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What are the best things to do on the Jurassic Coast?
With its dramatic coastline, cute villages, and historic landmarks, you’ll never be stuck for things to do on the Jurassic Coast. This beautiful stretch of Dorset coastline has a unique landscape, which makes it one of the best UK holiday destinations.
Whether you’re looking for a daytrip from London, a weekend getaway, or a family holiday, you’ll find plenty of must-see places on the Jurassic Coast. We’ve been visiting Dorset since the children were little and it’s definitely one of our top UK places to visit.
We’ve just returned from a week near Dorchester, exploring this area of Dorset and discovering all the best things to do. So, in this post, I’ll tell you all about the best places to visit on the Jurassic Coast and other useful information for your own trip.
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What is the Jurassic Coast?
The Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the South Coast of England. The rugged coastline stretches for 95 miles from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset.
It’s a stunning destination, with a distinctive natural landscape. As the name suggests, the dramatic coastline has evolved naturally over millions of years from the Jurassic era. Erosion has left it with some unique geological features that can’t be found anywhere else.
Our recommendations for the best places to visit on the Jurassic Coast.
At the top of our list of things to do on the Jurassic Coast is a visit to Durdle Door, Dorset’s most iconic attraction. The beautiful natural arch has been created over thousands of years by the constant bashing of waves. It is now one of Dorset’s must-see attractions and attracts thousands of visitors a year.
You can take the steep flight of steps leads down to the stony beach or just enjoy Durdle Door from the cliff top. Afterwards, take a short walk on the South West Coast Path to the beautiful Lulworth Cove. We’ve done this walk with the kids since they were very little and never tire of the views.
Lulworth Cove is a picturesque, secluded cove just along the Jurassic Coast from Durdle Door. It’s a stunning place with a crescent shaped bay and turquoise waters. We always walk there from Durdle Door and visit both places in one day.
Lulworth Cove is a vibrant destination and offers a selection of places to eat and drink along the Main Street. You can stop for tea and cake, an ice-cream or a pint overlooking the cove.
As well as the beach, Lulworth Cove has some unique geology, resulting from the constant sea erosion on the rocks. Explore the coast to see Stair Hole, the Lulworth Crumple, and the Fossil Forest. You can also pop into the Visitor Centre to find out more about the distinctive features of this Jurassic Coastline.
As you’d imagine, Lulworth Cove is one of the most popular places to visit along the Jurassic Coast and can get extremely busy.
At 191 metres above sea level, Golden Cap is the highest point of the Jurassic Coast. It is a fantastic viewpoint, looking out over the Jurassic coast and Dorset countryside.
There is an easy linear walk to the Golden Cap from Langdon Hill National Trust car park and back. However, we chose to do the circular walk which takes you to St Gabriel’s Chapel and woods, a throwback to days when Stanton St Gabriel was still a flourishing hamlet.
Old Harry Rocks
Another of the most popular natural landmarks on the Jurassic Coast is Old Harry Rocks. It’s the name for the collection of white limestone sea stacks at Handfast Point. Old Harry Rocks is a unique rock formation, created over millions of years by sea erosion.
If you’re wondering who Old Harry is named after, it’s either notorious Dorset pirate, Harry Pyre, or the devil himself! Old Harry used to have a wife, but she collapsed in the sea many years ago. Now he just has a stump for company.
To get the best views over Old Harry Rocks, follow the trail from Studland Bay to the headland. It’s only a mile each way, so you can return to Studland for a drink in the Bankes Arms Inn or at the Pig-on-the Beach.
Read more: A short walk to Old Harry Rocks
One of the best things to do along the Jurassic Coast with kids is hunt for fossils at Charmouth Beach. What better result than finding an ammonite from 190 million years ago!
And fossil hunting at Charmouth is not just for kids. Fossil hunters come from near and far in search of the fossils dating back to the Jurassic period. You need a keen eye, but with a bit of luck you can find some treasure along the shore.
To find out more about the Jurassic fossils, head into the Charmouth Heritage Centre. They also give guided fossil tours on the beach.
Weymouth is a vibrant, seaside town and perfect for a coastal break on the Jurassic Coast. I spent a girlie weekend there last summer and just loved it.
Start your visit to Weymouth with a stroll by the harbour or stop for fish and chips overlooking the boats. History lovers could head up to Nothe Fort, a stunning historic sea fort at the entrance to Weymouth Harbour.
However, if the sun is out, the best thing to do in Weymouth is hit the beach. With miles of golden sand, Weymouth Beach has been attracting visitors since King George III’s time in the 1700s. Today, it has all the attractions of a quintessential English resort, Punch and Judy, donkeys, and even a fun fair.
If it’s raining, visit Weymouth Sea Life Centre, an aquarium with over 2500 sea creatures and Caribbean Adventure playground. Or you could go to Sandworld to see sculptures from some of the world’s most talented artists.
Click here for tickets to Weymouth Sea Life Centre
Read more: A weekend break in Weymouth, Dorset
Quite a contrast to the bustling seaside town of Weymouth is Portland Bill, on the most southerly tip of the Isle of Portland. Its most striking landmark is the distinctive red and white lighthouse, which has protected the coastline for hundreds of years.
