Mum and I booked 3 days in Dorset as a little getaway to spend some time together before I was due to leave for my travels.
I have wanted to visit the Jurassic Coast for ages so Dorset was the perfect location and opportunity to make this happen as it wasn’t too far from where we live in Sussex for a long weekend break.
This Dorset itinerary outlines how to spend 3 days in Dorset, but you could miss bits outs to shorten it or and add more if you are going for longer. But if you ask me I think 3 days is the perfect amount of time.
From lazing on Lulworth cove, fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast, walks around Abbotsbury to the famous Chesil Beach, wandering around Lyme Regis’s historic harbour and so much more! You can find something for everyone in this Dorset itinerary.
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The Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is the only place on earth where 185 million years worth of history are exposed in the dramatic cliffs, coves and beaches!
This coastline consists of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous cliffs spanning the Mesozoic – to get the best look at this unique display of history check out some local boat tours and admire it from the sea.
The 95 mile stretch ranges over two countries stretching from Dorset to Devon. The Jurassic Coasts outstanding value of rocks, fossils and landforms make it Englands only natural World Heritage site.
Where to Stay on the Jurassic Coast
3 Days in Dorset Itinerary
Waking up early on Sunday morning we wanted to spend the day at the beach as it was the last day of the August heatwave!
After looking up and down the coast at places to spend the day we decided on Lulworth Cove. This beautiful chunk out of the south coast provides the perfect pool like conditions.
We set off from Sussex about 7am and it took us around 3 hours to reach Lulworth Cove. Being 10am we didn’t expect it to be that busy so we were quite surprised when we turned up at the car park and it was already spilling out into the overflow field.
So my number one recommendation for Lulworth Cove is make sure you arrive early!
The water is calm and the cove is enclosed making it a safe environment for families with children. There is also only 1 way on and off the beach which can also give parents that extra peace of mind.
The water here was strangely cold, considering it is in a cove you would expect it to be warmed by the sun but it’s very refreshing. As always once you have your shoulders under its well worth it.
The water is amazingly clear but watch out for seaweed when the tide goes out as it gets caught in your feet.
You can walk to either side of the cove when the tide is out and have a look at the cave like formations in the cliffs or search through the sea weed in the rock pools.
There are plenty of amenities here including toilets, a visitors centre, gift shops and plenty of places to get food, drinks and ice cream.
Lulworth Cove is well worth a visit for the day if you are prepared to brave the crowds. I recommend packing up the car with everything you need and arriving early or visiting on a weekday outside of the school holidays if possible.
If you are an experienced open water paddle boarder you can paddle around to Durdle Door, if not and you have the energy you can take the coastal path as we did.
Head back to the car park and walk to the end, you will see a steep path of chalky steps heading up and over the cliff.
Continuing along this path it will take you about 20/30 min to reach Durdle Door, from here you can take the steps down to the beaches or admire the views from above.
We didn’t head down to the beach as it was about 28 degrees and we still had to walk back!
The views from above are spectacular, Durdle Door is a limestone arch created 10,000 years ago and you can see straight through to the ocean. This short stretch of path allows great views of the striking Jurassic coastline and is part of the 630 mile long South West Coast Path – England’s longest way marked footpath!
After walking back up to the car it was time to head to our Airbnb in Abbotsbury. We stayed at a bed and breakfast and our host Jackie was very welcoming and provided everything we needed.
The accommodation is self contained and set in the old part of their cottage, with plenty of space, a thatched roof and rolling countryside views it was our base for the next few days.
Waking up early on Monday morning we decided to head off around Abbotsbury and the surrounding countryside to explore.
Starting from the main street we headed down chapel lane towards St Catherines Chapel. Built in the 14th century by the monks of Abbotsbury Abbey it was used as a place of pilgrimage and retreat.
Sat on top of the hill in isolation its well worth a visit. Famously known for it’s ‘wishing holes’ women from the village would come up here and pray to St Catherine, the patron Saint of spinsters, and ask her to find them a husband.
We then followed the public footpath around the hills and down towards Chesil beach.
Chesil Beach is an 18 mile stretch of wild, untouched and rugged stones. It is separated from the land by Fleet lagoon, one of the few remaining brackish lagoons in the world to be undisturbed.
💡 The Brackish lagoon is home to Abbotsbury Swannery, which is the only managed colony of swans in the world.
The currents at Chesil Beach are very strong and it is not advisable to swim here due to the dangerous waters, however it is very popular for Mackerel fishing and sometimes on sunny calm days you can see them shimmering under the surface of the water as they swim past in schools.
During the months of April – August the seaward slope is closed to protect nesting birds and other protected species.
But make sure you take a walk up to the Anti Tank Blocks so you can look out along the Cobb. These blocks were placed here during the World War Two to prevent any tanks landing on the coast and being able to gain access inland.
There are many defences that remain in tact on Chesil Beach check out The Pill Box Study groups page to find out more.
After visiting Chesil Beach we continued our walk up to the swannery, we didn’t visit but if you want to its £12.00 per adult and £6.00 per child.
