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The Best Sandy Beaches in Dorset

A Best of England Article

Bournemouth Pier and beach. Dorset - Image by member P. G. Wright (view gallery)

The county of Dorset is known for its stunning coastal scenery and ancient rock formations along its 'Jurassic Coast' - A 95 mile stretch of stunning coastline famous for fossils and special geological features that date back some 185 million years. However, if dinosaur hunting and rock bashing is not your thing, there are plenty of gorgeous sandy beaches to be found along this precious English coastline. Here we look at some of the best examples of sandy beaches in Dorset, where you can throw down your towel and get out that bucket and spade.

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1. Bournemouth Beaches

Bournemouth Pier and beach. Dorset - Image by member P. G. Wright (view gallery)

Bournemouth is a cosmopolitan, vibrant seaside resort and one of England's most popular since the Victorian era when the introduction of the local railways gave greater access to the area for the rest of the country's population. It has since remained a favourite destination for many, not least because of its beautiful 7 mile stretch of golden sandy beaches.

People often associate 'Bournemouth Beach' with the stretch of sand directly around the pier which becomes extremely busy during the height of summer, however, if the main beach is a little too crowded, you are sure to find a quieter more suited beach along this vast stretch of beautiful sandy coastline.

Here is a quick overview of some of Bournemouth's fantastic sandy beaches -

East Cliff Beach

This is one of two (along with West Cliff beach) that is often referred to as 'Bournemouth central beach' or 'Bournemouth Pier Beach' and stretches 1.5 miles east from the pier up to Boscombe pier. It is the most popular of all the Bournemouth beaches due to its easy access and facilities.

West Cliff Beach

The other side of Bournemouth pier is West Cliff Beach, another busy part of 'Bournemouth central beach' which stretches 1.5 miles west to Durley Chine beach.

Durley Chine Beach

A popular blue flag award-winning sandy beach, with plenty of beach amenities including a beachfront harvester pub, ice cream kiosks, and colourful beach huts.

Alum Chine Beach

Another blue flag award-winning beach, Alum Chine beach is an ideal one for children as it has its own playground and a paddling pool. There is also a sub-tropical garden to wander, plenty of amenities including a restaurant and a car park.

Avon Beach, Mudeford.

This beach has a history of being family run, as it was owned and run by the Dereham family for four generations since 1934, until they decided to sell it in 2012. It is an attractive beach with good views across the solent, refreshments in its beachside cafe, attractive beach huts, and plenty of parking space.

Boscombe Beach

Boscombe recently underwent an £11 million redevelopment, with further enhancements in the pipeline. One of the main areas of redevelopment was to the Boscombe seafront, with improvements including a new boutique hotel, unique Beach pods, and an artificial surf reef to attract the surfing community. The beach is a family friendly sandy beach with plenty of facilities nearby, such as a cafe, beach car park (limited spaces), crazy golf, and the award winning Boscombe Chine Gardens.

Fisherman's Walk Beach

Another blue flag sandy beach in Bournemouth, Fisherman's Walk Beach is located between Southbourne and Boscombe. The beach is accessed from the clifftop by walking down the zig-zag path, or to save your legs the trouble there is a motorised lift which will carry you down whilst you admire the fine views.

Southbourne Beach

The lovely Southbourne beach is mainly sandy and is yet another blue flag holder. Less busy than the main Bournemouth beaches, this beach has all the facilities you would expect, such as food and drink outlets, toilets, and a large car park directly behind the beach. Food and drink can be enjoyed at the popular 'Bistro on the Beach' which has sea views from every table.


2. Sandbanks, Poole

Bobbies on the beat at Sandbanks, Dorset - Image by member Heavenly (view gallery)

Dubbed by the media as 'Britain's Palm Beach', Sandbanks - a small peninsula in Poole, has become world famous for its beautiful sandy beaches, lavish (and very expensive) contemporary properties, and has recently picked up the tag of fourth most expensive place to live in the world.

