unique rock formations and fossils.
Consider a guided tour or a self-guided walk to fully appreciate the coastline’s wonders.
Guided tours: Join a guided tour led by knowledgeable local experts who will share fascinating stories of the area’s geological history and ensure you don’t miss any hidden gems.
Self-guided walks: Grab a map and venture out on a self-guided walk if you prefer to explore at your own pace. Discover secluded beaches, dramatic cliffs, and stunning viewpoints while enjoying the invigorating sea breeze.
Fossil hunting is a popular activity along the Jurassic Coast, offering a thrilling chance to uncover remnants of prehistoric creatures.
Whether you’re an amateur enthusiast or an experienced collector, scouring the coastline for these ancient treasures is a captivating way to connect with the area’s past.
Embrace coastal adventures like beachcombing, birdwatching, or even taking a refreshing dip in the sea to make the most of your time on this spectacular coast.
Are you interested in joining an organised tour? Try this one by Dorset Tours >>
2. Swanage Beach
Swanage Beach, a beautiful and well-maintained stretch of coastline in the town, is the perfect destination for beach lovers and families. This award-winning, gently curving bay features soft golden sands, inviting shallow waters, and a stunning backdrop of the Purbeck Hills, making it an idyllic location for sunbathing, swimming, and building sandcastles.
Swanage Beach is well-equipped with a range of facilities and amenities to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable day by the sea. These include beach huts available for hire, deckchair and sun lounger rentals, and a seasonal lifeguard service, providing peace of mind for those with young children. The beach is also accessible for wheelchair users, with dedicated access points and sand-friendly wheelchairs available for hire.
Along the picturesque promenade that runs parallel to the beach, visitors can find a range of shops, cafés, and restaurants, perfect for grabbing a bite to eat, an ice cream, or a refreshing drink.
The promenade is also ideal for a leisurely stroll, offering spectacular views of the bay and the opportunity to explore Swanage’s Victorian architecture and historic pier.
3. Corfe Castle
Step back in time and explore the fascinating history of Corfe Castle, one of Dorset’s most iconic landmarks. Perched on a hill with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, this thousand-year-old fortress has seen its fair share of drama, from the reign of King John to the English Civil War.
As you wander around the castle ruins, you’ll learn about its storied past, including tales of treachery, battles, and ghosts! The on-site museum offers fascinating exhibits and artefacts that bring the castle’s history to life, perfect for history buffs and curious minds.
But Corfe Castle isn’t just about the past – it’s also a thriving hub of activity and events. Throughout the year, you’ll find a packed calendar of fun, family-friendly activities that’ll keep you entertained, like medieval reenactments, open-air theatre, and falconry displays. And if you’re visiting during the festive season, don’t miss the magical Christmas market, with twinkling lights and plenty of seasonal treats.
So, whether you’re a history lover or just looking for a fun day out, Corfe Castle has something for everyone. Add this magnificent fortress to your Swanage itinerary – you won’t be disappointed!
4. Swanage Railway
All aboard the Swanage Railway! This charming heritage railway is the perfect way to travel back in time and explore the stunning Dorset countryside. Hop on a vintage steam train and let the rhythmic chugging soothe your soul as you journey through breathtaking landscapes.
The railway offers a scenic 9.5 mile trip from Swanage to Norden. You’ll pass the impressive ruins of Corfe Castle, meander through lush green countryside, and even glimpse the coastline. It’s a fantastic way to see the area, and don’t forget your camera – the photo ops are to die for.
But wait, there’s more! The Swanage Railway isn’t just about leisurely rides; they also host a range of special events throughout the year. From themed dinners on the Dining Train to exciting galas with visiting locomotives, there’s always something happening. And if you’re a railway enthusiast, don’t miss the chance to join one of their behind-the-scenes tours or even take a turn driving a steam train!
So, whether you’re a train buff or just looking for a unique, relaxing way to spend the day, the Swanage Railway is a must-do experience. Choo-choo!
