Travelling to Dorset by Ferry or Cruise Ship

The spectacular coastline of Dorset has a range of options for visitors arriving by sea, whether travelling by private yacht, ferry or cruise ship.

The two main ports of Dorset are Poole Port - welcoming visitors from France and the Channel Islands and Portland Port - a favourite stop for cruise ships due the location on the magnificent Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

Poole Port


Whether you are arriving as a cruise passenger or arriving by ferry and beginning your adventures in Poole, the Port of Poole has a ferry terminal with rail, bus, cycle and road links. Poole is a great place to begin your UK holiday and is an attractive destination situated on the largest natural harbour in Europe.

Ferries arrive into Poole Port from the following destinations:

  • Cherbourg (Normandy, France) - travel with Brittany Ferries on this approximate 4.5 hour journey. Departures are daily, with a selection of daytime and overnight sailings available for a restful nights sleep.
  • Saint-Malo (Brittany, France) - travel with Condor Ferries (via the Channel Islands). Departures are daily and some sailings offer the chance to have a few hours in Jersey or Guernsey before your onward journey to Poole.
  • Jersey and Guernsey (Channel Islands) - travel with Condor Ferries. Departures are daily and are approximately 3 hours from Guernsey and 4.5 hours from Jersey.

Arriving at Poole Port with a vehicle

Whether arriving in Poole with your car, motorbike or motorhome, you will experience stress free travel when heading to your destination. There is a good range of accommodation in Poole or enjoy the picturesque drive across the county to your campsite or cottage. You will find that the majority of Dorset’s holiday locations are within an hours drive from Poole.

If you are extending your trip to include a tour of the UK, Poole is linked by the A31 to the M27, and from there to the M3 towards London. The A350 runs north from Poole to Bristol, and the A35 westwards from Poole towards Dorchester and Exeter.

When arriving back in Poole for your return journey, drivers are advised to head into the Town Centre and then follow signs for the Port.

Arriving on foot

There is a free shuttle bus connecting the Ferry and the terminal building and then a 30-35 minute walk to Poole Town Centre, Poole Railway Station or Poole Bus Station.

Arriving at Poole port by bike

Many Ferries operators offer free cycle transportation when traveling by bicycle if you pre-book. Poole Port has fantastic cycle links to the national cycle network and there are many cycle routes in Dorset, so you can begin your cycling holiday straight away.

Portland Port

Portland Port lies at the heart of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and offers a safe and sheltered, deep harbour.  These factors make Portland Port a popular choice with cruise ships, which bring thousands of visitors to the port each year.

Should cruiseship passengers have any questions when they arrive, Portland Port provides a 'Meet and Greet' team on the quayside, who are prepared with maps and local knowledge.  They are also able to translate any language for passengers to ensure that they have the best possible experience. As well as the Meet and Greet Team, passengers can expect to be met on the quayside by Stuart Cave, the local town crier.

Portland Port provides a complimentary shuttle bus service running regularly throughout the day, between the Port and the town of Weymouth.  Alternatively, if passengers wish to stay on the Isle of Portland, the shuttle bus can stop outside the gates of the Port, where Portland Castle is just a short walk away.

In the hour leading up to the vessel’s departure, there is musical entertainment on the quayside, using local groups such as the Quangle Wangle Choir and Weymouth Concert Brass Band.  Finally, to ensure the cruise ships departure and visit to Portland Port ends with a bang, the Nothe Fort Artillery Volunteers provide a spectacular three shot salute as the vessel pulls away.

Local attractions stretch from Stonehenge to Corfe Castle, with towns such as Bath, Salisbury, Dorchester and Weymouth in between.  If you fancy the national dish of Fish and Chips, and a sunbathe on an award-winning beach, then calling at Portland Port will provide that for you.

There are many suggested itineraries and excursions that can be taken when arriving in Portland, from exploring the Jurassic Coast to uncovering Dorset's rich history including castles, steam trains and picturesque villages.  

Whenever you arrive there will always be events to enjoy, local food to try and plenty of shops to treat yourself.

Make sure that go ashore to discover everything that this beautiful part of South West England has to offer. You will definitely want to come back again.

Other ferry crossings from European destinations to ports in the South and East of England

  • Guernsey and Jersey (Channel Islands), St. Malo, Caen, Cherbourg and Le Havre (France) and Bilbao, Santander (Spain) to Portsmouth
  • Roscoff (France) and Santander (Spain) to Plymouth
  • Calais and Dunkirk (France) to Dover
  • Calais (France) to Folkestone
  • Dieppe (France) to Newhaven
  • Hoek van Holland (the Netherlands) to Harwich
  • Main ferry companies offering services to these ports are: Condor Ferries, Brittany Ferries, P&O Ferries, Stena Line, LD Lines and DFDS Seaways.
What does your Dorset look like? Adventures on our epic coastline? Visiting attractions with family? A walk through the beautiful countryside? Or perhaps a chilled out evening eating and drinking with friends? Discover a sample of your #VisitDorset images below and share your love for Dorset using the hashtag on Instagram.