What to do on a family holiday in Dorset

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Us at the beautiful Durdle Door

Robert, who’s 14, is back to tell you about our summer family holiday in Dorset – a place we would highly recommend.

Over to him:

“At the beginning of the summer holidays my parents and I drove to Dorset for a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable week-long visit. We stayed in a cottage around a ten-minute drive from Weymouth. It had two rooms, a bathroom with a shower, a kitchen area, living room and basically everything you would want in a living accommodation. It was a lovely place to relax in the evening; reading books, watching TV and playing games. 

Weymouth  

On Weymouth Beach

To say Weymouth is busy on a summer weekend is a huge understatement. Parking was hard to come by (although we did find a space every time) and the beaches and streets were bustling with locals and tourists alike. However, it never felt too crowded and there weren’t long queues for refreshments or long waits to get a meal. The beach was lovely – we rented deckchairs for £2 each – and spent a good few hours there on our first day. The sea was amazing to paddle, wade and swim in as there were basically no waves at all – due to the natural defences at Chesil beach.  

There are so many places to get an ice-cream or slushie in Weymouth and even more places to get yourself a quick lunch in the afternoon. Be warned though: a majority of the cafes and shops close relatively early and on our first night we found ourselves wandering the streets for a while before deciding on getting food to heat up at home. Weymouth and the surrounding area is not short of massive supermarkets and we had dinner in our cottage every night bar one, so the shops closing early is not a major problem. 

Chesil Beach 

The stunning Chesil Beach

After relaxing in the sand on Weymouth’s coastline we drove about twenty minutes to a completely different type of beach. Chesil beach is the largest tombolo in the UK and is 28 kilometres of pure pebbles which increase in size as you move across. The stretch is classified as a Heritage site so you are not allowed to take any rocks home with you although you can obviously pick them up. The sheer size of the beach was impressive and it was a beautiful to go and have a look at. There is a great exhibition about the beach inside the visitor centre with lots of things to touch and look at including fossils, animal bones and millions of years old rocks. For a free attraction I would definitely recommend going, if only to have a quick look. 

One of the exhibits at the Chesil Beach Visitor Centre

Cycling 

The next day we set out on a cycling trip organised by Jurassic Trails. We got our bikes and helmets then proceeded to begin our journey down the many cycle lanes and general streets in the area. We got lost almost straight away, we’ll blame it on the lack of clear signs, and ended up following a route we made up using the map we were given. We then lost Dad and pulled over but ended up stumbling across a strange sculpture, so really Mum and I came out of the loss pretty well. It was fun and exhilarating cycling around Dorset, although my bottom and legs were aching by the end of it. Even after a lot of wrong turns and small pavements that we walked down with our bikes it was still a thoroughly enjoyable day and cycling up and down the seafront near Bowleaze was one of the highlights of the trip. Although this bears no relevance to this post you may be amused to read that we went cycling on the day of what I can only assume to be some sort of Dorset Marathon which brought the difficulty level up significantly when cycling down the lanes shared for both walking and biking. 

Hiring the bikes from Jurassic Trails cost £54 for the three of us and could be used for the whole day. We thought this was pretty good!

Windsurfing 

Robert tries out windsurfing

On our third day I went windsurfing at the Official Test Centre in Portland.  My only vaguely similar experience in my life was going Water-skiing in Greece three and a half years ago so I entered a complete beginner but came out, quoting the words of my instructor, “a natural”. I got the hang of it practically straight away; there was a secure position, a sailing position and the act of turning around. Once you learn those – which we did on the shore – the only difficulty is keeping your balance and not falling in. The two hour session went by quickly and I would definitely try it again – possibly in windier conditions than the test centre. The water is so shallow and the one time I fell, my feet touched the floor so there is no reason to be scared. The centre also teaches paddle boarding which is an easier water sport that you could attempt if you wanted. 

Robert’s two-hour taster lesson was complimentary (lucky us!) but would have cost £49. The Official Test Centre is on Portland, just past Chesil Beach. Although they gifted us the session, they had no input into this blog post.

Castletown D-Day centre 

Earlier that day we visited the Castletown D-Day centre, an activity which my parents weren’t too scared to take part in. The museum was one of the best I’ve been to in a while, due to the fact that there were so many interactive things to do which seemed to be one of the things the owner had been really pushing for when building the centre.
There were tanks and army vehicles you could climb in and move, 
videos to watch, boards to read as well as proper army uniform and an array of guns that you could wear and pick up. Upstairs was a surprisingly creepy enemy bunker focusing on the Germans and their experience of D-Day, and a tea-room where we coincidentally saw the museum’s owner who we had just been watching in the videos downstairs! The centre is only open between 10.30 – 3.30 but it was really fun and interesting, the staff really knew their stuff and it was a really nice place to go. We ended up spending a lot more time there than we had expected to.

The Castletown D Day Centre is situated in Portland, where thousands of American soldiers stayed before they left for France in 1944. It costs £7 for adults, £5 for 12-17 year olds and £4 for children. 

