From choosing the perfect lodge for your holiday, to the amazing places to visit in Dorset, plan your first trip to the region with my handy guide.
Dorset – oh how beautiful you are! I know I’ve said this about a few regions of England, but I genuinely can’t believe it’s taken me so long to explore this magnificent part of England.
The county is known for its beautiful beaches (both pebbly and sandy), epic coastline and quintessentially English villages. Outdoor lovers will enjoy hiking, coasteering and water sports, while foodies will revel at the delicious dishes served at cosy pubs and gourmet beach restaurants.
So, whether you’re heading to the south west coast as a family and looking for activities for your trip, as a couple on a romantic break or just want some ideas for a where to go when all you know is those endless Insta snaps of Durdle Door, hopefully my guide to enjoying a relaxing lodge holiday in Dorset will help!
Check out the video and then scroll down to find out the highlights of our time in Dorset.
What to do on your first Dorset lodge holiday
We spent five days in Dorset, and packed a lot into our break. We visited ancient castles, pretty beaches, tried some activities and enjoyed some delicious meals too. Here’s a quick rundown of what I’d recommend doing on your first holiday in Dorset.
Explore Dorset’s Prettiest Villages
Dorset is home to lots of adorable villages with chocolate box houses topped with fluffy thatched roofs. It’s hard to choose my favourites, but I had to stop to snap some photos in both Abbotsbury and Milton Abbas.
Abbotsbury has a main street of thatched cottages, many decorated with pretty plants and flowers and some with benches outside too. I’d recommend stopping for a cuppa or lunch in the village, and taking a walk through the village. Afterwards, you could stop by Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens for a walk amongst the exotic plants. It’s a lovely pocket of Dorset, and easily somewhere you could spend most of a day.
Meanwhile, in the centre of the county is Milton Abbas – a picture postcard village of white cottages with thatched roofs and perfect green lawns. It’s not a coincidence that it looks this perfect, it was the work of England’s most famous landscape gardener Capability Brown and renowned architect William Chambers.
Langham Wine Estate
Ever since I visited the Albourne Estate as part of a weekend trip to Brighton, I’ve been intrigued by England’s wine scene. Many are surprised to hear there are several hundred vineyards located in England, with some excellent English sparkling wine being produced around the country. To add to my passion for vineyards in England, we’ve chosen to get married in one next year!
We had a lovely afternoon at Langham Wine Estate, checking out the beautiful vineyards (which, as this was the start of Autumn, had lots of grapes on the vines) followed by a glass of sparkling wine and a bite to eat. The wine estate is home to a small restaurant where you can pop for coffee and a slice of cake, or a light lunch, regardless of whether you’re in the mood for a glass of wine.
We tucked into a vibrant heritage tomato and goats cheese salad, a flavoursome (and beautifully presented) chicken satay dish and sampled a light English sparkling wine. As the weather took a turn for the worse, it was a great indoor activity for a grey afternoon.
After being a fan of the TV series Broadchurch, I was really excited to pay a visit to West Bay. It’s famous for its huge sandstone cliffs, with 140ft sheer drops to the ground below. Walking beside those cliffs made me feel so small!
It’s a beautiful beach, and a reminder of why this coast is known as the Jurassic Coast. In fact, the ridges on the cliffs show the falling sea levels from over 175 million years ago.
The most famous spot on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, Durdle Door is an impressive natural limestone archway standing in the sea. After seeing so many photos on Instagram over the years, I was really excited to see the sight for myself.
If you’re visiting for the first time, I’d recommend arriving early (car park opens at 8am) and taking a walk down to the archway. It takes around 10 minutes to reach the viewpoint, and from there you can walk down the steps to the beach too. We arrived just after 8am and only saw a few other people there, but by 9.30am around 30 school kids arrived by coach.
Also worth a look is Man O’War Beach which lies on the other side of Durdle Door. It’s a beautiful bay with rugged rocks, and with the crowds flocking to see Durdle Door, there’s a chance you’ll have this beach to yourself!
Find out more about visiting Durdle Door in my detailed guide.
Another of the region’s most scenic spots, a visit to Lulworth Cove is a must for your first holiday in Dorset. The cove is almost a perfect circle, best seen from the cliffs on the South West Coast Path. It’s a really cute seaside village too, with a fish and chip shop, a sweet shop and fishing boats bobbing around on the water.
Just west of Lulworth Cove is Stair Hole – a mysterious crater filled with bright turquoise seawater, caused by years of erosion. We didn’t have time to visit this time, but I’ve seen snaps of people kayaking and swimming there, and would definitely plan it into our next holiday in Dorset.
Standing tall on the Isle of Portland is this classic red and white striped lighthouse. The Jurassic Coast (a World Heritage Site in its own right) in this area is particularly rugged, with a few standing stones and scraggy rocks to explore at low tide.
