A Fresh Perspective
Since moving to the south coast aka sunny Dorset just over 5 months ago, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much this county has to offer. As a family we’re quite ‘outdoors-y’. We like camping, long beach walks, exploring forests, camping, swimming, foraging and generally discovering every nook and cranny of the coast line with the hidden gems waiting to be explored.
What’s been most refreshing in our short time as Bournemouth residents, is how much EVERYONE just loves where we live. We have everything pretty much on your doorstep: a lively town, 7 miles of beautiful beach, acres of the new forest AND the Jurassic coast. Every direction you’re bound to stumble into something wonderful. And i think we’ve done a good job so far of scoping out all the good stuff. So I want to share a list of family friendly activities. With things to do, places to go and food to eat, to help you get the most out of each trip to Dorset. Whether you’re visiting for just a day, a weekend or making a family holiday of it, you’ll find something within your budget.
Our Favourite Places So Far…
- There are 7 miles of sandy beach from Hengitsbury Head to Sandbanks and every spot in between. Each section with it’s own character. From the surfers paradise off Bournemouth Pier to glorious Fish & Chips at Durley Chine beach, you’ll find your sweet spot. On a sunny afternoon there’s no where else i’d rather be than Alum Chine beach after a strong coffee at Vesuvio (and maybe a cheeky scoop of ice cream).
- There are a handful of restaurants I WOULDN’T want you to miss. Firstly you need to head over to Turtle Bay, a quirky Caribbean it’s a refreshing way to spend a lunch time or evening. Another one of my favourites is Cosy Club. With a decadent interior, smashing cocktail menu and food menu to boot, the atmosphere in there is always one i’d want to be immersed in.
- The Smallest Cinema. If you’re schedule won’t allow for a film (child friendly showings at the weekend), then you must have a snoop around the adorable UK’s smallest cinema. As if time stood still in the 20’s it’s a vintage style treasure to be enjoyed. And while you’re in Westbourne, there are plenty of other food and drink establishments to be enjoyed by the whole family.
- Now every seaside town has their pier and Bournemouth is no different. From arcade games to a zip wire there’s lots to be entertained by, as well as weekly firework displays during the height of summer.
- Just off the pier you’ll find cafe’s and bars dotted around serving the best ice cream you’ll ever taste! But also the Aquarium, a fun place for a family to spend together.
- Alongside all this there’s a handful of thriving chine’s to go hunting for sticks and forage around.
- Who not kayak from Poole Bay over to another National Trust Treasure that is Brownsea Island, famous for it’s Red Squirrels. There’s an abundance of family oriented activities. A great piece of land to explore.
Indoor Activities too!
- If the weather isn’t on your side during your visit then don’t panic, you could spend a whole day at Tower Park, Poole. A heap of restaurants, a HUGE indoor activity centre, swimming pool and cinema ALL in one place. If you’re also on the lookout for other soft play areas, check out local independent businesses such as The Ark and Lollipops both offering lovely home made food and a place for you to take your toddler to waste a rainy afternoon. Receive a free coffee at Lollipops with the extensive A-List Card which has a huge amount of deals and discounts on all our favourite local places.
- Take a walk or cycle along Sandbanks and hop on the Chain Ferry over to Swanage. Spend the afternoon there or continue onto Studland Bay. Or even the Isle of Purbeck (beware of the nudist beach).
|sun down at Studland Bay (middle beach)|
- Old Harry’s Rocks followed by a light bite to eat at The Pig. A gorgeous Hotel & Restaurant looked after by The National Trust. It over looks the sea and all food served is either home grown or sourced within a 25 mile radius, give this place a visit even if it’s just to have a snoop around the garden.
|sun shining heavenly onto Old Harry’s Rocks|
|the sky clearing at Durdle Door|
- The stunning Durdle Door which is a sight that takes my breathe away, it is stunning come rain or shine. If you head over that way, you may as well see what else Lulworth Cove has to offer.
- I hear Weymouth is known for it’s perfect sand for impeccable castle building!
|first sight of portland lighthouse|
- Another beauty is the Portland Bill Lighthouse. For a relatively small charge you can enjoy a tour and look out at some more stunning coastal views.
|a roadtrip to Chesil Beach at West Bexington|
- Just around the corner from Portland Lighthouse you’ll find Chesil beach. Stretching over 18 miles it’s a natural wonder and beauty in itself. Peaceful and calming where folk enjoy fishing and open fires on a mild evening.
- Discover Corfe Castle in the heart of a splendid village. If you reach the top you may notice a gust of white steam in the distance which would be the..
- … swanage steam train. If you have a boy toddler obsessed with trains like mine, you’re about to become the best parent ever for letting the cat out of the bag about this one!
Not just beaches…
- If you thought we only had gorgeous coastline to offer, you were wrong. Gold Hill is just one of the stunning views that can be found nestled into the rolling countryside.
- All this and i haven’t even mentioned The New Forest yet! We’re yet to start discovering this vast space of protected woodland, when we’ve had all the above keeping us busy!
- That’s enough outdoor fun to keep you going for weeks, but Dorset also cater for everyone y’know, so why not take a look around Monkey World, and once you’re done hanging around there you may be in need of some R&R.
- So go on mum (or dad). Steal away an hour or two, put your feet up and pamper at The Forever Gorgeous Spa so you can recharge your batteries.
- Oh and if you’re thinking of extending your stay (because well, who could resist!). You might want to have a gander at Rockley Park, another popular destination nestled into Poole. There’s so much going on there you could very well be self sufficient, but then why would you want to miss out on all Dorset has to offer?!
So what are you waiting for?!
There it is! A list of all of our favourite places so far. I hope this list was helpful and inspiring to you fellow parents or explorers who’re desperate for a slice of that Dorset cake. We’ve only been here 5 months and i’m sure there’s lots to explore.
If you live in Bournemouth or visit regularly, you can receive discounts on lots of family friendly venues and restaurants with the A-List Card. Find out more about what you can get by clicking HERE!
Have you been to Dorset before? Where are your favourite places to discover?
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