The Jurassic Coast is one of England’s most beautiful coastlines that stretches 95miles from Dorset to Devon. It is England’s only UNESCO World Heritage site and over 12 million people per year travel to the South Coast to visit parts of it.
This area is especially popular in the summer months, when locals flock from cities across the UK to the white sand beaches of Bournemouth and Poole, and it’s not just locals, a day or multi day trip to the coast is on many tourist itineraries.
I have spent lots of time on the South Coast of England, and while I recommend spending a few days here to see it all at a leisurely pace you can also see a lot in just one day on Jurassic Coast roadtrip!
In this guide I share 9 spots you must visit along the Jurassic Coast, as well as a one-day itinerary and a three-day itinerary to help you plan your getaway.
1) Bournemouth Beaches
Every summer the beaches of Bournemouth are jam packed with locals and tourists who want to enjoy the white sand beach, pleasant water and British summertime.
The coastline stretches for 9.5miles from Sandbanks via Boscombe and Bournemouth, and if you want to enjoy a quieter area then I recommend stopping at Hengistbury Head Beach which sits at the most eastern end of the beach. Here you can take in the stunning views on an easy 20-minute hike along the rugged clifftop.
While in the Bournemouth area you should also make a stop at Bournemouth Pier, where the beach is lined with colorful beach huts.
My favorite spots for lunch on the beach is Branksome Beach restaurant, which is midway between Bournemouth Pier and Sandbanks, it is possible to walk but I recommend driving and parking behind the restaurant. Another popular beach front spot is Vesuvio, an Italian restaurant at Alum Chine.
Sandbanks is perhaps one of the most popular areas to visit in Dorset, and it is famous for being one of the most expensive areas to buy property in the world!
You can couple a visit to Sandbanks beach with a trip to see Poole Harbour. There is street parking available for free alongside the harbor or you can park in the visitor parking which gives easy access to both the beach and the harbor.
Typically, the beach is a little quieter at Sandbanks than at Bournemouth and tends to attract more locals from the area.
3) Poole Harbour
Poole Harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the world attracting thousands of visitors every year who want to enjoy watersports and boating activities. The most popular activities are wind surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and kite surfing.
You can bring your own equipment and hop in the water or rent from one of the many watersport’s shops. The Watersports Academy offers courses and training, as well as equipment rental if you want to go out on your own.
To get views from the water of the harbour you can take the Poole Harbor and Islands Cruise. This 70-minute harbor cruise starts at Poole Quay, a charming area with old buildings and buzzing atmosphere. From here the cruise goes past Brownsea Island, home to wildlife and picturesque Brownsea Castle and then onto the Sandbanks Peninsula and the luxurious houses of the ‘Golden Mile’. The cruise continues on to tour other islands: Green, Furzey, Long and Round.
4) Studland Bay
Studland is a village on the Isle of Purbeck and can be reached either by road or by chain link ferry from Sandbanks.
The ferry starts operating at 7am and runs at 20 and 40 minutes after the hour. The ferry ride is less than 5 minutes, but in the summer months you may be waiting in a queue for some time. If the queue is too long, reset your navigation and drive there instead which will take about 30 minutes.
Once on the Isle of Purbeck you will pay a National Trust entrance fee and then you can drive and park at any section of the stunning beach. South Beach is the smallest of the beach areas and is very popular with locals. Middle Beach is sheltered by low cliffs, and while Knoll Beach, backed by a wilderness of dunes. This area also has a 1km designated naturist area.
Studland is another popular watersport area, and there are also lots of beautiful walks and hikes that take you along the dunes, to Old Harry Rock and Fort Henry. For a full list of the walks in this area go to the National Trust site.
If you have plenty of time in Studland, then make sure to stop at the popular Pig On The Beach restaurant and if you are planning an overnight visit there is also a charming hotel that the restaurant is attached to.
Swanage is at the eastern end of the Isle of Purbeck and just a couple of miles from Studland, making it an easy stop during your visit to the area.
Swanage is another coastal town overlooking the ocean and represents a great place to base yourself from to see the surrounding areas, visit Old Harry Rock and Studland. But if you are just passing through then a main attraction in the town is the railway station where you can watch heritage steam trains leave the station throughout the day.
For an extra special experience, you can book a journey on the train and enjoy lunch or an evening bistro.
6) Corfe and Corfe Castle
The village of Corfe is most popular for its castle ruins which attract visitors year-round.
The village itself is picturesque, and a charming example of traditional English villages and architecture. While the castle is a must visit, I also recommend wandering around the village, stopping at Corfe Castle Village Bakery, the sweet shop, Corfe Castle Model Village and the pretty railway station. In fact, Corfe is on the same line as Swanage so you could travel by train from Swanage to the Corfe on one of the steam trains.
7) Durlston Castle And Country Park
Durlston Castle and Country Park is another great spot along the Jurassic Coast. Nestled atop of the cliff edge you get excellent views from the castle, and from the trails around the castle.
The castle itself has a cafe, gallery and shop but the surrounding nature trails that meander through the 320 acres of countryside are arguably the main attraction! Here you can see the historic Great Globe, coastal limestone and walk out to the lighthouse.
