The Best Dorset Beach?
Dorset beaches are some of the best beaches in the world and consistently feature in the ‘top lists’ of well known publications. Yet quite often, the smaller, more intimate beaches get overlooked and the detail gets lost. So our local teams have collaborated to submit and vote on their favourite Dorset beaches.
Initially, we intended to publish a top 10 beaches article, but with so much enthusiasm for so many different beaches, all for different reasons, we created the DOMVS Top 20 best beaches in Dorset. As voted for by local people, with the insider knowledge to ensure you make the most of your Dorset beach trip.
The DOMVS Top 20 Dorset Beaches
1. Chesil Beach, Dorset
Chesil Beach was a contender from nearly every participant of the survey, so it was destined to be in the top spot. Katie says it’s the “best beach for having a BBQ while watching the sunset and a great place to go mackerel fishing” and Neil describes it as “one of the most striking natural structures I, and the world, have ever seen”. However, at 18 miles long, and to do the beach justice, we have split it into sections.
Ferrybridge to Portland, Chesil Beach
This is Gabby’s favourite stretch. She says “I love all aspects of this beach. Pebbles, deep blue seas and amazing places to eat and drink with The Cove House Inn and Crab House Cafe being firm favourites. The beach is spacious enough to watch the sunset without being surrounded by other people and you can spend the entire day there or just an hour to relax. Evenings are always special.”
Abbotsbury and West Bexington, Chesil Beach
Charlie prefers this part of Chesil Beach and she provides a great schedule to make the most out of your visit. “You can’t beat this section of beach for a pub lunch and walk. Start by leaving your car in the beach carpark in Abbotsbury, a quintessential Dorset village with many attractions that make it well worth a visit. Head west along the single-track Burton Road at the top of the beach. With nothing but fields to your right and the sea to your left, you may find you don’t pass anyone at all on this peaceful walk, besides the odd dog-walker perhaps. In 45 minutes to an hour you’ll reach West Bexington. Head inland along Beach Road and see if you can make it to the top without wishing one of the houses there was yours! Near the top, on the right-hand side you’ll find the historic Manor House, an idyllic spot for a delicious lunch in the dining room or garden – with sea views – or a pint by the fire in the dog-friendly Cellar Bar before you walk back again. Though it’s not safe to swim off this stretch of beach due to the strong undertow, there’s always a rich tideline perfect for beachcombing.” Alison also says that West Bexington provides “A blustery walk on the coastal path with fresh sea air, unending sea views, and a stonking good brunch at The Club House.”
Behind Chesil’s pebble bank, is the Fleet Lagoon, one of the most wildlife-rich stretches of saltwater in the country. For keen wildlife spotters, it is home to little terns, brown hares, rare invertebrates, wading birds and wildflowers.
2. Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset
Jon summarises this beach perfectly. “Fascinating geology and a wonderful place to spend the day rockpooling with small kids”. Beth says “If you’re driving, you’ll need to pay a toll as you arrive in Kimmeridge (£5 per vehicle at the time of writing), but it’s well worth it for the lovely walk down to the sea and natural activities to last the day.” Trish says “There’s little-to-no sand but wonderful large slabs to lie and sit on, and it’s great for fossil hunting.” Alison also suggests “rewarding yourself with a large cream tea at the tea rooms or a romantic stay in the incredible Clavell Tower!”
3. Weymouth Beach, Dorset
Home to the 2012 Sailing Olympics, Weymouth beach is popular with both tourists and locals and is widely considered one of the safest swimming points in the local area. Alison describes it as being “a good old fashioned Victoriana seaside”. The beach boasts a lively atmosphere with the DOMVS team regularly getting involved in the beach volleyball. Greg says that further up the coast you’ll find “Greenhill Beach, which has all the benefits of the bay but without the sand or people”.
Charlie’s favourite beaches in Weymouth are Castle Cove Beach and Sandsfoot Beach, which are “two sandy beaches on the same road – Old Castle Road in Weymouth – both perfect for young families. With a view towards Portland, the clear water stays shallow for what feels like miles, making it a great option for paddling or playing around in dinghies and rubber rings. While Castle Cove is the more spacious of the two, a long, narrow path with many steps leads down to it, making it inaccessible to some. Sandsfoot Beach is easily accessible from the quiet end of the road, and is small enough to allow you to keep an eye on your children at all times.
4. Charmouth Beach, Dorset
Charmouth is a beautiful seaside town in the west of Dorset. Another shingle beach, which according to Charlie is “perfect for rockpooling at low tide, with so many wildlife wonders to see, from crabs to anemones. It’s also a fossil-rich beach, for those who prefer to treasure hunt away from the water’s edge”. Charlie also recommends an ice cream from the cobbled Beach Cafe, while Alison suggests one of their potent coffees! Trish describes the town as “…a little old fashioned, so much so, you can almost imagine palaeontologist Mary Anning wandering the coast, making her famous discoveries!”.
