Shepherd's huts with hot tubs in Dorset

From orchards and river valleys to the epic Jurassic Coast, Dorset is made for camping.

Popular camping styles for Dorset

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Shepherd's huts with hot tubs in Dorset guide


Dorset is a county of contrast, from the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast that protect sandy beaches like Charmouth and sheltered bays like Lulworth Cove, to the inland patchwork of farmland and countryside immortalised in the novels of Thomas Hardy. All combine to make it one of the best places to go camping in the UK. You might camp along the sea close to charming resort towns like Lyme Regis or Bournemouth, or choose to pitch inland near Hardy-related heritage sites at Dorchester. New Forest National Park is close by, too. Wherever you pitch your tent, everything seems to be in easy reach. The history of Lyme Regis, Cerne Abbas, Dorchester, and Swanage are all just a drive (or steam train journey) away, while the beaches give way to some of the most majestic countryside in all of England, folding back into the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Where to go

Jurassic Coast

Dorset’s biggest draw is this UNESCO-designated shoreline, rimming the county from Studland Bay near Bournemouth to Lyme Regis, then continuing into East Devon. Between the sand and pebble beaches, epic cliffs, internationally important fossils, and mad coastal formations are a slew of seaside resorts like Swanage and Weymouth, plus smaller charming villages like Charmouth. The coast is peppered by campsites small and large—heading east from Weymouth around toward Lulworth Cove is a happy hunting ground.

Cranborne Chase

Spilling over East Dorset, West Hampshire, and Wiltshire, Cranborne Chase is a big green swaddle of chalky downland and woods forming part of the Cranborne Chase & Wiltshire Downs AONB. It’s a fine place for archaeology lovers, with myriad Iron Age and Bronze Age sites awaiting discovery, and is noted for the diversity of its wildflower walks. Good camping can be found between the southeast side of the uplands and Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve.

Cerne Abbas & Around

There are many charming Dorset villages, but few can compare to the quirky allure of Cerne Abbas, which sits below a chalky hillside decorated by one of the largest hill figures (historic human-made etchings) in the UK. Hit the village pub and tearooms, or walk the long-distance Wessex Ridgeway trail nearby. Camping beckons at Giant’s Head, northeast of Cerne Abbas and connected to the Cerne Abbas Giant by footpath.

New Forest National Park

The largest expanse of unimproved land in lowland Britain, this montage of ancient woodland and low heath entices outdoor lovers from across Southern England. Come for forest walks among some of the UK’s most epic trees, where you’re likely to spot animals such as red deer and goshawks in what was a former royal hunting ground since the days of William the Conqueror. Several interesting campsites sit around heart-of-the-forest destinations like Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst.

Dig deep into Dorset history

Dorset is rich in history, and its heritage remains protected thanks to the National Trust, English Heritage, and UNESCO, which have recognised some of the region’s most special places. The jewel in Dorset’s crown, of course, is the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site where fossil finds and rocks have documented a staggering 185 million years of history. On a camping holiday in Dorset today, fossil hunting on the beach makes for a great day out—try Kimmeridge Bay and Charmouth, or a simple walk along Dorset’s coastal paths.

The Dorset countryside also lays claim to some historic sites that tell of its rich past. From Thomas Hardy’s birthplace, a tiny cottage in the rural countryside, to Sherborne New Castle, once the home of Sir Walter Raleigh, there are sights and sounds of the past galore. Visit the enchanting ruins of Corfe Castle, or step back even further to the Iron Age and explore the site of Maiden Castle, one of Europe’s greatest hillforts.

Kid-free camping in Dorset

While the summer holidays might attract families in large numbers, Dorset also offers some tucked away retreats just for grown-ups. Adults-only camping sites can offer quiet getaways, whether you visit in the low season or the height of summer. And with so many historic attractions, charming rural villages, and seaside resorts, there’s plenty to do without the kids in tow, whether you’re camping on your own, as a couple, or with friends. If you’re unrestricted by school holidays, you can often find last-minute stays, great-value deals, and a quieter site too—all advantages of adult-only camping. If it’s romantic camping you’re after, the same rules apply: quieter times and more secluded spots tend to make for a more romantic atmosphere. With candlelight, campfires, and time together away from the stresses of work, chores, and children, camping makes for an ideal romantic break.

Top 10 things to do in Dorset

If you’re looking for inspiration for your camping holiday, we’ve got you covered.

  1. Picnic at Lulworth Cove and marvel at Durdle Door’s iconic arch.
  2. Have an ice cream on Bournemouth beach.
  3. Take a walk along the South West Coast Path.
  4. Visit Thomas Hardy’s birthplace.
  5. Breathe in Dorset’s history at Maiden Castle.
  6. Go fossil hunting at Kimmeridge Bay or Charmouth.
  7. Walk out on the Cobb harbour wall at Lyme Regis.
  8. Swim in the sea and build sandcastles on the beach.
  9. Watch wildlife in the Dorset countryside or at RSPB Arne.
  10. Feast on local produce from farm shops or farmers’ markets.

Top towns in and near Dorset

Top regions in and near Dorset

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