Dorset’s Jurassic Coast has towering white cliffs, dilapidated castles and old English pubs with locally brewed beer. Here’s our guide to seeing the highlights of the Jurassic Coast.

Dorset’s Jurassic Coast stretches 95 miles along southern England. Its towering white cliffs above crashing seas are an iconic symbol of Great Britain. But, while the Dorset coast has some of the finest scenery in the UK, there’s a lot more to this UNESCO world heritage site than stunning vistas.

Explore rock pools in tiny coves or laze on sweeping golden beaches. Let the mind wander at atmospheric decaying castles and hunt for dinosaur fossils on crumbling beaches. After a bracing walk along windswept coastal paths, warm up in a cosy English pub with a locally brewed beer.

The allure of country walks, local ales, hidden coves and incredible scenery has bought us back to the Jurassic Coast a couple of times. It’s a beautiful part of the country; perfect for sight-seeing excursions, seaside escapes and venturing to historic landmarks.

Here are all our recommendations for what to do, how to get around and where to stay on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

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Golden sands at Dorset's Jurassic Coast

IN THIS GUIDE

JURASSIC COAST HIGHLIGHTS


01 – OLD HARRY ROCKS

02 – CORFE CASTLE

03 – LULWORTH COVE

04 – DURDLE DOOR

05 – WEYMOUTH

06 – ABBOTSBURY

07 – WEST BAY

08 – CHARMOUTH

09 – LYME REGIS

10 – GOLDEN CAP

11 – CHAPMAN’S POOL

1 – OLD HARRY ROCKS

Old Harry Rocks was once two white limestone rocks standing proud at the eastern end of the Dorset Coast. Unfortunately, Old Harry’s wife crumbled into the sea at the end of the 19th century. Old Harry remains – joined by other white stone monoliths that have now been carved out along the coast.

It’s hard to choose between our Seven Sisters cliff walk, or Old Harry Rocks as the most impressive stretches of coastline in the UK. Both are stunning, but here the dazzling white chalk stacks assembled like a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be completed are a feast for the eyes.

There are a few different ways to see it. You can hike along the tops, mountain bike over cliff edge trails, paddle around them in a kayak or join a scenic boat tour. You can find all the details on our guide to Old Harry Rocks post.

If you opt to walk, bike or kayak then make sure you pop into Bankes Arms in Studland and enjoy a pint of Fossil Fuel, Solar Power or Studland Bay. All locally produced Jurassic Ales.

2 – CORFE CASTLE

In 1066 the Normans invaded England, crossing the English Channel from France. They quickly conquered the country and set about building castles to secure their new lands. Corfe Castle was one of the earliest built and today it stands in dilapidated glory overlooking the Dorset hills. It is one of the finest ruined castles in the UK.

The best views of the castle are from up West Hill – a short but steep climb up a stepped path just northwest of the town. For an even better atmospheric experience, try to get here for dawn on a particularly cold day. The ruins will appear to rise from a golden mist as it cascades down the hill behind it.

Corfe Village is also worth a potter. Small cosy pubs and independent shops sit among attractive houses. The gem most worth visiting in town is Corfe Castle railway station – lovingly restored to how it looked almost 100 years ago. Time your visit right and take a ride on the Swanage railway steam locomotive that runs the short route from just north of Corfe to Swanage.


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3 – LULWORTH COVE

Lulworth Cove is a beautiful circular cove surrounded by a sweeping arc of pebbles and backed by steep cliffs. When the tide is high it is one of the most attractive beaches in the UK. When its low, rock pools are revealed, bursting with all sorts of strange animals.

Just above the cove is another interesting phenomenon, the Lulworth Crumple. Sitting above Stair Hole cove, layers of black, grey and white rock are slowly collapsing into the sea. Consisting of alternating hard limestone and soft shale bands, the cliff has ‘crumpled’ because the soft shale is unable to support the force of gravity.

The whole area is a great place to explore for a few hours. Access is via West Lulworth where there’s a large car park, visitors centre, toilets and restaurants.

Lulworth Cove is also an excellent starting point for a short walk to Durdle Door, one of our favourites on the Jurassic Coast.

4 – DURDLE DOOR

Durdle Door is the iconic image of the Jurassic Coast. Over time, crashing waves have eroded most of the limestone leaving a glorious natural arch stranded in the sea. It’s a fantastic sight and an easy 5-minute walk from the Durdle Door car park.

