Looking for some of the best things to do in Dorset With Kids? Famed for it’s dramatic Jurassic Coast, featuring fossil beaches, mind blowing cliffs and natural landmarks such as the Durdle Door, there is no doubt Dorset is one of the best places to visit for little explorers.
Aside from the most famous landmarks and beautiful nature of Dorset, there is also plenty of other attractions for rainy days or more specific interests. From Sand World, to the Tank Museum and day trips on a boat to see the beautiful coastline, to ancient castles, there is something for everyone!
Spanning some 142km of stunning coastline, Dorset stretches all the way from Bournemouth to East Devon. As you can imagine for this reason, unless you have a long period of time, it’s best to concentrate on one part of the county.
The best area to concentrate on are either the the Isle of Purbeck along with the Lulworth Estate, they are approximately 35 minute drive between both areas.
The other areas to potentially focus on is the Weymouth and Portland area along with Lyme Regis and Chartmouth Fossil Beach. Of course you could base yourself somewhere in the middle of the county so you can make it to all of the best spots.
Driving through the postcard perfect sleepy villages with thatched roof cottages and the beautiful countryside with rolling green hills, you are certainly going to enjoy this stunning part of England. Here’s a complete guide on the best things to do in Dorset for kids.
Things To Do in Dorset For Kids
Weymouth Beachfront & Harbour
Weymouth Beach is quite what you expect of a typical British seaside town. Featuring a number of bars, restaurants and cafes, along the promenade, this is one of the few beaches you don’t need to hike to in Dorset. So many of the beautiful spots in Dorset do require a bit of a walk so Weymouth Beach is ideal in that respect.
The beach is shallow, the waves are gentle and of course the beach is sand which is always a favourite for children. Along the beach you will also find cute colourful beach huts, a number of kids activities such as a mini caterpillar rollercoaster and a seaside icon, the helter skelter!
Our kids had lots of fun on Weymouth Beach making sandcastles and dipping their toes in the water. One of my kids was even brave enough to have a swim. The promenade is perfect for a stroller walk if you are looking for things to in Dorset with toddlers. My kids also enjoyed scooting along the seafront.
Weymouth is a great spot if you fancy eating out. There is many places to choose from but if you like places where they have a good variety for kids, Prezzo is in the harbour area and was an ideal spot to feed my two vegan kiddos. That said, there are some lush beer gardens literally all along the harbour, however they do get very busy on sunny days for obvious reasons.
My favourite restaurant was Nautico Lounge, It was on one of the backstreets but was quite spacious and had a courtyard dining area. The food was great and had a great selection of options for all diets. Not to mention it had a table on a busy day unlike many of the harbour restaurants.
The harbour in Weymouth is a great place to sit and people watch. Grab an ice-cream or a coffee and watch what is going on around you. You will notice so many of the locals go ‘crabbing’ around the harbour. They all seem to love it as an activity. From what I can understand they put the crabs back and don’t eat them.
Another great thing to see in Weymouth Harbour is the bridge that opens up to allow boats to pass through. Our kids loved seeing that!
Take A Boat Trip – Dorset Kids Activities
Looking for one of the best kids days out in Dorset? Inside Weymouth Harbour, there are a number of tour operators that take customers to see the Jurassic coast from the water! As you know Dorset is most famous for its coastline but most people view it from clifftop walks and beaches.
Seeing the coastline from the water is definitely worth it and all of the companies take children and make it fun for them too. There are quite a few options whether you want to see the Durdle Door or something different. It’s best to book online so make sure to check out the best boat companies.
Lodmoor Country Park – Things To Do With Kids Dorset
If you are looking for a mixture of rainy day activites in Dorset or maybe something a little adventurous, Lodmoor Country Park in Weymouth is the place to go! It’s essentially a massive adventure park containing many of the indoor and outdoor paid activities. The shared car park in the centre allows you to visit multiple attractions in the same day if you so wanted to!
The area is home to Pirate Ship Play Park, Weymouth Sealife Adventure, Rio Grande Railway, Sand World and 9 hole Pitch and Put. There is also Leisure Ranch with go karting and water slides. Not to mention you can access the park and nature reserve itself behind the attractions.
