Update: April 23, 2021
Dorset is the first area I discovered in Southern England. I immediately felt at home: the combination of the rural, friendly atmosphere that hangs here and the beautiful nature makes it a very nice place to be. I must also confess to being a huge fan of British culture and the friendly, open attitude in the South.
Dorset is an area in central southern England, of which Bournemouth is the largest city. Poole is right next door and this harbor town has the third largest natural harbor in the world. And if you drive a bit further you will reach the beach of Sandbanks, where many kite surfers can always be found, a beautiful sight. From here you can also take the boat to Studland, a large nature reserve that also houses Old Harry Rocks, one of my favorite places in Dorset. I hereby list my best places in Dorset for you, which are all really worth a visit.
1. Bournemouth Beach
Bournemouth Beach is an extensive beach of no less than 11 kilometers. And that’s a good thing, because this characteristic beach is full of day trippers in the summer and is a real attraction for anyone who wants to soak up the salty sea air. If you want it a little quieter around you, just walk a few kilometers further and you will see that the crowd is decreasing. It is not for nothing that it is so busy here in the summer: it is a beautiful place and there is plenty to do if you have children. To be honest, I’ve never seen it super busy myself, so these will probably be peak times in the hot summer.
Bournemouth Lower Gardens
In addition to the pier with children’s attractions, arcade (!), An ice cream and chips stand, zipline, a large Ferris wheel and much more entertainment, there is a beautifully maintained, typically British garden just behind the beach, which is full of flowers every day of the year, and where the squirrels literally eat the bread from your hand. These are Bournemouth Gardens, and you can stroll through here (or longboard like me) with an ice cream in your hand and enjoy all the greenery around you. Extra fun: in the middle of the park there is a large bird cage in which 30 different types of birds are busy talking together. One of the birds even has a whole conversation with you!
2. Chaplin’s Cellar Bar – Boscombe
This is a bar, but not just any one, it’s the nicest and most special bar I’ve ever seen! Chaplin’s Bar is quirky and a bit different. Located in the town next to Bournemouth called Boscombe, the bar has a rich history of famous stars who once visited here, all hanging from the wall in the hall. This multi-award-winning bar was built with a lot of love and attention, and it shows. In every corner you will find something special or strange to look at. The backyard has a big ivy in the shape of a face (the founder’s face), and in the basement you’ll find all kinds of hilarious sayings about alcoholics. The bar is colorful and atmospheric, and every night a different live band plays in the basement that ranges from punk-rock to soul or jazz …
3. Lake Pier
This spot is to the south of Poole, in Hamworthy, and overlooks the nature reserve on the other side of the water. It is a quiet place with a pier and a beautiful lake that you can walk around. You are surrounded by nature here, which makes it a perfect picnic location. In the hot summers it is also wonderful to stay here with a dip in the sea or in the lake.
Tip: go here at sunrise or sunset for the best view from the pier. You will definitely enjoy this.
4. The New Forest
The New Forest is another beautiful surprise in Dorset, and something you don’t expect at all. The New Forest is a huge nature reserve with many open fields where hundreds of wild horses roam free. A special sight to see. A nice place to visit in this area is Brockenhurst, where the wild horses and cows roam the village, and sometimes walk into a supermarket. Amazing, right?
Tip: As attractive as it is, don’t pet the little ponies like I did, because you think little ponies won’t do anything. They don’t like that very much and then you get a kick.
Weymouth is one of the prettiest coastal towns in Dorset with its beautiful old harbor, distinctive colorful buildings and the sea. It is located in the middle of the Jurrassic Coast, a rugged coastline from Exmouth in the west to Bournemouth in the east. This also makes it a perfect place to search for fossils, which people regularly dig up here. Pretty cool.
Personally I haven’t been here, but I’ve heard that there is a lot to see. It has, among other things, a giant red and white lighthouse, two castles (one of which is a ruin with a sea view) and a fortress, also by the sea. Finally, there are lots of little shops, cafes, pubs and fish and chip shops to enjoy, watching all the boats come in or crab-catching children. Plenty of beautiful things to discover in this typical British coastal town on the Jurrassic Coast.
6. Old Harry Rocks
This is my favorite place, and not because my dad’s name is Harry too. Old Harry Rocks is a very high cliff formation that was formed by erosion years ago. Super Impressive! You can get here from Poole by bike, and this is also a bike ride you won’t soon forget. You cycle towards Poole Quay and from there take the boat to the other side. Along the way you will pass the Bankes Arms, a historic pub from the 16th century, where of course you should have a beer. The Bankes Arms is known for its own brewed beer, beautiful beer garden (you will hear this term more often in Great Britain) and of course the annually well-attended Bankes Arms Beer Festival. Drinking beer is something the British are very good at. After you finish your beer, drive on to the spectacular view of Old Harry Rocks, where the limestone formations open your mouth for a moment (be careful not to let the beer fly out). Admittedly, I thought it was a bit scary because of the height and lack of gates or warnings, but that made it extra exciting.
7. Poole Harbour
Poole Harbor is the second largest natural harbor in the world. That is difficult to see with the eye, but if you take the map, you see how enormous this area is. It was originally a valley but was broken up during the Ice Age. The natural harbor is also the mouth of several rivers, including The River Frome. Poole Harbor has several islands, of which Brownsea Island is the largest. Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) also appears to live on this island, or somewhere close around here. Fun fact: on Brownsea Island there are a lot of red squirrels, which is special because in Bournemouth they are all gray.
8. Kimmeridge Bay
Kimmeridge Bay is by far the most beautiful view you will see in Dorset. Breathtakingly beautiful, especially at sunset. And also the best surf spot in this region, where the waves can get very high if the conditions are right. The cliffs, where you can get up with a staircase, have been crumbling for years, and if you stand underneath you can hear small pieces crumbling. So be careful with your walk that you don’t get too close to the edge. Once at the top you will see a tower, the Clavell Tower, which has recently been converted into a Bed & Breakfast. It is said that the tower used to be much further up the cliff, but was moved backwards years ago to prevent it from falling off the cliff.
9. Durdle door and Lulworth Cove
Durdle Door is one of the most photographed spots on the Jurrassic Coast. And rightly so, the “door” in the sea is a spectacular sight (note: it is not the one on the picture, altough that little gap is quite pretty too). You can make beautiful canoe trips in the sea here. A little further you have Lulworth Cove, which is certainly not inferior to all the mentioned spots. This is a beautiful bay with bright blue water, where I also ate the best fresh fish and chips.
10. Corfe Castle
This is the first castle I have seen in my life, and I thought it was very special. Corfe Castle is on the route if you drive from Poole to Kimmeridge Bay. The enormous ruin is diffucult to be missed. The foundation stone of Corfe Castle was laid over 1,000 years ago. Since then it has gone through a large number of battles and partly because of that it looks like this today. It is said that it was a royal residence at the time, but also a treasure house. The castle was built in the early 12th century for King Henry I, son of William the Conqueror. And, of course, the huge castle was meant to enhance its prestige.
Have you been to Dorset, and what did you think of it?