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50 Unique Things to do in Dorset

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View of Durdle Door at sunset from a grassy clifftop looking down at the shingle beach and the large rock archway over the sea. Things to do in dorset

Looking for all the best things to do in Dorset for your next British staycation? I’ve got you covered.

If you want to discover the BEST sights, the more unique and unusual activities, and some of the lesser-known secret places in Dorset… you need to ask a local.

I grew up right here, in Weymouth, and now live in the “county town” of Dorchester. I’ve spent my whole life exploring this beautiful county, so I like to think I know all the best places to visit, the best cliff walks, and the most fun things to do.

If you’re looking for the top attractions in Dorset, click here to check out a shorter overview on my Dorset Travel Guide website. But if you’re after the more unusual activities, and things only locals know about, read on!

Along with my lovely dad, who is possibly the most patriotic Dorseter (Dorsetonian?) in the world, I put together this fab list of unique things to do in Dorset. A proper insider’s guide!

Not all of them are completely exclusive to Dorset, but they are all pretty unusual. And while some are new discoveries for me, most are old favourites – so this is a tried and true local’s guide to Dorset! Enjoy…


50 Unique Things to do in Dorset

Without further ado, here’s my list of unique and unusual things to do in Dorset – packed with local tips and fab recommendations.

The list is in no particular order, as the idea is to inspire. Simply scroll through and see what jumps out at you!

LAST UPDATE: Dates and details were last updated in January 2024. 

1. Marvel at Durdle Door

View from the edge of a grassy clifftop looking down at a bay with a curved shingle beach and a large rock archway over the sea. It is sunset and the sun is just going behind the cliffs with lens flare. Durdle door is one of the best things to do in dorset

This geographical wonder is possibly one of Dorset’s most iconic attractions. A massive rock archway over the sea, Durdle Door was created by erosion some 140 million years ago. It’s part of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site famous for its geographic marvels (like Durdle Door), fossils, and stunning landscapes.

RECOMMENDED TOUR: Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door Coach Trip – from £30

RELATED POST: 19 of the Best Dorset Beaches

2. Spend a Night in Clavell Tower

Four storey circular tower with smooth peach coloured walls and pillars around the bottom floor standing in a grassy field with countryside behind. Unique places to stay dorset
Image credit: The Landmark Trust

If you’re looking for the most unusual place to stay in Dorset, Clavell Tower could well be it. Also known as Clavell Folly or Kimmeridge Tower, it’s a Tuscan-style tower which was built in 1830 on top of a cliff overlooking Kimmeridge Bay. It’s a Grade II listed building with four stories, and it can be booked as a whole property on a self-catering basis. Awesomely extravagant!

Check out my guide to the best places to stay in Dorset for some more fab recommendations! 

3. Watch a Movie on a Castle

Large medieval style castle with turretted towers on either side and a big cinema screen set up on front showing a scene from JAWS with a close up of the shark
Jaws at the Luna Cinema at Lulworth

Dorset’s outdoor cinema at Lulworth Castle, courtesy of the Luna Cinema, might be the coolest cinema experience imaginable. Classic movies are projected onto a big screen in front of a 17th-century stone castle. I mean, what could be cooler than that?

Next Dates – TBC (usually in the Summer holidays)

4. Kayak the Jurassic Coast

Looking down from a cliff top at several large white rock stacks in the sea with two people kayaking next to them on the jurassic coast

Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is unique. It’s a 95-mile stretch of coastline running from East Devon to Dorset, where the rocks and fossils reveal 185 million years of history, and where unusual rock formations and dramatic cliffs tower above the sea.

Could there be a more epic setting for a kayaking trip? Rent a kayak and explore solo, or book yourself onto one of the numerous kayaking tours along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

5.  Hunt for ghosts at Knowlton Church

small ruins of a stone church surrounded by an earth circle covered in long grass and wildflowers on a sunny summers day

Reputedly one of Dorset’s most haunted spots, Knowlton Church is a ruined stone church at a lonely site near Wimborne. The Norman church was built in the 12th century at the centre of a Neolithic ritual henge earthwork (earth and stone circles, like Stonehenge).

There have been numerous ghost sightings at Knowlton: the most common ones include a cloaked figure, a weeping nun, and a phantom horse and rider. Ghosts or not, it’s a pretty area and one with spiritual significance, since the Christian church was built on a Pagan site as part of an effort to stamp out local Pagan beliefs.

6. Crack Open a Conker Gin

Close up of a glass bottle of Conker Spirit Dorset Dry Gin on a white table top next to a brushed metal vase and a copper coloured shot measurer and long cocktail spoon.

