When it comes to getting outdoors, it’s hard to find a better place to be than Dorset. Boasting incredible views everywhere you look, it’s a haven for nature lovers. Whether you’re a thrill chaser looking to go coasteering, or more of a ‘relax on a boat trip’ type of person, Dorset has it all. Here is our guide to the best outdoor activities in Dorset.
For the adventurous folk, coasteering is a popular activity in Dorset. Coasteering is a cross between mountaineering and orienteering, and involves sea swimming, low-level climbing, traversing, natural rapid riding and leaping from ledges into deep water plunge pools. There are several places in Dorset where you can join qualified instructors who guide you along different routes. In Swanage, you’ll find both Land & Wave who run Dorset Coasteering, and Cumulus Outdoors. Further along the coast In Lulworth, you’ll find Lulworth Outdoors. All of these companies run sessions for individuals, groups and families. It’s a fun way to learn new skills, discover hidden coastal secrets and explore Dorset beautiful coastline.
Climbing and abseiling
If you’re after something adrenaline-filled, then try out climbing and abseiling. Dorset is a climber’s paradise, with 95 miles of breathtaking Jurassic coastline. These cliffs have a history dating back to 185 million years ago, and are filled with secret coves waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re a seasoned climber or a beginner, there are plenty of places to go. Dancing Ledge is a great place to climb, with a mix of easy and challenging cliffs which all boast spectacular coastal scenery. Speaking of scenery, another stunning location is Lulworth Cove, which offers unique routes and views of Durdle Door. As well as the Jurassic coast, another popular spot to climb is the Isle of Portland. This small island off the coast has a range of easy and difficult limestone cliffs. Sounds exciting? Head to one of the many climbing schools to get started.
Kayaking and canoeing
A fantastic way of exploring Dorset’s coastline is from the water. Glide through blue waters as you discover secret coves, magnificent cliffs and amazing wildlife. If you happen to be in Poole, you won’t have to look too far to find a great kayaking and canoeing spot. Poole Harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world and boasts plenty of islands, channels and creeks to navigate. Another great harbour is Christchurch Harbour. The small tidal estuary is quite shallow and protected from the sea, so it’s ideal for beginners. It also happens to be an SSSI so you might even spot birds, seals and otters! No kayaking and canoeing day out would be complete without gliding past Old Harry Rocks. Meander round the magnificent chalk cliffs as you look out for dolphins, seals and jellyfish. Another must-see is Durdle Door, one of Dorset’s landmarks. While it’s beautiful seen from land, we truly feel that to appreciate its full beauty, it should be seen from sea!
If you prefer something a little less tiring on the arms, climb aboard one of Dorset’s many boat tours. There is so much beautiful scenery to drink in, and a boat trip is the best way to lie back and enjoy the views. Luckily, there are many options when it comes to tours and trips. Greenslade Pleasure Boats offer cruises from Poole Quay, and you can either sail along the Jurassic Coast, visit Brownsea Island or explore Poole Harbour. Meanwhile, City Cruises Poole sails around the different islands, beaches and bays of Poole Harbour before setting out along the Jurassic Coast for sunset at Old Harry Rocks. There are different kinds of tours available, whether it’s a birdwatching cruise, fireworks cruise or a sea-train cruise. Want to splash out? Sirius Boat Charters allows you to charter a motor boat for a day out tailored just for you. Whether you feel like anchoring somewhere for a swim, or stopping for lunch along the coast, it’s a great option if you want to plan something special.
Walking & Exploring
As much as Dorset is renowned for its coastline, it also boasts some spectacular views inland. Over half of the county is a designated AONB, so it truly is a walker’s paradise. Whether it’s exploring dramatic clifftops, rambling through woodland or strolling down peaceful country lanes, there are over 300 miles of walking routes, trails and paths. One of the most famous walks is the South West Coast Path which stretches for 630 miles, but you can also take shorter routes along the same path. A great walk is the Tyneham Village and Flower’s Barrow walk. This 3.7 mile circular route boasts panoramic views of heathland and coast, as well as an Iron Age hillfort. A more challenging walk is the Durdle Door & White Nothe walk with views of chalk stacks, limestone grassland and stunning beaches. For a relaxing woodland walk, the Sika Trail is a 2 mile circular walk through Wareham Forest. Keep your eyes out for Sika deer through the pine trees!
Cycling is one of the best things to do outdoors in Dorset to make the most of the views. Whether it’s cycling or mountain biking you’re after, Dorset has plenty of trails and routes for all kinds of fitness levels. A great route to get started with is the 11 mile Corfe Castle ride. This circular route starts in Wareham and passes through the ruins of Corfe Castle, two Nature Reserves and several pretty villages. A longer route is the East Lulworth Cycle ride. This scenic 18 mile ride takes you through Purbeck Hills from Wareham to Lulworth Cove. For something a little more challenging, the 71 mile North Dorset Cycleway is a circular route that takes you through pretty villages, stunning countryside and beauty areas like the Dorset Downs, Cranborne Chase AONB and Blackmore Vale.