Car Free Breaks in Dorset
Whether you are taking a completely car free holiday or just wanting to spend a couple of days without your vehicle, going car free is easy in Dorset.
Choose from double-decker bus tours, vintage railways, boat cruises, walking, cycling (including electric bike hire) and water taxis. The options are endless.
Travelling to Dorset without your car
Trains and National Express coaches arrive into many of Dorset's towns. Ferries from Europe and the Channel Islands connect with Poole and Bournemouth International Airport is located in the east of the county.
If you're travelling from London, get some inspiration for arriving by train and bus with these fantastic short videos for travelling to Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage, and the world famous Jurassic Coast.
Make the journey part of your day out
Going car free is not just about walking or cycling everywhere. We have some fantastic ways of getting around Dorset, such as travelling along the Jurassic Coast by boat, taking a scenic open-top bus ride or catching a vintage train to a ruined castle.
If you are travelling with children, they will love getting on a double decker bus or steam train. By making the journey part of your experience, not only will you get from A to B, you will have a great time getting there.
Who needs a car anyway?
You can hire bikes (including electric bikes) from many locations across Dorset for the day or longer.
You can get to places inaccessible by car, which means not only will you get great views but also you might be the only people there. Plus you'll get some exercise on the way to lunch, so you can eat guilt free!
Cruise the coast
Not only are there lots of boat tours available along our coastline, there are also a couple of trips which you can make part of your car free day out.
Travel from Poole to Swanage (or vice versa) with City Cruises. You can make the return journey by boat, or walk part way and then catch a bus for the final leg.
Lyme Bay Rib Charter run a water taxi service with pick up available from West Bay or Lyme Regis. Arrive in style as you cruise across the bay in their passenger carrying RIB! This service runs Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday and is one-way only. The recommended return is by using the hourly X31 or X53 bus service.
Greenslade Pleasure Boats depart from either Poole Quay or Wareham Quay. Cruise along the River Frome and around Poole Harbour where you will see Brownsea Island, the biggest of the islands and if you're lucky you might even spot a harbour seal along the way. Catch the Purbeck Breezer and Route One bus back again.
Rail to trail
The railway network criss-crosses over the county and connects many of Dorset’s towns and villages. And with lots of our walking and cycling routes starting from these towns, travelling by train is a great way of seeing more of our gorgeous coast and countryside.
South Western Railway provides a service from Hinton Admiral in the east to Weymouth in the south, stopping at major stations including Christchurch, Bournemouth, Poole, Wareham and Dorchester. It also provides another service stopping at Gillingham and Sherborne with a connection to Lyme Regis via Axminster.
Dorchester and Weymouth is also served by Great Western Railways Heart of Wessex Line. The service also stops at Upwey, Maiden Newton, Chetnole, Yetminster and Thornford.
There is also a heritage railway branch line between Norden and Swanage, stopping at Corfe Castle, Harmans Cross and Herston Halt. Swanage Railway uses both vintage steam and diesel trains for this service. Next to Norden Station you will find Cyclexperience where you can hire a bike (including electric bikes) and explore this beautiful corner of the county.
Open top bus adventures
During the summer, there are a number of double-decker sightseeing bus services with open tops, so you not only get a great panoramic view but can feel the wind in your hair along the way.
The Purbeck Breezer buses link Bournemouth to Poole with the Isle of Purbeck and beyond, stopping at Sandbanks, Studland, Wareham, Corfe Castle, Swanage, Lulworth, Durdle Door, Dorchester, Weymouth and more.
City Sightseeing connects Boscombe, Bournemouth, Poole and Sandbanks with a hop on/hop off guided tour stopping at beaches, attractions and towns. You can also book tickets for bus and bike, as well as bus and boat.
If you want to explore Dorset’s World Heritage Site, the Jurassic Coaster buses will transport you all the way from Poole in the east to Lyme Regis in the west, via Wareham, Dorchester, Weymouth, Portland, Abbotsbury, Bridport, West Bay and many other destinations along this world famous coastline.
Of course, most of the buses also run in the winter, but you’ll be pleased to know the top deck will be covered. And there are lots more standard bus services all over the county stopping at many towns and villages along the way.
Those boots were made for walking
The 630 mile South West Coast Path links South Haven Point in Dorset to Minehead in Somerset and is the UK's longest National Trail.
There are lots of different walking routes to choose from on this long distance route. Why not walk one way and catch a Purbeck Breezer or Jurassic Coaster bus back? Or feel the wind in your hair and take a boat trip between West Bay and Lyme Regis with Lyme Bay Rib Charter.
Save some pennies
There are a number of Dorset attractions which offer a discount or voucher when arriving by public transport. There is a Purbeck Breezer bus stop right outside Farmer Palmers - show your bus ticket and get 10% off the entry price. Catch a bus or Swanage Railway train to Corfe Castle and receive a voucher to spend in their cafe or shop.
If you are travelling in a group or as a family, be sure to check if you can save some money by buying tickets together. Many train and bus companies will offer these options.
You might also get a bargain if you book tickets in advance. And some bus and rail services offer 1, 2 and 3 day tickets, so you can save money and get the convenience of not having to queue for tickets every day.
A Sea Train Adventure
Start your journey at Poole Quay and board a boat for your Sea Train Adventure with City Cruises and Swanage Railway.
Cruise through Poole Harbour and around the Jurassic Coastline passing Old Harry Rocks on the way to the seaside resort of Swanage. From the Swanage Railway Station, jump on one of Swanage Railway's vintage trains to travel through beautiful countryside to the picture postcard village of Corfe Castle.
You can either travel back the same way or catch a Purbeck Breezer bus back to Poole via Wareham.
A few more ideas...
For some great car free days out in Dorset, take a look at our Top 10 Car Free Adventures blog.
If you're visiting the beautiful Isle of Purbeck, you can enjoy car free days out to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Arne, Brownsea Island, Knoll Beach and the Blue Pool. Download the Car Free Days Out in Purbeck leaflet for more information.
Plan your journey and book tickets
To plan your journey from A to B by bus and train, you can use the Traveline website. Please note, boat trips and Swanage Railway timetables will not show within the journey planner.
Many boat, bus, train and ferry companies will allow you to book your ticket in advance. Not only giving you confidence that you will be able to travel on the day of your choice, but you might also get a discount too!
Many of Dorset’s hotels, B&Bs or holiday parks are working towards being more sustainable and...
Join an organised tour or discover Dorset your own way as you pedal around our beautiful county.
Explore miles of routes and trails across Dorset's coast and countryside.