Things to Do in Dorset

You certainly won’t be short of things to do in Dorset while you are on holiday here. From wildlife, history and heritage, and beaches and coastline to family attractions, activities and adventure holidays, and watersports, the Visit Dorset website helps you find some great ideas for days out for all the family.




Only booked a few days away in Dorset? Not sure what things to do in Dorset while you’re here on holiday? Why not use our list of some of the most popular Dorset attractions to help you decide. If you are interested in our history and heritage, why not visit the majestic ruins of Corfe Castle, Athelhampton’s Tudor manor house and world-famous gardens, the fascinating Tank Museum at Bovington, the Swanage steam railway or perhaps Sherborne Castle and its Capability Brown designed lake. Or, for the nature lovers, there’s Abbotsbury Swannery with over 600 free flying swans, Brownsea Island nature reserve, Weymouth’s Sea Life Park and Monkey World ape rescue centre. And, for the younger ones, there’s always the Adventure Wonderland family fun park.

You may even just enjoy a day on the coast, exploring Dorset’s unique landscapes and vistas. In the evening settle down for some local fare at any number of spots ranging from casual pub atmospheres to fine dining luxury. You will find something to suit every traveller’s taste. The same can be said for Dorset’s accommodation. Visitors can choose from charming B&Bs to 5 star hotels.

Our Dorset base is in Burley

The Carter Company’s gentle cycling holidays offer a unique way to discover Dorset. Designed with families and leisure cyclists in mind, we have a range of self-guided tours ranging from 4 to 8 nights. Pedal at your own pace along our creative, largely traffic-free routes designed by locals to help you discover the hidden gems of the area, and enjoy overnight stays in hand-picked boutique hotels. Stonehenge, The New Forest, the Isles of Wight & Purbeck, and Salisbury all feature on our routes, as do gorgeous stretches of Dorset countryside and charming little villages. With 25 years of experience, we are known for our top-notch customer service and we love sharing Dorset’s treasures with our customers! Route directions, luggage transfers, bike hire, accommodation and a full support service are included on our tours.

Starts; West Cliff, Off West Hill Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH2 5JB

Are you curious about Bournemouth? Looking for an unusual and quirky activity which gets you out in the fresh air whatever the weather? Take one of our self-guided walks with a treasure hunt theme – looping around the better-known sights, as well as some of the more unusual and quirky ones, which combined make Bournemouth a fabulous place to explore!

You’ll get everything – detailed directions, maps, clues (with answers in the back!), and fascinating snippets about the history of Bournemouth and the people that have shaped it.

Buy or instantly, download from our website, and explore in your own time.

Wimborne, Dorset BH21 7ND

Knoll Gardens, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 7ND

Planted with thousands of grasses and flowering perennials, Wimborne’s Knoll Gardens is renowned for its naturalistic style. Enjoy the garden simply as a place of rest and relaxation or look a little deeper to discover its secrets: a beautiful year-round garden, which provides a flourishing environment for its plants and a welcoming habitat for wildlife.
Alongside its famed ornamental grasses, Knoll features an equally impressive collection of rare and unusual woody plants. This mini arboretum includes stunning Eucalyptus, as well as Willow oak, Ginkgo biloba and Silver Maple, providing an impressive year-round backdrop.
Award-winning nursery, volunteer guides most Friday mornings and a year-round event programme.

Gardens and Nursery Opening Times:
Tuesday – Saturday – 10.00am – 5.00pm (4.00pm November – March)
Last entry to garden 30 mins before closing.
Closed Sun and Mon, except Bank Holiday Mondays.
Closed from December 23rd 2016, re-opening February 1st 2017
(In periods of adverse weather the garden may be closed for safety reasons)

Admission to Gardens (free entry to Nursery):
Adult…£6.25
Concessions…£5.50
Child (age 5- 15)…£4.50
Disabled Person + Helper…£1.00 off for each appropriate category
Group Rate (minimum 12 people)…£5.00pp. £9.00 to include guided tour.
Personal tours by Garden owner, Neil Lucas also available.
Season ticket…£20.00
Pre-booked coach parties welcome.

Facilities:

  • Self service drinks
  • Toilets
  • Free car parking
  • Guide/hearing dogs
  • Picnics in car park
  • Garden accessible to those in a wheelchair with an able bodied helper.

Directions:
Knoll Gardens in Dorset is just under four miles east of Wimborne off the A31, and less than nine miles north of Bournemouth and Poole via the A348. Follow the brown direction signs from all major routes.

