Embark on a journey along the Jurassic Coast, where majestic ivory cliffs reach for the heavens, weathered castles whisper tales of bygone eras, and cozy English pubs beckon with their locally brewed elixirs.

By: Paul | Last Updated: 21 Nov 2023 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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The towering cliffs of the Jurassic Coast are the iconic symbol of coastal Great Britain. This UNESCO World Heritage Site with breathtaking scenery, enchanting seaside culture, and blissful beaches is one of our favourite places to visit in the UK.

Explore rock pools in tiny coves, laze on sweeping golden beaches, explore decaying castles, and hunt for dinosaur fossils. After a bracing walk along a windswept coast, warm up in a cozy pub with a locally brewed beer.

This is a beautiful part of the country and once you’ve discovered some of the best things to do in London, the Jurassic Coast is the perfect seaside escape.

Our guide contains all the best things to do on the Jurassic Coast, how to get around, plus a few tips to make the most of your epic UK weekend break.

Golden sands at Dorset's Jurassic Coast

IN THIS GUIDE

THINGS TO DO ON THE JURASSIC COAST


WHERE IS THE JURASSIC COAST?

The Jurassic Coast is a designated stretch of coastline in southern England that spans approximately 95 miles (150 kilometers) from East Devon to Dorset.

It’s renowned for its geological significance and encompasses popular destinations such as Exmouth, Sidmouth, Lyme Regis, Charmouth, Bridport, Weymouth, and Swanage.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


1 – OLD HARRY ROCKS

Old Harry Rocks was once two white limestone rocks standing proud at the eastern end of the Dorset Coast. Unfortunately, Old Harry’s wife crumbled into the sea at the end of the 19th century. Old Harry remains – joined by other white stone monoliths that have now been carved out along the coast.

It’s hard to choose between our Seven Sisters cliff walk, or Old Harry Rocks as the most impressive stretches of coastline in the UK. Both are stunning, but here the dazzling white chalk stacks assembled like a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be completed are a feast for the eyes.

How to see Old Harry Rocks? — There are a few different ways to see it. You can hike along the tops, mountain bike over cliff edge trails, paddle around them in a kayak, or join a scenic boat tour. You can find all the details in our guide to visiting Old Harry Rocks.

Local Tip — After exploring, pop into the Bankes Arms in Studland and enjoy a pint of Fossil Fuel, Solar Power, or Studland Bay. All locally produced Jurassic Ales.

2 – CORFE CASTLE

In 1066 the Normans invaded England, crossing the English Channel from France. They quickly conquered the country and set about building castles to secure their new lands. Corfe Castle was one of the earliest built and today it stands in dilapidated glory overlooking the Dorset hills.

It is one of the finest ruined castles and an interesting place to visit in England.

Top Photography Location — The best views of the castle are from up West Hill – a short but steep climb up a stepped path just northwest of the town. For an even better atmospheric experience, try to get here for dawn on a particularly cold day. The ruins will appear to rise from a golden mist as it cascades down the hill behind it.

Corfe Village is also worth a potter. Small cosy pubs and independent shops sit among attractive houses. The gem most worth visiting in town is Corfe Castle railway station – lovingly restored to how it looked almost 100 years ago.

Time your visit right and take a ride on the Swanage railway steam locomotive that runs the short route from just north of Corfe to Swanage.

3 – LULWORTH COVE

Lulworth Cove is a beautiful circular cove surrounded by a sweeping arc of pebbles and backed by steep cliffs. When the tide is high it is one of the most attractive beaches in the UK. When it’s low, rock pools are revealed, bursting with all sorts of strange animals.

Just above the cove is another interesting phenomenon, the Lulworth Crumple. Sitting above Stair Hole Cove, layers of black, grey, and white rock are slowly collapsing into the sea.

Consisting of alternating hard limestone and soft shale bands, the cliff has ‘crumpled’ because the soft shale is unable to support the force of gravity.

Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door Walk — Lulworth Cove is also an excellent starting point for a short walk to Durdle Door, one of our favourites on the Jurassic Coast.

DETAILS | LULWORTH COVE

Facilities — West Lulworth has a visitor’s centre, toilets, and restaurants | Parking – Park at West Lulworth (BH20 5RQ) / £12 all day / £6 up to 4 hours.

4 – DURDLE DOOR

Durdle Door is the iconic image of the Jurassic Coast. Over time, crashing waves have eroded most of the limestone leaving a glorious natural arch stranded in the sea. It’s a fantastic sight and an easy 5-minute walk from the Durdle Door car park.

his part of the Jurassic Coast has some of the finest scenery anywhere in Dorset. Just beside Durdle Door, the magnificent sweeping sands of Man O’War beach provided an attractive beachy nook. If the weather is blessing you, take a quick dip in these sheltered waters.

If the weather is not so kind, an amble along Durdle Door Beach staring up at towering vertical faces of rock is the perfect way to appreciate the Dorset cliffs.

If you’re feeling more energetic, hike along undulating paths clinging to cliff edges with glorious views both along the coast and out to sea. It’s one of the many great short walks on the Jurassic Coast.

5 – WEYMOUTH

Many English seaside towns have seen better days, but Weymouth is high on a streak of rejuvenation. Home to many great festivals and events, this is an old English gem not to be missed.

The old harbour contains a well-preserved mix of old and new. Old warehouses perched on the sea walls are now cool pubs and hotels. Vintage breweries form the backdrop to charming squares. Fisherman, following a millennia-old lifestyle, chug their boats up and down the waterways backed by colourful houses transformed into fish and chips shops or a bed for the night.

It’s a great place for a slow meander and a snoop into the local life of a thriving seaside town.

Start at the pubs along Custom House Quay and collect the local hangouts along the back streets – Fish ‘n’ Fritz is a popular favourite. Then head across the river to collect some of the quaint streets and local markets.

jurassic coast 2021 16
WEYMOUTH

6 – ABBOTSBURY

With the possible exception of the villages of the Cotswolds, Abbotsbury is as traditionally English as they come and an ideal Jurassic Coast road trip stop. It was even the setting for films of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’.

Explore its village shop, post office, independent stores, and tea rooms before heading up to St Catherine’s Chapel perched on a hill. This barrel-vaulted 14th Century Chapel is impressive enough, but the view is even better.

From here you can survey Chesil Beach. Wedged between the English Channel and a shallow tidal lagoon, 18 miles (29km) of shingle form a thin ridge that rises up to 50 ft (15m) high in places.

From March to October you can also visit the Abbotsbury Swannery, where you can watch hundreds of swans relax in the protected waters. In nesting season, it’s the only place in the world where you can walk through a colony of nesting Mute Swans.

jurassic coast 2021 17
ABBOTSBURY

7 – WEST BAY

As you head west along the Jurassic Coast the limestone disappears to be replaced by sandstone. At West Bay, instead of towering white cliffs, rippling waves of honey-coloured rock rise above golden shingle beaches. It’s a magical sight. Plan your trip to arrive in the early morning or late afternoon light when the mist of the crashing waves creates an enchanting sight.

If you are a fan of the UK hit series Broadchurch you will recognise these dramatic landscapes as the backdrop to the programs ongoing drama.

To see the best of West Bay there are a few options. Firstly, you can just walk along the beach and admire the spectacular scenery. Secondly, take a hike over the cliffs for a bird’s eye view of the coastline. Finally, hire a rowboat and head out to sea for a unique vantage point of this geological marvel.

All the information about exploring West Bay is in our Dorset coastal walks guide.

8 – CHARMOUTH BEACH

Every year bits of the cliff along the Jurassic Coast tumble into the sea. The softer the rock the quicker it crumbles. The cliffs by the village of Charmouth are softer than most. Fortunately, these rocks made of mud, silt, and clay are packed full of fossils. Each time the rock crumbles to the ground, new fossils are revealed.

