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How to spend one day exploring Dorset's beautiful Jurassic Coast - a full one day itinerary

Dorset's iconic Durdle Door on the famous Jurassic Coast

Dorset's iconic Durdle Door on the famous Jurassic Coast

Dorset is one of the UK's most visited coastal areas, famous for the Jurassic Coast - one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the UK. The dramatic cliffs and gorgeous beaches that make up the Jurassic coast is the reason that Dorset is one of the best places in the UK for a weekend break or summer holiday. Experiencing the stunning scenery along the Jurassic Coast is definitely the best thing to do in Dorset and not to be missed!

Myself and my husband spent a long weekend in Dorset, basing ourselves in the pretty town of Christchurch (see here for the best things to see and do in and around Christchurch and why it makes a great base for exploring Dorset), and I planned a one day road trip to visit some of the best spots along Dorset's Jurassic Coast. In this post, I'll share the route we took, covering all the highlights along the way so that you can see some of the best places to stop and see along part of the famous Jurassic Coast.

The Jurassic Coast is an area of geological importance and a natural World Heritage Site along England’s southern coastline. It is recognised as an area of natural, historic importance due to the geological value of the rocks, fossils and land-forms that make up the coast. The Jurassic coast spans from Exmouth in Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, however we only covered a small part of the area on my one day road trip.

Overview of my one day Jurassic Coast itinerary

Stop 1: Lulworth Cove
Stop 2: Durdle Door and Man O'War beach
Stop 3 - Swanage (passing Corfe Castle)
Stop 4 - Studland (to see Old Harry Rocks)
Stop 5 - Poole
Top tips for your one day road trip of Dorset's Jurassic Coast

An itinerary for exploring the best of Dorset's Jurassic Coast in one day

As we were staying in Christchurch, this is where my route starts from, but you can adapt the route to start at any other point in the area.

Stop 1: Lulworth Cove

From Christchurch, it was an hour's drive to Lulworth Cove, which was the first stop on our Jurassic Coast day trip. Lulworth cove is one of the best places to visit in Dorset and is well known for its geology, unique landforms and gorgeous views.

There are several short walks to viewpoints around the cove, as well as a small pebble beach, which is a great spot for a picnic or to enjoy an ice cream! There's also a gift shop, pub and food stalls. Parking does get busy here, and I would recommend downloading the parking app displayed on the pay stations to avoid the queues to pay. Paying for parking via the app also gives you the flexibility of extending your parking if you want more time there.

The pebble beach at Lulworth Cove on Dorset's Jurassic Coast

The small pebble beach at Lulworth Cove

From the car park at Lulworth Cove, follow the signs for the South West Coastal Path towards Durdle Door (it is a short but steep climb up the path and the views are gorgeous!)

Another gorgeous section of the South West Coastal path is between Ilfracombe and Woolacombe in North Devon - see here for instructions on how to walk this beautiful section of British coastline.

The walk uphill from Lulworth Cove and views at the top over the cliffs

Stop 2: Durdle Door and Man O'War beach

Once you've reached the top of the hill from Lulworth Cove, continue along the South West Coastal Path. The trail here is relatively flat along the cliff edge and offers stunning views out to sea. Continue along this path, following the coast until you reach the Man O'War beach and the famous Durdle Door.

The walk from the main path down to Durdle Door and the Man O'War beach is steep and uneven but worth it!

Man O'War beach on Dorset's Jurassic Coast

The view down to Man O’War beach

The steep path from the ridge leads you down towards both Durdle Door beach on the right and the Man O' War beach on the left, with short steps down to either one. Both of the beaches are shingle but are stunning. Durdle Door beach is slightly smaller, and more popular so it can be busy.

A great place to admire Durdle Door is from the grassy mound above the beach. Here you can get the best viewpoint of the Jurassic Coast's most famous landmark. After spending a while relaxing on the beach at Durdle Door, we headed back to the South West Coastal path and re-traced our steps to Lulworth Cove and our car.

Enjoying Durdle Door from the coastal path and on the beach

Stop 3 - Swanage (passing Corfe Castle)

From Lulworth Cove, we set off to our next stop - Swanage. On our drive to Swanage we passed another of Dorset's popular attractions, Corfe Castle. Corfe Castle has dominated the Purbeck landscape for around 1000 years and has been the site of numerous battles. Now a National Trust property, you can pay to explore the ruins of Corfe Castle, however you can see it at a distance from the road if you don't want to walk around it.

After viewing Corfe Castle as we drove past, we arrived in Swanage. Here you’ll find all the ingredients for a typical British Seaside town – mini golf, arcades, sweet shops, beach chairs for rent and plenty of fish and chip shops! It was a little crowded for us, so we took ourselves away from the main street and headed towards The Downs country park, with gorgeous views over Durlston Bay. If you visit Swanage, I would really recommend taking the short walk up to the country park, it was so quiet and peaceful and the views over the Dorset coast were gorgeous!

Durlston Bay from The Downs country park in Swanage, Dorset
Durlston Bay from The Downs country park in Swanage, Dorset

Admiring the views from The Downs country park in Swanage - a must see in Swanage!

Stop 4 - Studland (to see Old Harry Rocks)

Moving on from Swanage, we drove to Studland and parked at South Beach car park - this is a National Trust car park, so if you're a member, bring your card for reduced parking charges. From this car park you can walk to Old Harry rocks – a series of chalk rock formations and one of the Jurassic Coast's most well known viewpoints. There are many theories as to where the name came from for these formations – some say that they are named after the Devil and others say they’re named after a local pirate called Harry! Either way, it’s a nice walk around the cliff edge with gorgeous views out to sea. If you want a slightly longer walk, follow this 3.5 mile circular route from the National Trust.

After seeing Old Harry rocks, take a stroll along the beach at Studland bay and enjoy seeing the rocks from a different angle.

Old Harry Rocks on Dorset's Jurassic Coast
Walking along Studland Bay beach on Dorset's Jurassic Coast

Looking out to Old Harry Rocks from the cliff edge and from Studland Beach

Stop 5 - Poole

After leaving Studland, we made our way to Poole for our final stop with a Fish and chips dinner by the quay! The marina at Poole is very much a working port and is not particularly pretty but there are several pubs along the waterfront. We left Poole in the evening and got back to Christchurch around 9pm, having spent the full day on a little road trip of the Jurassic Coast.

We only saw a portion of the Jurassic Coast on our day trip, but we managed to take in some of the main attractions and towns, including Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, Corfe Castle, Swanage, Studland and Poole. It was a great day out and we managed to see so many of the highlights that make the Jurassic Coast and Dorset so popular. I would really recommend taking your own tour of the area, it's the best way to see everything that this part of the country has to offer.

Top tips for your one day road trip of Dorset's Jurassic Coast

  • Plan ahead. If you are following my itinerary, or doing a similar route with several stops, make sure that you plan ahead to make the most of the day. Research where to park your car and pin them on google maps so that you can navigate straight there and you're not wasting time finding parking. Also make sure that you find out how you can pay for the parking - most of the car parks we used we could pay via a parking app, but some still do require coins.

  • Take snacks. Let's face it, this is my rule for most trips I take, however short! But there are limited general shops along this route, so I would recommend taking some snacks for the journey. (Of course, there are several cafes and food stalls, but expect to pay a premium, especially around Lulworth cove and Durdle Door).

  • Fill up with fuel before you start your trip. Fuel stations are less frequent along the coastline, where there are not large towns, so fill up with fuel before you start your trip. This also means you won't be wasting time finding gas half way through your trip.

Like this? Check out some of my other posts for inspiration for your next UK break!

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