A UNESCO-protected coastline and mist-wrapped heathlands draw outdoors lovers to Dorset.
In Dorset, campers can enjoy some of the most spectacularly scenic camping in England thanks to the 95-mile, World Heritage-listed Jurassic Coast (which spills over into Devon). Here, golden beaches sit between rock-formed arches and chalk-white cliffs—and tents and caravans are perfect for soaking up the divine coastal views. In addition, over half of Dorset is protected by the 1,000-square-mile Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), where endlessly varied countryscapes await inland. Open-air adventures swing from kayaking to horse riding to coasteering and more, though the best way to explore is to strap on some walking boots and hit the trails (including the long-distance South West Coast Path).
From Lyme Regis near the Devon border, Dorset’s fantastical Jurassic Coast sweeps east along the 18-mile-long Chesil Beach, around the Isle of Portland, and on to Lulworth, Swanage, and Studland. Whether kayaking between bays, hiking along the jagged shoreline or hunting for hidden fossils, there are countless opportunities for outdoor fun, with campsites perched beside cliffs, tucked into peaceful valleys, and scattered around seaside towns.
Inland from the western half of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, the Dorset AONB sprawls across miles of heathlands, bluebell-filled woodlands, and wide-open country views, especially around landmark Colmers Hill near Bridport. Go cycling, hiking, and horseback riding, then explore Thomas Hardy’s Dorchester before bedding down on a local farm campsite or in the comfort of a garden glamping pod.
Nowhere epitomises seaside-holiday Dorset quite like its southeast corner, where sunny Bournemouth has been drawing visitors to its sprawling sandy beach since Victorian times. Neighbouring Poole Harbour is a watersports hub, while the wild, trail-threaded New Forest National Park sits just over the border in Hampshire, and campsites and caravan spots dot the surrounding countryside.
Up on the border with Wiltshire and Somerset, blissfully rural and often-overlooked northern Dorset feels worlds away from the coastal buzz, opening up enormous potential for tranquil escapes under the stars, whether you’re camping on a family farm or kicking back in a hillside glamping hut. Green fields and hills give way to lavish country estates, prehistoric hill forts, and Sherborne town, known for its 8th-century abbey.