5. Ringstead Bay, Dorset
Ringstead Bay is a protected shingle beach with sand and rockpools at low tide. Polly says “You could be anywhere in the world – possibly the Mediterranean! Whilst stony, it’s a beautiful, peaceful beach, especially if you walk a little further along from the carparks. The views around the bay towards Portland are magnificent and if you get the chance to follow the Jurassic coastal path up towards Holworth and check out St. Catherine’s Chapel by the Sea, it is well worth the adventure.” Gabby describes the beach as “Clean, tidy and with access to toilets, a small shop and plenty of parking it is a great beach all year round. The sea is always blue and deep and there are so many lovely walks to enjoy, with dogs always welcome.” Liam says it is a “Quiet, relaxing, stoney beach, which is perfect for swimming, and there is a lovely walk from the carpark”.
The beach is reached from either a small National Trust car park (note there is a vehicle height limit) located above Southdown Farm (free but a longer walk down to the beach) or the private car park at Ringstead. There is also parking available in the village (pay and display).
6. Studland Bay, Dorset
Studland Bay boasts four miles of beautiful beaches, stretching from Shell Bay down to Old Harry Rocks, and encompasses Knoll Beach, Middle Beach and South Beach. Beth describes all as “…great family beaches with fun activities, including Studland Water Sports on Knoll Beach, where the rib ride is a great activity for all ages”
Studland is a place for all seasons and Jon describes it “as a gorgeous beach to anchor off and swim from the boat.” South Beach is the smallest and popular with locals. Middle Beach is sheltered by low cliffs, while Knoll Beach, backed by a wilderness of dunes, has wide open spaces and includes a 1km designated naturist area.
7. Hive Beach, Dorset
Hive Beach, which sits in front of Dorset’s quaint village of Burton Bradstock, is a shingle beach, where you can enjoy breathtaking views to Portland and along the East Devon Coast. Beth says “the beach is stunning and perfectly complemented by the amazing fish & chips from the Hive Beach Cafe”. Charlie says “For families happy to swim in deeper waters, it is a great beach to spend the day with your body boards, followed by an early-evening BBQ. The ice cream hut is beloved by all, young and old, and the highly-regarded Hive Beach Cafe provides generous portions of fresh seafood. Even the parking here is easy!”
8. Dancing Ledge, Dorset
The Dancing Ledge is accessed from Langton Matravers and is a 30mins walk (approx) from the nearest parking spot. According to Beth, it’s a “great place to watch the sunrise and have an early morning dip”. Jon recommends this spot “for a day of climbing followed by a warm fire and a cold beer while enjoying the stars at night”.
While the Dancing Ledge isn’t strictly a beach, it provides a flat area of rock at the base of a small cliff, where bathers can enjoy some relaxation after a dip in the pool. The natural swimming pool was blasted early in the twentieth century, so local preschoolers had access to swimming facilities and its name was given because, as the waves wash over, it looks like the ledge is dancing.
9. Shell Bay, Dorset
For Tim, who spent most of his childhood summer holidays enjoying the Purbecks, Shell Bay was always his favourite. “I loved watching Condor ferries come into Poole Harbour, as well as the back and forth of the chain ferry. I was obsessed with trying to find Adders in the dunes behind, but thankfully never did.” Alison recommends a long winter walk on Shell Bay, to be “rewarded with fantastic food at The Shellbay Restaurant & Bistro”, where well behaved dogs are allowed on leads.
10. Shipstal Beach, Arne, Dorset
Shipstal Beach, Arne is part of the RSPB nature reserve and is accessed via paths and wooden walkways through heathland and ancient woodlands. Despite there being a charge to enter the reserve, there is a beautiful walk to the beach with a plethora of wildlife to see including woodpeckers and ospreys and a very worthwhile day-trip. Once on the beach, there are lovely views across to Long Island, which Tim has been planning to swim to since early childhood. Jon suggests an alternative way to visit the shore is by boat as it’s a “…fabulous anchorage, which is much quieter than Studland and waking up to the sound of Oystercatchers on the shore is magical.” Alison describes it as the area’s “best kept secret where you can get a delicious brunch at the RSPB cafe”.