I was ecstatic to discover that Dorset now has it’s own gin distillery. Established in 2014, Conker Spirit was the first Dorset gin distillery, and it has plenty of local notes.

The botanicals include local elderberries, samphire, and handpicked New Forest gorse flowers – infusing the gin with the spirit of Dorset. Check prices here

READ MORE: 5 Dorset gins you need to try

7. Get a Massage in a Shepherds Hut

Interior of a small wooden shepherds hut with exposed wood walls and a small shelf unit at the end, in front there is a single bed with a massage fitting and a woodlen tartan blanket
Treatment room in a shepherds hut. ©2013 THE PIG

At Studland Bay’s THE PIG on the Beach, there are plenty of unique experiences to keep you busy. You can sleep in a converted dovecote or in a luxurious glamping hut with stunning sea views.

You can eat from a “25-mile menu” that changes by the minute depending on what the forager finds or what’s fresh in the kitchen garden. Or, you can get a massage in one of the two cosy shepherd’s huts on a clifftop location overlooking Harry’s Rock.

8. Fossil Hunt at Lyme Regis

Spiral shaped ammonite fossil in a large grey rock on the beach at Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis was the birthplace of British fossil hunting. Local lady Mary Anning collected and sold fossils from the local beaches, and became famous after discovering the first complete ichthyosaur to be found in England. Large fossils and the remains of sea creatures like plesiosaurs are still found today – although it’s more likely that you’ll find an ammonite, which are more common here.

Don’t Miss the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival – 9th June 2024

9. Follow Enid Blyton’s Footsteps

a group of 2 men and 2 women wearing brightly coloured t shirts running throguh a field of wildflowers with a ruined castle in the background
Re-enact the Famous Five at Corfe Castle. ©VisitBritain / Rod Edwards

Did you, like me, grow up listening to the stories of the Famous Five, the Faraway Tree, and Noddy? The author of those beloved children’s stories, Enid Blyton, spent her life holidaying in Dorset and adored the area.

She used many of our local landscapes as inspiration for scenes in her novels, especially the Famous Five. The ruined Corfe Castle became Kirran Castle, while Brownsea Island became Whispering Island and Mystery Moor was supposedly based on the heath between Stoborough and Corfe. So pack a picnic with some spotted dick and lashings of ginger beer, and go have yourself an adventure!

10. Spot Red Squirrels Brownsea Island

Close up of a red squirrel on a tree branch eating a nut with bright sunshine behind on Brownsea Island in Dorset

Speaking of Brownsea Island, it’s worth a mention in its own right. The island can be found inside Poole Harbour – which is one of the largest natural harbours in the world – and is one of the top things to do in Poole. It’s now a nature reserve and National Trust site, and one of the only places in the UK where you can still spot red squirrels, which are almost extinct on the mainland.

RECOMMENDED TOUR: Poole Harbour and Islands Cruise

11. Gorge Yourself at the Dorset Seafood Festival

white paper tray with steamed mussels on a bed of lettuce resting on the side of a large circular pan with fish being fried on it
Image credit: Dorset Seafood Festival

Now for something from my hometown of Weymouth! The annual Dorset Seafood Festival is one of my favourite local events and it’s a great way to discover our amazing local food and drink.

For two days, Weymouth Harbour is lined with bustling stalls selling local produce, and there are usually plenty of events on too. It’s not just about the seafood, which is top-notch: there’s something for everyone, from locally made cheeses and chutneys to Thai curry. Bring an appetite and plenty of cash!

Next dates – September 2024 (exact dates TBC)

READ MORE: Check out these 50 unique things to do in Weymouth to help plan your visit! 

12. Visit “Broadchurch” at West Bay

beach with golden sand with tall orange coloured cliffs alongside taken a tgolden hour with strong gold light at West Bay in Bridport Dorset

Broadchurch was one of the most successful British TV shows of recent years, with all three seasons winning several BAFTA awards. Almost all of the show was shot on location in Dorset’s West Bay and the surrounding coastline. Download the Broadchurch Trail route map here.

13. Swanage Railway

Black steam train pulling carriages running along a railway line next to a ruined castle on a hill
Steam train passing Corfe Castle. Image Credit: Andrew P.M. Wright

If you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia, you really can’t beat a ride on the gorgeous Swanage Railway, which is one of the best-preserved steam railways in the country. The historic station at Swanage has been beautifully restored to give the full vintage experience, and the trains run through the heart of the idyllic Purbeck countryside, passing Dorset’s iconic Corfe Castle on the way.