5. Durlston Country Park
Durlston Country Park is a magnificent 320-acre nature reserve on the Isle of Purbeck, just a short distance from Swanage. This beautiful park, which forms part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, offers visitors the opportunity to explore a diverse range of habitats, including coastal cliffs, wildflower meadows, and ancient woodland.
As you wander through the park, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the coastline and the chance to spot a wide variety of wildlife, such as kestrels, peregrine falcons, and even dolphins. The park is home to the iconic Durlston Castle, a Victorian-era building that now houses a visitor centre, an exhibition space, and a charming café with panoramic sea views.
One of the main highlights of Durlston Country Park is the Great Globe, a massive limestone sphere weighing over 40 tonnes, which is intricately carved with a detailed map of the Earth. The park also features several walking trails, ranging from short, easy strolls to more challenging hikes along the dramatic clifftops. These well-marked paths provide ample opportunities to discover the park’s fascinating geology, including the Tilly Whim Caves and the Dancing Ledge, a popular spot for rock climbing and coasteering.
Throughout the year, Durlston Country Park hosts various events and activities, such as guided walks, wildlife talks, and art exhibitions, making it a fantastic destination for nature lovers, families, and outdoor enthusiasts.
6. Purbeck New Wave Gallery
If you’re an art lover or just looking for a unique, creative experience while in Swanage, you’ll definitely want to check out the Purbeck New Wave Gallery. This contemporary art space showcases the works of talented local artists, providing a platform for the vibrant and diverse arts scene in the Purbeck area.
As you step into the gallery, you’ll be greeted by a beautifully curated collection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photography, and more. The Purbeck New Wave Gallery is dedicated to supporting and promoting up-and-coming artists, so you can expect to find fresh, innovative, and thought-provoking pieces that capture the spirit and beauty of the region.
In addition to admiring the stunning artwork, you’ll also have the opportunity to meet some of the artists themselves. The gallery regularly hosts artist talks, workshops, and special events, giving you the chance to learn more about the creative process and even pick up a new skill or two.
The Purbeck New Wave Gallery is also a great place to shop for unique souvenirs or gifts, as many displayed artworks are available for purchase. By buying directly from the artists, you’ll support the local art community and take home a one-of-a-kind memento of your time in Swanage.
7. Swanage Museum
For a fascinating journey into Swanage’s past, make sure to pay a visit to the Swanage Museum & Heritage Centre. This charming local museum is nestled in the heart of the town, and it’s the perfect place to learn about the area’s rich history, from its origins as a small fishing village to its heyday as a popular Victorian seaside resort.
As you explore the museum’s collection, you’ll discover a treasure trove of artefacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the story of Swanage and its people. Learn about the town’s stone quarrying and maritime history, admire the collection of vintage postcards showcasing Swanage in bygone days, and delve into the stories of the people who shaped the town’s development.
The Swanage Museum & Heritage Centre also highlights the area’s natural history, with displays on local geology, fossils, and wildlife. Don’t miss the interactive exhibits that offer a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages, making it an ideal stop for families.
Throughout the year, the museum hosts special events, exhibitions, and workshops, which provide an even deeper insight into the town’s history and culture. Check their calendar when planning your visit to see what’s happening during your stay.
8. Enjoy The Swanage Folk Festival
If you’re visiting Swanage in September, you’re in for a treat – the Swanage Folk Festival is an annual event that celebrates the very best of traditional and contemporary folk music, dance, and culture. This lively and vibrant festival is a must-visit for music lovers, families, and anyone looking for a fun and unique experience in this charming seaside town.
Over the course of a weekend, the Swanage Folk Festival transforms the town into a lively hub of music and dance. With multiple stages and venues hosting an impressive lineup of local, national, and international performers, you’ll be spoilt for choice as you explore the rich and diverse world of folk music. From foot-stomping Celtic tunes to hauntingly beautiful ballads, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
But it’s not just about the music – the festival also showcases a colourful array of traditional and contemporary dance troupes, with Morris dancers, Appalachian cloggers, and more taking to the streets to entertain the crowds. Don’t be surprised if you join the fun and try out a few steps!