But to quickly come and go would be a mistake. This part of the Jurassic Coast has some of the finest scenery anywhere in Dorset. Just beside Durdle Door, the magnificent sweeping sands of Man O’War beach provided an attractive beachy nook. If the weather is blessing you, take a quick dip in these sheltered waters.

If the weather is not so kind, an amble along Durdle Door beach staring up at towering vertical faces of rock is the perfect way to appreciate the Dorset cliffs. If you’re feeling more energetic, hike along undulating paths clinging to cliff edges with glorious views both along the coast and out to sea. It’s one of the many great short walks on the Jurassic Coast.

However you choose to experience Durdle Door, you soon appreciate its iconic status along the Dorset Coast.


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5 – WEYMOUTH

Many English seaside towns have seen better days, out of favour to the cheap (and sunnier) Spanish destinations. But Weymouth is being rejuvenated. Home to many great Dorset festivals and events, this is an old English gem not to be missed.

The old harbour contains a well-preserved mix of old and new. Old warehouses perched on the sea walls are now cool pubs and hotels. Vintage breweries form the backdrop to charming squares. Fisherman, following a millennia-old lifestyle, chug their boats up and down the waterways backed by colourful houses transformed into fish and chips shops or a bed for the night.

It’s a great place for a slow meander and a snoop into the local life of a thriving seaside town. Start at the pubs along Custom House Quay and collect the local hangouts along the back streets – Fish ‘n’ Fritz is a popular favourite. Then head across the river to collect some of the quaint streets and local markets.

6 – ABBOTSBURY

With the possible exception of the villages of the Cotswolds, Abbotsbury is as traditionally English as they come and an ideal Jurassic Coast road trip stop. It was even the setting for films of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. Explore its village shop, post office, independent stores and tea rooms before heading up to St. Catherine’s Chapel perched on a hill.

This barrel-vaulted 14th Century Chapel is impressive enough, but the view is even better. From here you can survey Chesil beach. Wedged between the English Channel and a shallow tidal lagoon, 18 miles (29km) of shingle form a thin ridge that rises up to 50 ft (15m) high in places. Fishermen from all around come to this beach to catch fish in the deep nutritious waters just offshore.

From March to October you can also visit the Abbotsbury Swannery. Stroll the paths and watch hundreds of swans relax in the protected waters. In nesting season, it’s the only place in the world where you can walk through a colony of nesting Mute Swans.


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7 – WEST BAY

As you head west along the Jurassic Coast the limestone disappears to be replaced by sandstone. At West Bay, instead of towering white cliffs, rippling waves of honey-coloured rock rise above golden shingle beaches. It’s a magical sight. Plan your trip to arrive in the early morning or late afternoon light when the mist of the crashing waves creates an enchanting sight.

If you are a fan of the UK hit series Broadchurch you will recognise these dramatic landscapes as the backdrop to the programs ongoing drama. To see the best of West Bay there are a few options. Firstly, you can just walk along the beach and admire the spectacular scenery. Secondly, take a hike over the cliffs for a bird’s eye view of the coastline. Finally, hire a rowboat and head out to sea for a unique vantage point of this geological marvel.

All the information about exploring West Bay is in our Dorset coastal walks article.

8 – CHARMOUTH BEACH

Every year bits of the cliff along the Jurassic Coast tumble into the sea. The softer the rock the quicker it crumbles. The cliffs by the village of Charmouth are softer than most. Fortunately, these rocks made of mud, silt and clay are packed full of fossils. Each time the rock crumbles to the ground, new fossils are revealed.

While on your Dorset Jurassic Coast adventure, wander along Charmouth beach, turn over a few stones and find the remnants of animals etched in the rock. In 2000, a large cliff fall revealed a fossilised dinosaur head. This Ichthyosaur, along with many other fossils, is now on display under the heritage centre by the beach.

The heritage centre runs regular 2-hour fossil hunting walks. The first 25 minutes explains how fossils are formed in their fascinating fossil-packed museum. The rest of the tour is out on the beach with a guide to find some. Kids will love it.

9 – LYME REGIS

If you only choose one town to visit on the Jurassic Coast, make it Lyme Regis. Its historic Cobb Harbour set against moody cliffs is well-preserved, while the beachfront (untouched by major roads) is backed by colourful huts and cute houses. The high street is home to independent, interesting stores.

