Area Guides: Places to Visit in Dorset

From coast to country: Must-visit places to go in Dorset

Bordering Somerset, Devon, Wiltshire and Hampshire, our coastal slice of the southwest offers picture-perfect countryside, many white-sand beaches, a handful of iconic landmarks, and the infamous Jurassic Coast. When planning a trip to Dorset, narrowing down your search to a specific location can be a rather time-consuming task. While there are no cities in Dorset, there are a variety of buzzing towns and villages that are welcoming to visitors from across the UK – and the rest of the world. If you’re wondering where to go, browse our Dorset holiday cottages for a little inspiration.

Area guides - Dorset places to see - Lulworth

For a cottage by the sea, you should visit…  

Lulworth is a fantastic destination for visitors who wish to be a short walk from both the sea and a vast range of local amenities. While the breathtaking sights of Lulworth Cove encourage over half a million tourists to the natural landmark everywhere, this wonderful location is also famous for its wealth of independent cafes, bistros, tasty restaurants and pubs. We think Lulworth definitely deserves a top spot on your ‘places to go in Dorset’ bucket list.

Further along the coast to the East of Lulworth and just two miles from the seaside town of Swanage, you’ll find Studland. A traditional British village, Studland is known for its white-sand beaches and beguiling nature reserve. The four miles of sun-drenched dunes are ideal for sandcastle building, sunbathing, and with the tempting aqua-blue sea it’s easy to mistake this beach for being anywhere but the UK.

Studland Beach in Dorset
The view towards Weymouth Beach - Places to visit in Dorset

Weymouth is a family-friendly destination that often appeals to half-term holidaymakers and large parties due to the many attractions on the town’s doorstep. Nothe Fort and Portland Bill Lighthouse are worth seeing in person, and the Sea Life Centre and Weymouth Pavilion are ideal for when the weather is a little unpredictable. While the thriving historic harbour offers plenty of places to eat, when the sun is shining, Weymouth’s Blue Flag winning beach is the perfect place for a picnic.

For a town centre location, you should travel to…

 For places to visit in Dorset with a town centre location, we suggest placing Swanage at the top of the list. This vibrant town offers everything you may need for a traditional family summer holiday by the sea. The beach has mesmerising views across the coastline to Old Harry Rocks, historic buildings border the charming streets and a ride on the town’s famous steam railway is a great way to finish any trip to the county.

Swanage in the summer
Wareham in the summer

Nicknamed the gateway to Purbeck, Wareham might be your match if you’re a lover of walking, cycling or boating. While there’s an abundance of trails and routes nearby, visitors can also enjoy a boat trip from Wareham Quay to Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island. The town hosts a weekly farmer’s market which is an excellent addition to the many eateries to be enjoyed nearby. Local attractions, including Wareham Forest and the Tank Museum, are also just a short trip away.

Bournemouth’s slightly smaller neighbour, Poole is most renowned for being home to one the World’s largest natural harbours. It’s a bustling, historic town built alongside the equally as lovely quay, and it offers a prolific calendar of year-round events and a great selection of activities. The town benefits from a mainline train station that connects you to Weymouth, Dorchester and Bournemouth, while also offering direct services to London, for those looking to escape the city and head to the coast.

Poole Quay at dusk - places to visit in Dorset
The rolling hills of Purbeck

For a cottage in a quaint country village, visit…

If you’re looking for places to go in Dorset that are slightly secluded, we recommend visiting the Isle of Purbeck. Despite its name, this Dorset destination is not actually an island, but a peninsula offering multiple serene countryside villages safely preserved from the innovation of modern times. These rural destinations include Kingston, Worth Matravers and Kimmeridge, and boast an eclectic history, spectacular views of the Jurassic coast and unique thatched buildings built from the iconic Purbeck stone.

Winfrith Newburgh can be found within walking distance of Lulworth Cove. Striking the perfect balance between gentle country and remarkable coast, the village used to be on the main route from Dorchester to Wareham. Thankfully, when the modern bypass was built many years ago, they re-directed the route and now Winfrith is a picture-perfect destination located off the beaten track. There is, however, an excellent pub and farm shop in the village that carries everything you may need during your stay.

Heather heathland in Winfrith
Corfe Castle - Places to see in Dorset

Corfe Castle is a rustic stone village built at the foot of the distinguished, National Trust-owned castle. The castle, which now lies in ruins, holds over 1000 years of royal history and is free to wander around for members. In the village of Corfe, you can find museums, a model village and traditional pubs and tearooms. Swanage Steam Railway is also on hand to take you to the well-loved seaside town, and picturesque Wareham is just a short drive away.