RECOMMENDED TOUR: Steam Train and Sea Cruise Adventure

14. Visit the “Colour Changing” Blue Pool

Large circular lake with very bright turquoise water surrounded by trees at Blue Pool in Dorset

One of Dorset’s less-known attractions, Blue Pool is a peaceful spot where the water changes colour as if by magic. the “pool” is a former quarry that was flooded to form a large lake, and the colour is due to the very fine clay suspended in the water. This diffracts light in different ways, causing the colour of the pool to vary as a result. Sometimes it’s blue, sometimes green or turquoise, but it’s always beautiful.

15. Meet the Chimps at Monkey World

Close up of an orangutan's face with one arm lifted above her head
Bulu Mata – © MonkeyWorld2015

Monkey World in Dorset is one of the UK’s only ape rescue and rehabilitation centres, and it’s a true sanctuary for over 250 adorable primates. Originally founded to provide a refuge for tourist beach chimps rescued from Spain, the park is now home to more than twenty species and all of them have been rescued – from labs, circuses, pet shops, or TV.

Visiting isn’t just a chance to learn more about monkeys and apes, or to get cute photos of baby orangutans at the nursery. You’ll also be supporting Monkey World’s important rescue and rehabilitation work – as they rely on ticket sales to fund this.

16. Stay at a Vineyard

English wine has really started to take off in recent years, and Dorset is home to several fantastic vineyards that are well worth a visit. If you really want to get stuck in, you can even stay on a working vineyard with an on-site winery at Melbury Vale Vineyard on the edge of Cranborne Chase. From here it would be easy to explore the other local vineyards, which include Langham Wine near Dorchester, Furleigh Estate in Bridport, and English Oak Vineyard near Poole.

17. Tackle Some of England’s Best Climbing Routes

Man climbing on the side of a sheer orange coloured rocky cliff face on Portland in dorset

The isle of Portland, connected to the mainland by a barrier beach, is considered one of the best sports climbing locations in the UK. Perfect for climbers of all levels, Portland has over 4,000 routes. Inland crag “The Cuttings” is one of the most popular climbs, especially for beginners.

18. Discover Dorset’s Iron-Age Hill Forts

aerial view of Badbury Rings a circular iron age hill fort with a small copse of trees on the top and several grassy earth ramparts around it
Badbury Rings

With over a thousand Iron Age hill forts in England, these are hardly unique – but Dorset is home to one of the largest (possibly THE largest) in Britain. Maiden Castle in Dorchester covers an area the size of 50 football pitches!

Dorset is home to several hill forts. As well as being historically interesting they’re also very pretty places for a walk – Eggardon Hill, in particular, is known for its incredible views.

Other forts worth a visit:

  • Hod Hill – another of the largest in the area
  • Badbury Rings
  • Hambledon Hill

19. Spend the Night in a Lighthouse

small white lighthouse building with a cottage attached, with green trim along the bottom of all the walls and windows
Anvil Point Lighthouse

Another pretty unique place to stay in Dorset would be in a lighthouse. There are two lighthouses in Dorset where you can book to spend a few nights. On the Isle of Portland, there’s the 19th-century Old Higher Lighthouse, a Grade II listed building with amazing views.

Down the coast in Swanage, there are two holiday cottages at the pretty Anvil Point Lighthouse.

20. Explore Lulworth Cove

view of a large semi circle shaped bay surrounded by white chalky cliffs topped with grass, viewed from a grassy cliff top with pink wildflowers in the foreground

Another of the Jurassic Coast’s geographical wonders, Lulworth Cove is a gorgeous bay with a pretty little village and a white pebble beach. A short but steep cliff path leads west to Durdle Door, while to the east you can find a unique fossil forest. Don’t miss the homemade fudge from the Doll’s House sweetshop!

Where to stay – I love Lulworth Cove Inn, which is about a minute’s walk from the beach. Check prices here.

READ MORE: My Perfect Dorset Weekend Road Trip Itinerary

21. Visit Thomas Hardy’s House

Cottage built from red brick with a thatched roof and a large garden filled with flowers and hedges - Thomas Hardy cottage near Higher Bockhampton in Dorset

Enid Blyton isn’t the only famous author to ever write about Dorset. Plenty of novelists have set scenes around here, and one of the best-known is Thomas Hardy. Just outside of Dorchester, you can visit the cottage where he was born, and in the surrounding countryside, you can explore the landscapes that feature so heavily in his works.

For example, Tess of the d’Urbervilles was set largely in South Wessex, a fictional county based on Dorset, as was Far from the Madding Crowd.

22. Check out the Views From the “Other” Hardy’s Monument

View of Hardy's monument, a tall stone tower with no windows on the side of a cliff covered in bluebells on a sunny day with a large leafy tree in the foreground. Black Down, Dorset, UK

Dorset was home to not one but two famous Thomas Hardy’s. There’s the author, and then there’s Admiral Thomas Hardy, the one from Nelson’s famous last words (“kiss me, Hardy”).