The Swanage Folk Festival is a family-friendly event, offering a range of activities and workshops for visitors of all ages. Kids can get involved in storytelling sessions and craft workshops and even learn to play a new instrument, while adults can try their hand at traditional dance, singing or simply enjoy a relaxing drink at one of the many pop-up bars.
With a bustling craft fair, mouth-watering food stalls, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere, the Swanage Folk Festival is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture and celebrate the town’s rich heritage. Don’t miss this unforgettable event on your visit to Swanage – it’s sure to be the highlight of your trip!
9. Swanage Fish Festival
Calling all seafood lovers! The Swanage Fish Festival is an annual celebration of the town’s strong connection to the sea, showcasing the best in local seafood, maritime heritage, and coastal culture. Held in June, this delightful event is a must-visit for foodies and families, offering a taste of Swanage’s rich fishing history and vibrant culinary scene.
At the heart of the festival is the mouth-watering array of fresh seafood dishes prepared by talented local chefs and food vendors. Get ready to indulge in a feast of flavours, from succulent crab and juicy prawns to tender scallops and, of course, the classic fish and chips. With a focus on sustainability and locally-sourced ingredients, you can feel good about supporting the area’s fishing community while enjoying delicious food.
But it’s not just about the seafood – the Swanage Fish Festival also offers a packed program of events and activities, ensuring there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Watch live cooking demonstrations by expert chefs, learn about the town’s maritime history with fascinating talks and exhibits, and even try your hand at some traditional fishing techniques.
For families, the festival offers plenty of fun and engaging activities for visitors of all ages. Kids can participate in hands-on workshops, learn about marine conservation, and enjoy seaside-themed games and entertainment. With live music and performances throughout the weekend, there’s never a dull moment at the Swanage Fish Festival.
So, mark your calendar and visit Swanage during the Fish Festival for a memorable and tasty experience showcasing the town’s unique maritime heritage. Discover why Swanage is a true haven for seafood lovers – you won’t be disappointed!
10. Studland Bay
Just a short drive or a moderately challenging walk from Swanage, you’ll find the stunning Studland Bay, a picturesque stretch of coastline with beautiful sandy beaches, clear waters, and diverse wildlife.
Located within the Isle of Purbeck, Studland Bay is an idyllic destination for beach lovers, nature enthusiasts, and families seeking a fun-filled day by the sea.
The bay boasts several gorgeous beaches, including the popular Knoll Beach, Middle Beach, and South Beach. Each beach offers its own unique charm, with golden sands, safe swimming, and plenty of space for sunbathing, picnics, or beach games. For a more secluded experience, head to Shell Bay, a quieter spot perfect for beachcombing and exploring the sand dunes.
Studland Bay is also a haven for wildlife, with its surrounding heathlands, dunes, and woodlands providing a rich habitat for various species. Don’t forget to visit the nearby Studland Heath National Nature Reserve, where you can immerse yourself in nature and enjoy stunning views of the coast.
Studland Bay offers a range of water sports and outdoor activities for those seeking adventure, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and windsurfing. Several walking and cycling trails lead you through the picturesque countryside, with the stunning Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Purbeck providing a breathtaking backdrop.
11. Old Harry Rocks
Get ready to lace up your walking shoes and dive into the fascinating geological history of Old Harry Rocks, one of the most iconic landmarks along the Jurassic Coast. Located just a short distance from Swanage and Studland Bay, these impressive chalk formations provide a stunning backdrop for a scenic hike and a glimpse into the area’s ancient past.
Several picturesque walking routes will take you to Old Harry Rocks, suitable for various fitness levels and time constraints. One of the most popular trails starts at South Beach in Studland and meanders along the coast, offering breathtaking views of the rocks and the surrounding bays. The well-marked paths and moderate terrain make this hike suitable for casual and experienced hikers.