There is paid parking which is really affordable. I recommend getting the pay by phone app if you are staying in Dorset as you have to pay for parking at almost all attractions. It’s a quick and easy way to pay and like I say it is generally affordable.
Sand World – Things to Do For Kids In Dorset
We had one drizzly day in Dorset and decided to go to Sand World within Lodmoor Country Park. We had such a great morning checking out the incredible sand sculptures, they are so impressive. The kids loved the sculptures, especially as they were recognisable characters such as Minions and Moana.
Aside from the spectacular sculptures, you can pay an extra couple of pounds for the kids to make their own sand art with a figure of their choice! There was such a great array of sand colours, my kids really enjoyed this activity.
We finished off the morning in the outside part (that is sheltered) where we could build our own sand sculptures. They had a great array of tools to use so we could get fully crafty.
The sand is sectioned off into different parts and they have a cleaning policy in place for used tools which I thought was really good. The kids (and adults) loved doing this activity, I could have spent all day building something!
Isle Of Portland – Places To Go In Dorset With Kids
If you zoom in on google maps of Weymouth you will see there is a bridge road that goes all the way to an island off the coast. Isle of Portland is definitely worth a visit. Featuring a beautiful lighthouse with stunning coastline views and wonderful wild flowers all around the site.
A barrier beach called Chesil Beach runs the entire length of the road which is really pretty to look at when you reach a high point of the island. It looks like a sand beach from an aerial perspective but it’s actually a shingle beach.
Whilst it’s nice to have a quick look it’s not suitable for swimming on Chesil Beach nor is it easy to walk along. I therefore wouldn’t factor long periods of this particular beach into your itinerary.
Tout Quarry – Kids Activites Dorset
There are lots incredible coastal activities on the Isle Of Portland but our favourite was visiting Tout Quarry Sculpture Park & Nature Reserve. Here we walked around the area, with some paths weaving through rock formations and along the cliff side.
Along the way you will find some incredible rock sculptures which the kids loved exploring. It is not a particularly buggy friendly place so I’d say take a carrier for little ones.
The park is free to enter and I have to say my favourite part was the coastal path which provided views of Chesil Beach road that connects to the mainland. Such a pretty view on a nice day!
Fancies Farm – Things To Do With Kids In Dorset
The Isle of Portland has a tonne of other things to see including a free farm where you can buy some feed for the kids to give to the animals.
Fancies Farm is quite basic (but it is free) with some horses, donkeys, sheep, goats and chickens. They also have a small sand area for kids to play and a little cafe to grab a coffee with picnic benches.
Lulworth – Family Days Out In Dorset
No visit to Dorset is compete without a trip to see the geological wonder – the Durdle Door! This iconic landmark has to be one of the most photographed spots in all of the UK. You can get some incredible views of the limestone arch from a variety of different angles. Wether its from the pebble beach or on the cliff top above, it looks magical!
There are at least two or three beaches you can access on the walk from the Durdle Door car park. Man O War being one of them and is a little quieter on busy days than the Durdle Door Beach. The stairs that leads to Durdle Door splits in two half way down so you can choose to go to Man O War if you prefer.
Man O War has two bays and obviously the further along you follow the bay, the quieter it gets. It’s worth noting the gravel path down to the Durdle Door and stairs to the beach is quite uneven for little feet. It’s also worth noting it’s quite the hike to get back to the car park.
We did see lots of people with varying abilities doing the walk so it’s totally possible, you’re just going to need to work those leg muscles, especially if you end up carrying a little one. The beaches are quite shallow and perfect for kids to paddle.
Try to pack light and compact so you don’t have too much to lug back up the hill after! Durdle Door car park is a paid car park and again if you download the app, that is the best way to pay.
Lulworth Cove – Family Days Out Dorset
Lulworth Cove is one of the most popular beaches in all of Dorset. It’s about a 30 minute walk across the hill from the Durdle Door car park if you would like a nice coastal stroll. Alternatively you can park closer just next to West Lulworth village, however you will still need to do a bit of a hill walk to get there!