Not far from Dorchester is Hardy’s Monument – erected to honour the admiral’s service in the Battle of Trafalgar. It’s not the most exciting building in the world, but it’s on a hill with some amazing views. On a clear day, it’s possible to see as far as St. Catherine’s Point on the Isle of White, about 90km away.

23. Deer Spotting at Arne

Two sika deer in a heath with lots of pink heather nuzzling each other at Arne in Dorset

The RSPB nature reserve at Arne is Dorset countryside at its best. Heather, gorse, and ferns cover the gently rolling hills and cliffs overlooking Poole Harbour. The reserve is also one of the very few places in England where it’s possible to see sika deer in the wild.

24. Meet Britain’s Largest Eagle!

Eagle with black feathers and  white head with its wings spread open about to land on an outstretched hand with a leather glove at Dorset Falconry Park

Just outside of Dorchester in Lewell, you’ll find the only falconry park in Dorset. At Dorset Falconry Park you can meet a huge variety of birds of prey – including Britain’s largest eagle. The park is also home to vultures, falcons, owls, hawks and other eagles.

It’s a lovely, family-run park with lots of outside space to enjoy, as well as a small cafe. They run daily shows where you can watch birds of prey being exercised, flown and trained in the meadow. It’s an incredible show, very popular with the kids in my family, and offers a rare chance to see some magnificent birds up close.

25. Try a sip of Piddle

Dorset has its fair share of breweries, so if beer’s your drink of choice make sure to check out some of the local brews while you’re visiting. Name-wise, you really can’t beat Piddle Brewery, named after the River Piddle near Dorchester.

Other Dorset breweries worth a visit:

26. Explore a Ghost Village at Tyneham

Ruined stone houses with empty windows and no roofs next to a grassy lawn with trees behind. 50 unique places dorset
Abandoned homes at Tyneham

One of my personal favourite places in all of Dorset, Tyneham is a fascinating little place. The village was taken over by the military in 1943 to use for training during the Second World War, and all the residents had to leave their homes as a result.

Sadly, they were never allowed to return, so the village was eventually left abandoned. Most of the homes are ruins which can be explored freely. Others, such as the tiny schoolhouse, have been restored to show what country life would have been like before WWII.

27. Take a Walk on the Cerne Giant’s Willy

grassy hillside covered in sheep with a large chalk carving of a nude giant holding a large club overhead with a very large erect penis

It’s hard not to be a little bit childish when you’re confronted with the Cerne Abbas Giant, standing proudly to attention on the side of a hill. The origins and age of the chalk figure are uncertain – it might be a Celtic version of Hercules, a Saxon god, or 17th-century political satire, depending on which historian you believe. Either way, it’s worth a peep!

28. Meet the Tolpuddle Martyrs

Close up of the head and shoulders of two bronze statues of men with roughly carved faces - the Dorset Tolpuddle Martyrs Statues in Dorchester

The village of Tolpuddle, near Poole, was the home of one of Britain’s first trade unions. In 1834, six local workers formed a union in order to protest their pay – which was the equivalent of 30p a week in today’s money. They were arrested, tried, and exported to Australia under terrible conditions.

After the trial, Britain’s working classes rose up in a campaign of demonstrations and petitions which eventually freed the six men, now known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Today there’s an annual festival marking the historic events, as well as a small museum and a Martyr’s trail through the village to learn more.

Annual festival – 19th to 21st July 2024

29. Throw Yourself off a Jurassic Cliff

boy wearing a black wetsuite, red helmet and red lifejacket jumping away from the camera off a cliff towards the sea - unique things to do in dorset
My nephew braving a 26-foot leap into the sea!

If you fancy a more adrenaline-pumping way to explore the Jurassic Coast, why not try throwing yourself off it? There are loads of coasteering companies in the area which offer a whole new perspective on the rocks, cliffs, and waves of the coastline – by completely immersing you in them!

I did this with Lulworth Outdoors and had an amazing time. We climbed along cliffs, jumped into the water from various heights, and explored caves and tunnels that you’d never see any other way. I’d do it again in a heartbeat – so I highly recommend it! 

30. Visit “Postcard England” on Gold Hill

steep hill with a cobbled road and a row of terraced stone cottages with red tiled roofs with a view of green countryside and woodlands beyond

In the small village of Shaftesbury is one of Dorset’s most attractive streets. Gold Hill is a steep cobbled street lined with stone cottages, and it’s considered one of the prettiest sites in the county. You might also recognise it from the famous Hovis ad! This really is picture-postcard England.