As you make your way towards Old Harry Rocks, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the coastline, the Isle of Wight, and the distant Purbeck Hills. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as this scenic spot is a photographer’s dream!
12. Durdle Door
Discover the iconic and awe-inspiring Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch that has become one of the most famous landmarks along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Just a short drive from Swanage, this stunning geological wonder is a testament to the region’s ancient past and a must-visit destination for beach lovers, hikers, and photographers.
Several walking trails lead to Durdle Door, offering breathtaking views of the coastline and the surrounding countryside. One popular route begins at the nearby Lulworth Cove, taking you along the South West Coast Path and through lush, rolling hills. The well-maintained paths and clearly marked trails make this hike suitable for all fitness levels, though some sections may be steep and challenging.
As you approach Durdle Door, you’ll be greeted by the stunning sight of the arch set against the crystal-clear waters of the English Channel. The surrounding cliffs and beaches provide a dramatic backdrop, perfect for capturing those memorable holiday snaps.
Durdle Door gets incredibly busy during the holidays and sunny days – early arrival is recommended if you want a quieter experience!
13. Peveril Point
Discover the beauty of Peveril Point, a picturesque headland just a short walk from Swanage town centre. With its stunning coastal views and unique rock pooling opportunities, Peveril Point is the perfect destination for nature lovers, families, and anyone seeking a peaceful escape by the sea.
Peveril Point offers some of the most breathtaking coastal views in the area, with panoramic vistas of Swanage Bay, the Jurassic Coast, and the Isle of Wight on clear days. The headland’s elevated position provides an excellent vantage point for admiring the dramatic cliffs, sweeping beaches, and sparkling waters that define this beautiful stretch of coastline.
As you explore Peveril Point, you’ll also find several well-maintained footpaths and trails that lead you through the surrounding grasslands and woodlands, offering a tranquil escape from the bustling town centre. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as the scenic views and diverse flora and fauna make for fantastic photo opportunities.
One of the highlights of a visit to Peveril Point is the chance to explore its fascinating rock pools, which are teeming with marine life. As the tide recedes, these natural pools reveal a hidden world of colourful creatures, from crabs and starfish to anemones and various species of seaweed.
Rock pooling is a fun and educational activity for visitors of all ages, providing a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the diverse marine life that calls this shoreline home. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and exercise caution as you navigate the rocky terrain, and remember to leave the creatures undisturbed in their natural habitat.
14. Kayaking and Paddleboarding
Embrace the spirit of adventure and explore Swanage’s beautiful coastline from a whole new perspective – on the water! Kayaking and paddleboarding are popular outdoor activities in the area, offering a fun and exhilarating way to enjoy the stunning scenery and crystal-clear waters that make this seaside town so special.
Several fantastic locations around Swanage are perfect for kayaking and paddleboarding. Swanage Bay itself offers calm waters and sheltered conditions, making it an ideal spot for beginners or those looking for a leisurely paddle. For the more experienced and adventurous, you might venture further afield, exploring the dramatic cliffs and hidden coves along the Jurassic Coast.
Another popular spot is Studland Bay, just a short distance from Swanage. With its pristine sandy beaches, clear waters, and diverse marine life, this beautiful bay is perfect for paddlers seeking a tranquil and picturesque setting.
Whether a seasoned kayaker or a paddleboarding newbie, you’ll find several rental options in Swanage to suit your needs. Local businesses offer a range of equipment, including kayaks, paddleboards, life jackets, and paddles, ensuring you have everything you need for a safe and enjoyable day on the water.
In addition to rentals, many providers also offer guided tours and lessons for those looking to learn a new skill or gain more confidence on the water. With experienced instructors to guide you, you’ll be paddling like a pro in no time!
🏖 Try this stand up paddle boarding adventure to Old Harrys Rocks!
15. Walk Part Of The South West Coast Path
You’ve got to check out the South West Coast Path when you’re in Swanage! This amazing trail runs right through the town and takes you along some seriously stunning cliff-top walks. Trust us; the views are nothing short of breathtaking – you’ll be snapping photos left, right, and centre.
