Best beaches in Dorset

Last updated:

Below are a list of the top 16 beaches in Dorset as selected by the users of the Beach Guide website.

The current most popular beach in Dorset is Studland - Shell Bay. If you would like to have your say on which are the best beaches in Dorset just follow the link to the beach and vote by clicking the star ratings at the top right of the page.

  • 1. Studland - Shell Bay

    Studland - Shell Bay © Chris Leather

    Set at the very tip of the National Trust owned Studland Peninsula is the lovely Shell Bay. Depending on where you start this either the first or last of Studland's beautiful sandy beaches. There are two ways to reach Shell Bay; you can drive along the peninsula from the Swanage end or, alternatively, you can…

  • 2. Lulworth Cove

    Lulworth Cove © Mike Searle | BY-SA

    Lulworth Cove is a very sheltered pebble beach in a remarkable, horseshoe shaped cove, formed ten thousand years ago by erosion from the sea.

    There is ample parking, a cafe, toilets and boat trips in summer to Durdle Door and Mupe Bay.

    Given the Lulworth's iconic nature it does get busy down here during the holidays, throughout…

  • 3. Mudeford Sandbank Beach

    Mudeford Sandbank © Roman Grac

    Situated at the mouth of Christchurch harbour this sandy spit of beach forms a barrier between the sea and this large natural harbour. There are great views both of the harbour itself and to the Isle of Wight and Needles across the Solent. The beach extends off the ancient headland of Hengistbury Head with the…

  • 4. Studland - Knoll Beach

    Studland - Knoll Beach © Andy Walker The Hiker | BY-SA

    Knoll beach forms the southern end of Studland Bay's four mile stretch of white sand. Backed by sand dunes the beach forms part of the Studland National Nature Reserve. 

    At the northern end, Towards Shell Bay, is a naturist beach.

  • 5. Durdle Door Beach

    Durdle Door © Tony Armstrong-sly | BY-SA

    The main feature of this iconic cove is the magnificent limestone arch leading into the clear, aquamarine waters of the sea. The arch, which separates Durdle Door from Man o'War Bay, was formed by thousands of years' of pounding waves sweeping against the headland.

    Curving away from the arch the the sand and shingle beach…

  • 6. Sandbanks Beach (Poole)

    Sandbanks © Ian Wool

    Sandbanks is a spit of golden sand that crosses the mouth of Poole harbour and continues all the way to Bournemouth, a distance of around five kilometers. Dubbed Britain's Palm Beach, because of astronomical land prices, Sandbanks is well-served by upmarket hotels and restaurants.

    The Sandbanks Chain Ferry connects Sandbanks with Studland.

  • 7. Canford Cliffs Beach (Poole)

    Canford Cliffs © Chris Downer | BY-SA

    Canford Cliffs has to be one of the quieter beaches on the south coast of Dorset, yet it ticks all the boxes for facilities with cafes, toilets, summer lifeguards and excellent Blue Flag water quality. 

    Located between Branksome Chine and Sandbanks, it is part of an affluent Bournemouth neighbourhood. Parking (limited on-street) is on…

  • 8. Chesil Beach

    Chesil Beach ©

    Chesil beach is one of the most unusual beaches you will find anywhere in Britain. Stretching nearly 17 miles from Portland to West Bay the beach is comprised of a huge bank of pebbles. The beach is unnaturally straight and consistent along its length with a height of 50 feet (15m) and width of 600…

  • 9. Bournemouth Beach

    Bournemouth Beach © Jackpeasephotography | BY-SA

    Bournemouth's main beach has been catering for beach-goers since Victorian times, yet remains one of Britain's favourite beaches. It is easy to see the attraction; a huge swathe of fine golden sand set on the doorstep of this vibrant coastal resort town. In the summer Bournemouth beach may get a little too popular for some,…

  • 10. Swanage Beach

    Swanage © Chris Leather

    Swanage combines a Victorian-style seaside resort with a sheltered, calm, gently sloping sandy beach that runs the entire length of the town. Behind the beach is a promenade, which is partly pedestrianised in summer. Entertainments include the pier and amusements, crazy golf, canoeing and/or kayaking, diving, snorkelling, fishing, jet ski, sailing, swimming and bathing, and…

  • 11. Branksome Chine Beach (Poole)

    Branksome Chine ©

    This wide, sandy beach (with some shingle areas) has stunning views out to sea, and backs on to a promenade with a bar, restaurant, and shop. Drinking water is also available, with other refreshments and seaside essentials on sale at the shop. Beach huts can also be hired. 

    There is parking at Branksome Chine Surface Car…

  • 12. Weymouth Beach

    Weymouth © A S Nash | BY-SA

    Weymouth Beach is a curving arc of golden sand adjacent to the town centre, with Weymouth pier at the southern end. Family-friendly, the safe, shallow waters are ideal for swimming, and a range of other activities are on offer during summer, from donkey rides to Punch and Judy shows. 

    Ramps lead to the sand from the…

  • 13. Swanage Beach (North)

    Swanage © Chris Leather

    The clean, white sands combined with sheltered, clear waters of the bay make Swanage an ideal destination for a bucket and spade excursion.  The bay is flanked by magnificent chalk headlands on either side, and views out over the Isle of Wight make Swanage a good place for soaking up the sun’s rays whilst…

  • 14. Alum Chine Beach (Bournemouth)

    Alum Chine © Robin Drayton | BY-SA

    West of Bournemouth Pier lies this clean, wide sand and shingle beach, backing on to attractive tropical gardens. It's usually quieter than the central beaches; family-friendly features include a large adventure playground with a pirate theme and paddling pool, lost children centres, and ice cream kiosks. The beach slopes gently into the sea and…

  • 15. Man O'War Beach

    Man O'War Beach © Olliemtdog

    Located in the next small cove to the more famous Durdle Door is Man O' War beach. Whilst the rock formations are not quite as spectacular as next door the headland is still pretty impressive.

    Good for fishing, swimming, snorkelling and diving, the water is protected from swells by a partially submerged offshore reef.

  • 16. Shore Road - Sandbanks Beach (Poole)

    Shore Road - Sandbanks © Ian Wool

    With scenic views of Brownsea Island and the Purbeck Hills, this gently sloping, shelving beach with safe, clean water links to the main Sandbanks beach and is a family favourite. It's usually quieter than Sandbanks itself. The free Beach Check app shows how busy it is. The promenade has ice cream kiosks, a café, and…