31. Attend a Festival in a Castle

Large crowd of people at a festival holiding flags in front of a medieval grey stone castle with turretted towers on either side of the facade on a very sunny summers day
Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle. Image credit: Bestival

The family-friendly festival Camp Bestival is held every summer in Dorset’s very own Lulworth Estate. Could there be a more epic setting for a festival than the grounds of a 17th-century castle?

Camp Bestival has always been held at the castle and it’s one of the top family-friendly festivals in England. The festival always features a host of entertainment such as comedians, kid’s TV presenters, fairground rides, and fireworks. They also have the World’s Biggest Bouncy Castle (yes please).

Camp Bestival – 25th – 28th July 2024

32. Climb the Highest Point on the South Coast

View from a grassy clifftop of Golden Cap a large cliff in Dorset England with a beach visible in front of the Cap and the blue sea beyond

Yet another amazing feature on the Jurassic Coastline is the Golden Cap. This striking, gold-coloured cliff is the highest point on the south coast of England. Despite being about twice the height of the White Cliffs of Dover, very few people have heard of it, which means you have a pretty good chance of having the Golden Cap’s stunning coastal views all to yourself.

33. Buy Something Totally Unique at Poole Pottery

Poole Pottery is a famous brand of English pottery. The factory and outlet store used to be found on the Quay in Poole, but unfortunately, these closed a couple of years ago. However, Studio at Poole is still found on the Quay and is the largest independent retailer of Poole Pottery.

As well as a wide range of stunning ceramics and homewares, they also have a “Have-a-Go” painting area of bisque-ware animals or plaques. Perfect for a rainy day activity! Browse the range here.

34. Explore Corfe Castle

looking up at the ruins of a grey stone castle on top of a grassy hill on a very sunny day

I’ve already mentioned it in this post as the inspiration for Kirran Castle, but Corfe Castle is definitely worth exploring. The thousand-year-old ruined castle is one of the most iconic survivors of the English Civil War – so it’s a great place to brush up on your history. Keep an eye on the regular events for fun days out, like battle re-enactments and archery demonstrations.

35. Sleep in the UK’s Fanciest Treehouse

square wooden cabin on stilts surrounded by trees in a forest - unique places to stay Dorset
Woodsman’s Treehouse. Image credit: Crafty Camping

Crafty Camping’s Woodman’s Treehouse might just be the poshest treehouse in the country, and it’s definitely one of the most unique places to stay in Dorset. Featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, the treehouse has been built around a huge oak tree, and offers a truly luxurious experience in the tranquil woodland. Think outdoor showers, a wood-burning stove, and a copper hot tub on your balcony. Dreamy!

36. Sturminster Newton Mill

Looking across a calm, still river towards a red brick building at Sturminster Newton Mill in Dorset England

One of the few remaining working mills in Dorset, the old flour mill at Sturminster Newton is a really pretty spot on the River Stour. Worth a visit purely for the tranquillity and beauty of the surrounding countryside.

37. Explore the UK’s Most Expensive Seaside

aerial view of a small peninsula connected to the mainland by a long sandy beach

Sandbanks, near Bournemouth, is Britain’s most expensive seaside town, and by area, the tiny peninsula has the fourth-highest land value in the world! It’s been nicknamed “Britain’s Palm Beach” because of the area’s insane property prices and golden sands. When you’re done ogling at the mansions, the beach is one of the most beautiful in the area, or you can take the ferry over to Studland for the quieter, dune-ridden Knoll Beach.

READ MORE: Ultimate Dorset Coast Road Trip

38. Russell Coates Museum in Bournemouth

A Grade II listed building just steps from Bournemouth Beach, the Russel Coates museum is a lavish seaside villa which was bought in 1901 by Merton Russell-Cotes as a (rather extravagant) birthday present for his wife Annie. Over the years they filled it with an eclectic collection of art and exotic items from around the world, creating a weird and fascinating museum.

39. Hunt the Whistling Gunner at Nothe Fort

Row of men dressed in historic soldiers uniforms with red jackets, white houses and tall black hats holding rifles and facing forwards.
Soldiers lined up at Nothe Fort in Weymouth. ©VisitEngland/Weymouth and Portland Borough Council

Possibly haunted and full of dimly lit underground passageways, the Victorian fort overlooking Weymouth harbour is one seriously fascinating place to explore. It’s also been voted as one of the spookiest places in Britain

The Nothe Fort was built in 1872 and played an important role in WWII, and today it’s a lovely museum with lots of creepy passageways to explore. The fort is apparently home to the “Whistling Gunner”, a restless spirit who haunts the underground passageways of the fort with his eerie whistling.

