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. With so much on offer, we understand it can be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully, we’ve cherry picked 20 attractions you must visit to help you get the most out of your time in Dorset.
Filled with wonderful wildlife, a petting zoo, assault courses, and an indoor play area, enjoy a guided tour, host your wedding, adopt one of your favourties or hold a birthday party here too! Offering sanctuary to over 100 primates, this 40-acre park is a must-see by any visitor and local.
Old Harry Rocks
A popular viewpoint along the South West Coast Path, Old Harry Rocks are situated between Studland and Swanage. You can book yourself a Jurassic Coast cruise to get up close and personal with the famous chalk formations, or take a walk across Ballard down.
Dorset Water Park
Spread over two lakes, Woodland Water 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.
Home to some of the most fantastic scenic walks, Lulworth Cove is a must for any photographer, geographer or family 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.
The Tank Museum
This unique collection, including the world’s first-ever tank, is regarded as the best in the world. Step inside and marvel at all the armoured warfare, dating from World War I through to the present day, including the Battlegroup Afghanistan exhibition.
One of the finest privately owned gardens in England, Compton Acres showcases 10 acres of beautifully presented grounds. As you make your way round this horticultural haven, make sure you give yourself time to refuel in the well-presented Café and Tearooms.
The Russell Coates Art Museum
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.
The Blue Pool
The colour-changing Blue Pool is surrounded by tranquil woodland walks and heathland. Sandy paths lead up steps to reveal a wonderful view of Purbeck Hills – one of Dorset’s most unique, and hidden, gems that deserves its space in our top 20!
Renowned for its exclusivity, Sandbanks is home to the largest selection of expensive properties in the UK, outside of London. Sandbanks’ waters, North Haven Lake, is home to the Royal Yachting Association and an international sailing school. It’s used to host water sports, events and light marina craft, too.
Athelhampton House & Gardens
Dating back to the 15th century, Athelhampton House and 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, on-site shop and café, as well as exploring the beautiful house and gardens themselves.
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.
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 wildilfe 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.
Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park
Mix up your day at Farmer Palmer’s with indoor and outdoor play, interactive animal events, tractor rides and unique cow-milking demos. Enjoy beautiful walks and a great variety of animals on this inexpensive, thoroughly enjoyable and educational family day out.
Dorset County Museum
This award-winning museum covers 135 million years of Dorset’s history. From dinosaurs to literary greats, archaeology and geology to fine art, costume and textiles, Dorset’s County Museum is sure to educate, and fill any historical questions/voids you may have had.
The Roman Town House
Located in Dorchester, this is the only Roman Town House to 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.
Bournemouth Air Show
Since 2008, Bournemouth Air Show has grown to become Dorset’s most popular festival. You’ll find Bournemouth, and surrounding areas, filled with interesting exhibitions, fly-bys and demonstrations. With 2018 looking to be bigger and better than ever, we certainly class the show as a must!
Holes Bay Nature Park
If it’s wildlife you are after, Holes Bay has it all. The bay is a nursery for several fish species and is home to a significant number of feeding and roosting birds. If you head on down in autumn, winter and early spring you will also find a mass of wading birds and wildfowl.
English Oak Vineyard
Home to an award-winning sparkling wine, the English Oak Vineyard offers up charming tours hosted by the vineyard owners. Open 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
Described as one of the most beautiful and unique sculpture parks in the United Kingdom and spread across 26 glorious acres, Sculpture by the Lakes hosts the perfect blend of art and landscape. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, make sure you stop off at their tearooms to enjoy a light snack, ice cream, meals, tea, coffee and much more.
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 tw, at the Beach House café before you make the inevitable sunset stumble home.