One of the best things to do on the Jurassic Coast is to wander along Charmouth Beach looking for the remnants of animals etched in the rock.

In 2000, a large cliff fall revealed a fossilised dinosaur head. This Ichthyosaur, along with many other fossils, is now on display under the Heritage Center by the beach.

Fossil Hunting Walks — The Heritage Centre runs regular 2-hour fossil hunting walks. The first 25 minutes explains how fossils are formed, the rest of the tour is out on the beach searching for them.

DETAILS | CHARMOUTH HERITAGE COAST CENTRE

hours – 10:30 am to 4:30 pm (1 March to 31 October) / 10:30 to 4 pm (Friday to Monday; 1 November to 28 February) | cost – free, donations welcome

9 – LYME REGIS

If you only choose one town to visit on the Jurassic Coast, make it Lyme Regis. Its historic Cobb Harbour set against moody cliffs is well-preserved, while the beachfront (untouched by major roads) is backed by colourful huts and cute houses.

The high street is home to independent, interesting stores.

Ammonite Fine Foods has an excellent range of local foods, beers, and gins. The Lyme Regis Brewery has a taproom selling its craft blends, perched above a babbling brook. For a decent coffee head to Amid Giants & Idols – one of the many independent roasters on the Jurassic Coast.

Lyme Regis is a great base to explore the coast. Our pick of accommodation in town is the newly renovated Pilot Boat. It’s right in the centre with just a few beautifully decorated rooms.

10 – GOLDEN CAP

At 191 metres, Golden Cap is the highest cliff in Dorset. Located between Charmouth and Bridport, it’s made up of rocks from both the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. This geological make-up gives the cliffs a combination of dark grey layers interspersed with bright orange rock. Topped with a blanket of lush green grass, it’s one of the most scenic sections of the Jurassic Coast.

There are several walks in the area that take advantage of this beautiful location. One of our favourites begins at the car park by the sea in Seatown. It’s just over 1 mile to the summit, but the steep path that rises through neat fields framed with oak trees and dotted with heather and blackberry will take you about 40 minutes.

At the top, take in the views of the patchwork quilt of green fields all the way towards Thorncombe Beacon towering over the golden shingle beach.

11 – BEER

Beer is located on a beautiful stretch of the Jurassic Coast in East Devon.

Its gentle shingle beach set under high white cliffs, complete with stripped sun chairs and colourful huts, evokes a throwback to Victorian seaside outings.

Grab a coffee at one of the many cafes set up on the beach, or join a Mackerel fishing boat to catch your breakfast.

Beer’s picturesque high street is blessed with traditional local pubs and all the charm of an English village. The Jubilee Memorial Gardens, established for Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee is a great place to unwind with a great view of the beach.

Outside the charming town, take a tour of the Beer Quarry Caves, where stone has been quarried for over 2,000 years.

Coastal Walk — The views from Beer Head and Hooken Cliffs are spectacular. Catch them on the Beer to Branscombe walk.

12 – SIDMOUTH

Sidmouth is a charming seaside resort in the heart of the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) occupying a picturesque setting between rapidly eroding red sandstone cliffs.

Grand Georgian buildings lining the esplanade have a faded glory that adds a delightful touch of nostalgia to the town. Stroll the promenade while waves crash against the pebbled beach and batter the sea wall.

Throughout the year, Sidmouth has an arty vibe hosting several festivals. The most celebrated is the Sidmouth Folk Festival which showcases traditional music and dance.

The Sidmouth Regatta, held on the August bank holiday weekend, features the RAF Red Arrows who kick off festivities with a dramatic display over the coast.

WORTH A DETOUR – MORE JURASSIC COAST HIGHLIGHTS

While this is our pick of things to do on the Jurassic Coast, there’s no shortage of places to visit in the area. So, if you have your own car, here are a few suggestions that might entice you to make a short detour.

