5 Dorset dog walks by the sea

Dogs running on a beach

Enjoying a run on the beach at Branksome in Poole - Credit: John Oldfield/JWO Sports

Nicky Findley, dog wrangler extraordinaire at Sandy Paws Adventures in Poole has some barkingly brilliant Dorset beach walkies to get tails both old and new wagging.

Hound friendly Hengistbury Head: This rugged headland, steeped in history, offers plenty of possibilities for a great doggy day out. There is a shingle beach which stretches along the southern side of the headland (dogs are welcome here all year round) as well as various trails amongst heathland and woodland. Make the short climb to the top of the head to enjoy views of the Isle of Wight, Mudeford and Christchurch Harbour or just follow the tarmac track used by the land train. There is a lovely dog friendly café and restaurant on the beach. You can also get to Mudeford Sandbank using the ferry from Mudeford Quay which takes five minutes. Ferries run regularly and dogs travel free. 

More details at visithengistburyhead.co.uk 

Walk length: Various  

Difficulty: Easy  

Parking:  200 Broadway, Southbourne, Bournemouth BH6 4EL. Main car park is quite expensive. Free parking on the road for one hour only 

Black and white spaniel digging in the sand on a beach

Digging in the sand at Branksome Beach - Credit: John Oldfield/JWO Sports

Paws for a pint on the Isle of Purbeck: This is one of my favourite places to explore. There are so many options, it’s hard to know where to start, but a good place would be the Old Harry Rocks Walk starting at South Beach car park conveniently located next to the dog-friendly Bankes Arms pub in Studland. This scenic walk follows the coastline along the cliff tops from Studland to Old Harry Rocks, climbing steadily up to the Ballard Down ridge for spectacular views across Poole Harbour including the Isle of Wight in one direction, and the rolling hills of North Dorset in the other. From the top of the ridge, it is then possible to complete a loop back to Studland via the Glebe estate. Full details at nationaltrust.org 

 Walk length: 3.5 miles 

Difficulty: Moderate 

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Parking: South Beach NT car park, Manor Road, Studland BH19 3AU. Prices vary seasonally but currently minimum is £3 for 2 hours, free to NT members. 

Woman smiles at camera as she kneels down by three dogs on a beach in winter

Sandy Paws Adventures owner Nicky Findley on Branksome Beach in Poole with some of her happy canine customers - Credit: Hattie Miles

Jurassic Coast walkies with a pasty: Dorset’s world-renowned Jurassic Coast offers spectacular coastal vistas. Just be sure to keep your dog away from the cliff edge or put them on a lead. One of our favourite walks is a circular route from Worth Matravers starting at Renscombe car park which follows the South West Coast Path from Chapman’s Pool via St Aldhelm’s Head. The walk passes near to The Square and Compass pub known for its fine local ales, ciders and hearty homemade pasties and pies. For more walk options visit komoot.com 

Distance: 4.5 miles 

Difficulty: Challenging with very steep climbs  

Parking: Renscombe Road, Worth Matravers BH19 3LL 

Try these six Dorset walks that take you off the beaten track 

Liver and white spaniel sitting on a beach with a happy expression

The expression says it all! Walkies at Branksome Beach - Credit: Sandy Paws Adventures

Beach and ball fun at Branksome Chine: Although I’ve lived near Branksome Chine for over 25 years, I never take the beaches here for granted, it’s the perfect place for dogs to dig in the sand and play in safety. Restrictions are in place during the summer (May 1 to September 30), but there are certain stretches that are dog friendly all year round such as Branksome Chine to Alum Chine, and at the far end of Sandbanks. There are also some dog friendly refreshments available at the beach front cafés including doggy ice cream at Chineside at Durley Chine. 

Distance: Various 

Difficulty: Easy 

Parking: Branksome Chine car park, Pinecliff Road, Poole BH13 6LP (free parking on side roads)

Three golden coloured cockerpoo dogs with a blonde haired woman on a woodland path

Nicky Findley of Sandy Paws Adventures walking some cockerpoo clients at Branksome Chine - Credit: Sandy Paws Adventures

Great for new canine family members: Not on a beach, though not far from the coast, I wanted to include this walk as its great for new pack members and has a lot of good facilities for training your dog. Upton Country Park, a picturesque country park near Poole, offers a range of different walks, both on and off lead, through parkland, woodlands and meadows - with swimming opportunities for your dog. There are also two training enclosures for practicing recall with young dogs or walking off lead to build confidence, there’s also a self-service dog wash area and plenty of refreshments. 

Walk length: Various 

Difficulty: Easy 

Car parking: Upton Country Park, Poole Road, Upton, Poole BH17 7BJ. Free dog walkers’ car park off Poole Road opposite Pony Drive 

Dog standing in a mussy lake in the countryside in winter

Muddy fun in the water at Upton Country Park - a great place for new pack members! - Credit: Sandy Paws Adventures

 About Nicky Findley: After nearly 30 years in journalism, Nicky was finally unleashed in November 2019 to pursue a new business, Sandy Paws Adventures, a dog walking and boarding service with a difference. They also take people’s four-legged friends on activity holidays in their VW campervan. Find out more about Sandy Paws Adventures on Facebook and Instagram, or call Nicky on 07949 350674.  

Woman wearing a red jacket holding a black spaniel walking along a beach

Nicky Findley of Sandy Paws Adventures with one of her happy canine customers - Credit: Sandy Paws Adventures

Remember the Canine Code

Take the lead: Follow signage on sites for whether your dog can be off lead, if in doubt use a lead. 

Scoop that poop: Picking up your dog’s doings keeps the area clean for others and reduces risk of disease. Dispose in the allocated poo bins, or take it home with you. 

Paws for thought: Are you in the right area? There is always a reason why rangers are asking you to avoid certain areas at certain times of year, for example to protect rare species of plants or ground nesting birds.  

Be on the ball: Not everyone likes dogs, be in control of your pet around people – especially children, cyclists and horse riders. Take extra care around livestock - worrying livestock is a criminal offence, get to know The Countryside Code

Woman in red jacket walking along a path with three dogs

Nicky on a winter dog walk at Upton Country Park, a wonderful dog friendly place - Credit: Sandy Paws Adventures

Here are 13 Dorset beaches that are dog friendly all year round