Over the weekend, I headed down to the Dorset coast for a road trip. Armed with a new TomTom satnav, a few very old CDs, and with one of my best friends in the driver’s seat, we headed out on the ultimate Dorset road trip.
Along the way we stopped at some of our very favourite spots on the Jurassic Coast and in Dorset. We also discovered a few new things – like our amazing seafood lunch at Rick Stein’s!
I’ve uploaded my route to the TomTom community (more on that below) and also written out the itinerary in full here – so you can recreate it. This is a perfect way to spend a weekend in Dorset, making the most of the gorgeous coastline and some of the idyllic countryside around the area. Think epic seafood, beautiful beaches, and some amazing geographical wonders!
RELATED POST: Fun things to do in Southampton, the perfect stop before you hit the New Forest.
Dorset Coast Road Trip Route
If you fancy recreating my amazing New Forest and Dorset coast road trip, you can check out the route below.
My version starts in Southampton, so you can take the scenic route down through the New Forest to Dorset. But if you’re coming from London, add in a stop at Winchester before heading to the New Forest. Keep reading for a look at the best stops along my epic Dorset coast road trip route…
RELATED POST: My First Solo Road Trip Abroad
New Forest Scenic Drive
First up is the New Forest. Despite the name, it’s not all that new! It was named the “New Forest” by William the Conqueror in the 11th century – because it was his new hunting ground. There’s loads to see and do in the New Forest, and to be honest, it deserves its very own road trip. But it’s also a very lovely drive and the best way to head down from Hampshire to Dorset.
READ MORE: 15 Epic England Road Trips
If you have time, take the scenic route through Lyndhurst, following the back roads through the national park. The A31 is quicker but not as pretty. Following the scenic route gives you many more photo ops, the chance to spot the famous New Forest ponies, and of course allows you to stop off at some cute tearooms or cafe in one of the idyllic villages. There are several routes you could take, but I like to head through Lyndhurst as it’s such a nice village.
Welcome to the Dorset coast! Our first stop in Dorset is at the stunning Sandbanks beach – famously the most expensive seaside town in Britain. In this millionaires’ playground, the average house price is over £660,000 – and many are worth several million. So be sure to keep an eye out for some of the amazing architecture as you drive around the peninsula. The beach itself is gorgeous, with a calm bay that’s perfect for watersports like SUP or kayaking. Stop for a swim or an ice cream, or do like I did and head to Rick Stein’s for a delicious lunch of local seafood.
RELATED POST: Best Beaches in Dorset – According to a Local!
Sandbanks Ferry to Studland
From Sandbanks, drive along Banks Road to the end of the spit of land. Here, you can take the Sandbanks chain ferry to Studland. The cost is £4.50 per car, and ferries leave every twenty minutes. Check the timetable here. The ferry crosses the entrance to Poole Harbour, which is the largest natural harbour in the world.
On the other side, you’ll be in the Studland Nature Reserve. The beaches here are more wild than Sandbanks, with sloping sand dunes laced with seagrass and wildflowers. It’s a beautiful area, and one that often goes overlooked – so take your time here. If it’s lunchtime, head to The PIG at the Beach for a locally sourced and foraged meal. Or, simply enjoy a nice walk along Knoll Beach or through the nature reserve.
READ MORE: 5 Dorset Gins you Have to Try!
The drive from Studland to Wareham via Corfe Castle is one of the most scenic parts of this Dorset coast road trip. Once you leave the cliffs and sea views behind and turn inland, you’ll be passing through idyllic countryside and farmland. This is also the best way to approach Corfe Castle. The iconic ruin appears as you pass beneath the stone bridge of the old steam railway, and it’s a pretty gorgeous sight!
Corfe Castle is one of my top recommended things to do in Dorset. With over a thousand years of history, this ancient castle has been a fortress for the Saxons and the Normans, a royal palace, and a family home. It was destroyed in the English Civil War, and now only an imposing ruin survives, perched on top of a hill and overlooking the whole of the Isle of Purbeck. Stop here for fascinating history, gorgeous views, and maybe a cream tea in the local village!
If you’re making this a two-day road trip, Weymouth is the perfect place to spend the night on the south coast of England. There are plenty of hotel options and B&B’s, especially along the seafront. But my recommendation is to stay in one of the AirBnb’s on the harbourside, as there are loads of unique options.
Weymouth is a super pretty, vintage seaside town with a gorgeous beach. Be sure to take a stroll around the historic harbour in the evening, with its colourful cottages and lively pubs. Grab some fish and chips for dinner, and eat them on the harbour wall as the sun goes down. Or if you want a sit down meal head to the Crab Shack cafe on Chesil Beach – a local favourite and a great place to enjoy the local seafood.
READ MORE: 50 Unique things to do in Weymouth
After a lazy morning in Weymouth (head to Cafe Oasis for breakfast on the beach) set off for day two of the road trip. The first stop is a Dorset coast icon and an absolute must visit if you’re exploring the Jurassic Coast: Durdle Door.
This natural limestone arch, forged by waves and weather over millions of years, is more than a fascinating geographical sight. It’s also in one of the prettiest bays along this stretch of coastline. The water is usually a vivid green colour, and the views from the top of the cliff back towards Weymouth and Portland are gorgeous. Be warned – there’s a pretty steep cliff path leading down to the beach from the carpark. Thankfully, there’s a small cafe and an ice cream stall at the top to help motivate you on the way back up!
My next road trip stop is right next door. You can actually leave your car parked at Durdle Door and take the cliff path over to Lulworth, but it’s a pretty steep climb both ways. If you decide to drive it, I won’t judge you. We did!
Lulworth Cove is another top spot on the Dorset coast. A white pebble beach skirting bright blue waters, it’s a really beautiful location, and the small village is also lovely to explore. Don’t miss the visitor centre to learn more about the Jurassic Coast, and to see some of the amazing fossils found on this part of the coast. Lulworth Cove Inn is one of my favourite places to get some lunch, and their menu features lots of lovely local food.
READ MORE: 50 Unique things to do in Dorset
The journey back to the A31 from Lulworth is another pretty one, through gorgeous Dorset countryside. If you have time, the 17th century Lulworth Castle is always worth a visit for some history or a walk in the peaceful, landscaped grounds. Or stop in any of the villages along the way for a tasty pub meal (I like the Olive Branch in Wimborne Minster).
If you’re staying overnight, don’t miss my guide to the best places to stay in Dorset. It’s full of great recommendations for everything from hotels and AirBnb’s, to camping and glamping.
So, there you have my ultimate Dorset coast road trip! It was such a fun weekend and a lovely way to see some of my favourite spots on the Jurassic Coast. I hope you’ll be trying it for yourself soon!
The trip was kindly supported by TomTom, but as always, all words and opinions are my own.