You may think that Dorset is the perfect place to visit during the summer for our beautiful beaches, stunning coastline and lush rolling hills. And you wouldn’t be wrong!

But did you know that our relaxing hotels, warm and welcoming pubs and uplifting events are just as enticing during winter?

If you need a little more convincing, here are our top ten things to do in Dorset this winter.

Hibernate in a cosy hotel

Imagine spending a few days unwinding and recharging your batteries at a some of Dorset's cosiest hotels.

With sumptuous bedrooms, delicious food and guest lounges to curl up in with your favourite book, you’ll feel well rested after a short break this winter.

Guest lounge at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Spa, Dorset© Summer Lodge Country House Hotel and Spa

You don’t even need to leave the hotel if you don’t want to, as everything is provided right at your fingertips. However, if the sun is shining and you fancy an outing, why not try a walk in the countryside and get better connected with nature.

Learn about stargazing

With the long nights at this time of year, you don’t have to stay up late to look towards the stars.

The night sky is dark enough for stargazing just 2 hours after sunset, which is great for younger members of the family to get involved.

The Milky Way viewed above Dorset's dark skies

© Stephen Bankes

There are a number of stargazing events taking place in Dorset this winter for beginners to learn more about astronomy and star constellations.

Durlston Country Park near Swanage hosts regular stargazing events at their Observatory along with experts from the Wessex Astronomical Society. Events take place from 7:30pm on 28th January and 12th & 27th February 2023.

Treat yourself to a spa break

Winter is the perfect time to book a spa day or overnight stay.

Your mind, body and soul will be treated to some much needed ‘you time’, so soak up the peace and quiet with an indulgent pamper day, or even better, a spa break.

Two people in the Hydrotherapy Pool at Monart Spa, Poundbury in Dorset© Monart Spa Poundbury

Let the heat of saunas and steam rooms warm you to your core, have a rejuvenating treatment or take a refreshing dip in the pool.

This time of year is the perfect excuse to spend a lazy day inside. So sit back, relax and let someone look after you for once.

Pubs with cosy fires

There are many pubs in Dorset with open fires or log burners to warm up after a countryside walk.

Whether you’re wanting to spend a few hours eating and drinking or just stopping for a break, be sure to warm your toes and soak up the atmosphere in these traditional pubs.

Winter fire at the Old Inn at Holt, Dorset

© The Old Inn at Holt

Here’s a few ideas of where to book your fireside table.

Dating back to the 16th century, The Halfway Inn is located half way between historic Corfe Castle and Wareham. This is a Hall and Woodhouse brewery pub which welcomes dogs and offers seasonal and special menus along with Sunday Roasts.

The Grosvenor Arms found in the heart of Shaftesbury is a historic coaching-inn. They have a log burner in their buzzy lounge-style bar and their restaurant was awarded gold in the 2022 Taste of the West Awards.

A traditional country pub  situated close to the historic town of Wimborne Minster, The Old Inn at Holt prides themselves on preparing everything from scratch, from their Chicken Liver paté to children’s chicken nuggets. They also have a woodfired pizza oven for that perfect authentic Italian taste.

A fantastic pub for walkers, you'll find the Brace of Pheasants nestled in the Plush Valley, just off the Wessex Ridgeway walking route. This is a quintessential Old English thatched country pub serving award winning food from their seasonal, local produce menu.

Offering menus for breakfast through to dinner, the old country charm of The Ship Inn at West Stour offers a flagstone floor bar with a roaring fire for the colder months. Winners of the 2022 Taste of the West Gold award, their head chef and patron Nick is a 'field to fork' Chef who previously worked at The Shard and Savoy in London.

If you want to combine a walk with a pub lunch, you could also read our winter pub walks blog for a few more ideas.

Wildlife watching

Winter is a fantastic time of year to see some of the 20,000 birds which spend the colder months at Poole Harbour.

As well beautiful Spoonbills and Avocets, you might get the chance to see White-tailed Eagles on a winter boat trip with Greenslade Pleasure Boats and the Birds of Poole Harbour.

Avocet wading bird, copyright Peter Moore© Peter Moore

Choose from a Winter Safari Cruise, Low Tide Harbour Cruise or Winter Birds ID Course. Events can be booked via the Birds of Poole Harbour website.

Cool Coast Ice Rink

Bournemouth is home to the only ice rink in Dorset until 19th February 2023.

Great fun for all ages and abilities – even the youngsters can take part with the help of a friendly penguin. And because it’s an indoor rink, it’s great for rainy day activities.

Cool Coast Ice Rink at the Bournemouth International Centre, Dorset

Seafront saunas

Want to try out the new craze of a seafront sauna?

Experience winter at the beach Scandinavian style by warming up in the sauna followed by a refreshing (and quick) dip in the sea. At four beaches along the Dorset coast you’ll find small seafront saunas to rent out at the edge of the beach.

They range in size with a maximum capacity of 8 people and most offer both private and public sessions.

Inside of the Shoreline Sauna at Lyme Regis beach, Dorset

© Shoreline Sauna at Lyme Regis

  • Lyme Regis Beach - Shoreline Sauna
  • Seatown Beach - Seaside Sauna Haus
  • Studland Bay - Studland Beach Sauna run by Studland Watersports
  • Sandbanks Beach - Saltwater Sauna

Snowdrop walks

From late January to mid March, beautiful white snowdrops will start to flower putting on fantastic displays in the Kingston Lacy gardens and at Shaftesbury – the snowdrop town.

Shaftesbury’s snowdrop season is one of the biggest events of its type in the country. You can go on a snowdrop walk, visit an art exhibition at Shaftesbury Arts Centre or take part in a snowdrop-themed craft class.

Snowdrops and cyclamen flowers in springtime© National Trust Images

Guided snowdrop walks take place on Mondays and Wednesdays in February at Kingston Lacy. This grand Italianate mansion is now owned by the National Trust. There are over 40 different varieties of snowdrops on the estate, the first of which were planted in the early 1900’s on the instruction of Lady Henrietta Bankes.

Illuminate

Let light brighten up your winter nights with Illuminate at the Blue Pool.

Follow the lights around this beautiful nature reserve and warm up afterwards with something to eat or drink at the Art Deco Tearooms. You can even toast marshmallows on the terrace for an extra touch of winter alfresco life.

Illuminate event at the Blue Pool

Winter walkies

There are lots of dog friendly places to visit at this time of year. So if you’re visiting Dorset this winter, here are just a few ideas for some great, relatively mud-free, doggy days out!

As well as our beaches allowing dogs off lead from 1st October to 30th April, we’ve pulled together some pawfect dog friendly days out in north Dorset as well as five winter walks with your dog.

Dog at the top of Gold Hill, Shaftesbury in Dorset