10 things to do on a rainy day in Dorset

Posted by Clare Willcocks on 15th March 2020

We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling when you wake up in the morning on your long-awaited holiday and draw back the curtains only to find rain rolling down the window. If the grey clouds look set in for the day, it’s time to start exploring your rainy-day options. Luckily, if you’re on holiday in Dorset, there’s plenty to keep you occupied during spells of wet weather.

 

Whether you’re on a family holiday and need something to keep the children entertained, or are a couple whose romantic break feels foiled by the weather, Dorset steps up to the mark when it comes to rainy day activities.

We’ve scoured the whole of the county and put together a list of our favourite things to do in Dorset in the rain. We hope you’ll agree, that while fossil hunting and beach days might be out of the question, there’s plenty to keep everyone from babies to grandma busy (even if the rain looks set to stay for weeks)!

Here are our top 10 things to do on a rainy day in Dorset – scroll to the end to find them on a map.

 

1. Visit an aquarium

Lyme Regis Marine Aquarium: Image credit Instagram @lauralanephotographyw13

 

What better time to delve into an underwater world than when dry land is less than dry? The good thing about aquariums is that they’re warm, dark, cosy and full of interesting things to look at, the perfect activity for a rainy day.

Marine Aquarium, Lyme Regis

This friendly, family-run aquarium is home to a whole host of sea creatures whose native habitats can be found along the Jurassic Coast. Visitors are encouraged to get up close and personal with the aquatic critters, with unique experiences including holding the starfish, feeding the mullet and even stroking a lobster!

Stay nearby: Burton House Apartment (sleeps 2 + 2 dogs)

Oceanarium, Bournemouth

Sealife from all around the world can be admired in this vast aquarium which houses everything from penguins to sharks! Crocodiles, clownfish, jellyfish, octopuses, rays and turtles are just a handful of the creatures you can expect to see. Besides meeting the residents, there’s plenty for children to do, including an adventure trail and an under 10’s underwater-themed play zone. Regular talks and feeding sessions make for an educational trip and there’s a café for when it’s your turn to be fed!

Stay nearby: Woodridings (sleeps 8)

Sea Life Centre, Weymouth

There are over 2,000 creatures to see in the incredible underwater world that is the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth. There are indoor and outdoor exhibits, so it’s a good option for a day when you can dodge the showers. The sealife is split into zones which house creatures which can be found in tropical lagoons, rainforests, rockpools, shipwrecks and harbours, to name but a few of the habitats. There’s also a seahorse nursery, penguin beach, turtle sanctuary, seal harbour and otter enclosure. Visitors can learn about the sealife centre’s conservation projects and how they are helping threatened marine life.

Stay nearby: Seascape Weymouth (sleeps 4)

2. Visit an art gallery

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum: Image credit Instagram @russellcotes

 

If you have the luxury of time on your hands, a lazy day spent perusing beautiful works of art is one of life’s small pleasures. Maybe you’re an artist yourself, or simply appreciate the talents of others. There’s much to be said for seeing the world through the eyes of another, and no better place to do so in Dorset than in one of the county’s fantastic art galleries.

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth

Set in a beautiful location overlooking the sea in Bournemouth, the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery has a fascinating history. The ornate building which houses the gallery was given as an extravagant gift by Merton Russell-Cotes to his wife, Annie. They went on to fill their extraordinary home with British art, curating alongside it a fascinating collection of objects and artefacts from their travels across the world. The resulting eclectic collection is a delight, and you can’t help but feel like you’re walking around their home as you explore the artworks.

Stay nearby: Coast – Bournemouth (sleeps 4)

Sladers Yard Gallery, West Bay

Presented inside a beautiful Georgian rope warehouse are a beautiful array of contemporary British artworks, handmade furniture and designer crafts. The exhibitions change regularly and there are sometimes talks by exhibiting artists. The café is a good spot to stop for refreshment after browsing the artwork.

Stay nearby: Jurassic Seascape – West Bay (sleeps 2)

Artwave West, Morcombelake

This independent contemporary art gallery features changing exhibitions bringing several artists together to provide visitors with a varied display of work at any one time, while solo shows concentrate on the art of one artist to give a deeper background into their work and practices.

