Top 10 Free Days Out in Dorset

Days out in Dorset needn’t cost the earth!

With fantastic beaches, incredible attractions and some of the very best in history and heritage, you’ll not be short of things to see and do which cost little to nothing.

We’ve drawn up our own list of the ten best free days out in Dorset which are great for budget-friendly holidays. With so much to choose from, the hardest part was limiting it to ten!

Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve

Situated just a mile from Swanage, Durlston Country Park (which is also a national nature reserve) is a fabulous 320 acre countryside paradise. With stunning views across Swanage Bay and the Jurassic Coast, walking trails to explore and fascinating wildlife to watch, it provides a marvellous day out for everyone. You might even be lucky enough to see Dolphins from the top of the cliffs.

Be sure to go to the Visitor Centre inside Durlston Castle (it's free) and if you're feeling peckish, pop into SeventhWave cafe for some refreshments. Alternatively pack up a picnic and enjoy lunch on one of the stone seats surrounding the Great Globe.

Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre

Found on the world famous Chesil Beach, the Fine Foundation Chesil Beach Centre run a number of exciting events, workshops and activities throughout the year. It is run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust and gives a wonderful insight into local wildlife.

If you look south from the centre you will see the Isle of Portland and its cliffs just waiting to be explored! If you fancy a walk, you can follow the stone and shingle beach to Portland or follow the causeway alongside Portland Harbour. 

Avon Beach

Avon Beach is an award-winning, family friendly beach in Christchurch with wonderful views over to the Isle of Wight. Lined with pretty, pastel coloured beach huts and a promenade, this sandy beach has everything you need for an authentic Great British day out at the seaside, complete with an ice cream parlour and freshly cooked fish and chips.

Chill out on a deckchair, build sandcastles in the golden sand or take the short walk along the promenade to Mudeford Quay. From the Quay there are lovely views across the mouth of Christchurch Harbour to Mudeford Sandbank and Hengistbury Head.

Or if you walk in the other direction away from the Quay, you will find Steamer Point Nature Reserve and the grounds of Highcliffe Castle - once owned by Harry Gordon Selfridge.

Minster Church of  St. Cuthburga (Wimborne Minster)

The impressive Norman church of Wimborne Minster holds a host of treasures within its walls and is well worth a visit. Discover one of only four of the country's chained libraries, the famous astronomical clock and don't miss the Quarterjack striking his bell.   

The Church is found in the centre of town and the green outside is a great meeting place or somewhere for a picnic.

The quaint streets of Wimborne are delightful to wander around and soak up the atmosphere of this pretty town.

Roman Town House 

This is the only Roman Town House to be seen in its entirety in Britain. Dating from the 4th century AD, the remains show a number of architectural details and provides a look back in time to Dorchester’s Roman past.

The Roman Town House was discovered almost by chance in 1937 during an archaeological dig. The team from the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society found the remains of at least eight buildings, of which the Town House was the most important.

The town centre of Dorchester is not far away - wander along the high street, find out more about the connections with Thomas Hardy or talk a walk to Maumbury Rings. 

Durdle Door

Probably one of Dorset’s most iconic landmarks, the magnificent Durdle Door arch and shingle beach is part of the Lulworth Estate. Its considered one of the jewels in the crown of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the famous rocks along this part of coast are 140 million years old!

The walk down to the beaches (you will find Man O' War beach next to Durdle Door beach) is via steep steps and is definitely worth the effort. But if you don't want to make the journey, there are fantastic views from above the beaches.

You can also follow the South West Coast Path from here to another famous landmark - Lulworth Cove.

Cerne Abbas Giant

It is not agreed how old the Cerne Abbas Giant is, but the most likely explanation is that he depicts Hercules, the god with super- human strength and was probably created as a pagan idol during the Iron Age period of Britain. The giant really needs to be seen to be believed!

There are some great rural walks to go on to view the Giant from. Why not finish off the walk with a refreshing drink or picnic afterwards?

Tyneham Village and Worbarrow Bay

The village was evacuated in 1943 during World War Two for military training and has been left deserted ever since. A visit to Tyneham is a window into the past of war-time Dorset and provides an insight into this troubling time in British history.

From the village, there is a one mile walk to Worbarrow Bay. A great place for a picnic or hike along the South West Coast Path.

North Dorset Trailway

Choose to walk or cycle along a section of the old Somerset and Dorset railway line and explore the heart of rural Dorset. With plenty of nature reserves and picnic spots along the way, as well as some notable attractions such as the Sturminster Newton Mill (chargeable), the trailway provides a lovely day out in the fresh air.

RSPB Arne Nature Reserve

The RSPB reserve at Arne is celebrated for its magnificent landscape which is home to some superb wildlife including all six British reptile species, butterflies and endless birdlife. Arne has also played host to the much loved BBC AutumnWatch TV series.

Explore the heathland, walk down to the shores of Poole Harbour (Europe's largest natural harbour), have a picnic on the beach or stop for something to eat at the café.

Explore more

See our full list of places to visit in Dorset for free, including nature reserves, iconic landmarks, museums, hillforts, castles, historic buildings and more.

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