From spa days and cosy pubs to quirky events and dog-friendly breaks, start the new year off with a bang by planning a trip to Dorset.

New Years Day

Dorset has some wonderful and unusual events which take place on January 1st.

At Lyme Regis, watch as hundreds of numbered plastic ducks race down the River Lim with prizes for the winners and last duck home. Later in the day, be prepared to limber up for the Lyme Lunge (or watch from the sidelines) as those who are brave enough take a dip in the sea, many in fancy dress.

The Bath Tub race at Poole Quay is watched by hundreds of spectators as teams take to the water in their homemade crafts, often with hilarious consequences.

Poole Maritime Xmas Lights

At both Bournemouth and Poole, free-to-visit illuminated light trails bring sparkle and joy to long winter nights. At Bournemouth, you can also wander around the Christmas Market, enjoy something to drink at the Alpine Bar or show off your skills on the outdoor ice-rink at SKATE.

It wouldn’t be New Years Day without a traditional pantomime, and this year you shall go to the ball at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne Minster. Cinderella will be seeking her prince charming with the help of her trusty friend Buttons, while trying to outwit her ugly stepsisters.

Winter pub walks

What could be better than to explore our beautiful countryside on a sunny January day and end your walk at a warm and welcoming pub?

Bar with log fire at The Acorn Inn, Dorset

Photo - The Acorn Inn.

The popular, traditional pubs featured in our blog offer roaring log fires as well as delicious food and drink. It’s advisable to book a table in advance if you want to guarantee a table by the fire.

With a choice of walking trails between 2.5 miles (4km) and 10 miles (16km), there are options depending on your ability and the weather. So grab your hat, scarf and boots and venture outside into the fresh crisp air of winter.

Get your skates on

Throughout January, you can take to the ice at Dorset’s indoor, seasonal ice-skating rink at the Bournemouth International Centre.

Fantastic fun for the young and young at heart, it’s a magical indoor attraction for whatever the weather.

Cool Coast Ice Rink at the Bournemouth International Centre, Dorset

Sessions last 60 minutes and there are penguin skate mates for little ones to help get their balance.

The Alpine Terrace is available for spectators and those who want to stay a little longer, serving a wide range of festive drinks, hot drinks and snacks.

See the new Pliosaur exhibition at the Museum of Jurassic Marine Life

An incredible new documentary 'Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster' was filmed on the Jurassic Coast in 2023 and will air on BBC One at 8pm on 1st January 2024 (it will be available on iPlayer afterwards).

Featuring the famous naturalist David Attenborough, the documentary tells the story of the amazing Pliosaur skull discovery near Kimmeridge - part of the skull was first found by Philip Jacobs and then the rest of the fossil was carefully extracted from the cliffs by Dr. Steve Etches MBE and others. You can see the fossilised skull of the Pliosaur at the Museum of Jurassic Marine Life to learn more about how it lived, hunted and died in the Jurassic seas of Kimmeridge 150 million years ago. The skull will be on display at the museum from 2nd January 2024.

Dr. Steve Etches MBE with Pliosaur fossilised skull at The Etches Collection Museum of Jurassic Marine Life

Photo - Dr. Steve Etches MBE with Pliosaur fossil copyright The Etches Collection.

Scientifically this specimen will unlock a treasure trove of secrets for many years to come. Throughout the filming process the museum was fortunate to work with some of the most prestigious university palaeontology departments, utilising state-of-the-art technologies to reveal fascinating details about this ferocious predator, but there is still more work to be done to further study this once-in-a-lifetime find.

Dogs welcome

Winter is a wonderful time to take a dog-friendly break or day trip to Dorset. All our beaches allow dogs at this time of year, so pooches can run and splash while you get some refreshing exercise.

Dog and two walkers at Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock in Dorset

From exploring towns and discovering the breathtaking beauty of our coast to visiting woodlands and nature reserves, you and your dog will love getting out and about.

Many of our pubs and cafes welcome muddy paws, so no member of the family gets left out.

Enjoy a spa break

Whether you choose to stay overnight or visit just for the day, soak up the warming sensation of a sauna and let the bubbles of a jacuzzi melt away aching muscles. There’s nothing like a spa day in winter to rejuvenate and invigorate your mind, body and soul.

Sauna at Monart Spa Poundbury in Dorchester

Photo - Monart Spa Poundbury.

In Dorset there are a number of spa hotels offering spa break packages as well as the award-winning Monart Spa Poundbury which you can visit for half day, full day or twilight sessions.

Take to the slopes

There are two outdoor ski slopes in Dorset which are open to the public all year round.

The Snowsport Centre at Warmwell Holiday Park has a 110 metre slope as well as a nursery slope for beginners. You can ski and snowboard or jump on a ringo, swiss bob or sledge! For those who are more experienced on the slopes, there’s a fun park and jump zone.

Three people sitting in ringos sliding down the ski slope at Warmwell Holiday Park in DorsetPhoto - Warmwell Holiday Park.

To learn and improve your skiing or snowboarding skills, go to Snowtrax Alpine Activity Centre. With a 110 metre slope as well as the Alpine Pub and Alpine Adventure Park, you could spend the whole day here. You can also slide, spin and bounce down the slopes on a ringo.

Book a January escape to Dorset

Now that you’ve been inspired to book a winter break to our wonderful county, you’ll want to take a look at places to stay.

From hotels and B&Bs to cosy cottages and modern apartments, you’ll find a great range of options, some of which have their own log burning stoves or luxurious hot tubs.