How to Discover Dorset Like a Local
A coastal county packed with things to see and do, Dorset makes for a wonderful staycation destination. With mile after mile of stunning scenery and blissful beaches along the Jurassic coast, and natural wonders such as Durdle Door to see, it’s no wonder families flock to the county in their droves during the warm summer months. But where are the best places to eat and drink? Which beaches should you visit to avoid the crowds? And what attractions are there that you won’t be familiar with? Read on to find out the answers to all these questions.
The best places to eat and drink
There are loads of fancy dining options for visitors to Dorset. In fact, the county is home to 12 Michelin star restaurants. These include celebrity chef Rick Stein’s Sandbanks restaurant and the vine covered Anglo-French La Fleur de Lys in Shaftesbury. But amazing as the food is at these places, they aren’t a great option for families, or people who don’t want to spend a fortune on their dinner.
Dorset locals will tell you that there are better options than both luxury Michelin star eateries and high street chains which try to capitalise on tourism. Independent local restaurants such as The Yachtsman in Poole serve up delicious food at affordable prices, alongside a range of great beers and ales. And on the Isle of Purbeck near Swanage, The Bankes Arms is a great hidden gem, tucked away along some wonderful walking trails but just a stone’s throw from Bournemouth. Dogs are welcome too! There’s a roaring fire during the winter and a large beer garden to catch some rays during the warm summer months, with a fine menu to boot.
The best beaches
If you’re coming to Dorset for a family getaway during the summer, then the chances are that you’ll want to be spending at least a couple of days beachside. Some of the popular options in the county include Bournemouth Beach, Chesil Beach and Durdle Door Beach, which sits in view of the famous rock arch. These are all great destinations, but they can be heaving in summer, packed with tourists looking to escape for a few days. If you’re after somewhere quieter, then you’ll want to head to the hidden gems, the places where the locals go to relax.
You’ve probably heard of Lulworth Cove? It’s a very popular destination for tourists. But nearby Mupe Bay goes virtually unheard of. Boasting crystal clear water and white chalk cliffs, this beach is only open when permission is granted by the Ministry of Defence’s Lulworth Ranges, which sometimes operates firing ranges in the area. But if it’s open during your stay then it’s well worth a visit to escape the crowds and a great anecdote to tell the kids.
Similarly secret is Eype’s Mouth Beach, found near the town of Bridport. Popular with the locals, it is a great beach for surfers and there’s always a good chance of uncovering fossils on the shingle beach, perfect for any young dinosaur enthusiasts. As with many secret beaches, there are no lifeguards here so take care if entering the water with children, but for a quiet day of tranquillity, there are few better options in Dorset.
The best attractions
If you’re looking for a slightly different Dorset experience then how does walking with alpacas’ sound? That’s right, it is possible to walk these South American camelids through the Dorset countryside. And if you visit Bridport in September, then why not time your visit with the annual Bridport Hat Festival? Don your most impressive or eccentric piece of headgear and join in the festivities, with live music, street entertainment and food stalls attracting locals and visitors alike. Or there’s the remains of the Dorchester Roman Town House, sure to interest to any history buffs. Eight buildings are remarkably well preserved, offering a real insight into the life of the Romans.
Although it can be tempting to head straight to popular destinations such as Bournemouth, Dorset has much to offer visitors. If you head away from the more popular beaches and restaurants and into the surrounding areas then who knows what you’ll find! The county is packed with secret beaches and under-the-radar places to eat and drink, so you can escape the crowds and live like a local during your stay in Dorset. Your kids may even pick up a few local words whilst you're there too.