Head into the Ammonite shop to choose from a massive range of Dorset beers or west coast gins. The Lyme Regis Brewery has a taproom selling its craft blends, perched above a babbling brook. For a decent coffee head to Amid Giants and Idols – one of the many independent roasters on the Jurassic Coast.

It’s also a great place to base yourself for exploring this part of the coast. Our pick of accommodation in town is the newly renovated Pilot Boat Inn. It’s right in the centre with just a few beautifully decorated rooms.


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10 – GOLDEN CAP

At 191 metres, Golden Cap is the highest cliff in Dorset. Located between Charmouth and Bridport, it’s made up of rocks from both the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. This geological make-up gives the cliffs a combination of dark grey layers interspersed with bright orange rock. Topped with a blanket of lush green grass, it’s one of the most scenic sections of the Jurassic Coast.

There are several walks in the area that take advantage of this beautiful location. One of our favourites begins at the car park by the sea in Seatown. It’s just over 1 mile to the summit, but the steep path that rises through neat fields framed with oak trees and dotted with heather and blackberry will take you about 40 minutes.

At the top, take in the views of the patchwork quilt of green fields all the way towards Thorncombe Beacon towering over the golden shingle beach.


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Jurassic coast walks in Dorset, Golden Cap

11 – CHAPMAN’S POOL

While most immediately think of Cornwall for out-of-the-way beaches, Dorset has some charmers of it’s own. Chapman’s Pool is a quiet cove and home to one of the best Jurassic Coast beaches. With the nearest parking far enough away that it feels remote, but not so far it’s impossible to get to, Chapman’s Pool is a true highlight on the Jurassic Coast.

The cove was carved over the years from the sea breaking through the hard rock at the mouth and slowly eroding the softer rock behind it. This has formed Chapman’s Pool into the scenic horseshoe shape you see today.

Even in the height of summer, Chapman’s Pool rarely gets busy. It’s a great place to enjoy a well-deserved soak after the fun hike to get down to it. All the details are on our guide to the best hikes in Dorset.

Jurassic coast walks in Dorset, St. Aldhelm’s

WORTH A DETOUR – JURASSIC COAST HIGHLIGHTS

While this is our pick of things to do on the Dorset Coast, there’s no shortage of places to visit in South England. So, if you have your own car, here are a few suggestions that might entice you to make a short detour.

CERNE ABBAS

Britain has a few strange chalk drawings on green hills. But none is stranger than the one at Cerne Abbas. Formed by cutting shallow trenches in the turf and filling them with chalk rubble, it would be nice if this drawing of a well-endowed man holding a club was an ancient fertility symbol.

Until recently it was thought more likely to be made by a couple of randy teenagers on a dark night in the 17th century. However, in 2021 it was determined the figure was probably first created in the late Saxon period.

SHORTLAND BILL LIGHTHOUSE

The Isle of Purbeck is a peninsular stretching 5 miles into the English Channel. At its tip is the Shortland Bill Lighthouse; a particularly good location first thing in the morning when the sunrise will be illuminating the scene. If the weather’s not so good, the rough sea can create an atmospheric but chilly situation. This is a harsh section of the British coastline, so rug up.

MAIDEN HILL

Maiden Hill is home to the largest and most complex iron age fort in the UK. While none of the buildings remain, row upon row of banks and ditches show how well the town was defended.

To gain access in ancient times, visitors would need to walk between the banks which spiralled their way up to the main gate. This would make their arrival visible for a long time, providing ample opportunity to thwart an attack. Today, visitors gain access from the nearby carpark and trudge up through the mud. Bring boots on wet days and lots of imagination.

CRAFT BEER ON THE JURASSIC COAST

There are few better ways to spend time than sampling an interesting ale in an old English Pub. And Dorset is home to a number of great local breweries. From micro-start-ups to grand old institutions, you don’t have to travel too far to find the hottest thing in the Jurassic Coast’s craft beer market.

Many of these breweries have tours to learn about the craft and precision that goes into making this much-loved commodity. Alternatively, pull up a stool in a tap-room and try it for yourself.

DORSET BREWING COMPANY

A small brewery based in Crossways, Dorset Brewing Company has an intriguing taproom that’s somewhere between a spit-and-sawdust shack and a swiss ski chalet. The incredibly friendly host offers 4 pints, one of which is a monthly rotating limited edition. If the 7% Grand Cru is available then make sure you try this sumptuous cross between an IPA and champagne. Head here on a Friday evening, take a tour and join the locals beginning their weekend.