READ MORE: 50 unique things to do in Weymouth and Portland 

40. Dorset Water Park

boy wearing a black wetsuit and a blue lifejacket jumping into a river in a woodland with a large green and yellow inflatable obstacle course behind him where there are many more boys wearing the same
Image credit: Dorset Water Park

Dorset Waterpark is a wet and wild woodland waterpark set in the stunning surrounding of the Purbeck countryside. This aqua-based, fully lifeguarded obstacle course is perfect for any weather – you don’t have to worry about rain if you’re planning on getting drenched anyway!

41. Cheese Festival at Sturminster Newton

several small wicker baskets filled with wrapped circular cheeses on a trestle table
Cheese a-plenty! Image credit: Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival

Dorset has plenty of food festivals on offer. But one of the most appealing is the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival. Founded in 1998 to promote local cheesemakers, the festival is a huge event and features a vast array of cheese. There’s other food too, with a real emphasis on local produce. But it’s really all about the cheese!

Next Dates – 14th-15th September 2024

42. Chocolate Making Workshop at Chococo

close up of a box of chocolates where the box is also made from chocolate
Chococo is home to the chocolate box of chocolates. Yes, it’s a real thing!

Gorgeous chocolate shop Chococo in the seaside village of Swanage were one of the first UK artisan chocolatiers. Using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients where possible, they’re producing some amazing handmade chocolates. And you can have a go at making your own at one of their fab chocolate-making workshops in Dorset.

43. Walk Chesil Beach

view of a long sandbank between the sea and a lagoon on the mainland taken at sunset with golden sky

If you went to school in England, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have seen Chesil Beach in your geography textbooks. It’s one of three major shingle structures in Britain, a barrier beach that connects the Isle of Portland to the mainland. Geographically it’s important, but more importantly, it’s a really pretty place for a walk! Starting at Portland you can walk all the way to Abbotsbury, where the 29km long beach connects with the mainland.

44. Bournemouth Air Show

5 planes in the sky flying in different directions from the same point in a semi circular formation, the central plane has a red smoke trail, the two either side have white smoke trails and the outer two have blue smoke trails
The RAF Red Arrows are a highlight at the Bournemouth Air Show

One of the most popular Dorset festivals, the internationally renowned Bournemouth Air Festival is now in its tenth year. There are events all over the town, with fly-bys and demonstrations in the air, and plenty to see at ground level too. The highlight is the display from the RAF Red Arrows, who are a British institution and always put on a great show.

Next dates – September 2024 (Exact Dates TBC)

45. Meet Mr Bankes at Kingston Lacy

Kingston Lacy a large stately home in Dorset England built from creamy grey stone with a grey slate roof and many windows, there are neat grassy lawns in front with a gravel path between

Who doesn’t love snooping around an English country manor house? One of the best in Dorset is Kingston Lacy, and it has fairly unusual decor thanks to one of the home’s earlier owners, William John Bankes. After being caught in an “illicit act” with a guardsman at a time when being gay was punishable by death, he was forced to exile himself and spent the last 14 years of his life abroad. While he travelled, William John collected art and furniture and had it all sent back to the family home in Dorset, creating a fabulous collection with a surprising history.

46.  Watch a Joust at Sherborne Castle

Dorset’s Sherborne Castle is a great place for a day out at any time of year. But throughout the year the castle hosts plenty of special events, and one of the best is the Jousting Tournament. Archery, falconry displays, jester workshops, and – of course – the action-packed tournament itself. A fab way to make history fun!

Next dates – TBC (check the site for announcements).

47. Visit the Church from Moonfleet

Very small single room stone church with a grey roof and grey stone walls visible behind a low stone wall and surrounded by trees
The church from Moonfleet also contains real-life links to smuggling.

Some of the most interesting aspects of Dorset’s history are the dark and dramatic stories of our smuggling past. And one of the more famous smuggling grounds was at The Fleet near Weymouth, an area immortalised in the novel Moonfleet. The tale of smugglers and treasure is set around The Fleet, and you can visit the tiny church that features significantly in the book.

48. Stay in an Old Smuggler’s Inn

wooden gate with a lantern hanging from it with a paved path leading down towards three terraced cottages, the left hand one has grey stone walls and a thatched roof, the middle one is painted pink with a grey tiled roof and the cottage on the right is painted blue and has a red tiled roof. There are grassy hills behind and a alrge pub garden in front. Smuggler's Inn at Osmington Mills in Weymouth.
Image credit: Smuggler’s Inn

Speaking of Dorset’s smuggling history, why not stay in the same historic inn they used to drink at? Centuries ago, the Smuggler’s Inn at Osmington Mills was a hangout for some of Dorset’s most notorious smuggling gangs. Smugglers with names like French Peter drank at the pub, and the leader of the infamous Charles gang owned the inn for a time.

