Maybe Dorset’s least-known camping gem, Wareham has diverse pitches near coast, heath, and forest.
Don’t overlook one of Dorset’s most underrated outdoor bases for your camping trip. Close to the UNESCO-listed Jurassic Coast, the handsome East Dorset town of Wareham has much in store for adventurers. For starters, it’s the former stomping ground of the ultimate adventurer, Lawrence of Arabia, whose legacy is imprinted hereabouts. And the array of outdoor action nearby sets hearts racing: Hit the Arne RSPB nature reserve for bird-watching or the Hardy Way to unpick the heritage of one of England’s most famous writers, local lad Thomas Hardy. Camping is inviting on both the Isle of Purbeck’s hills and heaths south of Wareham.
Wareham’s closest choice of outdoor playgrounds fans north and west from town. It’s an area flanked in the east by Wareham Forest and in the west by Puddletown Forest, while the undulating woodsy countryside in between is centred around Bovington Camp and Tolpuddle. The best way to see this area is to walk the Hardy Way straight from Wareham, as it passes Hardy’s Cottage at Puddletown Forest. Look northwest of Wareham in Wareham Forest for several top camping spots.
This UNESCO-designated shoreline frames Dorset all the way from Studland Bay, just southeast of Wareham. With continuation into East Devon, too, it’s 96-odd miles of seaboard featuring broad sand, pebble beaches, epic cliffs, internationally important fossils, and crazy coastal formations. Studded by big seaside resorts like Swanage and pretty smaller villages like Charmouth, the coast sports campsites small and large. The area from West Lulworth to Weymouth has a lot of pitching places.
Wareham’s location in East Dorset means the New Forest, lowland Britain’s biggest tract of unimproved land and a magical mix of ancient woodland, kicks off only 23 miles to the northeast. Come to take forest walks among some of the UK’s mightiest trees and to wildlife-watch for creatures like red deer and goshawks in what was once a royal hunting ground in the days of William the Conqueror. Interesting campsites surround heart-of-the-forest destinations like Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst.
Dorset has appeal year-round, but gets very busy in high season due to its proximity to major urban centres. Therefore, April, May, and September are often the loveliest months for enjoying the coast and inland hills near Wareham, maximising chances of decent weather without crowds. Wareham Carnival sees the biggest local festivities in July, but September is an excellent month for nearby festivals, like Swanage’s Folk Festival and the Dorset Seafood Festival in the Weymouth area.