Stay nearby: Whitchurch – The Stable (sleeps 6 + 1 dog)

3. Play inside

Lemur Landings Soft Play: Image credit Instagram @lemurlandingsplaycentre

 

Nobody is more downhearted than a parent of a small child (or worse, children) when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Staying in with a bundle of energy is not conducive to a relaxing family holiday, but luckily for you, there are plenty of indoor play areas in Dorset where they can let off some steam while you relax.

The Palm House Café, Weymouth

The Palm House Café isn’t your average indoor play area. The café has a lovely selection of pancakes and waffles, perfect for you to tuck into with a hot drink while watching your children enjoy themselves in the play area, with plenty of toys to keep them occupied. The surroundings aren’t half bad either, compared to the usual dark and stuffy atmosphere you can normally expect from soft play areas! Glass ceilings make it a bright and airy place to enjoy time together as a family.

Stay nearby: Stonebank (sleeps 8 + 2 dogs)

Lemur Landings Soft Play, Poole

Lemur Landings is a soft play area and then some. Self-proclaiming to be one of the largest indoor entertainment centres in the county, it’s a haven for families looking for rainy day activities in Dorset. The soft play itself is extensive, with all manner of slides, obstacles and play features. There are ball blaster cannons and even a climbing centre, with SkyTykes Low Ropes Course and a selection of climbing walls. The roleplay village will keep imaginative little ones amused for hours, while the pre-walkers sensory room is a sanctuary for tiny babies.

Stay nearby: The Old Mill Corfe Mullen (sleeps 8 + 4 dogs)

The Ark at Poole Park, Poole

Set beside a picturesque lake in Poole Park, the Ark is a relaxing spot for a bite to eat and a bit of indoor family fun. Three levels of soft play with slides, tunnels and activities are waiting for adventurous children up to 11 years old, and there’s a little soft play area for young children too. When you’ve exhausted the soft play, head to the pottery studio where you can paint a piece of pottery to take home with you as a memento of your trip – things to do in Dorset in the rain with your family don’t get much more relaxing than this!

Stay nearby: Coast – Bournemouth (sleeps 4)

4. Go to an indoor activity centre

Bowling at Tower Park: Image credit Instagram @harrowhouseuk

 

When it’s lashing down with no hint of a lull, you’ll be looking for indoor activities in Dorset which will last longer than just a couple of hours. These indoor activity centres have a plethora of entertainment options, from cinemas to bowling and everything in between.

Tower Park, Poole

Not only are there a whole host of family-friendly eateries at this mega-complex, there’s also a choice of entertainment to suit everyone. Catch a film at the Empire cinema, try your hand at getting a strike at ten pin bowling or take the kids to the soft play area while you enjoy a cuppa. While it’s wet outside, you may as well pop on your swimming costume and make the most of the fantastic Splashdown Waterpark (seasonal opening). When you’re zipping around on the slides, flumes and indoor and outdoor attractions, you’ll forget the miserable weather and enjoy a day out to remember! Mums and Dads, don’t forget to treat yourselves to a dip in the Jacuzzi!

Stay nearby: Quarr Barn Loft (sleeps 2 + 2 dogs)

Mr Mulligans, Bournemouth

Mr Mulligans is an indoor adventure golf centre which is like no crazy golf you’ve ever seen! Lit with psychedelic colours and featuring some crazy scenes, including a comic book set, light experience and apocalyptic crash scene – it’s the perfect option for couples or families looking to escape the rain and try something a bit different. There’s a licensed bar and restaurant on site for afterwards!

5. Learn about history

Dinosaur Museum: Image credit Instagram @dinosaurmuseumdorch

 

Museums are great for rainy days out in Dorset, and a fantastic opportunity to educate yourselves about the region you’re visiting.

Lyme Regis Museum, Lyme Regis

As the rain pours down outside, enjoy the splendid sea views from this seaside museum which is brimming with Jurassic fossils and tells the tale of Mary Anning on the site of her former home and fossil shop.