The water is crystal clear and a beautiful blue colour which attracts so many visitors. The beach is a pebble beach so no sand castles for little ones, that said it is shallow so perfect for little paddlers.
Lulworth Castle – Things To Do In Dorset With Children
Lulworth Castle is a stunning part of the Lulworth Estate. This 17th Century fortified castle is a quint essentially British experience. Part of the English Heritage Association, the castle is quite affordable to enter.
Featuring a children’s playground and stunning gardens, it’s a great place to spend a afternoon. Like everywhere nowadays it’s best to book online. Booking the earlier slot on the website is best if you are visiting on the weekends as the castle does get quite busy.
The Blue Pool – Days Out With Kids Dorset
We had such a great morning visiting the blue pool. It’s more close to the Lulworth attractions so best to tie it in when you are in that area. This activity was our daughters favourite. It was much nicer on the purse strings than some the other activities too!
The Blue Pool is a natural swimming hole where the minerals in the water give it a distinctive blue colour. It’s certainly more vivid on a bright day. The pool is surrounded by beautiful woodlands with a trail all around the edge weaving through the trees.
Funnily enough we did not see anyone swimming, everyone was just on a walk. You can bring an off road style stroller, there are no steps on the way around.
My kids really did love this mainly because of the fairy door trail provided at reception. The children had to look out for little mushroom toad stools and find the corresponding fairy door in the tree. It was so much fun and made sure even the 3 year old walked the whole way.
There are tea rooms towards the end with some outdoor picnic benches to have lunch or a bite to eat from the cafe.
Monkey World Rescue Centre – Day Out With Kids In Dorset
Monkey World is probably one of the top Dorset attractions for family visitors. As a vegan I generally don’t go to zoos or places where animals are caged. However, Monkey World is a true rescue centre.
There use to be a programme on TV about Monkey World, I can’t say I have seen it myself but I would love to watch it now that I have visited. All of the monkeys have been saved from awful situations such as labs and illegal trade.
Many have lived in confinement in small cages for such a long time they would not be suitable for release into the wild. This makes Monkey World a better place for them to live.
My kids have never been to a zoo so this was something completely different for them. They really enjoyed themselves and the playground at the end of the centre is just incredible. It’s definitely for older children with more climbing ability. Our nearly 7 yo really enjoyed herself. There was lots of climbing involved and big slides.
There are around three smaller playgrounds dotted around the green spaces in the centre for younger children so there is certainly something for all aged children. Monkey World is possibly one of the best days out with kids in Dorset.
The Tank Museum – Day Out With Kids Dorset
A tank museum is not the first thing that pops to mind when considering what to do in Dorset with kids. However, the museum has something for everyone. There is a trail around the exhibitions where little ones can collect stamps and even collect a free prize at the end.
Entrance to the museum is free for the under 5’s and there are areas just for them. There are also plenty of interactive games to keep them busy as they walk around. For those a little older there is a chance to dress up and learn more about the tanks and their history.
Teenagers can even ride around in one of the mini tanks and learn about making and designing the tanks in the learning centre. There are also opportunities to see the tanks in action with special displays and events held throughout the year.
Moors Valley Country Park
For nature and adventure then check out Moors Valley Country Park. Many of the trails are especially for kids. The Play Trail is the most popular and leads to a wooden play area. Half way along the trail there is the Tree Top trail for those seeking a bit of adventure. Just like it says on the tin, it is a walkway high up in the tree tops that gives a fantastic view of the park.
The Ranger’s Den at the park has been set up to give kids more information about the creatures that live at Moors Valley Country Park. Inside there are many activities and the chance to see some of the animals themselves. It is free to enter, but a small donation is welcome.
The Moors Valley Railway allows families to see the park from one of their many steam trains. It is not open all year so check out the timetable to avoid disappointment. For older kids, the park has its very own Go Ape. There are five adventures to choose from with a couple suitable for six-year-olds.
Isle Of Purbeck
This one thousand-year-old royal castle was used as a royal palace and a fortress. It is on the Isle of Purbeck and it has beautiful views of the village below. It was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and demolished in the English Civil War.
