Dorset Beaches

Dorset has a wide variety of beaches to suit visitors all year round.

BOURNEMOUTH is one of the most popular resorts on the south coast of England. It has much to offer any holiday maker, as the town can boast a range of attractions and facilities to cater for nearly every taste. Bournemouth also possesses some beautiful beaches, with golden sands and safe bathing which are frequently backed by cliffs and a promenade. Safe bathing, the beaches have 'Kid Zone' areas, emergency lifesaving life rings at regular intervals. RNLI Beach Rescue provides 7 day a week lifeguard service from Southbourne to Sandbanks between May and September (10am till 6pm). The beach is patrolled by beach wardens over the summer and by full time, first aid trained inspectors throughout the year.

BOURNEMOUTH - HENGISTBURY WEST - The one-and-a-half kilometre long Hengistbury Head separates Poole Bay and Christchurch Bay and encloses Christchurch Harbour on its landward side. Most of the headland remains undeveloped and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the wide variety of plant and animal life it supports. Hengistbury is a south facing pebble beach below imposing limestone cliffs. There is no lifeguard cover or emergency facilities. Care should be taken, as there can be strong tidal currents.

MUDEFORD SANDBANK EAST, CHRISTCHURCH - This sand spit, bounded by Christchurch Harbour on one side and Christchurch Bay on the other side, has beaches on both flanks. The one on the harbour side is mainly of shingle and not recommended for swimming. The beach on the seaward side is sandy and the water is ideal for bathing. There is no lifeguard cover or emergency facilities. Liferings are available.

CHURCH OPE COVE, Portland - This beach is formed by a large expanse of limestone pebbles and is backed by cliffs on three sides which shelter bathers from the prevailing winds. Rufus Castle overlooks the beach which is south facing and safe for swimming. Privately owned beach huts extend around the beach adjacent to the cliffs. The beach is reached via a steep flight of steps which can be quite a climb. Bathing is safe close to the shore, but the offshore currents can be strong. The beach is not recommended in rough weather, or for surfing. There is no lifeguard cover or emergency equipment.

DURDLE DOOR EAST and WEST - Famous for the Durdle Door Arch, probably the most photographed view along the Dorset coast and one of the wonders of the British coastline, this beach is a narrow strand of mixed shingle, gravel and sand. The eastern end (Durdle Door Cove) is protected by the arch, while the rest of the beach is partially sheltered by a submerged offshore reef. The beach is bounded at the western end by Bat's Head, a chalk headland. All the cliffs backing the beach are steep and prone to occasional rockfalls, so climbing or sheltering underneath them is not advised. Care is required since there can be a sudden steep slope underwater. The western end can be cut off under certain tide and wave conditions. There are no lifeguards or emergency facilities at Durdle Door.

EYPEMOUTH - Eype - This beach is mainly gravel, with some sand depending on the sea conditions, backed by blue lias clay cliffs which are unsafe and dangerous to climb. Considered fairly safe bathing with normal precautions. No lifeguard cover.

HIVE BEACH, BURTON BRADSTOCK - A 1 1/4 mile long, gently sloping coarse sandy beach overlooked by farmland and cliffs. Beware of strong tides and currents and of being cut off by tides. Swimmers are responsible for their own safety as there are no lifeguards.

LYME REGIS – COBB - The picturesque harbour town has an international reputation for its Jurassic cliffs containing a vast array of fossils, which may be found along the foreshore. It is also widely known as the setting for 'The French Lieutenant's Woman'. The sandy beach adjoins the Cobb - a large stone breakwater made famous in the film version of the novel. There are no lifeguards at the beach but there is lifesaving equipment on the promenade and volunteer first aid/ambulance available.

POOLE - BRANKSOME CHINE - This is a safe beach. It is covered by the RNLI Beach Rescue Lifeguards, and has a lost children's patrol from May - September.

POOLE HARBOUR LAKE - This beach, used mainly by residents, has a partially sandy shoreline, descending to mud. Beach is a shoreline in a natural harbour. There are no lifeguards on duty. Bathers must be wary of passing boat traffic, personal watercraft (jet skis) and adjacent high speed marine military traffic.