11. Eustace Beach, Dorset
Considered a great beach for climbing, Alison describes this beach as tricky to access “….but provides tremendous views and a feeling of solitude” once you arrive. She also suggests taking a picnic as there are no facilities, just “nature at its best”. Every year for his Dad’s birthday, Tim and his family “…have a beer at the Square & Compass, followed by a walk to Winspitt and along the coast to Eustace”. It’s so special to his family that he even had a series of pre-wedding photos taken on this beach.
12. Worbarrow Bay, Dorset
Worbarrow Bay is about one mile from Tyneham Village. Both are managed by the MOD, so access can be limited. We recommend checking opening times before attempting to visit, which can be found here. As Jon says “….it isn’t always open, so any visit makes it that much more special and the walk there means you have to ‘work’ for it!” Liam suggests a “….walk through Tyneham Village which is steeped in history while the clear and deep bay is great for swimming”.
13. Chapman’s Pool, Dorset
Chapman’s Pool isn’t easy to access but once you’re there it is absolutely stunning. Attractive as a wild swimming spot, which offers good snorkelling opportunities, Trisha suggests making the trip by boat for a “heavenly hidden away, secluded beach”. Jon also describes it as a “lovely anchorage when the wind is north”.
14. Hengistbury Head & Mudeford Sandbank, Dorset
Accessed only by foot, boat or land train, Mudeford Sandbank or Mudeford Spit as it is otherwise known, provides a “relaxed, chilled setting” according to Beth. The spit is home to some of Europe’s most expensive beach-hut-real-estate, with huts regularly selling for around the half million pound mark.
If you don’t get the boat from Mudeford Quay, there is a beautiful walk either around or across picturesque Hengistbury Head – one of the most important Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in England. The walking routes provide spectacular views of the nature reserve as well as panoramic views across to Christchurch harbour, Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight. Hengistbury Head also has a relatively unspoilt pebble beach. Beth recommends “…either taking the land train from the Hiker Cafe or hiking up and over the Head to the Spit and then having a leisurely stroll back to the car park”.
15. Mupe Bay, Dorset
For something special, Trisha suggests a visit to Mupe Bay, which is about 2 miles from Lulworth Cove. “Hidden behind its more popular neighbouring cove, and a bit of a trek, Mupe Bay is absolutely worth the effort. The walk takes you past the fossil forest and provides spectacular views. Sand and shingle and wonderfully secluded, the only other way to get there is by boat.”
16. Southbourne Beach, Dorset
Southbourne is part of Bournemouth’s award-winning sandy beach, albeit at the quieter end of this beautiful stretch of coastline. Beth explains “for families seeking a safe swimming spot for their children, you can’t beat this section of beach. With lifeguard towers, rollerbladers on the promenade and BBQ facilities up and down the beach, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in Miami! Southbourne beach is very much loved by its local community and regular clean-up operations organised by residents means the beach is always clean and safe for all to enjoy”.
17. Lulworth Cove, Dorset
World renowned Lulworth Cove, is a ‘must see’ beach and its surrounding coast is a great place to uncover natural wonders such as blowholes, rockpooling, caves and arches. Accessed via a pay-and-display car park, it can get extremely busy during the school summer holidays, although according to Trish “…if you walk along the beach to (just below) Fossil Forest, you usually have much of the beach to yourself.”
18. Rockley Sands & Lake Beach, Poole, Dorset
Both these beaches are on the Hamworthy peninsula of Poole and provide special views across Poole Harbour. Rockley Sands “…is a great place to launch a kayak and explore Poole Harbour” according to Jon and Lake Beach is a “hidden town beach, which is often forgotten, yet perfect for watching the sun go down with a bag of fish and chips” says Alison.
19. Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset
Sandbanks has retained its Blue Flag status for over 30 years and definitely deserves its place in the DOMVS Top 20. With lush sand and breathtaking views it is a popular beach destination all year round. However, as Beth points out “….the beaches can get very busy and parking isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it for the great vibe. And if time permits, a tour of the sand spit will showcase some incredible real estate!”.
20. Avon Beach, Dorset
Avon Beach, which leads to Friars Cliff Beach is part sand, and part shingle. With a lifeguard during busier seasons it is a popular family beach, with good facilities and a choice of several great places to dine, including The Noisy Lobster for a great meal and The Beach Hut Cafe for something more casual. Zach describes it as “….the most gorgeous place to spend a relaxing evening if completely sandy beaches aren’t for you and a great place to go ‘crabbing’ just a short walk away on Mudeford Quay.”
More Dorset beaches to Consider…
With so many beaches submitted as contenders, we couldn’t include them all, but here are some other Dorset beaches that should be added to your list:
- Eype Bay, Dorset
- Oswald Beach, Dorset
- Man of War Beach, Dorset
- Tarrant Rushton Ford, Dorset
- Church Ope Cove, Portland, Dorset