23 Melcombe Avenue, Weymouth, Dorset

Cycle hire in Weymouth, Portland, Dorchester and the surrounding area.

Free delivery and collection all year round.

Pier Approach, Bournemouth, Dorset BH2 5AA

Oceanarium Bournemouth is home to hundreds of awesome creatures!

Waddle amongst playful penguins this Summer at the Oceanarium-

• New for 2015… Penguin Beach Encounter. Fall head over flippers in love with the newest residents and watch these playful personalities from above and below the water as they dip and dive in their new beach retreat! Plus other exciting new features include a jellyfish exhibit, sea view cafe terrace and kids’ play zone.

• Not forgetting the hundreds of other awesome creatures at the Oceanarium. Visitors can take an underwater journey through the waters of the world and come face to face with stunning sharks, rare green sea turtles, graceful stingrays, dwarf crocodiles, colourful clownfish and the adorable yet very mischievous Oriental small clawed otter family. Whatever the weather there’s so much to see and explore.

• Watch the water come alive with daily feeding presentations, and during the school holidays get up close in meet the creature sessions. Tickets are valid all day so you can enjoy them all!

The Oceanarium is open everyday (except Christmas Day)

Visit our website for ticket prices

www.oceanarium.co.uk

Unit 5 Brewers Quay, Hope Square, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8TR

Be A Pop Star – Record a Song at Brewers Quay – The ultimate professional recording studio experience.

Walk away within two hours with a CD or MP3 with a recording of you or a group singing a song of your choice.

This also makes a great gift experience for someone who loves singing or even karaoke!

With a combined 38 years’ experience in music production and fully qualified in Music Technology and Music Production, we are the number one choice for recording in Weymouth, Dorset.

For more information or to book your bespoke experience, please get in touch.

Don’t leave with just a postcard – Leave Weymouth with your own professional studio recording from Rachel Scott Recordings and Tuition Weymouth.

radipole

Map grid reference: SY671804

Visitor Centre is open daily 9am to 5pm (4pm in winter). The hide is open from 8.30am to 4.30pm. The Visitor Centre and hide are both closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day

Radipole Lake is a great place to come, whether you are new to wildlife watching or an experienced birdwatcher. There are well-known birds at the reserve such as house sparrows, finches and robins, alongside rare birds like the Cetti’s warbler and bittern. On a typical walk you can even see seven or eight different kinds of ducks.

There is plenty for families to do, with specially-created trails, bird events and, during the summer, family activities such as pond dipping and bug hunts.

Spring highlights

In spring, the air is filled with bird song as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. Flocks of swallows and martins gather over the water to feed on insects after their migration from Africa. Warblers also arrive, including grasshopper, willow and Cetti’s warblers, blackcaps, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats. The reed beds are full of singing sedge and reed warblers.

Summer highlights

In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Hobbies can be seen flying after small birds and dragonflies, which they catch with their feet then pass to their beaks while still flying. Flowering plants attract good numbers of butterflies, such as commas, painted ladies and peacocks.

Autumn highlights

Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds – some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. Bearded tits become easier to see, with family groups roaming the reed beds and making their distinctive ‘pinging’ call. As the water levels are lowered in preparation for winter reed cutting, the mud attracts wading birds such as dunlins, snipe, redshanks and lapwings.

Winter highlights

In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm. You may see a bittern if you are patient – they will fly up from the reeds occasionally to get to different feeding areas. During cold snaps, water rails become much easier to see as they must feed outside the frozen-up reed beds. There is a large roost of pied wagtails in Weymouth and the birds can often be seen at Radipole Lake before heading into town for the night.

Marsh Harriers

The first marsh harriers to breed in Dorset in almost 50 years successfully raised three chicks in 2009 at Radipole Lake. Being only 10 minutes’ walk from Weymouth town centre, these marsh harrier chicks are thought to be the most urban of their species to fledge in the British Isles. The arrival of the parents at the reserve was filmed for the BBC television programme Springwatch.

Facilities

  • information centre
  • shop
  • refreshments available
  • picnic area
  • pushchair friendly
  • wheelchair accessible
  • pay and display car park (not RSPB)
  • toilets, including disabled, in the car park (not RSPB)
  • binocular hire
  • group bookings accepted
  • guided walks available
  • dogs allowed on public footpaths and bridleways

Entrance fees

It is free to walk around the reserve. Fees are only charged for use of the hide.

The Ark, Poole Park, Poole, Dorset BH15 2SF

The Ark Poole Park in Dorset, UK is an all-weather family fun day out!