Stay nearby: Lyme View (sleeps 2 +1 dog)

Dinosaur Museum, Dorchester

What better way to learn about the Jurassic Coast on a rainy day than to get up close and personal to its former terrifying inhabitants? The Dinosaur Museum is in the centre of Dorchester, but you’ll be transported back in time to walk among life-size reconstructions of these astonishing Jurassic creatures. From dinosaur excavation to puzzles and technology, there’s so much to keep children entertained, and plenty of interest for adults too.

Stay nearby: Fordington Dairy (sleeps 6 + 2 dogs)

Bovington Tank Museum, Wareham

Bovington Tank Museum: Image credit Instagram @theuntoldpast

 

This entire museum is inside, and with an advertised 4-5 hours of things to see, it’s a good one for a whole day out. The exhibitions tell the story of armoured warfare, covering over 100 years of history and displaying over 300 armoured vehicles.

Stay nearby: Old Shop Cottage – Wool (sleeps 5 + 1 dog)

Shire Hall Historic Court House Museum, Dorchester

Delve into the darkly fascinating world of the justice system over the past 200 years and follow in the footsteps of the people who passed through the historic court at Dorchester’s Shire Hall. This immersive experience is fascinating and thought-provoking in equal measure, with plenty to engage children too.

Stay nearby: Higher Burton Barn (sleeps 4 + 2 dogs)

Teddy Bear Museum, Dorchester

An intimate family-run museum featuring over 100 years of teddy bears in Edward Bear’s teddy bear house! An endearing museum which takes visitors down memory lane, it’s a good rainy day activity with or without children.

Stay nearby: Lavender Cottage – Whitcombe (sleeps 6 + 2 dogs)

6. Wander around a stately home

Athelhampton House and Gardens: Image credit Instagram @athelhampton

 

Put yourself into the shoes of the aristocrats and enjoy a leisurely browse of some of Dorset’s beautiful stately homes. They often have a rich programme of events and activities covering a range of interests, so be sure to check before you visit. These are just a few of the wonderful historic buildings which are open to the public – take a look at the National Trust and English Heritage websites for more.

Athelhampton House and Gardens, Dorchester

Athelhampton is a member of the Historic Houses association. The rooms are stunningly furnished, and the west wing displays artwork by the Russian artist Marevna who lived at the house in the 40s and 50s. If the rain lets up, explore the surrounding gardens which encompass walled gardens, a 15th-century dovecot and beautiful riverside walks along the River Piddle.

Stay nearby: Longacre Barn – Briantspuddle (sleeps 8 + 2 dogs)

Kingston Lacy, Wimborne

Not what you’d expect to find in the rural Dorset countryside, Kingston Lacy was built to resemble a Venetian Palace and is packed with things to see, from curiosities to family souvenirs. There are paintings by famous artists such as Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Brueghel, as well as a whole room of Egyptian artifacts. A true treasure trove!

Stay nearby: The Old Mill Corfe Mullen (sleeps 8 + 4 dogs)

Lulworth Castle, Wareham

The Lulworth Estate is some 20 square miles, in which lie beautiful Lulworth Cove and 5 miles of the Jurassic Coast. If it’s raining though, you’ll want to leave those for a dry day and head instead for Lulworth Castle. The magnificent building affords fantastic views of the countryside and coast from its tower and there’s also a tea room for homemade cakes and cream teas!

Stay nearby: Cajun Cottage (sleeps 5 + 2 dogs)

7. Watch craftspeople at work

Artist working at Walford Mill: Image credit Instagram @walfordmill

 

There is something magical about witnessing a craftsperson turn raw materials into a beautiful product. It inspires creativity and a respect for the process involved in some of the things we simply take for granted.

Palmers Brewery Tour, Bridport

Palmers have been brewing in Dorset since 1794, and share their hundreds of years of expertise with you on their Brewery Tours. You’ll be guided through the Malt Loft and taught about the ale-making process, starting from the raw ingredients entering the building on the third floor, to the finished product at the end.

Stay nearby: Morlais (sleeps 6 + 2 dogs)

Stuart Wiltshire Glass, Weymouth

Watch the master at work as he blows impressive vases, vessels and candlesticks, as well as gifts and keepsakes. The warmth of the furnace is welcome on a cold and rainy day, and watching the process from beginning to end is a therapeutic way to spend an hour.

