20 Beautiful Dorset Beaches

Sunset on a Bournemouth beach

Sunset on a Bournemouth beach - Credit: Archant

Poole and Bournemouth offer miles of award-winning golden beaches with something to suit everyone

Canford Cliffs

Canford Cliffs - Credit: Archant

Poole’s Beaches

The Land Train is a great way to get from beach to beach

The Land Train is a great way to get from beach to beach - Credit: Archant

Poole has five fabulous beaches to choose from including Sandbanks which has held a Blue Flag status for the last 25 years. The shallow protected waters of Poole Harbour make this an ideal spot for families and facilities include beachside cafes, watersports, lifeguards, designated areas for swimmers and windsurfers, beach hut hire and barbecue areas.

The beautiful golden sands of Bournemouth

The beautiful golden sands of Bournemouth - Credit: Archant

Sandbanks: Poole is rightly proud of these pristine golden sands which run parallel to Banks Road. There is a designated area for barbecues and clearly marked areas for swimmers and boarders. Activities on shore include crazy golf, children’s play area and slacklining. Watersports include kayaking, windsurfing and stand up paddle boarding. The Sandbanks Beach Café offers refreshments. The area above Sandbanks beach towards the chain ferry is an all year round dog-friendly beach.

Shore Road: Just down from Sandbanks, Shore Road offers gently sloping sands and clean safe waters for the kids to frolic in. Watersports hire and tuition available, and there is also a launch zone for kite surfers and windsurfers.

Canford Cliffs: Backed by steep sandy cliffs this is a wilder more tranquil area than the previous two beaches and is situated between Shore Road and Branksome Chine. The beach is accessed from Cliff Drive where you will find

off-road parking. The pretty wooden beach huts along the chine, dating from the Twenties, lend an air of nostalgia to this lovely beach.

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Branksome Chine & Branksome Dene: Rock groynes have created individual bays on this wide sandy beach. Beach huts on Branksome Chine can be hired on a weekly basis from April to September. Beach side refreshments can be found at Branksome Beach Restaurant and Terrace Bar. For dog walkers Branksome Beach allows dogs all year round.

Studland Peninsula

A hop over the water via the Sandbanks Ferry (or drive there), to reach this National Trust owned nature reserve of sand dunes and heath with three miles of golden sandy beaches from South Haven where the Sandbanks ferry arrives to the distinctive white chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks. Beaches include Shell Bay with accessible sand dunes to play in and a designated naturist area; Knoll Beach & Middle Beach popular with families and offering water sports hire, a café and barbecue area; and South Beach a sandy cove that is a short walk down hill from the car park.

Bournemouth’s Beaches

There are seafront offices located across the seven miles of beaches providing information and LV=KidZone wristbands. Deck chairs, sunbeds, windbreaks and parasols can all be hired along the beach. Cliff Lifts are situated at West Cliff, East Cliff and Fisherman’s Walk along side zigzag path ways. The Land Train runs along the promenade from Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier and from Bournemouth Pier to Alum Chine. The stretch from Alum Chine to Bournemouth is the busiest and offers plenty of entertainment for families. The beaches from Boscombe to Southbourne are much quieter and offer a wealth of beach and watersports for older kids and adults. For those who want to stretch their legs there is a lovely cliff top walk from Boscombe to Southbourne (with access to each beach) with fabulous views towards the Isle of Wight and Purbecks. Dog-friendly beaches (1 May- 30 Sept) are Alum Chine, Middle Chine, Fisherman’s Walk and Hengistbury Head.

Alum Chine Beach: This wide sandy beach Blue Flag beach is a popular spot for families. Nearby are the lush topical gardens of Alum Chine with children’s play park and water play area. Lifeguard cover May to September and Kidzone.

The designated barbecue area is situated to the west of the beach.

Durley Chine Beach: Another wide sandy Blue Flag beach that slopes gently into the sea. Lifeguard cover May to September and Kidzone.

West Cliff Beach: This wide sandy beach can be accessed by cliff lift, park at the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) car park.

Bournemouth Central Beach: A wide sandy beach in the heart of the town. The nearby shopping centre can be reached via a 15 minute walk through the Winter Gardens. Minutes from the beach is an

18 hole mini golf course in the Lower Gardens. Lifeguard cover from May to September.

East Cliff: A wide sandy beach at the slightly quieter end of town with an excellent cafe on the cliff top in the Russell-Cotes Museum (reached via the cliff lift). Lifeguard cover July to September.

Boscombe: A popular sandy beach with an award-winning pier and home of Bournemouth’s artificial surf reef. The beach offers a variety of watersports and during the summer holidays the Bournemouth Beach Sports Academy sets up shop opposite the Urban Reef café, teaching beach football, beach volleyball, beach tennis, surf life saving and beach rounders to 8-16 year olds during week days (cost £15 a day pp). Nearby the Green Flag award-winning Boscombe Chine Gardens offers crazy golf, water play area for kids and a café.

Manor Steps: Manor Steps is a quieter beach with less happening. Lifeguard cover July to September. Refreshments can be found at Fisherman’s Walk nearby.

Fisherman’s Walk: One of four Blue Flag beaches in Bournemouth this wide sandy beach is where the locals go. There is a children’s play area, cliff-top café and cliff lift to beach. Lifeguard cover May to September and a Kidzone.

Towards Christchurch …

With the dramatic backdrop of the cliffs of Hengistbury Head, a sandy stony beach and no facilities Solent Beach is a beach to get away from the crowds. For views of Christchurch Harbour, Isle of Wight and Bournemouth the headland beach of Hengistbury Head has views to die for and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, it can get blustery though. Next door the lovely sandy beach of Mudeford Sandbank is famous for its fabulous beach huts which can change hands for six figure sums. It tends to be quieter than most sandy beaches as it can only be reached by foot or bike. In the summer months take the ferry from Mudeford Quay or Christchurch Quay or the Land Train from Hengistbury Head.