Nine secret beaches in Dorset: Hidden shores in Dorset
If you’ve seen pictures of Durdle Door on a Bank Holiday weekend, you’d be forgiven for never booking a holiday cottage in Dorset again. But this splendid county on the South Coast is awash with secret coves and hidden sands, unspoilt by tourists seeking instagrammable photos. It’s true that the lesser-visited beaches along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast are generally lacking in amenities, which may account for the lack of visitors. But savvy travellers who pack a picnic will be greeted by peaceful shores and quiet, sandy bays.
1. Worbarrow Bay
Best for: Clear water that could belong in the Caribbean
Being managed by the Ministry of Defence, Worbarrow Bay and the adjoining village of Tyneham are restricted to opening at weekends and school holidays. Although these times could still capture an eager family market, the bay is a one mile walk from the village’s car park, which means that the turquoise waters and golden shingle beach remain unusually quiet.
Place to stay: Tucked away in the countryside, the detached Old Post Office Cottage sleeps eight, and is a tranquil getaway for family parties or small groups.
2. Chapman’s Pool
Location: Worth Matravers
Best for: A pre-swim hike
It’s a steep walk down to Chapman’s Pool, which is surrounded by impressive limestone cliffs that add drama to the sunny cove. The surrounding section of the Jurassic Coast is stunning, and if you’re interested in making a day of it, this beautiful beach could be the perfect mid-walk stopping point.
Place to stay: This traditional Cottage in Dorset has bags of character and everything you’ll need for a family holiday.
3. Eype Beach
Best for: Dog-friendly bathing
Close to the honey-pots of West Bay and Lyme Regis, Eype Beach is a quiet haven away from the crowds. Extending below the iconic peak of Golden Cap, and slightly west-facing, there are few better places along Dorset’s South West Coast Path to watch the sunset. Welcoming dogs throughout the year, and wonderfully quiet even at peak times, this beach really is a treasure.
Place to stay: The unique architectural design of The Wave has an incredible wow factor, with massive bi-fold doors making the most of panoramic sea views.
4. Church Ope Cove
Best for: Family-friendly facilities, including a small cafe
With the famous Chesil Beach providing a nearby distraction, many tourists don’t think to consider the long sands on the Isle of Portland. But with a south-facing shingle bay, Church Ope Cove is guaranteed to have all-day sun, with a fraction of the bodies. Snorkelling, swimming and paddle-boarding are all possible off the shore, while the cafe and toilets provide more amenities than others on this list.
Place to stay: Bowman’s Cottage has a real home-from-home feel, with exposed stone walls adding character and a well-equipped garden offering al fresco dining.
5. Mupe Bay
Location: West Lulworth
Best for: Smugly avoiding the crowds at Lulworth Cove
With perhaps Dorset’s most famous cove just next door, it really pays to do your research and hop over to the much quieter Mupe Bay. With an azure crescent that wouldn’t look out of place in the Med, this beach is quite startlingly colourful; bright turquoise next to dazzling white cliffs, and the pops of purple sweet peas that start poking out in the summer months. It’s a little bit of a hike from Lulworth, but well worth the effort.
Place to stay: The gorgeous Forge Cottage is an ideal home for a group, with three large bedrooms. Exposed beams and log-burners add a cosy charm.
6. Ringstead Bay
Best for: Safe swimming with low currents
Pack your beach games and your body boards, and prepare to stay all day at Ringstead Bay, which is one of the more family-friendly beaches on this list. With a nearby National Trust car park, a cafe serving up ice creams and cold drinks, and a handy toilet on site, this is a great pick for children. It’s also safe to swim off the pebbly shore.
Place to stay: You couldn’t get a more idyllic spot than Keets at Middle Acre. This rural shepherd’s hut comes complete with a wood-fired hot tub. Blissful.
7. Hengistbury Head
Best for: Wildlife lovers
Hengistbury Head nature reserve is home to over 300 types of birds, as well as 500 plant species and a whole array of small mammals and reptiles. These all make their home in a wide and diverse range of habitats, from woods to wetlands. Of course, this makes the adjoining Hengistbury Head beach a fantastic choice for nature lovers. Pebbles lead on to a sandy beach at next door Mudeford Spit, giving beachgoers the best of both worlds.
Place to stay: The ground floor apartment at 1 Blue Waters is absolutely perfect for a group of four, with close access to beaches, hikes along the coastal path, and nightlife at nearby Bournemouth.
8. Man O’War Beach
Location: West Lulworth
Best for: Peace and quiet
Man O’War Beach is another on this list with a steep access point, down the iconic cliffs of the Jurassic Coast Heritage Site to a golden arc that is part-sand, part-shingle. The hike down the cliffs is of course off-putting for some, but this simply makes it more idyllic for those seeking solitude. With crystal clear water and some photogenic rock features, this beach will provide a total life detox.
Place to stay: The lovely thatched cottage of Seashells is just a short walk to the nearest beach, with a beamed dining room and French doors to the garden.
9. Studland Bay
Best for: Taking your pick of long sandy beaches
This one is a bit of a cheat, but the extensive Studland Bay isn’t home to just one, but four idyllic beaches. Our pick for a bit of peace and quiet is undoubtedly South Beach, which is concealed by a slice of jutting out headland. Nonetheless, you’ll still have access to all of the amenities normally found at National Trust beaches, including a fantastic cafe that serves up both hot and cold food. Perfect for those unpredictable British summers.
Place to stay: House in Dorset sleeps seven and is filled with luxurious extras, including a ping pong table and a summer house.