You can take a guided tour of the lighthouse or a walk around the headland to see the Trinity House Obelisk and Pulpit Rock. Another popular attraction at Portland Bill is Tout Quarry. This former stone quarry is now a sculpture park, with over 60 hidden sculptures.
Tout Quarry is also a designated nature reserve. Portland Bill is a fantastic place for wildlife, and if you’re lucky you may spot dolphins or seals off the coastline.
One of the best places to visit on the Jurassic Coast is Corfe Castle. Built by William Conqueror nearly a thousand years ago, this royal castle stands majestically on the hill overlooking surrounding Dorset countryside.
Corfe Castle is now in ruins, but remains an impressive historical site, with its towering walls and imposing gatehouse. You can climb up the hill to explore the castle ruins and imagine it in its glory days.
Afterwards, take some time to explore the charming village of Corfe Castle. Enjoy the village in miniature at the model village or pop into one of the tea rooms or traditional pubs.
Don’t forget to visit the Corfe Castle railway station, where you can enjoy a ride on a full-size steam train. Originally built in 1885, Corfe Station has now been restored as a heritage station, with trains running daily to Swanage.
If you’re going with kids, the National Trust host a lot of family activities in the school holidays. We were there at Easter and able to enjoy archery, tug-of-war, and some royal dress up!
Not only is Abbotsbury one of the prettiest villages in Dorset, but it is also home to two of the most popular attractions on the Jurassic Coast. We stopped by for a visit to Abbotsbury Swannery.
Established in the 11th century by Benedictine monks, who used to farm swans for their banquets, Abbotsbury Swannery is a unique sanctuary, where swans flourish in a natural habitat.
With over 600 mute swans, this popular Dorset attraction has the largest colony of free-roaming swans and it’s the only place in the UK where visitors can get so close to the birds. In spring you can observe the swans nesting or even watch the cygnets hatch. Try to get there at feeding sessions (12 and 4pm), so you can feed the birds.
Afterwards head to the pretty village of Abbotsbury for afternoon tea or a pint in the Swan Inn. Alternatively, make a full day out at Abbotsbury, by adding on a visit to the Abbotsbury Sub-tropical Gardens. You can get discounted tickets if you go to both.
Read more: A visit to Abbotsbury Swannery
Another popular place for fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast is Lyme Regis.
Known as the “Pearl of Dorset”, Lyme Regis is a historic, seaside town, with plenty of things to do. It has several beaches, or you can walk along the Cobb, the protective wall around the harbour.
On a rainy day, head inside to one of the museums, or take a visit to Lyme Regis’ Town Mill or aquarium.
Chesil Beach is an exceptionally long shingle barrier beach, stretching for 18 miles from Portland to West Bay. It’s not great for swimming, but popular for fishing and watching the sunset.
To fully appreciate how immense Chesil Beach is, look down on it from one of the viewing points above. We went to the popular viewpoint by the Olympic Rings on the Isle of Portland. Alternatively, you can stop at the other end of the coast road near Abbotsbury.
This unique shingle ridge is bordered by the Fleet, Europe’s largest tidal lagoon. The Fleet provides a natural habitat for many unique species, including the famous swans at Abbotsbury.
At the far end of Chesil Beach is the seaside town of West Bay, easily distinguished by its distinctive golden cliffs. David Tenant fans will recognise the yellow, sandstone cliffs from the tv series Broadchurch.
West Bay is a popular family beach, as it has golden shingle and sand and offers safe swimming. You can also try your hand at crabbing from the pier.
We started our visit to West Bay with a walk around the harbour and out along the esplanade. There’s plenty of huts selling fish and chips, but we headed inside to The George pub for lunch.
Afterwards you can take a steep walk up to the clifftop, to look down over the beach. Stick to the path and don’t go to close to the edge, as the cliffs can crumble.
Just inland from West Bay is the small market town of Bridport, which has several galleries and a museum.
Know before you go
Best places to stay on the Jurassic Coast
We’ve stayed in numerous locations around Dorset, usually in self-catering holiday accommodation, camping or glamping.
On our most recent visit we stayed near Dorchester. Its central location makes it one of the best places to stay on the Jurassic Coast. Weymouth is also very central, and has a good choice of nightlife.
Best hotels on the Jurassic Coast
How to get to the Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is the 92-mile stretch of coastline on the South Coast of England. The easiest way to get there is by car.
From London or Surrey it is an easy route on the M25 and M3. The last stretch on the M27 goes through the New Forest National Park, which is extremely scenic route.
Regular trains run from London Waterloo to numerous stations along the Jurassic Coast. Depending on where you are staying, you could take a train to Weymouth, Dorchester, Wareham, or Wool.
A map of the best places to visit on Dorset's Jurassic Coast
How to get around the Jurassic Coast
If you don’t have a car, you can explore the Jurassic Coast with unlimited travel on the Jurassic Coaster bus service. Please be aware that some routes only run in the spring and summer.
Other things to do in Dorset
During our stay in Dorchester, we also visited the Cerne Abbas Giant, a giant chalk carving and RSPB Arne. Plus we took a visit to Dorchester and Swanage.
One of our other favourite attractions on the Jurassic Coast is Monkey World, a sanctuary for rescued monkeys. Alternatively, you could try the Bovington Tank Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of tanks.
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