8) Lulworth Cove
Lulworth Cove (and Durdle Door) is arguably the most famous and most visited part of the Jurassic Coast.
The cove was formed by the combined forces of the sea and a river that was swollen by melting ice at the end of the last Ice Age. The area is world famous for its unique geology and landforms, these include the Lulworth Crumple and Stair Hole.
Many visitors come to marvel at these spots, and others come in search of the turquoise blue sea and typical English fishing village feel.
Visiting Lulworth Cove is typically done in conjunction with a visit to Durdle Door, the two are right next to one another so make for a great day out.
You can park at Lulworth Cove or Durdle Door, I recommend parking at Lulworth Cove exploring the village and then hiking up over to Durdle Door. This is an uphill hike so make sure to wear appropriate shoes.
During your time in Lulworth make sure to visit The Dolls House which is a charming tiny cottage turned into a sweet shop and get lunch at The Lulworth Cove Inn which is also a hotel. And if you are planning to stay in the area there are a couple of other hotel options The Limestone Hotel, Lulworth Lodge and Bijou B&B.
Durdle Door is a natural limestone arch that can be viewed from the cliff top coastline, or down at the beach. To visit there is a car park area just 900 meters from Durdle Door that you can park at for £10 for the day.
From here it is a fairly gravelly walk downhill to the beach, so pack some good shoes for the walk. As mentioned under Lulworth Cove you can also walk over to Lulworth from Durdle Door which is all downhill, but you will have to make the uphill walk on the way back.
One of my favorite activities in Durdle Door is to kayak from Lulworth Cove, along the coastline to Durdle Door. The kayak takes you through the natural arch and ends on the beach at Durdle Door where you can swim and relax before making your way back round to Lulworth Cove.
Day Trip Itinerary
Visiting the highlights of the Jurassic Coast can be done in a day because many of the attractions are so close together.
You have the option of travelling down to Dorset from London which is about 2hrs by train from London Waterloo to Bournemouth or staying overnight in Bournemouth, Poole, Swanage, Corfe or Lulworth Cove. To fit everything in one day, staying overnight is probably recommended.
- Start the day in Bournemouth visiting the pier and the colorful beach huts
- Drive from here to Poole Harbor (about 15 minutes) where you can view the harbor and Sandbanks beach
- After stopping at Poole Harbor go to the chain link ferry and cross over to Studland (only about 5 minutes for the ferry, but you may have to queue depending on the time of year)
- At Studland enjoy a leisurely walk on the beach, take pictures of Old Harry Rock and grab a bite for breakfast
- From Studland head onward to Swanage where the main attraction is to stop and watch the steam train leave the station
- After visiting the town of Swanage venture on to Durlston Castle and Country Park where you can spend about an hour walking the cliff side trails and visiting the castle
- From Durlston head to the village of Corfe to see the castle ruins
- Leaving Corfe you will drive onto Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door where you will end the day. Leave yourself at least 3-4hrs (the afternoon) to fully explore this area, relax at the beaches and enjoy some seafood. You can park at either site and walk between the two, or park at one then drive round to the other if you do not want to do the uphill walk
Tour: Jurassic Coast and Isle Of Purbeck Day Tour
The best way to see the Jurassic Coast in just one day is to take a guided tour. This tour takes you to all the places I have recommended with an experienced guide who can tell you about the history of area.
- Experienced Guide
- Comfortable bus and small group
- Pick up in Poole or Bournemouth
3 Day Itinerary
If you have more time to visit the Jurassic Coast, then I would recommend spending 3 days and nights to explore these areas.
Day 1 / Night 1
Visit Bournemouth, Poole Quay, Poole Harbour and Sandbanks staying in Poole or Bournemouth.
Day 2 / Night 2
Book a hotel in Swanage (or Corfe) and spend the day visiting the town, seeing Studland, going to Durlston Castle and to Corfe Castle. With more time you could book the steam train and enjoy lunch on board between Swanage and Corfe.
Day 3 / Night 3
Leave a full day and night to visit Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. This will give you more time to explore the area and take part in activities such as kayaking, coasteering, hiking and sailing.
Jurassic Coast Guided Tours
Exploring the Jurassic Coast in your own vehicle is very easy as everything is close together and easy to reach, but if you are looking for a guided tour option here are some well rated tours taking you to the Jurassic Coast and surrounding areas.
I have taken the Jurassic Coast & Isle of Purbeck Day Tour which was a great way to see everything in one day.
- From Poole: 2-Hour Jurassic Coastal Cruise
- From Bournemouth: Jurassic Coast & Isle of Purbeck Day Tour
- From Bournemouth: Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door Trip
Best Time Of Year To Visit
The best time to visit Dorset is over summer June – August when the weather is best, and you will get the prettiest views of the coastline. However, since this is the best time to visit it can be extremely crowded with locals and people coming down from London so a visit in the shoulder months May or September may be better.
But this area can be visited year-round, and there is no bad time to visit the Jurassic Coast!
Jurassic Coast Wrap Up
I hope this guide inspired you to visit the Jurassic Coast in England. This area is one of the most beautiful coastlines in England and should be added to your itinerary when visiting the country!
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