These days, it’s a cosy pub with a few lovely rooms and a fab restaurant. Great food, plenty of local beers, and gorgeous views of the dramatic cliffs. Check prices here!

49. Old Harry Rocks

Aerial view of a peninsula with lots of fields over it and white chalk cliffs all the way around with several white chalk rock stacks leading away from the tip into the sea
Old Harry Rocks and Purbeck

You can’t get a more local recommendation for things to do in Dorset than from my dad – who helped me come up with this list. And Old Harry Rocks in Purbeck is one of old Daddy Luxton’s favourite places on the south coast. The three white chalk formations at Handfast Point form the most easterly point of the Jurassic Coast, and they’re pretty astonishing to look at. Perhaps one of the best views in Dorset.

50. Try Your Hand at Knob Throwing

two men in navy uniform with hats that say HMS Cattistock linking arms with a man facing away from the camera in an orange high vis jacket with the words Knob Crew printed on the back.
Image Credit: Dorset Knob Throwing Festival

The Dorset Knob Throwing Festival might have the best name of any festival, ever. It’s one of those wonderfully weird British festivals (like the cheese rolling thing) that’s kind of hard to explain to an outsider. It’s also not what you think!

A Dorset Knob is a kind of biscuit made by historic local biscuit company Moore’s, and the Knob Throwing Festival is a bizarre way to celebrate that local company by, erm, throwing their biscuits as far away as possible.

There are other games too, like Knob and spoon racing or “guess the weight of the big knob” (I swear I’m not making this up). And there are plenty of stalls selling Moore’s biscuits, as well as other locally produced treats.

Next Knob Throwing:  TBC – usually every 2 years, so around May 2024

Planning Your Trip to Dorset

Check out my new site, Dorset Travel Guide, for more information, including helpful tips, what’s on guides, inspiration, and more.

Hotels in Dorset – There are hundreds of excellent hotels in Dorset to choose from! I’ve recommended some of my favourites in this post, but there are many more. You can find all my recommendations for the best hotels in Dorset here.

READ MORE: Best Places to Stay in Dorset

Festivals – As well as the ones mentioned here, there are tons of other festivals in Dorset. From village fetes and seaside carnivals to music and film festivals, there’s so much on offer. Don’t miss the spring/summer food festivals for some fab local food too. Get the full lineup of festivals and events here to help plan your trip to Dorset!

Weymouth – Need some more inspiration? Check out my list of things to do in Weymouth and Portland, the sister to this post!

If you think something is missing from my list, please share it in the comments! Whether you’re a Dorset lover or a born-and-bred local, I’d love to hear from you. Scroll right down to leave a comment. 

Photo of a large rock archway over the sea on a sunny day with blue sky. The text over the top reads: 50 Unique things to do in Dorset

44 thoughts on “50 Unique Things to do in Dorset”

    1. Thank you Stephanie! Not many people seem to have heard much about Dorset which is a real shame, I think it’s one of the nicest parts of England! I LOVE Durdle Door so much ?

  1. A lot of these sound really fun, but I think it’s safe to say the writer doesn’t understand the meaning of ‘unique’.

    1. Haha yes, I’m well aware that not all the things on this list are completely unique. I did make that clear in my intro too – not everything is completely unique to Dorset but it’s all pretty unusual. And I think the majority are totally unique. There are other sea stacks and rock arches for example but there’s only one Durdle Door ;)

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment anyway!

  2. Amazing places to see in Dorset, I never visited but it feels like I personally visited each places, Specially I like Durdle door and Old harry, it looks amazing…

  3. A very interesting and useful article, thank you!

    We have just moved to Dorset from Kent as we love the area so much. Whilst we are more familiar with the Purbeck region, any recommendations for things to do / see / eat in Bournemouth or Poole would be very welcome.

    1. Thanks Clair! Welcome to the county :D Hope you’re enjoying your new home!! There are lots of great places around Bournemouth, I love that town! The Stable is awesome, it’s a local chain restaurant and they have amazing pizzas and pies. Plus you have so many events on there – the gin festival next weekend, the air show, all sorts. And if you haven’t been to Brownsea Island yet I really recommend that. So pretty!

    1. I notice you’re missing Poole Hill Brewery from your list of breweries in Dorset which located in Bournemouth Town centre. They make award winning ales and recently won Silver in the London Beer festival for two of their Ales Headlander and Grockles. They also won silver national for their best bitter in the society for independent brewer and gold in the south west.