There are three levels of soft play with slides, tunnels and interactive zones (up to 11 years old) plus a dedicated soft play area for toddlers.

There is also an indoor ice rink for all ages and abilities.

The Ark in Poole Park has a spacious cafe with an outdoor terrace overlooking Swan Lake. It also has an ice cream parlour for cones, sundaes and more.

There is plenty of free car parking in Poole Park and at The Ark.

Disabled parking is available directly outside The Ark.

Weymouth Sea Life Tower

The Quay (behind The Pavilion Complex), Weymouth, Dorset

8.30am - 5.15pm week days

The spectacular Jurassic Skyline (formerly known as the Weymouth Sea Life Tower) opened for business in June 2012. Construction of the new £3.5 million landmark attraction took under nine months, from the start of foundation works to the completion of the ground level reception building. Designed by a German company, each of the five 11-ton steel sections of the Tower’s central column were built in Hungary. The base section sits on a concrete base buried several metres beneath the Festival Pier. The clear-fronted passenger gondola, which rotates gently around that column as it climbs to its highest point, was built in France.

As many as 69 people at a time can be carried aloft in the gondola, where on a clear day they may be able to see as far as the famous Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. Amazing views of the Purbeck Cliffs, Portland, Chesil Beach and Weymouth Bay are also assured, and the Tower’s ride operators will point out significant features like the scene of the discovery of the 155-million-year-old head of a marine dinosaur in 2003.

An admission charge applies and the ride lasts approximately 15 minutes. There is commentary on the Jurassic Skyline, and it is possible to purchase a 360° mini guide with Jurassic Coast information. Children under 14 years of age need to be accompanied by an adult. The Jurassic Skyline is accessible for disabled guests; however, it has the capacity for only one wheelchair per ride.

Weymouth Outdoor Education Centre (WOEC) is the Dorset County Council centre for land and water-based outdoor activities such as sailing, kayaking, rock climbing and team development.

The centre is open all year round and provides opportunities for people of all ages.

The primary purpose of the centre is to provide activities for young people that complement the work of schools and colleges. Its programmes combine fun, learning, challenge and adventure. During the taster sessions and progressive courses, young people are supported and encouraged to fulfil their potential.

The centre also runs a large programme of courses for individuals, including kayaking, sailing, rock climbing and multi-activities. It is possible to have a taster session or progress to a higher level of competence on a longer course.

General enquiries about the centre should be directed to Julia Howorth (tel: 01305 784927, email:j.c.howorth@dorsetcc.gov.uk).

Sutton Poyntz Pumping Station, Sutton Poyntz, Weymouth, Dorset

In 2006, Sutton Poyntz Pumping Station celebrated 150 years of supplying water to Weymouth. Occupation of the site can be traced back 10,000 years and the museum describes how water has influenced life since that time. The museum also contains one of Dorset’s three Industrial Ancient Monuments. Admission is free but by appointment only.

3 Trinity Street, Weymouth, Dorset

This is one of Weymouth’s few remaining Tudor buildings and it is furnished in the style of an early 17th century middle class family home. Guided tours are available. The museum, which is run by Weymouth Civic Society, is open Tuesday to Friday afternoons between June and September and on the afternoon of the first Sunday of the month between October and May. Admission charges apply.

217 Wakeham, Portland, Dorset

Sunday to Thursday, 10.30am to 4.00pm

Portland Museum in Dorset, UK is located in Wakeham, above Church Ope Cove, which was the setting for Thomas Hardy’s novel ‘The Well Beloved’. Exhibitions cover shipwrecks, smuggling, fossils, the Royal Manor of Portland and Dr Marie Stopes – founder of the museum in 1930 and the pioneer of birth control.

There is an admission charge for adults but concessions apply and children under 5 may enter for free.

tolpuddlegrave

Tolpuddle, near Dorchester, Dorset

The museum recounts the story of the six agricultural workers transported to Australia in 1834 after forming a trade union. Follow the Martyrs’ fate by taking an exciting voyage of discovery via the interactive multi-media screens. It is open on Tuesday to Saturday from April until October and Thursday to Saturday from November until March. It is also open on Bank Holiday Mondays but is closed for two weeks over Christmas/New Year. Admission is free.

keepmuseum

The Keep, Bridport Road, Dorchester, Dorset

The Keep is a modern military museum with computers and creative displays to tell the stories of courage, humour, tradition and sacrifice of those who served in the regiments of Devon and Dorset for over 300 years. The museum is open from April to September on Monday to Saturday and also on Sunday during July and August. From October to March it is open on Tuesday to Saturday. Admission fees are charged.