As for the lighthouse itself, along with appreciating all 41 metres of the colourful tower, you can also climb to the top of it. We arrived after it closed for the day (much to the relief of my tired legs!) but I’ve heard the 153-step climb is well worth it for the views of the coastline.
Old Harry Rocks
One of my favourite walks was along the headland to see Old Harry Rocks. After parking at Studland Bay, it took around thirty minutes to reach the epic view of the chalk standing stones. It’s crazy to think that thousands of years ago the rocks once connected to The Needles on the Isle of Wight.
The views are absolutely breathtaking, and if you’re feeling brave, there is a path you can take which gets you up close to the main set of rocks.
You don’t have to be a history enthusiast to enjoy visiting Corfe Castle. As we drove into the village of the same name, we passed along the main street and couldn’t believe the incredible view of the castle perched on top of the hill. What a sight!
It’s amazing to get so close to somewhere with 1,000 years of history as a royal palace and fortress. Unfortunately, it was partially destroyed in the 1600s, but there’s something pretty special about the ruins that remain.
Don’t miss a wander around the village too. With old stone houses, a cute gallery, pub and sweet shop, it’s another contender for the prettiest village in Dorset. Find out more about visiting Corfe Castle in my detailed guide.
Kayaking in Weymouth
You can’t visit Dorset and not get out on the water. Whether you fancy hopping on a ferry tour of the coast, try your balance on a paddle board or enjoy a spot of kayaking, the epic scenery looks even more impressive once you’re viewing it from the ocean.
If you’re looking for activities to try on your first trip to Dorset, check out Jurassic Coast Activities. The most popular day trips are the Jurassic Kayak Tour, which takes you to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, and Coasteering at Portland Bill and Lulworth Cove.
I’d absolutely love to do the kayak tour along the Jurassic Coast, but with only a few hours spare, we decided to hop on some kayaks in Weymouth and create our own Dorset kayak adventure! It was lovely to take in the views, enjoy a bit of a paddle and work up an appetite for our next meal. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Weymouth – especially when the sun is shining.
Pirate Adventure Golf
In my opinion, crazy golf is the perfect seaside activity. Pirate Adventure Golf in Weymouth (next to SeaLife Weymouth) is a really fun course, with obstacles including treasure chests, cannons and even a tricky hole built inside a pirate ship.
It’s both fun and challenging, and is great if you’re looking for things to do as a family in Dorset. It’s located in Lodmoor Country Park, where you’ll also find the SeaLife Centre, Rio Grande Model Railway, Sandworld sand sculpture park and a 9-hole pitch and putt.
Fish And Chips In Swanage
Did you even go on holiday in Dorset if you didn’t have fish and chips by the sea?! After working up an appetite visiting Old Harry Rocks, we headed to The Fish Plaice in Swanage (top rated in the town) and sat eating our cod and chips on the seafront.
We watched kids jumping in the water, adults on their early evening rowing practice and tried to fend off hungry seagulls from our tasty dinner! I know it’s a quintessentially English experience, but I really believe that fish and chips taste a whole lot better eaten straight out of the paper, with a lashings of salt and vinegar, and a lovely sea view. It was a great way to round off our first lodge holiday in Dorset.
A Dorset lodge holiday with a difference
For our Dorset lodge holiday, we checked into a luxury lodge at Warmwell Holiday Park, run by Parkdean Resorts. I haven’t stayed anywhere like this in years, generally opting for holiday cottages or hotels on my breaks in England. It was a total revelation though!
Set in a pretty forest, with several lakes and lots of wildlife, it was a tranquil place to stay. We stayed in one of the newest two-bedroom lodges, which came equipped with everything we could need for a few days away. It was like a holiday home away from home! Actually, it was nicer, and bigger than our actual home…!
The best part? The hot tub on the decking area! During our stay, we used it every single day, and it was the perfect place to relax and unwind after a busy day exploring. There’s a restaurant, pool and entertainment area on site too, but in general we enjoyed the self-catering approach and ate out at a few country pubs during our trip.
While we were visiting as a couple (definitely recommend Dorset if you’re looking at romantic breaks), this holiday park would also be perfect for families or those with pets. It’s dog friendly, in fact we saw lots of owners walking their pooches in the mornings!
Each evening we spotted several deer grazing close to one of the lakes, plus rabbits hopping around in the early morning light and ducks quacking their way around the park. I loved the freedom of having a cosy home to come back to after our days out, and how comfortable and well-equipped it was. It made for a hassle-free break. This won’t be my last lodge holiday in Dorset!
I hope this post helps you plan your first trip to Dorset. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and be sure to check out Visit Dorset for more info on the region.
This trip to Dorset was sponsored by Parkdean Resorts. Check out what my blogger pals Vicky and Amelia got up to on their couples breaks in England here. As always, all opinions and content are my own.
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