As you explore the ruins, challenge kids to count the arrow loops. There are also many secret places to find and keep your eyes open for the wildlife that now call the castle home.
Kimmeridge Bay is based in the Isle of Purbeck which is essentially the more eastern part of Dorset. This rock bay pool is famous for rock pooling which kids always love! The bay forms part of the Jurassic Coast and is also within the UNESCO heritage site.
There is no sand on this beach nor is it a swimming beach it’s simply for discovering all the life in the rock pools. Make sure to check the tide before visiting! The Wild Seas Centre is close to the car park, it’s free to enter and check out the aquarium. There are often events on throughout the year for families.
Old Harrys Rocks
A great way to see the unique chalk formations known as Old Harry’s Rocks is the loop trail of the Jurassic Park World Heritage Site. The trail is around five kilometres but is an easy track with plenty to see along the way. There are signposts to keep you on the right track.
While the trail is easy, kids need to be well supervised due to the cliff edge. As you look out to the sea, Old Harry is the single stack of chalk standing furthest out to sea. If it is a clear day, have a lookout for the Needles. They are another chalk formation located near the Isle of Wight.
There are plenty of areas to sit and enjoy a picnic while taking in the view. After passing Old Harry keep following the trail until you pass an old church. Your starting point is off to the right. There is also the option to see Old Harry from the sea with kayaks or by boat.
Durlston Country Park
Durlston Country Park is 320 acres and it is the perfect place to explore and learn about wildlife. The country park also has many events and activities throughout the year that are designed specifically with kids in mind. Many of the trails are suitable for strollers.
Some of the places kids might like to explore are Anvil Point Lighthouse and the Castle. In fact, during the summer months there is a children’s activity trail that starts from the castle. All year round you can rent a family explorer rucksack which is filled with activities and games for families to take part in along the Woodland trail.
Shell Bay – Family Friendly Holidays Dorset
Shell Bay is a small bay that can be found on the Studland Peninsula. This stunning sandy beach is four miles long with dunes to the back. There are many ways to reach the beach including a bus and even a ferry from Sandbanks. The views from the bay are breathtaking and kids can enjoy watching the ships going in and out of the harbour.
The reason the beach is popular is that it is a safe place to swim, no matter the tide. However, this also means that it can get quite busy in the summer months. There are a few restaurants nearby to grab a bite to eat.
Knoll Bay is also a short distance away where there is a designated naturist area. It is well signposted and if you are coming from that direction the Heather Walk trail provides a detour.
Bournemouth Aviation Museum – Things To Do In Dorset Family Attractions
Bournemouth Aviation Museum is located next to the airport. The museum has over twenty hands-on exhibits. It is a great chance for kids to explore a number of different aircraft. In fact, there is even a double-decker bus to sit in and take in the views.
Kids can climb into the cockpits of a Boeing 737 or a rescue helicopter. They are free to use their imaginations and be a pilot for the day. As it is hands-on, kids can play with the buttons and knobs without restrictions.
Swanage Railway- Places To Go With Kids In Dorset
The Swanage Railway is on the Isle of Purbeck and runs five and a half miles from Norden to the seaside town of Swanage. There are plenty of places to stop along the way, including Corfe Castle and Harman’s Cross.
The steam train has picturesque views and there are many picnic stops located at the stations. There is also the option to combine your trip with a visit to the Model Village at Corfe Castle. It is a fantastic chance to see what the castle looked like before its destruction in 1646.
Fossil Beaches – Things To Do With Children In Dorset
Lyme Regis – Kids Attractions Dorset
Lyme Regis is a seaside town that is the heart of the Jurassic Coast. It is at the point where the West Dorset and East Devon coastlines meet and it is known as an area of outstanding beauty. There are many things to do in the town such as visit one of the many beaches.
Lyme Regis is the birthplace of Mary Anning, a famous fossil hunter. To learn more about her and her work, visit the Lyme Regis Museum. There you can also find regular fossil hunting walks and the learning centre for kids to discover more about the fossils found in the area.