Stay nearby: Chesil Lookout (sleeps 6)

Walford Mill, Wimborne

Set in a converted historic Watermill, Walford Mill houses a variety of craft studios where you can see talented makers at work and buy their beautiful wares. From printmaking and illustration to jewellery and embroidery, it’s a great place to pick up gifts and souvenirs on your holiday, while supporting local people.

Stay nearby: Dairy Cottages – Pig Cottage (sleeps 2 + 2 dogs)

Broadwinsor Craft and Design Centre, Beaminster

Home to a variety of independent traders, Broadwinsor is a lovely spot for a browse on a rainy day. In the Craft Centre, you’ll find a Gallery of Makers which exhibits work from local artists and craftspeople. Settle down in the welcoming restaurant for a feast of home-cooked meals, from light lunches to hearty hot meals.

Stay nearby: Sticks And Stones (sleeps 4 + 1 dog)

8. Watch a film or show

Plaza Cinema: Image credit Instagram @boardgameboy

 

When it’s pouring down, sometimes the only thing you feel like doing is snuggling down in front of a good film or show. Dorset has a wide variety of entertainment venues showing everything from ballets to the latest blockbuster.

Cinemas

There are many cinemas across Dorset, including Plaza Cinema, Dorchester; The Rex Cinema, Wareham; Odeon, Bournemouth; Odeon, Dorchester and Cineworld in Poole and Weymouth. Catch the latest release or rewatch an old favourite.

Theatres

This South West county has a surprising number of live entertainment venues, so you’re sure to find a performance which suits your taste during your visit. Theatres include the Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne; Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis and Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre.

9. Visit a unique attraction

Sandworld: Image credit Instagram @charlie_booker_tv

 

There are some rainy day attractions in Dorset which you just know you’ll never experience the likes of anywhere else!

Sandworld, Weymouth

Sandworld is a huge gallery of awe-inspiring sand sculptures, featuring everything from dinosaurs to scenes from favourite films. There’s an opportunity to have a go yourself too!

Stay nearby: Honey Bee – Wild Meadow Cottages (sleeps 4 +1 dog)

Portland Bill Lighthouse

A former lighthouse keeper’s dwelling, the Portland Bill Lighthouse museum is now home to interactive displays and exhibitions of historical artefacts pertaining to the lighthouse and its keepers. A highlight is the ‘Into The Dark’ zone where you can experience a stormy sea journey. There is a modest entrance fee (£2.50 at the time of writing) and children go free, so it’s a good one if you’re on a budget.

Stay nearby: Chesil Lookout (sleeps 6)

RNLI College Discovery Tour, Poole

Take a 90-minute guided tour of the RNLI College and its training facilities. You’ll see the Sea Survival Centre with its wave tank and rescue lifeboat simulator.

Stay nearby: Pier Retreat (sleeps 3)

10. Get wet

Splashdown: Image credit Instagram @splashdownwaterparks

 

If you’re going to get wet in the rain anyway, why not embrace the fact and take the opportunity to enjoy one of Dorset’s premier water-based attractions? There are so many to choose from – here are a few of our favourites. Several of these attractions are seasonal, so be sure to check websites before your visit.

Splashdown, Poole

13 indoor and outdoor flume rides and three zones for under 5s – there’s plenty to keep the whole family occupied for a whole day here.

Stay nearby: Woodridings (sleeps 8)

Dorset Adventure Park, Corfe Castle

The outdoor Wibit Waterpark is an inflatable sports aqua park with over 200 metres of inflatable obstacles for aquatic fun!

Stay nearby: Greensands (sleeps 10 + 1 dog)

Jurassic Fun Centre

Slides, water cannons and other water apparatus provide hours of fun at this indoor leisure centre.

Stay nearby: Folly Cottage – Burton Bradstock (sleeps 5)

Planning a holiday in Dorset?

Harbour Penthouse, West Bay

 

We have a fantastic range of holiday cottages in Dorset, from cosy countryside escapes for two, to large group houses on the coast for that big celebration. Dogs are welcome in many of our cottages, and there are lots of special extras such as hot tubs and children’s play areas to make your stay a memorable one. Choose from houses with incredible sea views, close to the cities or nestled in the peaceful countryside. Where will your Dorset holiday take you?

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.