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Road Trip Dorset’s Jurassic Coast for Fossils, Pubs and Gorgeous Beaches

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Updated: 14th February 2024

I might be biased, but the Dorset coast is one of the best places you can visit in England, and indeed the UK. Being my childhood home, I’m ashamed to say it took me nearly thirty years to take a road trip along the entire 95-mile-long Jurassic Coast, but it was absolutely worth the wait. From pre-historic fossils to beaches so beautiful you wouldn’t believe they are in Britain, this is one of the best coastal getaways (or multi-day hikes) in the country.

The Jurassic Coast gets its name thanks to the 185 million years of history imprinted into the towering cliffs along the coastline. Long before towels and parasols dotted this coastline, Dinasaours were leaving their lasting impressions. Even now, you can occasionally still find fossils from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods while taking a stroll along the beach. Recently, fossils from mammals dating back 145 million years were discovered.

Beyond the mind-boggling discoveries in museums, you’ll be spoiled with shimmering shorelines, proper coastal pubs, fish and chips, and ample ambling coastal trails. All in, this is a top-notch three day road trip in Dorset. Or you can bundle it together with more of the best places in South West England for a longer seaside holiday.

How to get to the Jurassic Coast

From London (or other parts of the UK) you can arrive by train to Poole, Bournemouth or Weymouth. All three are good starting points to explore the coastline. Some European airlines fly into Bournemouth and Southampton, or it’s just a few hours by coach from the main London Airports.

How to explore the Jurassic Coast

While you can see a fair bit of the Jurassic Coast using a mixture of trains and busses, not only does this quickly get costly, but it will also be harder to visit some of the most scenic spots and limit your options for times. I’d recommend hiring a car to maximise time and have a true Jurassic Coast road trip. Keep in mind that this isn’t a fully coastal-hugging road trip. You will be mainly using country roads, taking detours down lanes to reach the coastal spots.

Be warned: parking is usually not free in Dorset, so you’ll need to carry about £20 of change with you for this road trip or use the parking apps where required. For this, an eSIM might be handy if you’re travelling from abroad.

Man O'War beach on the Jurassic Coast
Man O’War Beach is one of many spectacular bays along the coast

Where to stay on the Jurassic Coast

Good starting points are in Poole or Bournemouth, where you can pick a car rental to begin your road trip. There is a whole host of accommodations across the Dorset and Devon coasts, ranging from small BnBs to larger chain hotels. If you are travelling as a family or group, consider booking a cottage along the Jurassic Coast. Expect prices to rocket and availability to be low during the summer months.

For a more affordable option, check out Travel Lodges (a chain in the UK), which has some hotels at the start and end of the route. You can usually save even more money by getting a Travel Lodge voucher code, as they don’t usually have rooms bookable on the major OTAs.

Weymouth is a decent mid-point break along Dorset's Jurassic Coast
Weymouth is a decent mid-point break along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

Jurassic Coast Road Trip Itinerary: Stops En Route


After driving from either Bournemouth (my hometown) or Poole, take the Sandbanks ferry across to Studland Bay, where the Jurassic Coast official begins in Studland Bay. Your first after Studland will be Swanage. This is one of the larger towns along the coast, and the sweeping arc of shoreline is the perfect place to get your first ice cream or fish and chips lunch on the beach. Think deck chairs and quintessentially British seaside escapes, and you’ll be spot on with expectations.

Durlston Jurassic Coast Road Trip
Craggy coastal trails are Dorset’s signature scenery

Nearby, Chapman’s Pool Beach is one of the wilder and more secluded swimming spots along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. This means no lifeguards and a step narrow access path, but if you don’t mind, you’ll be rewarded once you reach the waters.

Durlston Country Park and Museum

This vast 320-acre nature reserve stretches all along the Isle of Purbeck just beyond Swanage and is included in the Jurassic Coast’s UNESCO Heritage Site. There is a small museum inside the castle, but enjoying a hike along the coastal cliffs towards the lighthouses beats being inside.

Quaint streets in Dorset
Expect lots of traditional stoned houses and quaint villages along the Jurassic Coas

Corfe Castle

Take a little detour inland to visit Corfe Castle. The ruins of this fortification stand above the village of the same name, which has a handful of pubs and small tea houses, perfect for an afternoon tea with scones, cream and jam. The old defensive castle, which dates from Roman times, is one of the most popular National Trust sites in the country.

Corfe Castle Jurassic Coast Road Trip
The remains of Corfe Castle, built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror

Kimmeridge Bay

This tiny fishing village is actually on private land. This means you must pay an entrance/parking fee to drive down here. The rocks stretch out into the water, and it’s one of the most popular spots to look for fossils on the beach, thanks to the continual erosion of the cliffs here. While many people do skip Kimmeridge because of the cost and it being a little bit of a detour, it is one of my favourite beautiful places to spend a few hours along the Jurrasic Coast.

The Etches Collection museum nearby houses some of the more significant and more impressive fossil findings from the bay. While it’s certainly interesting, you’ll want to factor in the £9 entrance fee and consider if you’d prefer to go to the more extensive and slightly lower-priced museum in Lyme Regis instead.

Kimmeridge Bay, Jurassic Coast
I adore Kimmeridge Bay; it’s a place of happy childhood memories

Lulworth Cove

One of the Jurrasic Coast’s most famous locations and photo spots, Lulworth Cove is the perfect place to park up and enjoy a swim on the pebble beach, followed by lunch in a traditional stone-built pub. Afterwards, take the short one-mile walk along the cliffs to Durdle Door – without a doubt, the ‘poster child’ of this region.

