What are the best Dorset beaches?
When it comes to UK holidays, one of the most-asked questions is: what are the best Dorset beaches? Luckily there’s a wealth of wonderful answers. From beautiful coves and family-friendly crescents of sand, to fossil-packed bays and uncrowded shores. Dorset has them all.
What are the best Dorset beaches?
Set on the shore just over a mile away from the vibrant market town of Bridport, pretty West Bay is a coastal community that’s so charismatic they filmed parts of the ITV drama Broadchurch there. Fabulous beaches, excellent places to eat, towering limestone cliffs and cracking views make this a delightful first stop in your exploration of Dorset beaches.
The beautiful village of Abbotsbury, with its quaint cottages and thatched roofs, is the gateway to one of the most spectacular of Dorset beaches. The coast at Abbotsbury is truly breathtaking. It forms part of stunning Chesil Beach - an 18-mile shingle ridge that surges from West Bay in the west to the Isle of Portland in the east.
Head from the Abbotsbury Beach car park, across the boardwalk and onto the pebbles to drink in those surging coastal views.
Chesil Beach (Wild Chesil Centre)
Some 14km east of Abbotsbury, at the start of the road onto the Isle of Portland, you’ll find a very different way to experience Chesil Beach and the vast Fleet Lagoon that sits just behind. Drive into the Chesil Car Park then head straight into the Fine Foundation Wild Chesil Centre.
Here family-friendly displays reveal the unique eco-system and heritage of the pebble ridge and the neighbouring Fleet Lagoon, which is the largest body of water of its kind in the UK. Look out for regular events and summer-time boat trips heading out onto the lagoon.
Many of the best Dorset beaches form part of the Jurassic Coast - a 95-mile long UNESCO World Heritage site that stretches from Exmouth in Devon to the Old Harry Rocks near Swanage. It’s remarkable because a combination of geological movements and erosion mean you can see rocks from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods all in one place - that’s 185 million years’ worth in just 95 miles.
And one of the best places to get to grips with these geological treasures is at fantastically fossiliferous Charmouth. It’s home to the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre which does a great job of bringing the coast’s story to life - and leading excellent guided fossil-hunting walks along the shore.
For a slice of classic English seaside life, it’s hard to beat Weymouth. This charming Georgian resort also has one of the best Dorset beaches - a 3 mile crescent of golden sand. It’s sheltered, gently-sloping and patrolled by lifeguards in the summer. Add Weymouth’s wealth of cafes and eateries and you have a firm family favourite.
Of all the picture-postcard pretty Dorset beaches, Lulworth Cove is one of the most charming. The curving pebble beach is edged by a circle of creamy white Portland limestone, creating a delightful effect - especially when the sun glints off a beautifully blue bay.
If you walk along the shore some 100 metres to the west you’ll come across the fascinating cove of Stair Hole. This tiny rocky bay has a low rock arch over the entrance and makes for an impressive sight when the waves surge in at higher tides. Also keep an eye out for the delightfully-named Lulworth Crumple - a section of cliff where the strata of rock has been scrunched into crazy angles and folds.
You can also walk from Lulworth Cove to one of the most iconic of all Dorset beaches - made famous by the massive rock arch of Durdle Door. This section of Portland limestone has been eroded by the waves into a towering arch and is one of the most photographed sights of the Jurassic Coast. The descent down the steps set into the cliffs to the beach beside the arch is a memorable one.
You can hike along the coast path for 3.3km (6.6km return) from Lulworth Cove, or head to the Durdle Door Holiday Park car park and hike on down.
The most western of Dorset beaches, the one at Lyme Regis, sits right on the Dorset-Devon border and it’s very much worth the trip. Lyme is an incredibly pretty, historic seaside town, set on a stunning stretch of shore. The famous Cobb, a curving 13th century harbour wall, stretches out to sea, helping to protect sandy, gently sloping Front Beach.
Lyme has a long, strong fossil hunting history - this was where Mary Anning pioneered palaeontology in the Victorian era, searching the nearby beaches for finds in the marine fossil beds.
If you visit Lyme it’s also worth tracking down the Ammonite Pavement. This is a series of limestone ledges with an array of large ammonites embedded in the rock. You’ll find it these big fossil swirls around 1km west of town on Monmouth Beach, but they’re only viable at lower stages of the tide. Ask locally for directions and also to make sure you time your visit right
The George Albert Hotel
With so many beautiful Dorset beaches, what you really need is a fantastic, centrally-placed hotel from which to explore them all. Which is where the George Albert comes in. It’s superbly sited - less than 15 miles from the cracking pebble ridge at Abbotsbury, while West Bay, Weymouth and Lulworth Cove are all around 20 to 25 miles away. In fact, everywhere in our list of best Dorset beaches is within a 45 minute drive.
The George Albert is also a supremely comfortable place to stay. We pride ourselves on a warm welcome, spacious rooms and superb fixtures and furnishings. After a top-notch meal in our very own Kings Restaurant, you can relax in your stylish room - delighting in a deluxe bathroom and sleeping soundly in one of our gorgeously comfy beds. So you can be ready for more explorations the next day.
In fact the George Albert is the perfect place to base yourself as you explore the very best Dorset beaches.