If you’re in the mood for something more laid-back, you should give the Purbeck Way or the Priest’s Way a go. These trails are perfect for a leisurely stroll and lead you through some of the most picturesque countryside you’ve ever seen. As you wander along, you’ll come across charming villages that look like they’ve been plucked straight from a postcard.
It’s the kind of experience that’ll make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world – in the best way possible!
16. Swanage Pier
You can’t visit Swanage without taking a leisurely stroll along the iconic Swanage Pier. This Victorian-era gem has been a beloved part of the town’s seaside heritage since 1859 and continues to be a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike. With its rich history, stunning views, and charming atmosphere, visiting Swanage Pier is a must during your stay.
As you step onto the pier’s wooden planks, you’ll instantly feel a sense of nostalgia and charm that harks back to the days of traditional British seaside holidays. The pier stretches out into the shimmering waters of Swanage Bay, allowing you to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding coastline, cliffs, and the town itself.
Swanage Pier also boasts a fascinating history. Learn about the pier’s past, including its role in developing Swanage as a Victorian holiday destination, its use during World War II, and the ongoing restoration efforts that have helped preserve this treasured landmark for future generations.
If you’re looking to indulge in a bit of seaside fun, why not try your hand at a spot of crabbing? The pier is a popular location for this quintessentially British pastime, with families and visitors of all ages enjoying the thrill of catching (and releasing!) these curious crustaceans.
After your stroll along the pier, stop by the charming café and gift shop, where you can treat yourself to a delicious snack, a refreshing drink, or a unique souvenir to remember your visit. With its delightful blend of history, natural beauty, and seaside charm, Swanage Pier is an experience you won’t want to miss during your stay in this picturesque coastal town.
17. Putlake Adventure Farm
Putlake Adventure Farm is a fun attraction nestled in the beautiful Purbeck countryside, offering a fantastic combination of indoor and outdoor activities that will keep kids of all ages entertained for hours on end.
As you explore the farm, you’ll have the chance to get up close and personal with a wide range of friendly animals, from cuddly rabbits and guinea pigs to curious goats and gentle ponies. The interactive petting area is a huge hit with little ones, allowing them to feed and stroke the animals while learning about their care and behaviour.
But Putlake Adventure Farm isn’t just about the animals – there’s so much more to see and do! The outdoor play area is jam-packed with fun activities, including trampolines, pedal go-karts, a giant inflatable slide, and even a mini tractor ride for the budding farmers in your family. The adventure playground with swings, climbing frames, and a sandpit is perfect for burning off some energy and making new friends.
If the weather takes a turn, don’t worry – there’s plenty of indoor fun, too! The soft play barn is a favourite among younger visitors, featuring ball pits, slides, and climbing areas designed to spark their imagination and keep them entertained for hours. Plus, there’s a separate area for toddlers, so even the littlest members of your family can join in on the fun.
When it’s time for a break, you can relax in the farm’s café, which serves a tasty selection of snacks, drinks, and light meals to refuel and recharge. And don’t forget to browse the gift shop, where you can pick up a souvenir or two to remember your visit.
18. The Etches Collection
Dive into the fascinating world of fossils and prehistoric marine life at The Etches Collection, located in the picturesque village of Kimmeridge, just a short drive from Swanage. This award-winning museum is home to an incredible array of fossils, all discovered and collected by local expert Steve Etches over the course of 35 years. With its state-of-the-art exhibits, interactive displays, and captivating stories, The Etches Collection offers visitors of all ages a unique and educational experience.
As you wander through the museum, you’ll be transported back to the Jurassic period, when the Dorset coastline was a thriving underwater ecosystem teeming with life. The collection features over 2,000 exceptional fossils, including ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, ammonites, and rare and previously undiscovered species. Each specimen has been expertly preserved and presented, providing a fascinating insight into the lives and behaviours of these ancient creatures.