Durdle Door
The limestone arch of Durdle Door is the Jurassic Coast’s Poster Child

Man O’War Beach & Durdle Door

The water at Man O’War looks more like the Med than England on a decent day, making it one of the best beach destinations in the country. This means the beaches can be crowded in summer when everyone descends to Dorset to visit one of the most famed spots on the Jurassic Coast.

Durdle Door itself, an impressive limestone arch that reaches into the sea, attracts droves of photographers. It’s not just because of its dramatic location but also because of the pretty bay backed by white cliffs. Expect to spend a good few hours here, although the crowds can be intense in Summer as it’s a popular UK staycation destination.

Man O' War Beach in Dorset
Man O’ War Beach is one of Dorset’s best

Isle of Portland

The Isle of Portland gained some international fame as Great Britain hosted part of the Olympics here in 2012. This was the location where many of the UK’s water adventure activities competed.

The limestone island juts out from the mainland with a spectacular arc of sand. From the top of the hill, the views are even more impressive. This is technically the most southern point of Dorset, and on a clear day, you can see for miles. There’s not much to visit in the town, so this is more of a beach and views stop.

Isle of Portland Jurrassic Coast
Views from the highest point of the Isle of Portland

Abbotsbury Swannery

Did you know that the King owns all the swans in England?

Take a little detour to the Abbotsbury Swannery, and you can see hundreds of these beautiful white animals relaxing atop little lakes as you walk the shaded path. You’ll need to pay to get in, but it’s also a good place to spot various other bird life which thrives along the Jurrasic Coast.

The Swannery at Abbotsbury
Detour to Abbotsbury Swannery for a change from shorelines


One of the biggest towns in the region, Weymouth, has spruced itself up in the last few years. It’s a pretty decent place to overnight. There’s the pretty side of the town, with cute canals and colourful houses, and then a slightly more grim centre that still needs a bit more TLC. In July, with the Weymouth Festival in full swing, the town is a cracking place to be for some sunny pints.

Weymouth, Dorset
Weymouth is one of the largest and most lively towns on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast


By far the best location for fossil hunting, often people will just be walking along the beach when they spot and pick up pre-historic fossils for themselves. A little museum and gift shop will fill you in on more details about the region’s fossil history. The beach itself isn’t the best for relaxing and sunbathing. However, the impressive cliffs and chance to find your own Ammonites or Belemnites make Charmouth a must-visit.

Charmouth Jurrasic Cosast Road Trip
If you want to try and find your own fossil, walk as far along Charmouth Beach as possible

Lyme Regis

In the far reaches of West Dorset, not far from the Devon border, Lyme Regis is about as dreamy as the British seaside gets. With plenty of quirky and cosy pubs, seaside cafes, relatively still swimming conditions in the bay and a host of pastel-shaded houses, it is a popular spot for UK families to have a summer getaway. Often nicknamed ‘The Pearl of Dorset’, you’ll quickly see why this is regarded as one of the stars along the Jurrasic Coast.

The famous fossil collector Mary Anning hails from Lyme Regis. Visit the geology-focused Lyme Regis Museum and the impressive fossil collection at Dinosaurland for further insight. Spend a night here before speeding back to your starting point in Dorset or continuing on to Devon’s section of the Jurassic Coast.

Lyme Regis is a perfect spot for a seaside holiday in Dorset

Seaton and on to Devon or Cornwall…

Seaton is another seaside town with a fair few amenities and your gateway to continue to Devon or even as far as Cornwall.

If you want to cover the whole of the Jurassic Coast, it stretches from Studland Bay in Dorset to Exmouth in East Devon. If you keep driving, you’ll find some other beautiful spots along this 100-mile of coastline in the park.

Whichever part of the Jurassic Coast you explore, you won’t be disappointed; just make sure not to miss my fantastic home county when planning your visit to England, as it’s truly one of the best – if slightly chillier – beach destinations in Europe.

18 replies
  1. Rosie New says:

    Hi Dan,
    Bit of a long shot here. I’m an artist with a bit of a disability which prevents me from getting to some of the landscapes I would like to paint. I live in Dorset and would very much like permission to paint some of the scenes in the photos on your website. Would it be possible to put me in touch with the photographers or whoever owns the copyright please? Many thanks Rosie

    • Daniel James Clarke says:

      Hi Rosie! Hope you’re well, thanks for your message. I’m from Dorset too and all of the photos are mine (as are 99% on this site).My email is [email protected] incase you require it, but I’m more than happy for your to paint them, it’s quite the compliment. Thanks! Dan

  2. Ruchy says:

    Hey Dan thinking of taking 3 kids with us on a road trip for 3 days – want a bit of scenery and beach where do you recommend stopping to get best of both worlds ?

  3. Diane says:

    Looking for an anchor spot to spend 3 nights to explore the Jurassic Coast (you convinced me!) Your thoughts?

  4. Michelle says:

    Thanks for that will be visiting all these places on our next trip soon it’s such a beautiful place & having visited Bournemouth,Poole,Sandbanks & Christchurch these places are a must! Thankyou!

  5. Sarah Cummings says:

    Hey Dan, your blog is great. I’m heading to the UK this year so its been super useful. Durdle door looks amazing. Definitely adding that to my list! Thank you!

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