PALMER’S BREWERY

Set on the River Asker just north of West Bay, Palmer’s Brewer is the more traditional kid on the beer block. They have 225 years of brewing experience – the water wheel built in 1879 still stands today. The tours only run on weekdays from March to October and although we didn’t go, we have heard good reviews.

BADGER BEERS

Less micro-brewery and more modern factory, Badger Beer has been brewing since 1777. Its larger site offers a comprehensive brewing tour, a well-stocked shop (perfect for gifts or stocking up the home larder) and a modern stylish taproom. It’s a bit further out of the way, so you may want to plan to come here on your way to or from the Jurassic Coast.

WHERE TO STAY ON THE JURASSIC COAST

The Jurassic Coast stretches for 95 miles and it takes 2 hours to drive from one end to the other. So, make sure you stay near the sights you are most keen to visit.

To see all our things to do, we’d recommend 3 full days on the coast. Either stay centrally near Dorchester and drive out each day, or split your stay between the Purbeck peninsula in the east and Lyme Regis in the west.

We have put together a list of the best places to stay on the Jurassic Coast which includes the main areas to stay on the coast, what to see in each spot, and our pick of the best accommodation ranging from great value budget options to luxurious beach huts.

BEST TIME TO VISIT THE JURASSIC COAST

The best time to go to the Jurassic Coast is from May to early July when the days are long and dry, the flowers are out and the school holidays have not yet begun. September and October are also good.

From mid-July to end of August the weather is great, but the area is extremely busy. Book your accommodation well in advance and try to set off early each day to avoid the crowds.

Winter months can be cold and wet, but if you can book late and wait for a window of sunny weather then it is a truly beautiful place to explore in the winter light.

Jurassic coast walks in Dorset, Durdle Door

JURASSIC COAST MAP

All these scenic Jurassic Coast highlights are collected on our map. Save it to your device by tapping on the star next to the title. This will save the map to your Google Maps account. They’re generally found in SAVED – MAPS on the Google Maps App.

HOW TO GET TO THE JURASSIC COAST

There are three main centres on the Jurassic Coast are Poole or Bournemouth on the east end; Weymouth in the middle; and Axminster is towards the western end. There are regular train services from London to each of these Dorset towns.

TRAINS TO THE JURASSIC COAST


LONDON TO POOLE

2h 36m | 51 trains per day | tickets

LONDON TO BOURNEMOUTH

2h 23m | 52 trains per day | tickets

LONDON TO WEYMOUTH

3h, 12m | 31 trains per day | tickets

LONDON TO AXMINSTER

3h | 17 trains per day | tickets

HOW TO GET AROUND THE JURASSIC COAST

You could use the bus and train network to explore the Dorset Coast. But they don’t run that regularly and are not particularly comprehensive. Many of the best destinations only require a few hours to see and are at the end of small roads or in tiny villages. So, we highly recommend hiring a car to optimise your time on the coast.

There are plenty of car parks but they can get very busy in summer, so try to arrive early in peak season. Also, ensure you carry change. Most parking meters take cards but the odd one still only operates on coins.

We recommend rentalcars.com for your hire car who compare prices across all the major car rental companies.

MORE JURASSIC COAST & BRITAIN READING

The south coast of England is a great part of the world to explore. With scenic coastal hikes, a vibrant craft beer scene and some very cool places to stay, it’s the perfect location for a weekend from London. Here are some of our guides from the area, plus more

JURASSIC COAST

Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door Walk

The best ways to visit and photograph Old Harry Rocks, Dorset

Where to stay on the Jurassic Coast

PEMBROKESHIRE

Our favourite things to do in Tenby

The best coastal walks in Pembrokeshire

Exploring the Blue Lagoon in Abereiddy

LAKE DISTRICT

Walk Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route for a top Lake District hike

9 adventurous activities to try in the Lake District

Our pick of the finest walks & scrambles in the Lake District


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The best things to do on the Jurassic Coast. See dramatic coastal rock formations, hike stunning trails, sample the best local beer and visit incredible sunrise locations. | Visit Dorset | Jurassic Coast | Dorset Official | Visit England | Old Harry Rocks | Corfe Castle | Lulworth Cove | Durdle Door

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