Where to Stay in Dorset with Kids
Busy city or rural village? Seaside views or woodland walks? Hire a car or take the bus? These are just some of the questions you need to answer when planning any holiday and trying to decide where to stay. And these questions are as relevant as ever when figuring out your trip to Dorset. Bournemouth is packed with attractions and great restaurants, but it’s busy and loud. Dorchester is beautiful but nowhere near the coast. And Lulworth Cove offers some of the prettiest scenery in the whole county, but amenities are few and far between. In this article, we’ll suggest some of the best places to stay in Dorset with the kids, depending on what it is you’re after from your holiday.
As the biggest city in the county, it makes sense that Bournemouth should be considered as a place to stay with the kids in Dorset. Attractions such as the Oceanarium aquarium and the Bournemouth Pier arcade are simply not replicated in other places within the county and provide great options should the weather turn all English. Bournemouth Beach is one of the largest in the county and there are lifeguards on duty from May to September to keep children safe. The seafront is bursting with all sorts of shops, restaurants and other amenities. For fussy eaters there are recognised chains such as Nando’s, McDonalds and Pizza Express, with plenty of more upmarket, independent eateries for those who prefer.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to places to stay. Lower budget options include a Travelodge on the seafront, or there’s the child friendly Cumberland Hotel, boasting both an indoor and outdoor pool. The downsides of staying in the city are as expected – noise and crowds. But this is a fair trade off is you’re after a hassle free, kid-friendly holiday! No need for a car either, with great public transport links within the city and to travel back home.
At the other end of the spectrum, Lulworth Cove is a tiny bay with an unusual shape, home to some of Dorset’s prettiest scenery. It’s just a short walk from famous Durdle Door and the pebble beach forms a part of the popular South West Coast Path. Rock pools spring up around the cove at low tide, which are sure to be a hit with the kids. In terms of places to stay, you are a bit more limited. A handful of reasonably expensive B&Bs are found right on the cove-front, so if you're keen to stay in the area then we'd suggest booking early.
In terms of catering, at the cove itself there is a café and fish and chip takeaway stall. For more substantial dining, or to find a large supermarket for self-catering, you’ll want to head further afield, so access to a car is a must if you want to stay near Lulworth Cove.
Let’s get the big negative out of the way early, shall we. Dorchester is around a 25 minute drive from the nearest beach. So if you wanted to take the kids for a day of sun, sea and sand then you’re going to need a car. But actually, the negatives end there. Those beaches are easy to reach because Dorchester is surrounded by A roads: the A354 heads straight to Weymouth (8 miles), the A35 to Bournemouth (29 miles) and the A37, which heads out of the county towards Yeovil. As a historic market town, Dorchester is also very pretty and is packed with interesting historic attractions. The Keep is a great military museum and the Roman Town House is one of the most complete sets of Roman ruins ever uncovered in Britain. For kids, there’s the Kingston Maurward Gardens and Animal Park, home to all sorts of farmyard animals. And the interactive Dorset Museum. So Dorchester has a bit of everything. Great transport links, pretty historic streets and plenty of attractions for kids and adults alike. Now you need somewhere to stay.
Where you stay in Dorset comes down to what you need from your holiday. If you don’t have access to a car then Bournemouth is probably the best option, as you have everything you’ll need on the doorstep to keep the kids happy and fed. Lulworth Cove is stunning, with pristine coastal scenery, but few amenities, so you’ll need to be prepared to travel a bit more. Dorchester offers the best of both worlds in terms of attractions and amenities, with great transport links. But it’s a bit of a drive to the sea, so this is something to bear in mind. Wherever you decide on, you’re sure to have an incredible holiday, with plenty to see and do in the county.