Chartmouth Beach – Kids Activities In Dorset
Chartmouth Beach is another place to visit is you want to go on a fossil hunt. The Chartmouth Heritage Coast Centre run guided walks. However, if you want to venture out on your own use the displays provided to help you find your own fossil to take home.
If you are there in search of fossils, then head to West Beach. It is also possible to walk all the way to Lyme Regis in low tide. However, make sure to check with the Chartmouth Heritage Coast Centre before you set off. The East Beach on the other hand has more dry sand. While you can still find fossils here, they are more abundant on West Beach.
It is not possible to visit most of East Beach during high tide as the road is impassable. Collecting fossils along the beach is a great activity. However visitors are reminded not to hammer at the cliffs as the area is part of the Jurassic Coast which is England’s only Natural World Heritage Site.
Where To Stay In Dorset With Kids
Durdle Door Glamping
The great thing about the Durdle Door site is it offers lots of options, from mobile homes to camping & touring pitches and cute little glamping pods.
Durdle Door is just 200 metres from the coastal path and a central location to explore the Jurassic Coast. The pods sleep up to four people and there is access to showers and toilets. Bedding is not included so it needs to be brought with you or it can be rented it from reception.
If you plan on seeing Dorset and the surrounding area, then renting a motorhome might be a great choice for your family. There are many motor home parks spread out across Dorset. Depending on availability there are usually electric and water connections available.
One of the great things about touring the area especially with kids is the freedom it gives you. It is easy to get to all of the places you want to visit and you also have all facilities at your fingertips.
Herston Caravan & Camping is in Swanage, just a few miles from Corfe Castle. There are tents available to rent at the site which means that you don’t have to lug all of your gear with you. The tents sleep up to four and bedding has to be brought with you.
One of the great things about staying at Herston Caravan & Camping is the free fire pits. The site provide logs for the first evening for free as well. What better way to wind down for the evening than toasting marshmallows on an open fire under the stars.
Dorset is also known for its cottages and holiday homes. They are everywhere you go and many of them are available to rent. Parkfield Cottage is in Sturminster Marshall and it is within ten miles of the top attractions in the area. The cottage is in a quiet location with two bedrooms.
It is the perfect size for a small family. The garden to the rear is a great place for breakfast or a barbecue in the evening. A short walk away is the village pub and a shop to pick up essentials for your stay.
Just a few miles from Charmouth Beach is Berehayes Holiday Cottages. The site has everything you need for a comfortable stay. Each unit has its own dining area and they all come with a fully equipped kitchen. On-site there is also a swimming pool and sauna for guests to use.
The playground is great for kids and there is a games room on site too. They might also enjoy feeding the alpacas, sheep, ducks and chickens. Just up the road, there is a pub and a few family restaurants.
What to Bring to Dorset with Kids
Thanks to the great British weather it can be difficult to pack for a trip in the UK. When visiting Dorset there are a few essential items that you won’t want to leave behind.
- A bucket and spade. No trip to the beach is complete without a bucket and spade for the kids. Even if it is raining they are happy to play in the sand. However, they can be a nightmare to pack as they take up too much space. Check out these collapsible buckets that fit in your bag easily.
- Summer only seems to last a few weeks in the UK. With a 90% chance of rain, it is always best to carry light rain jackets for the kids.
- On the chance the sun comes out, the kids are going to be straight in the water. A good suncream is a must and look for one that protects in the water and in the sand. Neutrogena’s Wet Skin for Kids protects for up to eighty minutes in the water and it can even be applied to wet skin.
- If you are planning on taking a lot of trips, then kids may get bored in the car. Consider bringing some small games along for them to keep them occupied. A reusable doodle book is perfect for younger kids that love to draw. Older kids and even parents could be occupied with these Scavenger Hunt cards.
I really hope you’ve gained some ideas on things to do in Dorset with children. I have tried to provide a mixture of free and paid activities to balance out the costs. Likewise, I have tried to arrange this post so you can focus on geographical areas of Dorset as it may be difficult to travel to all corners of the county on one trip. Please do leave a comment, I love hearing from you!
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