Dorset is the perfect destination for a summer holiday. Known for its breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast, it’s one of the best beach destinations in the UK. There’s plenty of ways you can explore the coast, whether it’s through rockpooling, walking or watersports. Prefer to stay on dry land? There is plenty of fun to be had, whether it’s exploring castles or riding a heritage railway. This is our guide to summer holiday activities in Dorset.

Swanage Railway

One of Britain’s most popular heritage railways, the Swanage Railway takes you through 12 miles of beautiful Purbeck countryside. With stops at Norden, Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross, Herston Halt and Swanage, you can travel in either direction. Corfe Castle is a great place to begin your journey. After exploring the charming village, make sure you take a photo of the platform with the castle in the background. The railway also has special events such as Afternoon Tea and Curry Nights where you can enjoy your meal with a view.

Boat trips

The best way of taking in all of Dorset’s stunning scenery is from the vantage point of a boat. There are plenty of boat tours in Dorset that take you all around the coastline. Moonfleet Adventure Sailing has daily trips from Portland Marina and out into Weymouth Bay. You can even have a go at helping the crew out, from weighing the anchor to hoisting the mainsail. City Cruises Poole offers relaxing trips around the various islands, beaches and bays of Poole Harbour. You can also sail along the Jurassic Coast to see the sunset at Old Harry Rocks. There are different types of cruises, whether it’s a birdwatching cruise, fireworks cruise or a sea-train cruise. Thrill-chasers will love a trip with Lyme Rib Rides. These exhilarating, fast-paced rides cruise along some of the most breathtaking scenery along the Jurassic Coast. Leaving from Lyme Regis, there are different types of tours where you can stop at key spots.

Water sports

Water sports are one of the best summer holiday activities in Dorset. There are a whole range of activities to get involved in, from kayaking and paddle boarding to kitesurfing and sailing. Dorset has plenty of outdoor activity providers dotted along the coast. The Watersports Academy is based in Poole and is one of the leading hire and tuition centres. Poole Harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world and boasts plenty of islands, channels and creeks to navigate with a kayak or paddle board. Another great place is Weymouth Watersports, which offers a range of water sports in the safe waters of Portland Harbour. If you’re a beginner, qualified instructors are ready to help you, but if you want to do your own thing then you can simply rent equipment. Christchurch Harbour is another great place if you’re a beginner, as the tidal estuary is shallow and protected from the sea. It also happens to be an SSSI so you might even spot birds, seals and otters! Nearby you’ll find ShoreSports, which has qualified instructors, equipment hire and river tours.

Lulworth Estate

Lulworth Estate is a beautiful spot to visit. Located within an AONB on the Jurassic Coast, the estate is spread across 20 square miles of countryside. The world-famous Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are located on the coastline within the estate. At Durdle Door, take a walk along part of the South West Coast Path. Relax on the beach and go rock pooling at Lulworth Cove. Also on the estate is Lulworth Castle which dates back to the 17th century. Inside the castle you’ll find a fascinating wealth of history. Hear the stories of the people who lived in the castle, and explore the memorabilia collections. Make sure to climb the tower for some panoramic views over the Purbeck countryside and towards the coast.

Abbotsbury Swannery

Looking for unique things to do this summer in Dorset? The Abbotsbury Swannery is the only place in the world where you can rub shoulders with nesting Mute swans. One of the most popular family attractions in Dorset, the wildlife habitat covers over 25 acres. You’ll get to feed over 600 swans twice a day, and get up close to the nests and see cygnets hatching. Although it’s open year-round, the best time to visit is during the summer months of May to July. Besides watching the swans, make sure to explore the Swanherd’s Hut and History Room, the Monks’ herb garden and the Reed Cutter’s display. There are also pedal go karts, mazes and play areas for younger kids.

Dinosaurland Fossil Museum

If it happens to be a rare rainy day (they do happen in Dorset!) then there are plenty of things you can do indoors. One of the best activities for the whole family to enjoy (and a must when in Dorset!) is a trip to the Dinosaurland Fossil Museum. With over 12,000 specimens on display, you’ll get up close to the smallest microfossils to the largest dinosaurs. Discover how the geography of the earth has changed in the Time Gallery, or see the huge collection of taxidermy and skeletons in the Natural History Room.

Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park

If you’re looking for somewhere to bring the little ones this summer, Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park has plenty of fun to offer. There are acres of adventures to be had, with different animal activities throughout the day such as pig racing, cow milking, deer feeding. You can also go on tractor rides, or have a go at pedal go-karts. There are also tons of play areas including a sand and splash zone and bouncy castles!