Must-Visit Attractions in Dorset, England

Overlooking the beautiful Lulworth Cove in Dorset
Overlooking the beautiful Lulworth Cove in Dorset | © ian woolcock / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of James Leeland
9 September 2020

Whether you are looking to visit an animal sanctuary or experience one of the many horticultural havens on offer; make a splash at the water park or enjoy a tipple at a vineyard, Dorset has you covered. We’ve cherry picked attractions you must visit to help you get the most out of your time in Dorset.

Monkey World

Zoo
Map View

Filled with wonderful wildlife, a petting zoo, assault courses and an indoor play area, you can enjoy a guided tour, host your wedding, adopt one of your favorite animals or hold a birthday party at Monkey World. Offering sanctuary to over 100 primates, this 40-acre (16ha) park is a must-see for any visitor or local.

Old Harry Rocks

Natural Feature
Map View

A popular viewpoint along the South West Coast Path, the Old Harry Rocks are situated between Studland and Swanage. You can book a Jurassic Coast cruise to get up close and personal with the famous chalk formations, or take a walk across Ballard Down.

Dorset Adventure Park

Amusement Park
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Spread over two lakes, Dorset Adventure Park sits just beyond Corfe Castle. One-hour sessions can be held for anyone aged six and above, from school trips, hen parties, team building and kids parties. If inflatable obstacles, trampolines, slides and flip bags are your thing, we insist you check it out.

Lulworth Cove

Natural Feature
Map View
Overlooking the beautiful Lulworth Cove Dorset England UK
Overlooking the beautiful Lulworth Cove in Dorset | © ian woolcock / Alamy Stock Photo

Home to some of the most fantastic scenic walks, Lulworth Cove is a must for any photographer, geographer or family on a day out. Brush up on your history of this natural phenomenon at the Heritage Centre, home to lots of interesting facts on how Lulworth came to be.

Compton Acres

Park
Map View
The Japanese Garden at Compton Acres
© Malcolm Haines / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the finest privately owned gardens in England, Compton Acres showcases 10 acres (4ha) of beautifully presented grounds. As you make your way around this horticultural haven, make sure you give yourself time to refuel in the well-presented Compton Acres Café and Tearooms.

The Russell Coates Art Museum

Museum
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The Russell Coates Art Museum is an amalgamation of a thoughtful gift, a seaside villa, a gallery, a museum and a stunning garden, filled with glorious memorabilia from all around the globe. Study the finest in British art, experience in-depth talks, tours and workshops, view an exhibition and make sure you attend the next Russell Coates event.

Athelhampton House & Gardens

Building, Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark, Park
Map View

Dating back to the 15th century, Athelhampton House & Gardens is classed as one of the finest manor houses in Dorset, and England as a whole. Open all year round, make sure you visit the Marevna gallery and on-site shop and café, as well as exploring the beautiful house and gardens themselves.

Tyneham Village

Historical Landmark
Map View

Evacuated in 1943 during World War II, Tyneham has held a population of zero ever since. Although time has taken its toll on the village, Tyneham still provides a real insight into wartime Dorset. With the church and school still very much intact, it doesn’t take much to cast your minds back to such a horrendous time.

Brownsea Island

Natural Feature
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Brownsea Island, Poole, Dorset, UK . Brownsea Castle, also known as Branksea Castle.
© Alex Ramsay / Alamy Stock Photo
Enjoy the stunning views, walks, the open-air theatre and take part in activity weekends, all completely undisturbed by traffic, at Brownsea Island. Today, the island is full of wildlife and history. Back in the Victorian era, pottery was produced here and, during World War II, the island was used as a decoy to protect the harbour.

The Roman Town House

Building, Historical Landmark
Map View

Located in Dorchester, this is the only Roman Town House that can be seen in its entirety in the whole of England. Standing since the 4th century, when Dorchester was known as Durnovaria, you can expect to see plays, reenactments, music and fire displays throughout the year, as well as regular personal, group and school tours taking place.

English Oak Vineyard

Wine Seller, Wine
Map View

Home to an award-winning sparkling wine, the English Oak Vineyard offers up charming tours hosted by the vineyard owners. Public tours run on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer months, and described as the perfect venue to discover the delights of an English vineyard, this beautiful setting is a perfect way to spend a summer day.

Sculpture by the Lakes

Natural Feature
Map View

Described as one of the most beautiful and unique sculpture parks in the United Kingdom and spread across 26 glorious acres (10.5ha), Sculpture by the Lakes hosts the perfect blend of art and landscape. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm, make sure you stop off at their tearooms to enjoy a light snack, ice cream, meals, tea, coffee and much more.

Hengistbury Head

Natural Feature
Map View

Follow the winding path taking you up to Warren Hill, and enjoy the spectacular views, greenery and wildlife Hengistbury Head has to offer. For sun, sea and sand, take the low road and digest the clear views of beach huts and the stunning harbour. Enjoy a cocktail or two, at the Beach House café before you make the inevitable sunset stumble home.

Lulworth Castle

Historical Landmark
Map View
Lulworth Castle, Dorset, England, United Kingdom, Europe
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Of all the places to visit around Lulworth, the castle is the most iconic. The 17th-century building is open to visitors all year round, but at certain times of year it plays host to special events which are worth keeping an eye out for. The summer Luna Cinema outdoor movie nights and Camp Bestival music festival are well worth looking into especially.

Knowlton Church

Church
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This unassuming ruin near Wimborne is a spooky site of great historical interest. It sits in the centre of a Neolithic ritual earthworks, not unlike Stonehenge, and is one of the most haunted sites in England. Spectres spotted here include a weeping woman, a horse and rider and creepiest of all a ghostly face peering down from the tower’s top window.

Arne Nature Reserve

Natural Feature
Map View

There are plenty of places around Dorset to get a great view of some local wildlife, but Arne is one of the best if you really want a good chance of spotting something. A whole range of birds, which can be seen almost nowhere else in England, like the spoonbill, can be seen from the hides along the walking routes, as well as deer and all six species of Britain’s native reptiles.

The Golden Cap

Natural Feature
Map View

The Jurassic Coast has many different walking routes to choose from, but one of the best is the steep route up to the Golden Cap – the highest point on the English south coast. The tip is marked by an old military outpost – Thorncombe Beacon, and offers more expansive views than even the white cliffs of Dover.

Lyme Regis

Natural Feature
Map View
Lyme Regis harbour, Dorset, UK.
© Robert Convery / Alamy Stock Photo

Speaking of the Jurassic Coast, no visit to Dorset is complete without paying tribute to the coast’s namesake by doing a spot of fossil hunting. The first complete ichthyosaur skeleton was found on the beach near the town of Lyme Regis, and you can still find many fossils there today, although you’re far more likely to leave with an ammonite than an ichthyosaur bone.

Additional reporting by Callum Davies

These recommendations were updated on September 9, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.