      1. Thank you – I do need to update this post a bit I think!! Although I have a second blog post all about the best breweries in Dorset and your brewery is featured on that one:

  4. Emily, how could you have missed the 1920’s Art Deco Rex Cinema in Wareham? Not to mention Dorset’s own Purbeck Film Festival in October and it’s August outdoor Cinema in the grounds of the National Trust’s Corfe Castle and Studland Beach. You clearly have to come back again!

    1. Oh I know there were so many things I missed – our county has so much going on! I’ll have to come home for another visit :) I did NOT know Corfe Castle also had an outdoor cinema, that’s pretty awesome!

  5. Thank you Emily for your wonderfully comprehensive list of great places in Dorset. We are coming at the end of May staying in Bridport so we should be able to take in quite a few. Even more excited now after reading your list. Ashamed to admit that we don’t know Dorset but hope this will be the first of many visits.

    1. Ah how exciting, I really hope you enjoy your trip. There’s so much to see and do in Dorset, and the coastline is just stunning! Have a great time, and thanks for reading :)

    1. I don’t know – sadly it just doesn’t get the coverage that other parts of the south coast (like Cornwall or Brighton) do. But it’s a gorgeous place and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased!! Best coastline in the whole of England :)

  6. Hi – brilliant article – thank you for sharing your knowledge. Have recently moved to Weymouth, have had a great time exploring and have decided to work our way through the list !! Love Dorset !!

    1. Hi Yvonne! That’s awesome news :) First of all, welcome to Weymouth!! I don’t live there any more but it will always be home for me – such a nice part of the world. My dad still lives there and I still visit all the time – looking forward to the seafood festival next month :D Secondly, enjoy the post and enjoy Dorset. There are so many gorgeous places to explore – have a lovely time.

      I also have a post with 50 things to do specifically in Weymouth if you’re interested :)

  7. Thank you so much Emily! Brilliant article. My son had a power point presentation about travelling to Dorset with his little plush toy and it could not be more helpful and colourful to create slides about beautiful Dorset.

  8. Really well written and researched. I enjoyed reading through the list.mi have been here for 23 years and we love it. Westbourne also has the smallest cinema in Britain in the basement of a cafe in the arcade. It shows vintage films to a max crowd of around 10. Anyhow, just wanted to say, great job on this.

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Mike! That cinema sounds really cool – I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in the area. Might need to update this post at some point :)

  9. Wow, this is a really thorough list! I wish I’d seen it before we went last fall. I’d love to go to the outdoor cinema! Very cool. You grew up in a lovely area!

  10. Hi Emily , thank you for the fabulous list. One of my favourite places to visit in Dorset is The Sculpture Park in Portland. Free to access and close to Portland Bill this is a beautiful wild space full of sculptures to stumble across and discover and the most amazing view across Chesil Beach to Weymouth.
    Studland Beach is also stunning and The Tank Museum is much more interesting than you would imagine . Lyme Regis is always a fabulous place to visit .

    1. Thanks so much for commenting Alison :) I LOVE the sculpture park on Portland. We used to take our dog for walks there when I was a kid, and I loved discovering all the different sculptures. I must go back soon and see what’s new, it’s been a few years since I was last there.

      There are just so many wonderful things to do around Dorset aren’t there?!

  11. Hi Emily
    All spot on and you know that you have only just scratched the surface!
    Dorset is my spiritual home having been visiting since the age of 6. 50 + years on I still enjoy the child like excitement of boarding the chain ferry and then the wonderful view either side as you leave/drive towards the ticket hut.
    If we came across this view abroad we would comment and wax lyrical about how beautiful it all is and wish we had something similar at home.
    Having been to Australia and enjoyed Sydney Harbour & Noosa there is no need to go back as we have it all here in Poole Harbour. Ok the sunshine is less predictable but this week just gone has shown off the Dorset coastline in it all it’s true glory. Golden sunsets, turquoise crystal clear seas & pure blues skies. The staycationers hit the jackpot!

    1. Hi Andrew! Thanks so much for commenting – I love hearing how much visitors love my home county. Dorset is really such a special place isn’t it?! Just wish we could guarantee a bit more of that sun every summer haha

  12. My home county too, love the place. I probably knew of 40 of the things but you reminded me of some I had forgotten about as well as introduced me to new ones.. Thanks.

  13. Dorset has a lot to offer, from fossils to Iron Age Forts. The seafood festival looks amazing, as well as Kayaking the Jurassic Coast. When we plan a vacation to the UK Dorset is our target.

  14. This list is a goldmine of diverse activities! I never knew Dorset had so much to offer. The storytelling walk sounds fascinating; there’s something magical about history coming alive amidst such beautiful landscapes.

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