The Best Things to Do in Dorset on Holiday
Ghosts, sea stacks and cute cottages await in this gorgeous part of England.
There’s a good chance that you’ve already enjoyed much of what Dorset has to offer. A perennially popular UK holiday spot, its beaches, natural wonders and English charm is second to none. You’re spoiled for choice for things to do in Dorset, so Plum Guide's list will help you to decide how to spend your time here.
Tyneham Ghost Village
For a bit of spooky history, Tyneham Ghost Village is worth seeing. Until 1943, this was a normal village, bustling with life. Then it was taken over by the military for what was supposed to be a 28 day training period, on the orders of Winston Churchill, in preparation for D-Day. But the villagers were never allowed to return, and even today Tyneham is under military control in the middle of an area which is used for training with live ammunition.
The village is only open at certain times of year and some of it has been destroyed and is in ruins. The school and church, however, are well-preserved, and offer a chance to see life exactly as it was in 1943. Just be prepared for your kids to start asking you about what it was like to grow up during the war - as if you needed any reminder that they think you’re old.
Old Harry Rocks
One of the area’s most famous sights, Old Harry Rocks should definitely be on your list of things to do in Dorset. Formed over millions of years by the erosion of the sea, this group of impressive sea stacks are approximately 65 million years old. And you thought that you were getting slightly grey around the edges.
Supposedly, their name comes from the legend that the devil used to use the rocks to nap on (Old Harry being a euphemism for the devil). Just don’t threaten to leave your kids on one of the stacks when they’re being so cheeky you could swear they were channeling the devil himself.
Lyme Regis is one of Dorset’s most popular towns - and for good reason. Nicknamed the ‘pearl of Dorset’, it’s one of the region's fossil-hunting hotspots, with the town’s beaches and cliffs dating from the Jurassic era. There’s even a yearly Lyme Regis Fossil Festival. The kids will love hunting for fossils on the beach (when they're not practising TikTok dances).
The food and shopping scene here is also top-notch, if you’re missing the amenities of the city. We’re big on the ice cream at Frank & Beans. Renowned foodie hotspot River Cottage HQ is also nearby if you want to learn how to make something to impress people at your next dinner party.
This cosily charming stone house is close by if you can't get enough of Lyme Regis. You’ll love the bottle green Aga in the kitchen; your little ones will love the vintage rocking horse upstairs.
This one for all you tortured literary geniuses (we know you’re out there, even if you now have a sensible day job). This cob and thatch cottage was where writer Thomas Hardy was born. Built by his great grandfather in Higher Bockhampton in 1840, it’s a quintessential English country cottage. With a garden to explore, you can make a very pleasant afternoon of poking around in Hardy’s house and bedroom (where he wrote Far From The Madding Crowd as well as others), which have been left exactly as it was when he and his family lived there.
If your family will tolerate you dragging them to another National Trust property (you can always bribe them with a cream tea) you can also visit nearby Max Gate, the house Hardy designed and lived in on the outskirts of Dorchester.
Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove
Near chi-chi town of Poole (for a nearby place to stay with sea views and a gorgeous garden, try this house on Sandbanks) is the famous landmark of Durdle Door. As one of the area’s most photogenic landmarks, it should be top on your list of things to do in Dorset. Found on the Lulworth Estate, Durdle Door is a huge limestone arch that has formed naturally due to erosion from the sea.
This is one of our favourite spots to go for a sunset picnic. You can park your car and enjoy a walk over the equally photogenic Lulworth Cove before settling in for some evening rosé and posh crisps while the sun sinks over the horizon. Then when you’re home, you can boast to your friends about the fact that you’ve seen England’s first designated (in 2001) natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in the same category as the Grand Canyon and Great Barrier Reef.
Dorset is one of our new holiday destinations, which reflect a desire to escape the city and explore the great outdoors. To help you book your perfect break, we've also compiled an overview of the best areas to visit in Dorset – just pick your spot, book a Plum Guide home and you'll be living the seaside dream in no time. And while you're in the area, take a look at our guide to things to do in Bournemouth too.