We continued up the lane towards the Abbotsbury Tithe Barn, this beautiful tithe barn is said to be one of the largest thatched buildings in the world and has been standing since the 14th century. Here you can visit Cherries cafe for a drink and homemade cake or admire the view of the ducks and swans besides the Abbey’s fish ponds.
Visit The Jurassic Coast
After we had returned to our Airbnb and given our feet a little rest it was time to head down to the Jurassic Coast in the hopeful search of some fossils for the afternoon.
There are many places along the Jurassic Coast that fossils can be found, the most popular spot is Charmouth however we decided to visit its neighbour Seatown as the fossils are just as common but the beach not as busy.
You can park next to Seatown beach. We paid £6 for the day, just note the time the car park closes to ensure you don’t get stuck as this varies all year round!
Arriving on the beach and heading right we felt a little lost and we had forgotten to have a look for the best way to find the fossils once we were there! Luckily after speaking to a family who had been very successful they said the best way is to just pick a section and start turning over rocks.
So we headed down the beach stopping and overturning sections of claylike stones as we went and it didn’t take long before we found ammonites and other fossilised sea creatures and plants.
‼️ Please be cautious of land slippage and do not stand directly underneath the cliffs.
As you walk alongside these cliffs its so incredible to imagine just how old they are and all the life that’s trapped from millions of years ago under the surface just waiting to be uncovered!
When it comes to fossil hunting my top tip is to be patient! There is no particular skill required for amateur fossil hunters it is just down to luck and perseverance, so keep at it and you will find some.
Make sure to time your visit with low tide if possible, you can walk all the way along to the end of the beach where you can see huge pieces of stone along the shore floor which hold fossilised Belemnites, relatives of the squid – these are a pretty special piece of history to witness.
You can head over to Jurassic Coast Trust to find more information on all the different types of fossils you can find along the Jurassic Coast.
Lyme Regis is a popular coastal town located about a 20 minute drive from Seatown and was the perfect way to end our day of exploring.
We were too late for the shops, but if you were to arrive earlier, there is plenty to keep you busy from clothes stores to boutiques and fossil shops.
We wanted to visit the harbour so wandered through the streets down to the seafront.
Once we arrived on the beach I noticed it is very unique, half has stone and the other sand! There is plenty around the promenade for you to eat and drink, it is also lined with beach huts that you can hire from the council for the day.
The Lyme Regis harbour was constructed in around 1300 which makes it one of the earliest harbours in England. The large harbour wall is named the Cobb and was built as a breakwater for both boats and the town.
Because of this Cobb Lyme Regis became an important ship building centre and major port for goods coming from The Mediterranean, The West Indies and the Americas.
On the other side of the harbour is Monmouth beach and at the very western point you can find the ‘ammonite pavement’ where large ammonites have been encased in the sea bed and uncovered over the years.
Did you know that Lyme Regis is also home to Lyme’s Fish Bar. This fish and chip shop was voted one of the top 5 in the UK. Make sure you arrive in good time and be prepared to wait as the queue was huge!
We decided to eat at Red Panda, its a take away asian street food restaurant. It was incredible and definitely worth a visit when you are in Lyme Regis. We had the superfood salad with rice and bao buns, the bao buns were some of the best we’d ever eaten and we ended up going back for seconds!
Sub Tropical Gardens
Tuesday morning marked our last day in Dorset however we didn’t intend to head straight home.
When we woke up the weather wasn’t great and we decided to visit the Sub Tropical gardens in Abbotsbury.
In 1765 the First Countess of Ilchester created a sheltered garden to provide fresh produce for the kitchen of the Castle located just off Chesil beach. Fields surrounding the garden were enclosed and over generations planting was updated and modified.
The 5th Lord of Ilchester and his wife Lady Ilchester trebled its size with plants collected from the Himalayas, China and Japan. It soon became one of the finest collections of planting in England at the time.
Sadly in the early 20th Century the castle burned down, it was rebuilt but due to major construction faults it was never habited again and stood empty until it was pulled down in 1934, during this time the gardens were also abandoned and left to grow wild.
Luckily in the 1990s a major restoration project began leading to the creation of the amazing sub tropical garden that we can visit today, at times you really can believe you are in Jurassic Park!
After wandering round the gardens for a few hours we had worked up quite an appetite so headed to The Abbey House for lunch. We had read some good reviews of the food and it did not disappoint. The weather had cleared by this time, so we sat outside on the patio overlooking the rolling hills and watching the cows lazily grazing away.
I went for the crab salad as I hadn’t eaten any crab yet and its something the English coast is known for while Mum had the Goats cheese and tomato tartlet. It was outstanding, very tasty, fresh and generous and so we would definitely recommend it.
It was the perfect way to end our 3 days in Dorset before we started our drive back home to Sussex.
Dorset did not disappoint and I would highly recommend you visit either for a fews days on its own or before you head down to the west country for a holiday.
Abbotsbury was an excellent location for this Dorset itinerary, right between Weymouth and the heart of the Jurassic coastline you’re guaranteed to see everything you want to.
Why not head up to visit another remarkable destination in England – The Lake District: