10 of the best places to stay in Dorset

Coastal, Days out

Posted by Ruth on 12th February 2020

Durdle Door


Please be mindful that it is always necessary to plan your trip carefully. Whilst accurate at the time of writing, please be aware that the availability of amenities such as lifeguard cover, shops, cafes, toilets and car parks at UK beaches may vary from time to time, especially in the current circumstances. Make sure you check carefully before leaving home to avoid disappointment. For an up-to-date list of beaches that are lifeguarded, visit the RNLI lifeguard patrol website before making your journey.

If you’ve got your heart set on a holiday to Dorset but you’re not sure where to stay, well… we don’t blame you! The sheer variety of locations is almost overwhelming – from gorgeous beaches that could pass for a Caribbean island, to historic villages almost preserved in time, there are so many great places to stay in Dorset.

With a diverse range of places to visit, plus a community that is vibrant and welcoming, we couldn’t recommend a trip to Dorset highly enough. So, if you’re in need of some destination inspiration, here are 10 of the best places to stay in Dorset.

If you’d rather take a look at some exciting staycations, click the button below to see our complete collection of Dorset holiday cottages.

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Bournemouth

Bournemouth: best for art lovers

Bournemouth is one of the best places to stay in Dorset if you’re a bit of a culture vulture. The resort town has quite a trendy vibe fuelled by students from the Arts University, with plenty of quirky boutiques to dip in and out of.

But it’s the Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum on the seafront that you really must make a beeline for. With influences ranging from Scottish baronial to Italianate villa, and bursting with the former Mayor of Bournemouth’s eccentric collection of art and curios, you could lose hours in this place.

Highlights 

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Bridport

Bridport: best for shopaholics

If you love nothing better than popping in and out of shops and rummaging through vintage clothes to discover that one-off gem, Bridport is for you. Formally known for making rope and net, Bridport now boasts a wide range of independent shops and a twice-weekly market where you can find a true bargain.

South Street contains many of these gems, or you could head to St Michael’s Trading Estate where you’ll find lots of vintage shops and artists’ studios. Time your visit for the last Sunday of the month throughout April and October and visit St Michael’s famous vintage market where you’ll be in your element.

Highlights

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Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle: best for a step back in time

The ruins of the almost 1,000-year-old Corfe Castle dominate the skyline of the village that shares its name, but there’s much more to see and do if you love history. You can soak up the atmosphere of the village simply walking around it, where you’ll find many of the buildings were made of the stone that once formed the castle walls.

If you’re interested in what the castle looked like before Cromwell’s troops destroyed it in the 17th century, visit Corfe Castle Model Village where you can see a scale model of the village in an acre of landscaped gardens. Or take a true trip down memory lane with a ride on Swanage Railway’s steam train which puffs its way through the countryside from Corfe Castle to Swanage.

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Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove: best for spectacular scenery

Lulworth Cove is one of the best places to stay on the Jurassic Coast, favoured by tourists all year round, and it’s easy to see why. The seashell-shaped cove combines white sands with turquoise sea, reminiscent of a Caribbean island, where you can take part in water sports, scour the rock pools for marine life or simply lie on the sands.

The Lulworth Estate is also home to one of Dorset’s most iconic sights – Durdle Door, a little further along the coast. The limestone arch has been standing for around 10,000 years and is a spectacular landmark whether you’re viewing it from the South West Coast Path on the cliff above or kayaking under it!

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Poole

Poole: best for water sports

Poole has the largest natural harbour in Europe so it’s a giant playground for those who love water sports. Not only that, but the stretch of water between Poole and Bournemouth offers some of the best waves on the south coast, making Poole one of the top places to stay in Dorset if you want to learn to surf.

And it's not just humans that can take to the water in Poole. In July, Branksome Beach hosts Dogmasters – the UK Dog Surfing Championships! Whatever sport you choose to do, make sure you’re following the safety guidelines – Poole is also home to the RNLI Headquarters and the busiest lifeboat station in the country!

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Studland

Studland Bay: best for nature lovers

Studland Bay is one of the top places to stay in Dorset if you love nature. On the incredible Isle of Purbeck, and with views across to the Isle of Wight on a clear day, Studland Bay has an abundance of natural beauty. Much of the village is within the Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve where you can walk among purple heather and yellow gorse.

Or take a walk along the South West Coast Path to see the chalk formations Old Harry Rocks out at sea – the most eastern point of the Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site. And if you fancy a beach day, Studland has four to choose from: Shell Bay, Knoll Beach, Middle Beach and South Beach.

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Mudeford

Mudeford: best for beach bums

If you do like to be beside the seaside, you’ll love Mudeford. At our reckoning, there are five beaches for you to explore in the town: Steamer Point, Avon Beach, Mudeford Quay, Mudeford Sandbank and Hengistbury Head Beach. Visit for a week and there are almost enough beaches for one every day!

Each beach offers something a little different. For example, kids will love going crabbing at Mudeford Quay while Hengistbury Head is dog friendly all year round, so a great option if you’re visiting with your four-legged beach bum. However, our favourite has to be Mudeford Sandbank – a huge stretch of golden sand fringed with sand dunes and beach huts that feels just a little bit wild.

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Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis: best for romantic breaks

Lyme Regis is one of the best places to stay in West Dorset for a couples’ retreat, with plenty to see and do on a romantic break. In fact, Jane Austen once stayed in the resort, which featured in both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey so it’s a great destination to recreate that kind of old-fashioned courtship seen in the novels.

You could take a romantic stroll around the Cobb and seafront, duck into one of the cute cafes in the town centre, pack a picnic and take a wander along the South West Coast Path, or dine on delicious freshly caught seafood while watching the sun go down over the sea. And when night falls, head back to one of our romantic cottages, of course!

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Charmouth

Charmouth: best for fossil hunting

If you’re wondering where to stay in Dorset to find fossils, Charmouth is your answer. As part of the Jurassic Coast, the cliffs around Charmouth have lots of ammonites and belemnites just waiting to be discovered, although you’re more likely to find them on the beach than by digging around in the cliffs.

The best place to begin is by joining a fossil hunting walk from Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, where you can learn more about these fascinating relics and maybe find some for yourself. And while you may be more inclined to visit in the summer, the more impressive fossils – including those of prehistoric marine reptiles – are found in the colder months after big storms, so Charmouth could be a great destination for your next winter break!

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Weymouth

Weymouth: best for family-friendly holidays

One of the best places to stay in Dorset with the kids, Weymouth is perfect for an action-packed family holiday as there’s so much to see and do! You could learn about the natural world by visiting SEA LIFE Centre Weymouth or RSPB Lodmoor, take a journey back in time by visiting Nothe Fort and Sandsfoot Castle or learn about local history at The Tudor House or Weymouth Museum.

Plus, there’s plenty of free, outdoor activities to do with the kids too. Take a wander along Weymouth Beach – it’s the UK’s longest, so the chances are little legs will be tired out before you reach the end! Or wander along Weymouth Harbour and watch the boats come and go before tucking into fresh fish and chips.

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Need more inspiration?

We’ve not even begun to scratch the surface of holidays in Dorset, so if you are looking for some extra information, we’d recommend these guides for even more holiday ideas:

And if you want to find some great accommodation for your next Dorset holiday, take a look at our full collection of Dorset cottages below. Have a great holiday!

Retreat to Dorset

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.