In 2016, the beach at Sandbanks was awarded the coveted European blue flag award for a record 27th time in succession. This award is given to coastal destinations that have achieved the highest quality in water, facilities, safety, commitment to the environment and management.

There are several hotels in Sandbanks, including the Haven hotel which was built in 1887 and is where the famous inventor Guglielmo Marconi carried out some his first wireless transmission experiments. There are photographs and information about these experiments within the hotel.

There are a couple of car parks on Sandbanks, toilets, a cafe on the beach, and a recently opened Rick Stein Seafood restaurant. For a bit of family fun, Sandbanks has its own rather good Crazy Golf course.


3. Studland Bay Beaches

Studland in Dorset - Image by member Graham Rains (view gallery)

Situated on the peninsula known as the Isle of Purbeck, Studland Bay is a 2.5 mile curve of golden sandy beaches backed on to by sand dunes and protected heathland that contains one of England's spotlight nature reserves. The whole bay and heathland is maintained and managed by the National Trust and there are some fantastic sights to take in, with some lovely coastal walks offering ample photo opportunities. One popular attraction is the magnificent chalk sea stacks known as 'Old Harry Rocks' which mark the most easterly part of the Jurassic Coast.

There are 4 beautiful sandy beaches at Studland Bay -

South Beach

South Beach is the smallest but popular with locals. There is a good walking trail from the car park here up to Old Harry Rocks.

Middle Beach

Middle beach is sheltered by low cliffs and offers some good views of Old Harry's Rock. Also offers parking and other facilities.

Knoll Beach

The most popular of the four beaches, backed by dunes, with a discovery centre, and the Knoll cafe and shop which is run by the National Trust.

Please note that at the Northern end of Knoll beach towards Shell Bay is a designated naturist area.

Shell Bay

Another wonderful sandy beach with good views across Poole Harbour to Bournemouth. Great for watching the ships go by. There are toilets and a car park. The Shell Bay Restaurant & Bistro offers great food and views across to Brownsea island and the harbour.


4. Swanage Beach

Deckchairs, Swanage Beach - Image by member Jenny Fairbrother (view gallery)

Swanage is an attractive traditional Victorian seaside town at the eastern end of the Isle of Purbeck and is part of the famous Jurassic Coast. Local attractions include the wonderful preserved steam railway that offers journeys through the surrounding picturesque countryside, with views that include the ruins of Corfe Castle - built by William the Conqueror and dates back to the 11th century. The large sandy beach at Swanage is an attraction in itself, having won several awards over the years, including the European Blue Flag award.


5. Weymouth Beach

Weymouth beach - Image by member Trevor Davis (view gallery)

The curving sandy beach at Weymouth is literally 'fit for a king' as it was on this very beach back in 1789 that King George III stepped into the Weymouth sea to bathe, whilst staying in the town to convalesce after an apparent bout of mental illness. And so began a royal love affair with the town, with the King returning another 13 times until his last visit in 1805. The King left a lasting legacy, and a statue can be seen of him on the seafront, along with the eye-catching Osmington White Horse - an enormous carving of the king on horseback, etched into the hillside overlooking the bay. The properties along the seafront overlooking the bay are all mainly Georgian, dating from the time of his reign.

The busy town centre with a large array of shops is just a couple of minutes walk from the beach, and there are plenty of amenities nearby too, such as gift and toy shops, amusement arcades, pubs and cafes along the seafront, and the town also has its own historic harbour and pier.


6. Lyme Regis Beach

Lyme Regis bay - Image by member Bob Tose (view gallery)

This charming seaside resort is part of the Jurassic coast World Heritage Site, and is also famous for its 'Cobb' Harbour - an 870ft 13th-century curved harbour wall which featured in the film adaptation of John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman, and also in Jane Austen's novel 'Persuasion'. This picturesque ancient port is home to both shingle and a small sandy beach, with the sand being especially imported from France back in 2007 as part of a restoration project. Apparently because they couldn't find sand of the right consistency or colour anywhere in the UK.


A Pictures of England article submitted by poe

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