Museums & Galleries in Dorset
Dorset's rich historical roots are displayed through its wide collection of museums dotted across the county.
From impressive military exhibitions to traditional thatched breweries; charming collections to historic birthplaces, you will find a fantastic variety of museums and galleries here in Dorset.
So if you want to inject a bit of culture into your life, book a holiday or short break today.
Museums that grab your attention
For days out that pack a punch, you’ll be pleased to know that some of the South West’s top attractions are right here in Dorset.
If you’re visiting Dorchester, don’t miss the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, this new immersive museum is a fantastic for visitors of all ages and explores the history of law and order.
And if you are looking for a museum that really brings history to life, the Tank Museum’s live tank action displays and interactive exhibitions will thrill both young and old.
The family will have a great day out at the Fleet Air Arm Museum based just outside Dorset - the world's second largest naval aviation museum.
A trip down memory lane
Find out about the fascinating history of Christchurch at the Red House Museum. Step into a bygone age and experience the charm and harsh reality of life in the workhouse when children worked from dawn to dusk making watch parts.
The Gold Hill Museum has an award-winning cottage garden and wonderful views over Thomas Hardy’s Blackmore Vale. At the top of picturesque Gold Hill, this modern museum tells the story of rural and town life, starting even before Shaftesbury’s notional foundation by Alfred the Great
For a relaxing afternoon, take a picnic to Sturminster Newton Mill and enjoy a country walk, the riverside views and a guided tour of the Mill.
Extraordinary days out
In Dorset we have an eclectic collection of museums that dedicate themselves to some wonderful themes.
In Dorchester, you can learn all about the young Pharaoh Tutankhamun at the Tutankhamun Museum with stunning replicas that transport you to Ancient Egypt.
Also in the county town of Dorchester you can visit the house of Edward Bear at the Teddy Bear Museum. Young children will love the larger than life teddy bears, each with their own story to tell.
On the Somerset border, the Montacute TV, Toy and Radio Museum has a fantastic assortment of nostalgic memorabilia from all your favourite TV shows. Just beware of the daleks!
In the small village of Kimmeridge, you'll find the fantastic Museum of Jurassic Marine Life which is full of fossil finds from the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Find out about how they were collected and prepared by local fossil hunter Dr. Steve Etches MBE. And you can watch 'real' marine dinosaurs swimming above you as you look closer at the exhibits. You might be lucky enough to see Steve working in his laboratory or join him for a guided walk in Kimmeridge Bay.
Art galleries and exhibitions
There are some fantastic art collections and touring exhibitions in Dorset.
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth houses important collections of paintings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, world-wide collections and contemporary craft commissions.
At Kingston Lacy house near Wimborne you can view paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Brueghel and explore the largest private collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the UK.
View work by contemporary artists and designers at The Gallery in Poole. As well as displaying pieces by nationally and internationally recognised artists, the collections also include artwork on loan from major galleries and museums. They also run a number of events throughout the year.
Changing throughout the year, you can find touring exhibitions at Highcliffe Castle near Christchurch, Durlston Castle in Swanage and Exbury Gardens in the New Forest.
You may also like to visit some of our art gallery shops to browse or buy a piece of art created locally.
Book your stay today
If you’re looking to book somewhere to stay you will find the very best selection with Visit Dorset.
Luxury hotels, home-from-home guest houses and beautiful bell tents, it’s all to choose from.
Click the links below to easily book your accommodation online now: