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Lighthouse along the ocean| © wnann_/Flickr.
Lighthouse along the ocean| © wnann_/Flickr.

The Top 10 Things to See and Do in Dorset, England

Picture of James Leeland
Updated: 12 December 2017

Dorset is home to some of the world’s most glorious countryside, coastline, events and attractions – perfect for all the family. With so much on offer, we understand it can be difficult planning the perfect day out. Thankfully, our guide caters for all the family, and offers 10 incredible tips for getting the most out of the beautiful English coastline… 

Explore the natural beauty of Lulworth Cove

Formed approximately 10,000 years ago, by the sheer force and determination of a river and the sea, Lulworth Cove boasts spectacular scenic walks – a must for any geographer. You can also step inside the Heritage centre, to learn about this natural phenomenon’s history, before hopping on a motor boat from the beach - taking you on a short trip to Durdle Door…

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove | © Tom Maloney/Flickr.

Step off the boat…

…and marvel at the earthly wonder, Durdle Door, set right on the Jurassic Coast between Swanage and Weymouth. Enjoy your picnic, and an ice cream, as you set up camp on the sloping beaches. Plan what caves to explore, when to go snorkelling, and what exciting rock strata to investigate first - including the world-famous rock arch!    

Durdle Door

Durdle Door | © Miles Sabin/Flickr.

The Tank Museum

Over 300 vehicles, including the world’s first ever tank (Little Willie), line the floors of The Tank Museum. This unique collection is regarded as the best in the world; showcasing armoured warfare from World War I through to the present day, including The Battlegroup Afghanistan Exhibition.  Since the late 1990s, a refurbishment has been underway, allowing halls to be re-displayed. Purchase an ‘Access all Areas’ ticket, take part in the ‘Tiger 131 Workshop’, come on down to the ‘Vintage Christmas’ and/or ‘South West Model Show’ and you’ll see just why The Tank Museum is rated as the #1 attraction in Dorset.    

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M60A3 Tank | © Peter Trimming/Flickr.

Visit the beautiful grounds of Compton Acres

Boasting 10 acres of perfectly presented grounds, Compton Acres is acknowledged as one of the finest privately-owned gardens in England. Constructed back in 1920 by a Mr Thomas Simpson, today, Compton Acres is much more than just beautiful gardens – you can relax in the well-presented Café & Tea Rooms, choose an experience from a heavy schedule of events, treat yourself in the ‘Gifted Moments’ store and educate yourself within the ‘Plant Centre’. With so much to do, we can’t blame you for being tempted by their annual pass.

Compton Acres

Water Lilies 04 | © William Wan/Flickr.

The Bournemouth 7s Festival

Bournemouth 7s has become the World’s Largest Sport & Music Festival and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017. Whether your game is rugby, hockey or ultimate frisbee, get your mates together and pitch your skills against other budding athletes! Alternatively, you could always spectate instead and enjoy watching the  others make a fool of themselves for the weekend!  As the day draws to a close, make sure your tent is pitched and you’ve swapped your rugby boots for your dancing shoes – the days sporting action swiftly turns into a night of great music, and (not so) great dancing!
 

Let the bubbles, and the view, go to your head in Shaftesbury

The traditional, medieval town of Shaftesbury is one of England’s oldest towns. Washed down with a glass of champagne, the balloon ride itself can include a tour of the towns cobbled Gold Hill (made famous for its use in the Hovis commercials), Blackmore Vale, the West Wiltshire Downs and endless rows of countryside – with views like these we are not surprised Thomas Hardy chose to add this gorgeous setting to his novels.

Shaftesbury

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury | © Charles D P Miller/Flickr.

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

In 1901, Mayor of Bournemouth, Sir Merton Russell-Cotes gave his wife a rather extravagant birthday present: her dream house, overlooking the sea. This later became The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, a seaside villa, gallery, museum and gardens filled with stunning memorabilia from all around the globe. Between 10am and 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays, you can study the finest in British art, experience in-depth talks, tours and workshops, view an exhibition and attend a Russel-Coates event. With such stunning displays throughout, and beautiful gardens to match, we can’t believe this museum started life as a gift!

Russell Coates

G F Watts, The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum | © Martin Beek/Flickr.

Make a splash at Dorset Water Park

Open from 30th March, this huge Woodland Water Park spreads itself over two lakes, just beyond Corfe Castle. Castle Lake features a 65m Action Loop of inflatable obstacles, a trampoline, slide, climber and Flip Bag, whilst the Woodland Lake (new for 2017) stands at 85m in length! One hour sessions can be held for anyone aged six and above; from school trips, hen parties, team building and kids parties, Dorset Water Park really does cater for all. Having worked up an appetite don’t forget to stop by the Snack Shack for delicious refreshments, ice cream and hot food.    

Go bananas at Monkey World

Offering sanctuary to over 100 primates, this 40-acre park is a must see by any visitor, and local. Alongside the obvious wildlife, other entertainment includes a petting zoo, assault courses, boating and an indoor play area. The guided tours are a must for any animal lover, with weddings, kids clubs, adoptions and birthday parties all taken into consideration too! Pop into the gift shop to find a cuddly toy of your favourite chimp, purchase some jewellery or a new primate Hoodie and take a little piece of Monkey World home with you.

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Silvestre | © Carine06/Flickr.

Hengistbury Head

People have been visiting Hengistbury Head for the past 12,000 years. The local nature reserve is a haven for insects, reptiles and small mammals alike, not to mention the 500 types of plant species that can be found. Follow the winding path, reaching up onto Warren Hill, and enjoy the spectacular views, greenery and wildlife. If it’s sun, sea and sand you’re after, then take the low road, this path leads you to an equally pleasing view of the stunning beach huts & harbour – you can even enjoy a refreshing cocktail and a delicious meal at The Beach House café!

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Hengistbury Beach Huts | © Tanya Hart/Flickr.