The Etches Collection doesn’t just showcase the fossils themselves – it also tells the incredible story of Steve Etches and his lifelong passion for fossil hunting. Through engaging displays and informative panels, you’ll learn about his journey from amateur enthusiast to renowned expert and the countless hours he spent scouring the local coastline in search of these remarkable relics.
One of the highlights of the museum is the interactive touchscreen technology, which allows you to delve deeper into the world of fossils and palaeontology. You can explore detailed 3D models of the specimens, watch informative videos, and even virtually dissect the fossils to reveal hidden secrets.
After your journey through Jurassic history, visit the museum’s gift shop, where you can find a range of souvenirs, educational books, and even your very own fossils to take home. You can also relax and enjoy a refreshing drink or a delicious treat at the on-site café, which offers stunning views over the countryside.
19. The Enid Blyton Trail
Step into the enchanting world of beloved author Enid Blyton and explore the captivating landscapes that inspired her timeless stories with the Enid Blyton Trail. This unique journey takes you on a tour of the picturesque locations around Swanage, the Isle of Purbeck, and beyond, which feature in Blyton’s famous works, including the Famous Five and the Adventure series.
As you follow the trail, you’ll discover a wealth of natural beauty and charming villages that captured Blyton’s imagination and formed the backdrop for her thrilling tales. Each location on the trail is steeped in literary history and offers a delightful setting for your own adventures.
Some of the highlights of the Enid Blyton Trail include Swanage, Kimmeridge, The Blue Pool, Stair Hole, Stoborough Heath, Studland and Brownsea Island.
Where To Eat In Swanage
The Salt Pig
The Salt Pig is a popular farm-to-table café and restaurant in Swanage, known for its focus on locally-sourced and seasonal ingredients. The menu offers a variety of delicious dishes, including fresh seafood, succulent meats, and mouth-watering vegetarian options. The cosy atmosphere and friendly service make it an excellent choice for a relaxed dining experience.
For those with a sweet tooth, Chococo is a must-visit destination. This artisan chocolate shop and café offer a wide array of handcrafted chocolates and a tempting selection of cakes, pastries, and hot drinks. Don’t miss their signature hot chocolate, made from pure chocolate flakes and available in various flavours.
The Fish Plaice
The Fish Plaice is a fantastic, family-run seafood restaurant in Swanage that has delighted locals and visitors for years. Known for its tasty fish and chips, this gem of a spot offers a mouthwatering selection of freshly caught, locally sourced seafood dishes served in a cosy and welcoming atmosphere.
Holiday Parks In Swanage
Enjoy a memorable break at one of the holiday parks in Swanage; stay in a static caravan or lodge, or, if you have your own tourer, book a spot to pitch up on.
And if you fall in love with Swanage, the parks below also have static caravans for sale.
Swanage Coastal Park
Shorefield Holidays owned Swanage Coastal Park provides a serene getaway for visitors eager to explore the area, boasting incredible Purbeck Hills and Jurassic Coast views. The park features luxurious lodges with private decking, perfect for unwinding and taking in beautiful surroundings. As a pet-friendly park, it also accommodates furry friends, making it an ideal choice for the entire family.
Swanage Bay View Holiday Park
Overlooking the stunning Swanage Bay, Swanage Bay View Holiday Park offers a range of accommodations, including modern caravans and lodges. The park provides a host of on-site facilities, such as an indoor swimming pool, a fully-equipped gym, and a bar and restaurant with panoramic views of the bay. Swanage Bay View’s fantastic location and top-notch amenities ensure a memorable holiday experience.
Ulwell Holiday Park
Nestled at the base of the Purbeck Hills, Ulwell Holiday Park is a family-friendly destination just a stone’s throw from Swanage Beach. The park offers a variety of accommodations, including contemporary caravans, lodges, and camping pitches. With on-site facilities like an indoor swimming pool, a well-stocked shop, and a bar and restaurant, Ulwell Holiday Park guarantees all guests a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
You might also like our guide to holiday parks in Dorset to discover some more options across the county.