10 of the most beautiful beaches in Dorset

Beaches, Coastal, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ruth on 11th March 2020

Dorset beach

With almost 100 miles of coast, Dorset has plenty of choice if you fancy a day by the seaside. But there are beaches, and then there are beaches! With fiery red sandstone cliffs, rolling green hills peppered with pink sea thrift and golden sands fringing turquoise seas, some Dorset beaches truly must be seen to be believed.

Whether you’re planning a day out with the family, want an epic beach walk with your dog, or you're simply dreaming of lounging on the sands all day, we’ve picked out ten of the most beautiful beaches in Dorset.

Coastal cottages in Dorset

Chesil Beach

Chesil Beach

One of the best beaches in Dorset, if not the UK, Chesil Beach is an 18-mile-long shingle barrier unlike anywhere else in the country. Backed by Fleet Lagoon, wildlife is abundant here and there is a wild atmosphere, so it’s a place where you can truly get back to nature. The pebbles on the beach have baffled geologists for years; the stones are far larger at the Portland end, but no one really knows why!   

Dogs: Allowed all year

Lifeguards: No 

Local information: Park at Chesil Car Park (east end of the beach) or the National Trust’s Burton Beach Car Park (west end). Facilities found at West Weares, Portland, Ferrybridge, Moonfleet, Abbotsbury and Burton Bradstock. 

Stay nearby: Shearwater, West Bexington – sleeps 8 + 2 dogs

For more properties around Chesil Beach, have a look at our collection of cottages in West Bexington.

All West Bexington cottages

Swanage Beach

Swanage Beach (North)

You could be forgiven for thinking you were in a foreign country at Swanage Beach, one of the finest sandy beaches in Dorset. The white sands and turquoise sea combine to give the beach an exotic atmosphere, even if you are just a stone’s throw from Swanage town centre. It’s a great choice for a traditional bucket-and-spade day out, with its classic promenade, Punch and Judy shows and an easy-going pace. 

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed on the beach between 1st May and 30th September

Lifeguard: Yes, between May and September

Local information: Parking at North Beach pay and display car park. Toilets and a shop by the beach. Deckchairs, pedalos and kayaks can be hired. Classic seaside amusements in Swanage. 

Stay nearby: Seaglimpse, Swanage – sleeps 2 + 1 dog

All Swanage cottages

Sandbanks beach

Sandbanks Beach

Sandbanks is another beach that could pass for the scene of a foreign holiday – Florida, perhaps – although this is probably due to the properties around the beach being some of the most expensive in the world! This small peninsula by Poole Harbour has soft, golden sands and plenty of facilities, making it a great choice for a family day out. Get the chain ferry across from Studland for an extra touch of adventure!

Dogs: Welcome between Sandbanks Promenade and Haven Point only 

Lifeguard: Yes, between May and September

Local information: Chain ferry between Sandbanks and Studland. Pay and display parking. Toilets, drinking water, showers, children’s play area, café, BBQ area, volleyball nets, water sports and equipment hire and crazy golf by the beach. 

Stay nearby: Woodridings, Poole – sleeps 7

All Poole cottages

Knoll Beach

Knoll Beach – Studland

The coastal area around Studland Bay is a 4-mile-long haven of golden sand, where nature thrives. Our favourite spot is Knoll Beach, where the soft sand is fringed by dunes and you can see across to the Isle of Wight on a clear day. It’s popular with water sports enthusiasts, as the gentle shelving sea creates a safe environment – although it’s important to note this beach is not lifeguarded. 

Dogs: Welcome all year but must be on a short lead from 1st April to 30th September

Lifeguards: No

Local information: National Trust car park open from 9am to 8pm. Toilets with baby changing facilities, disabled toilets, café and shop. Pushchairs for hire. 900-metre stretch of naturist beach.

Stay nearby: Chalross, Studland – sleeps 10 + 2 dogs

All Studland cottages

West Bay

West Bay

Actually home to two beaches – East Beach and West Beach – we couldn’t leave West Bay off our list as it’s one of the most iconic Jurassic Coast beaches. You may recognise East Beach’s 50-metre-high sandstone cliffs from ITV’s Broadchurch, while West Beach is smaller and quieter, creating a great atmosphere for families. West Bay is also known as Bridport Harbour, being less than 2 miles from Bridport, so there is plenty to see and do nearby.  

Dogs: Dogs aren’t allowed on either beach between 1st May and 30th September

Lifeguards: Yes, between May and September

Local information: Lots of pay and display parking in the town and by the harbour area. Public toilets by the main road and the harbour. Lots of cafes and restaurants in the West Bay and by the harbour.  