CERNE ABBAS

Britain has a few strange chalk drawings on green hills. But none is stranger than the one at Cerne Abbas. Formed by cutting shallow trenches in the turf and filling them with chalk rubble, it would be nice if this drawing of a well-endowed man holding a club was an ancient fertility symbol.

SHORTLAND BILL LIGHTHOUSE

The Isle of Purbeck is a peninsular stretching 5 miles into the English Channel. At its tip is the Shortland Bill Lighthouse; a particularly good location first thing in the morning when the sunrise will be illuminating the scene.

MAIDEN HILL

Maiden Hill is home to the largest and most complex iron age fort in the UK. While none of the buildings remain, row upon row of banks and ditches show how well the town was defended.

EXETER

The city of Exeter is a captivating blend of historical periods, where the striking Gothic Cathedral takes centre stage, surrounded by rows of quirky medieval townhouses. Today, remnants of the Roman walls encase a vibrant city that’s a little bit youthful and edgy yet assuaged with touches of traditional charm.

CRAFT BEER ON THE JURASSIC COAST

The Jurassic Coast is home to a number of great local breweries. From micro-start-ups to grand old institutions, you don’t have to travel too far along the coast to sample a great craft beer market.

Dorset Brewing Company // This intriguing taproom is somewhere between a spit-and-sawdust shack and a Swiss ski chalet.

Palmer’s Brewer // A traditional brewer on the River Asker just north of West Bay with a water wheel that was built in 1879.

Badger Beer // Operating since 1777, Badger Beer has a comprehensive brewing tour, a well-stocked shop (perfect for gifts or stocking up the home larder), and a modern stylish taproom.

WHERE TO STAY ON THE JURASSIC COAST

The Jurassic Coast stretches for 95 miles and it takes 2 hours to drive from one end to the other. So, make sure you stay near the sights you are most keen to visit.

To see all our things to do, we’d recommend 3 full days on the coast. Either stay centrally near Dorchester and drive out each day, or split your stay between the Purbeck peninsula in the east and Lyme Regis in the west.

We have put together a list of the best places to stay on the Jurassic Coast which includes the main areas to stay on the coast.

BEST TIME TO VISIT THE JURASSIC COAST

The best time to go to the Jurassic Coast is from May to early July when the days are long and dry, the flowers are out and the school holidays have not yet begun. September and October are also good.

From mid-July to end of August the weather is great, but the area is extremely busy. Book your accommodation well in advance and try to set off early each day to avoid the crowds.

Winter months can be cold and wet, but if you can book late and wait for a window of sunny weather then it is a truly beautiful place to explore in the winter light.

Jurassic coast walks in Dorset, Durdle Door
DURDLE DOOR, JURASSIC COAST

HOW TO GET TO THE JURASSIC COAST

The main centres on the Jurassic Coast are Poole or Bournemouth on the east end; Weymouth in the middle; and Axminster towards the western end. There are regular train services from London to each of these destinations.

TRAINS TO THE JURASSIC COAST


LONDON TO POOLE

2h 36m | 51 trains per day | tickets

LONDON TO BOURNEMOUTH

2h 23m | 52 trains per day | tickets

LONDON TO WEYMOUTH

3h, 12m | 31 trains per day | tickets

LONDON TO AXMINSTER

3h | 17 trains per day | tickets

HOW TO GET AROUND THE JURASSIC COAST

You could use bus and trains to explore the coast, but unfortunately, they don’t run very regularly and the network is not particularly comprehensive.

The easiest and most efficient way to get around is in your own car.

There are plenty of car parks but they can get very busy in summer, so try to arrive early in peak season. Also, ensure you carry change. Most parking meters take cards but the odd one still only operates on coins.

We recommend rentalcars.com for your hire car who compare prices across all the major car rental companies.

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The best things to do on the Jurassic Coast. See dramatic coastal rock formations, hike stunning trails, sample the best local beer and visit incredible sunrise locations. | Visit Dorset | Jurassic Coast | Dorset Official | Visit England | Old Harry Rocks | Corfe Castle | Lulworth Cove | Durdle Door

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