Natural Landscape 

Lulworth Cove

Throughout the holiday went to some beautiful places including Lulworth Cove – a stunning bay with about 100 places to get an ice-cream, Opa Church Cove, a small rocky area on Portland which was once used by smugglers, and the area around the Portland Bill Lighthouse – not to mention many other beautiful views and beaches that we visited. The most amazing place to see however was Durdle Door – a natural limestone arch in the sea.

The stunning Durdle Door

Although quite a long walk from the car park it was a beautiful sight and the rocky beach preceding it was a great place to swim, relax and stare in awe. There were so many places of natural beauty in Dorset and they made the holiday feel much more relaxed than constantly visiting museums and man-made attractions. 

Jurassic Coast 

An ammonite (fossil) found on Charmouth Beach

The most unique activity we participated in throughout the trip was definitely our fossil tour on the Jurassic Coast. Our tour guide Martin, from Jurassic Coast Guides, explained how different fossils are formed and helped us remember what they look like and how to spot them. After the talk, which lasted about an hour, and a toilet break which gladly lasted less than an hour, we set off down the coastline to find some fossils. Martin had explained the places with the best chance of finding a fossil but even before we got to them he had found few which he let us “find” and keep after giving us the general area it was in. This stayed the case for the majority of the two hours we spent on the beach. Although grouped together, Mum, Dad and I found three, maybe four traces of fossilised creatures to Martin’s 20 or so more impressive ones. The whole experience was really interesting and fun and we came home with a bag full of 14 190 million year old rocks. If you are considering going fossil hunting, on the Jurassic Coast or elsewhere I would definitely recommend doing it as part of a tour or with someone experienced and we would have had no clue whatsoever if we had gone on our own. 

Private fossil hunting walk with Jurassic Coast Guides costs £100. We were fortunate enough to be given one for gree in order to write about. However, no one from the company has had any input into this piece, which is also our (particularly Robert’s) opinions.

Dorset Adventure Park 

Corfe Castle

Our hour at Dorset Adventure Park felt much longer – it was one of the most fun activities of the holiday and Mum and Dad really enjoyed it as well even though they were in the water for most of it!  Everything is inflatable and if you only fall off you have to swim to nearest entry point or attempt to climb back on where someone pulls you up by the lifejacket.

Read more about our trip to this brilliant park and also nearby Corfe Castle in this post from Robert.

Sea life and adventure golf 

Playing crazy golf!

We only spent an hour or so in Weymouth’s Sea Life as we saw all the different attractions and didn’t stick around at each for too long. However, for younger kids it looked like a great place to visit – there were at least five different schools visiting when we went. Our favourite bit was the “shipwreck” with lots of cool sea life to see inside: jellyfish, crabs and fish and we also liked seeing some otters being fed – one of the events that occur throughout the day. There were seals, sharks, turtles and penguins as well as lots more cool things to see for children to enjoy. We also visited the Pirate Adventure Golf just outside which was really fun. Beware though, we went in the morning around when it had just opened and it was extremely busy, meaning long waits to play the next hole. 

A Pirate Adventure Golf & Weymouth SEALIFE combi ticket (booked online) is Adult £24.95, Child (3-14) £20.95. We were lucky enough to be given these in order to write about them, but the organisation had no input into this blog post.

Overall I loved going to Dorset and is my favourite holiday in the UK in many years – if not my whole life. Coincidence that Jess didn’t come on this one! It was so nice not to go to a bustling city and just visit museums and theme parks – although I could’ve done with a few rides; instead there were beautiful coves and beaches and activities involving nature. On top of that there were so many delicious foods to sampleI’m pretty sure I had more ice-creams than days of the holiday! If you are thinking of going to a place in England I would wholeheartedly recommend Dorset as we spent a week there and there were still loads of things we didn’t do or visit. There are definitely enough things for adults, teenagers and children and I hope to go back again in the future.” 

Disclosure: Visit Dorset helped us to plan our holiday, but had no input into this blog post. They have information for everything to do across the county.

Read more on family holidays in the UK: 

A family trip to Cornwall

What to do in beautiful Pembrokeshire

Why we loved Lincoln (and are sure you would too!)

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16 Responses

  1. Valerie

    What a beautiful location! Everything sounds interesting but I’d really enjoy to seeing the Durdle Door, Jurassic Coast and the Castle.

    • Christine

      Robert’s comment about it being his favourite holiday coinciding with Jess not being there reminded me of my own children!

      We visited Dorset earlier this year. We stayed inland but went to Charmouth and did exactly the same fossil hunt. I also had plans, before I’d seen it (many years ago) to walk along Chesil beach. Thank goodness I changed my mind!

  2. Rhian Westbury

    Such a lot to do in Dorset. The Jurassic coast is somewhere I’m really keen to go as it looks stunning x

  3. Rosey

    Everything looks great. I love that you went cycling. It’s great to get some exercise in too!

  4. Jess Howliston

    We absolutely love Dorset for family holidays! There is just so much to see and do and the beaches are beautiful! I know my kids would love the fossil hunting so we will definitely look into that next time we visit!

  5. umiko

    I can see that Dorset is a perfect destination for teenagers. Cycling, windsurfing, visiting to a D-Day Center, and finding fossils to bring it home at the Jurassic Coast are some of the interesting things for them. I would like to find the fossils, too! I’ve always wanted to find an ammonite!

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