Stay nearby: West Bay Harbour View, West Bay – sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

All Bridport cottages

Great British Coast

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove

One of the most spectacular beaches in Dorset, Lulworth Cove is a seashell-shaped bay filled with shallow, turquoise water where rock pools are exposed at low tide. It’s a great place to spend a lazy day dipping in and out of the water and sunbathing in the sheltered bay – but it does get busy in the summer months. It’s also popular with walkers as the South West Coast Path hugs the cliff above the beach. 

Dogs: Welcome all year to the left-hand side of the slipway

Lifeguards: No

Local information: Pay and display parking by the Heritage Centre. Toilets and baby changing facilities as well as a café. 

Stay nearby: Bricklesey Cottage, Lulworth Cove – sleeps 6

All Lulworth Cove cottages

Man o'War Beach

Man O’War Beach

A short walk along the coast from Lulworth Cove is Man O’War beach, a sand and shingle beach sheltered by high cliffs. It’s on the east side of the iconic limestone arch Durdle Door, so it’s a must-visit if you want to tick it off your Dorset bucket list. Be warned though, the path down to the beach is very steep so bring appropriate footwear and avoid taking pushchairs down. 

Dogs: Welcome on the beach all year

Lifeguards: No

Local information: Toilets, refreshments and a shop at Durdle Door Holiday Park nearby. Public transport available in the summer – take the Jurassic Coaster X54 or Purbeck Breezer 30. 

Stay nearby: Halcyon Cottage, Lulworth Cove - sleeps 5

All Durdle Door cottages

The Cobb

Cobb Beach, Lyme Regis

One of our favourite beaches in West Dorset, Cobb Beach is a small and sandy beach in the shelter of Lyme Regis' curved harbour wall, or The Cobb. It’s a quiet haven away from the town’s main beaches, but still within walking distance of the town’s many facilities and great places to eat and drink. The area around the harbour is obviously extremely popular for water sports so it does attract people who enjoy fishing, kayaking, swimming and, of course, sailing. 

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed on the beach from May 1st to September 30th but can be on the promenade on a lead

Lifeguards: Yes, between May and September

Local information: Pay and display parking at Cobb Gate car park. Plenty of facilities in Lyme Regis itself. 

Stay nearby: Burton House Apartment, Lyme Regis – sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

All Lyme Regis cottages

Alum Chine Beach, Bournemouth

A short way from the hustle and bustle of Bournemouth’s main beach and thriving pier, Alum Chine is the place to go if you’ve got kids in tow. With brilliant water quality and lifeguards on duty, the beach also boasts an adventure playground and plenty of facilities nearby so it’s easy to keep little ones amused. There is also a beautiful tropical garden close to the beach which only adds to the beauty of this spot. 

Dogs: Welcome all year between the beach office (groyne 3) and the border with Branksome Dene Chine beach

Lifeguards: Yes, between May and September

Local information: Pay and display car park by the beach. Or take the land train from Bournemouth Pier! Toilets with baby changing facilities, pubs, ice cream kiosks, adventure playground, and beach huts to rent. 

Stay nearby: Coast, Bournemouth – sleeps 4

All Bournemouth cottages

Bowleaze Cove

Bowleaze Cove

Around 2 miles outside of Weymouth, this is the beach to come to if you want to get away from the town’s crowds in high season. The sand and pebble beach has a more relaxed atmosphere with plenty of rock pools at low tide which kids will love. It’s also popular with water sports enthusiasts – so much so, the beach is zoned to keep everyone safe. With plenty of facilities and a pub nearby, we’re not sure you could want much more from a beach!

Dogs: Welcome all year round, but there are no dog bins

Lifeguards: No

Local information: Parking on the road or in a pay and display car park. Toilets, café, shops, pub, amusement arcade and funfair. 

Stay nearby: Seascape Weymouth – sleeps 4

All Weymouth cottages

Map of the most beautiful Dorset beaches

More inspiration

Dorset has so much to discover on an unforgettable holiday. Take a look at our guides and find more inspiration for your next getaway:

Beach holidays in Dorset

Have we inspired you to pack up your buckets, spades and deckchairs and head to the Dorset coast? Our coastal cottages in Dorset are close to some of the county’s most beautiful beaches. Open the curtains to reveal a sparkling sea, step out of your front door and onto the beach where you can spend the whole day combing the sands and swimming in the sea, and then return to your coastal home where you can watch the sun set over the horizon. Sounds like bliss? Browse our full collection of coastal cottages in Dorset. 

Coastal cottages in 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.