Cutting down on spending may be at the forefront of everyone’s minds this year but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your much needed relaxation and enjoyment time.
If you’re looking to get away for a day trip or mini-break, there are plenty of options here for you in Dorset! Take a look at our top suggestions for some budget friendly trips out that won’t break the bank.
Dorchester is a town that’s bursting with so many fun and interesting things to do that are low cost.
Join Dorchester’s award-winning Town Crier Alistair Chisolm as he takes you on an audio tour of Dorchester. Download the tour from the free Geotourist app and listen to Alistair as he brings each location to life. Discover Thomas Hardy, Dorchester beer, a ghoulish past and its Roman legacy. You’ll be amazed at how much history this small town holds!
Brewery Square’s vibrant boutiques and galleries are great for a spot of window shopping and you can stop and warm up with a hot drink in the winter and watch the world go by or enjoy an ice cream by the splash fountains on a sunny day.
If the weather is wet, why not uncover 250 million years of history at the Dorset Museum? Kids get free entry every Saturday and Sunday until the end of March, plus Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum are offering a phenomenal value annual pass for under a tenner.
Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum © Folio Creative
Just outside of town, Kingston Maurward Animal Park is a fantastic place to visit and is currently offering free entry. Families can enjoy meeting the friendly animals including goats, ponies, pigs and ducks, the indoor soft play and a stroll around the beautiful formal gardens.
If you’re staying in town for the evening you can catch the latest films at the Plaza Cinema for only £3.50 a ticket midweek and £4.50 at the weekends. There are plenty of mealtime options too, from High St favourites such as Nando’s and Pizza Express to local delis and family owned fish and chips
Many happy childhood memories are created paddling about in the shallow pools searching for sea creatures on the beach. Kimmeridge Bay has the best rockpooling site in Dorset and is located within a Marine Special Area of Conservation!
The Wild Seas Centre encourages all ages to explore the bay, its ledges and rockpools. It is free to go inside and take a look at their exhibitions and small aquarium. They also run various events throughout the year which are great for children and families - why not try eco-friendly crabbing or take part in a rockpool ramble?
In the summer, a snorkel trail guides swimmers among colourful marine-life in the shallow waters of the Bay and is the safest place to snorkel in the county.
If you’re still feeling energetic after all that fun on the beach, you can climb the hill to Clavell Tower. Built as a folly and now used for holiday accommodation, it has been the inspiration for both P.D. James and Enid Blyton. It's quite a steep walk up to the tower, but it is worth the effort as you are rewarded with spectacular views over the Bay.
Solve a Treasure Trail
A Dorset Treasure Trail is one of Visit Dorset’s top picks for things to do all year round and are a superb activity for all ages.
Excellent value for money at just £9.99 per trail, you can choose from 57 adventures all over Dorset. Simply choose your trail online, whether that be a treasure hunt, spy mission or murder mystery and the booklet can be either posted to you or downloaded to your phone.
When you’re ready to embark on your challenge, lead your gang of intrepid explorers through the hidden corners and backstreets of Dorset’s towns and villages to crack the clues on buildings and landmarks to eliminate your suspects. It’s like playing Cluedo in real life!
When you solve the trail, you can submit your answer to be in with a chance of winning £100! It’s guaranteed to be a hit with all the family and with lots more around the country, will soon become one of your favourite things to do, wherever you are.
Have a day out at Moors Valley
Moors Valley Country Park and Forest is a popular destination for a low cost day out and there’s so much to see and do here you’ll find yourself returning again and again!
Entry to the forest is free, you just need to pay for parking which can range from £1.80 for a couple of hours visit off peak to £15.00 for an all day weekend stay (great value if you’re visiting as a family of 5).
Fun family activities at Moors Valley include the pushchair friendly play trail with giant wooden climbing equipment, the tree top trail, Gruffalo Trail and the brand new Zog Trail (Activity Packs cost £4). There are two imaginative play areas for kids to have fun in too, one for older children including a zip slide, plus one for younger children all set inside a safe sand area so don’t forget to bring your bucket and spade too! Families will also love to ride on the Miniature Railway, which costs just under £5 for an adult ticket.
