One of the main reasons that people visit Dorset time and time again is the beautiful beaches. Our lovely county has some of the most spectacular coastline in the UK, containing all manner of bays, harbours, beaches and coves – perfect for a fun family day at the seaside during your cottage break! However, if you dare to get off the beaten track and step away from the crowd-favourites, it’s possible to find some breathtaking hidden gems.
Often tucked away and out of view of the main coastline, these secret beaches are ideal for escaping the crowds and experiencing the untouched, natural beauty of Dorset. They may be a bit more of a challenge to reach, but the tranquillity and beauty of these beaches are well worth the extra effort.
To get you started, we’ve picked eight of our favourite secret beaches to seek out during your visit….
About a 20-minute drive from Swanage, Chapman’s Pool can be found just past St Aldhelm’s Head. It’s not the easiest beach to reach – you’ll have to park close to the village of Worth Matravers and walk a fair way to reach it, including a short scramble down the rocks, but it’s certainly worth the journey. Chapman’s is a beautiful little cove, surrounded by cliffs and relatively untouched, apart from a small collection of fisherman’s huts and a slipway.
Chapman’s Pool is located on Dorset’s iconic Jurassic Cost, making it a good place for a spot of fossil hunting! Shell fossils, reptiles and ammonites have all been found here in the past, so cast your gaze downwards and see what you can find! Take care, however, as the cliffs in this area are still unstable and prone to land slips.
Mupe Bay is another breathtakingly beautiful cove, flanked by impressive white cliffs and a distinctive collection of rocks. Surprisingly, this quiet beach is just around the corner from the famous Lulworth Cove, but couldn’t be more different in terms of its tranquil atmosphere. This may be in part due the walk required to reach it – guests can choose from either a 2-mile coastal walk from Lulworth Cove, or a more direct route from the village itself. Both routes take you across Ministry of Defence land, so please check that it’s open and keep to the path. Also bear in mind that there is some scrambling required in order to reach the beach from the cliff path.
Once you reach Mupe Bay, it’s a fantastic place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. After all, there’s no better feeling than sitting back and enjoying the sun and the sound of the waves. During high tide, the bay is mostly made up of rocks and shingle, but there is fair amount of sand to play in when the tide goes out. This is also when Mupe Ledge makes an appearance; a flat, rocky surface dotted with rockpools and teeming with life.
With almost half a mile of wide, sandy beach, Ringstead Bay is a beautiful, family-friendly bay with a long history and plenty to keep everyone busy. Once used by smugglers, today the beach is popular with swimmers (although there is no lifeguard on duty) and families looking to escape the busier beach at Weymouth. There’s a grassy bank at the back of the sand, which makes a good place for a picnic or for little ones to play. Last but not least, Ringstead Bay is part of the Jurassic Coast, meaning a visit here is a great opportunity to search for fossils.
The bay is surrounded by farmland and cliffs, providing excellent views of Weymouth and the Isle of Portland. Visitors can take advantage of the nearby free car park, owned by the National Trust, but there is still a long walk down to the beach itself. Visitors should also note that there is a nudist area about 20 minutes’ walk from the main beach.
White Nothe Beach
Nestled at the bottom of White Nothe, a 450-foot white chalk headland, you’ll find a small, isolated beach. This hidden gem is certainly not an easy one to reach – the long walk along the coast is followed by a challenging 'Smugglers Path', which winds down the cliff before reaching a ladder-like device for delivering adventurous beach-goers onto the beach itself. However, those who brave the journey are in for a special reward. The beach is often completely empty, with beautiful turquoise waters that could easily be mistaken for somewhere much more tropical!
Church Ope Cove
Located near Weymouth, on the Isle of Portland, Church Ope Cove is a lovely family-friendly beach made up of soft limestone pebbles and protected from the wind by dramatic cliffs. With it’s south-facing aspect, the cove catches the sun throughout the day, making it one of the more popular choices in this collection. You’ll often find people taking to the water here, whether it's swimming, snorkelling or diving. However, there is no lifeguard and the beach is exposed to some strong currents, so it’s recommended to stay in the direct area of the cove. The beach does have more facilities than the others on the list, including a small café, a caravan park and public bathrooms.
One of the reasons this beach is gaining popularity are the views. Rufus Castle, a striking Norman construction, overlooks the cove itself and can be reached via a steep trail leading from the beach itself. You might even spot some wildlife on your way! The site is home to several species of birds and dolphins have even be spied in the surrounding waters...
Depsite not being far from the hustle of Poole harbour, you might be surprised by how secluded Shipstaw beach seems. It’s nestled in the peace and quiet of Arne RSPB reserve, and can only be reached through hidden parks and walkways through woods and heathland. Keep you eyes open for deer, woodpeckers, ospreys and much more as you head towards the beach, which appears as if from nowhere as you exit the treeline. This small strip of sand and shingle is a lovely, peaceful spot to stop and take in the magnificent view over the ocean. The RSPB reserve also has a small café where you can refuel with some much-needed tea and cake.
If you park at the deserted village of Tyneham, you can enjoy a beautiful mile-long walk to Worbarrow Bay. The route takes you across land owned by the Ministry of Defence, so is only open at certain times (mainly weekends), but the beach at the end is well-worth it. The beautiful sweeping crecent of sand is backed by cliffs of white chalk and sandstone, containing small fossils and even some dinosaur footprints!
The beach itself is mostly untouched and never very busy, making it a great place to relax, enjoy a picnic or take a quick swim (bear in mind there is no lifeguard and the bottom drops away quickly).
Last but not least, Eypemouth beach offers a welcome respite from the busier beaches of Weymouth, West Bay and Lyme Regis. Sat in the shadow of Golden Cap, the highest point in the Jurassic Coast, it provides some spectacular views to watch the sun set across Lyme Bay. The shingle beach is a favourite of anglers, surfers and swimmers (be careful of the strong currents), while walkers can enjoy some breathtaking strolls along the clifftops.
Of course, the beauty of Dorset is that, with 88 miles of awe-inspiring coastline, there’s plenty to discover. Ask around and you’re sure to be pointed in the direction of not only these beaches, but many other hidden gems to enjoy during your break.
After a long day of sea air, clifftop walks, sandcastle building and paddling, there’s nothing like curling up in your very own holiday cottage. Help yourself to roaring fires, hot baths and mugs of hot chocolate, rest your tired feet and start planning tomorrow’s adventure! Don’t forget to take a look at our sea view cottages and cottages near beaches when planning your next Dorset break.
Eight of the best secret beaches in Dorset:
- Chapman’s Pool, Worth Matravers
- Worbarrow Bay, Tyneham
- Mupe Bay, West Lulworth
- Ringstead Bay, Weymouth
- White Nothe Beach, Wool
- Church Ope Cove, Weymouth
- Shipstal Beach, Wareham
- Eypemouth beach, Birdport