Things to do in and around Swanage


Posted by Kate W on 1st August 2022

Things to do in and around Swanage

Where do we begin with this wonderful Dorset destination? There’s a host of things to do in Swanage – it’s bursting with fantastic attractions and beauty spots, and there’s even more if you venture further afield to explore the beautiful Isle of Purbeck too. 

Spend your days relaxing on Swanage Beach and swimming in the sea, get out and discover local towns and villages, or jump on the Swanage Railway to see the sights.

Take a look through our guide for things to do in Swanage and begin planning your next coastal getaway.

Whether you’re hoping to escape to Swanage on a short break or planning an extra-special luxury holiday, we’ve got the perfect retreat for you. 

Swanage cottages

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Hop aboard Swanage Railway

Hop aboard Swanage Railway

The beautiful old steam train that runs back and forth on the Swanage line offers the chance to chug through scenic Swanage and Purbeck countryside, taking in sea and rural views, and stopping by attractions along the way.

The stops include Corfe Castle Station and Norden Station for Purbeck Park, and there are special Christmas, Halloween, and occasional dining events too!

Build sandcastles at Swanage Beach

Build sandcastles at Swanage Beach

Complete with beach huts, deck chairs and a range of water sports equipment for hire, this wonderful sandy Dorset beach is the perfect place for a family day by the sea or just soaking up the sun on your own with a good book.

There are gardens behind the beach too, complete with an 18-hole putting green, and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat between sea swims.

Take the dog to Monkey Beach

Take the dog to Monkey Beach

If you’ve got the dog with you in the height of summer, Monkey Beach in Swanage is the place to go.

While Swanage’s main beach bans dogs during the warmer months of the year, Monkey Beach is a delightful sandy strip along the seafront with views across the bay where your four-pawed friend can join you on a waterfront dog walk.

Looking for a pet-friendly place to stay? Check out our cottages that welcome dogs. 

Dog-friendly retreats in Swanage

Explore Durlston Country Park<

Explore Durlston Country Park

A large expanse of idyllic parkland right on the coast, complete with views across to the Isle of Wight, Durlston Country Park is a scenic place for a leg-stretch and a few holiday photos.

It’s a unique place and is home to a variety of wildlife, with a host of sea-faring birds, colourful butterflies, salt-spray-adapted plants and flowers that can be seen throughout the year. Dogs on a lead are welcome to join you on a Dorset coastal walk here too.

Follow these Swanage walks - St Aldhelm's Chapel

Follow these Swanage walks

Swanage to Corfe Castle

You could walk from Swanage to Corfe Castle on this challenging walking route and then catch the Swanage Railway for the return journey, or do the same thing in reverse. It’s a 12.5-mile trek through idyllic countryside and alongside sections of coastline too.

Dancing Ledge and Langton Matravers

A challenging walk with particularly majestic views over steep, hollowed-out cliffs, the Dancing Ledge to Langton Matravers walk is a 4.9-mile trail. Langton Matravers village is a pretty place home to a lovely pub so you can grab a meal before your return journey.

St Aldhelm's Chapel

St Aldhelm’s Chapel is a delightful Norman-built shrine located metres from the cliffs to the south of the Isle of Purbeck. This is an easy, 2.8-mile walk with a steep descent and an ascent, although these can both be avoided by following an alternative trail.

Places to eat and drink

Places to eat and drink

The Old Stables Turf & Surf

For a charming old Dorset pub in the heart of town that promises a warm welcome by the old pub dog, Pickle, head to The Old Stables Turf & Surf for a hearty dinner one evening. With a menu that includes everything from curry to casserole, there’s a great choice of dishes made from locally sourced produce to try.

Love Cake Cafe

Got a sweet tooth? Head to Love Cake Cafe for sugary, cakey goodness and more during your Swanage holiday. While cakes are, of course, their speciality – they even do cakes to order – you can stop by for a breakfast of halloumi and eggs on toast, a brie and marmalade sourdough toastie for lunch, or a cream tea on a sunny afternoon.

The Cabin

Finally, this café is a firm favourite for tasty dishes, ice cold drinks and a wonderful view! Tuck into waffles and ice cream or just order a frothy latte to enjoy by the beach. There are three levels of seating to choose from at The Cabin, including the beach itself.

Other places to visit nearby

Other places to visit nearby

Shop and see the ruins of Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle is the name of both the delightful village and the ancient ruins on the hill nearby. Wander the winding streets, pop in the independently owned shops, stop by an independent café, and hike the hill to see the ruins up close during your visit to this Dorset National Trust attraction.

Studland and Godlingston Heath Nature Reserve

Set out on a 3-mile Swanage walk at Studland and Godlingston Heath Nature Reserve, where you’ll pass by the mysterious Agglestone Rock, take in fantastic sea views and look out for wildlife amongst the tall grass. This destination is, in fact, home to all six species of native British lizards.

Snap a photo of Old Harry Rocks

Dorset’s answer to the Isle of Wight’s Needles, three monumental chalk formations combine to make up Old Harry Rocks. Head along the coastal path at Ballard Down until you reach The Foreland – here, you can take pictures and soak in the wonderful views.

If you’re considering venturing further afield, we’ve created a list of fantastic things to do all across Dorset to spark holiday ideas. 

Fun things to do in Dorset

Top tips for visitors

Top tips for visitors

  • Bring good walking shoes – there are lots of beautiful nature reserves and scenic spots to take advantage of in the area.
  • Take food and drink supplies on excursions – at minimum, a bottle of water is a necessity.
  • Swanage town has lots of amenities but plan ahead if you are taking the train further afield to quieter areas. 

How to get to Swanage

How to get to Swanage

By road

From the M27, head westbound until you come to Ringwood, continue along the A31 to Bournemouth and follow signs for Poole/Dorchester. After Poole, follow signs for Wareham. From Wareham take the A351 past Corfe Castle and into Swanage.

Set your SatNav postcode to BH19 1AN for the Main Beach Car Park in the centre of town.

It may be easier and cheaper to park at Norden Parking just outside Corfe Castle and catch the train into Swanage. This way, you can look out the windows and enjoy rural views as you travel in too.

By rail

South Western Railway runs to both Wareham and Corfe Castle where you can board the Swanage Railway to Swanage Station.

By sea

You could get the Bournemouth to Swanage ferry which crosses the entrance to Poole Harbour between Sandbanks and Shell Bay.

Or hop aboard a boat with City Cruises who run a daily service between Poole Quay and Swanage Pier.

Stay at a self-catering holiday cottage in Swanage

Stay at a self-catering holiday cottage in Swanage

Whether planning a break to a historic stone terrace in the heart of town or to a contemporary sea-view cottage, you’re sure to find a lovely place to stay within our collection – but here are a few of our top picks!

Charming Swanage holiday cottages:

Venture into our collection of holiday lets in Swanage for more inspiration. Choose from hot tub escapes, big party houses and family holiday lets – we also have a host of wonderful retreats set all across the Isle of Purbeck if you’d rather stay out of town and in the scenic countryside. 

Swanage cottages

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.