There are miles of cycle trails to let loose on, from wide, level, waymarked tracks to challenging routes with technical bends, berms and dips, designed for experienced riders. Cycle hire is available from the Visitor Centre from £7.50 for an adult bike, or you can bring your own.
There are plenty of paths for walking through the forest too which you can theme to your own interests, hobbies and abilities. The Mindfulness Audio Trail (free to download) is particularly enjoyable, as is the lakeside wildlife trail (pick up a leaflet from the Visitor Centre). For those that like to be active, there are running and fitness routes too, there really is something for everyone here.
If you need a pit stop after all that fresh air, Season’s restaurant serves lots of yummy hot drinks, lunches, snacks and cakes.
Explore Weymouth & Portland
There is a plethora of inexpensive things to do in Weymouth and Portland.
A day on Weymouth’s golden sands is a wonderful way to spend some time. In the summer months, simply relax and soak up the rays, paddle in the shallow bay and take a ride on a pedalo. Families will love the traditional donkey rides and crabbing on the harbourside in the late evening sunshine.
In the wintertime, the beach is bracing and beautiful and without the summer crowds, there’s plenty of space for bit of beachcombing. If you’re feeling brave, you may even like to try some cold water swimming like our hardy locals! The indoor amusement arcade at Alexandra Gardens is a great shout for all seasons and you can keep it low cost with the 2p machines.
Wander along the promenade and you can visit one of Weymouth’s 2 RSPB reserves at Radipole Lake and Lodmoor which are free to explore. Children will love trying to spot the birds and you may even get a surprise visit from an otter! Special events run during term time and the school holidays such as scavenger hunts and bird box making.
A short drive away over the Chesil Beach causeway is the Isle of Portland, an island that invites exploration! Fancy’s Farm is a wonderful little place where you can visit and feed wallabies, ducks, chickens, geese, pigs, donkeys, rare breed horses, goats and many more cuddly animals. It’s free but a small donation is appreciated.
Tout Quarry is also a fantastic place to spend an hour or two with some interesting sculptures to find and spot. If you’re lucky you may even catch a sculptor in action on the site. The views from here are unmissable.
A trip to Portland wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the lighthouse and Portland Bill, where you can simply stand and admire the waves or you can climb the lighthouse for £8.50.
If you’re looking for a family evening meal in Weymouth, kids under 11 can get free fish and chips at Rockfish when a main adult meal is ordered. Offer available until end of March 2023.
£2 bus rides
With many bus fares capped at £2 until the end of June, it’s a great time to explore more of Dorset with a scenic bus ride!
For jaw dropping views from the top deck, you can’t beat the X53 rollercoaster ride along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast from Lyme Regis to Weymouth. The bright blue sea sparkles and glistens to your right with the pebbles of Chesil Beach and the long Fleet Lagoon stretching out in front of you and the undulating Wessex Downs frame the view to your left.
Another bus ride with unbeatable views is the Purbeck Breezer 40 which passes through the picturesque Holes Bay and Upton Park. As you ride through the Saxon town of Wareham, you can see the 11th-century church of Saint Martin on the old Walls and enjoy the views of Hartland Moor with its acres of heath, grazing red cattle and ever-blooming yellow gorse. In Corfe Castle, the castle ruins of walls built by William the Conqueror look down upon the village square by the Purbeck Hills. The journey ends near the sandy beach at Swanage.
Places to Stay
Accommodation doesn’t have to take a large chunk out of your budget. One of the best low cost options is to pitch up a tent! Camping under the night sky is so thrilling and there’s no better feeling than opening the zip of your tent out onto a misty morning sunrise over the rolling Dorset hills and making a hot cup of tea on the stove. And one thing’s for sure in Dorset, you’re always guaranteed a fabulous countryside view!
If you’re looking for something a little sturdier than canvas but still want to save on your accommodation budget, take a look at our special offers page where you can pick up some fantastic deals or consider travelling in the winter months, when the prices will be lowest (and it will be quieter about too!).
Not just for young people, hostels are also a great way to save on cash and the properties in Dorset are clean, stylish and modern; an option definitely worth considering.
So there we have it, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a really good time in Dorset. If you've inspired by our ideas, don't forget to tag us on your socials when out and about #VisitDorset, we'd love to see what you've been up to!