POOLE SANDBANKS CAR PARK - This extremely popular beach consists of a fringe of soft golden sand, stretching over five kilometres from the tip of Sandbanks Spit, to merge with the beaches of Bournemouth. At the southwest end of the spit the beach is edged by dunes and overlooked by the Sandbanks Pavilion and recreation area. The adjacent beach of Shell Bay lies just across the mouth of Poole Harbour and can be reached by a connecting car and passenger ferry. Safe, except at the extreme western end of the beach near the harbour entrance. Warning signs indicate where not to swim. RNLI Beach Rescue provides a 7 days a week lifeguard service on the beach between May and September, 10am till 6pm. There is also a lost children's patrol from May - September.

POOLE SHORE ROAD, SANDBANKS - This is a narrow beach with a promenade. There are scenic views across the harbour to Brownsea Island and Purbeck Hills, providing an excellent backdrop for sunsets. Shore Road beach is popular with a continental feel due to its Mediterranean style café and the brasserie by the beach. Safe in the shallow waters. RNLI Beach Rescue provides a 7 days a week lifeguard service on the beach between May and September. There is also a lost children's patrol from May - September.

SANDSFOOT CASTLE and CASTLE COVE, PORTLAND HARBOUR - The Portland Harbour beaches are small and secluded. The beaches are on a spit, just like the neighbouring Chesil Beach starting at the ruins of Castleton Castle. Castle Cove is a small, privately owned sandy beach backed by cliffs. Sandsfoot is a sandy area and forms part of the harbour surround. There is no lifeguard cover and no emergency facilities at the beaches.

RINGSTEAD BAY - 700 yards of shingle beach once used by smugglers, overlooked by unspoilt farmland and cliffs. The beach is quite a walk down hill from a National Trust car park. Swimmers are responsible for their own safety, there are no lifeguards at the beach.

SEATOWN - A steep shingle beach, set in a bay. It is more suitable for shore fishing than sun bathing. - There are no lifeguards at the beach but there are two Perry buoys. Bathers should be aware that this is a steeply shelving beach.

SHELL BAY - Located at the very tip of the Studland Peninsula, at the mouth of Poole Harbour, Shell Bay is a beautiful beach. Easily accessed by road, or, for those who enjoy boat trips, by ferry from Sandbanks spit. The bay forms part of the Purbeck Heritage Coast and lies next to the Studland Heath National Nature Reserve, providing plenty to occupy nature lovers. Generally safe, though strong currents occur near harbour entrance. Patrolled by wardens, who have first-aid training, from May - September.

STUDLAND - Studland Bay has four miles of white sand backed by sand dunes. At the northern end of the bay is a naturist beach. The beach forms part of the Studland National Nature Reserve. The beach is generally safe with long stretches of shallow water. Wardens with first aid training patrol during the summer and there is a safety boat in operation at peak times.

SWANAGE – CENTRAL - The safe, sheltered bay is flanked by magnificent chalk headlands on either side. The gently sloping sands form a good family beach with a promenade, providing all the facilities of a small seaside resort. There is a safe bathing zone provided.

WEYMOUTH CENTRAL and LODMOOR - Weymouth is a classic beach resort at the heart of the newly designated "World Heritage Coast". The beach is mainly fine sand with some shingle and pebbles at the north end. The seafront is mainly Georgian, with a central beach adjacent to the town centre and harbour. The bay is sheltered and swimmers and other water users benefit from the gradually sloping sea bed giving shallow inshore waters. RNLI Beach Rescue provides a 7 days a week lifeguard service on the beach between May and September. Council beach staff operate inshore water and safety observation/patrols of the beaches between 9am and 6pm from Easter to September. Emergency throw bags/lines are situated along the beach and lifebuoys are provided on the Pleasure Pier adjoining the designated beach area. There is a separate buoy marked area for water sports outside the main beach zone.

WORBARROW BAY is a peaceful bay with a clean pebbly beach. It is a little off the usual beaten track, so you'll find it quieter during the summer than some nearby beaches. Situated between Lulworth Cove and Kimmeridge Bay, the beach is an easy 1km stroll (no hills!) from the car park at the deserted village of Tyneham. Swimmers are responsible for their own safety, there are no lifeguards at the beach.