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With the Jurassic Coast, England's only natural World Heritage Site, stretching across most of Dorset's dramatic coastline, it's no wonder this southwest county has some of the most striking beaches in the country. Curious travellers flock here all year round for silky blue waters, fossil-filled cliffs and nature reserves brimming with wildlife - Durdle Door Beach and Lulworth Cove being two of the most popular. However, step off the beaten track and you'll find an abundance of lesser-known gems which are hardly touched by anyone; quiet sandy inlets, hidden by cliffs and backed by dunes.
To help you escape the throng on your next visit, we've picked five of our favourite hidden beaches to explore plus have included brilliant foodie finds to discover whilst you're there.
The National Trust-owned Cogden Beach occupies a small, secluded section of Chesil Beach, an 18-mile stretch of sea, shingle and sky - find it sitting between the petite villages of Burton Bradstock and West Bexington. Don't miss the 3.5km Cogden Circular walk, passing through wildflower meadows with far-reaching views towards Lyme Regis and the Isle of Portland.
Where to eat and drink: Amble along the shingle beach to Hive Beach Café for some of the freshest seafood around - from overstuffed Portland crab sandwiches to fillets of wild sea bass and grilled West Bay lobster. Come evening, grab a table on the outside terrace for a stunning sunset view.
Eype Beach, with its silky blue waters and deep orange cliffs, is a local's best kept secret. Relax on the soft sand or stroll along the South West Coast Path to Thorncombe Beacon for sweeping coastline views. Keen ramblers should head to the Golden Cap, the highest point on the Jurassic Coast - you can also drive to Seatown Beach to make the walk shorter.
Where to eat and drink: For a great selection of homemade treats - including flaky pastries and gooey millionaire shortbread - plus doorstep sandwiches filled with the likes of local Coastal Cheddar and From Dorset With Love red onion chutney, wander up from the beach to Eype Eats. The homemade pink elderflower is a must have.
Find this lovely remote cove tucked away in a hollow of Kimmeridge Clay on the southern edge of St Aldhelm's Head - just a 20 minute drive from Swanage. Due to its remote location and having to be reached on foot, it's rarely visited by anyone. The footpath down to the beach is slightly challenging, but once at the bottom, you'll be greeted by clam crystal waters and golden sand.
Where to eat and drink: To reach Chapman's Pool, we suggest parking in the tiny village of Worth Matravers, about a 40 minute stroll away. Here you'll find Worth Matravers Tea and Supper Room which serves some of the best Dorset cream teas plus local Purbeck ice cream.
Sitting on the Isle of Portland, just across from the candy-cane-coloured seaside town of Weymouth, is Church Ope Cove, a sheltered, south-facing haven which is a great spot for snorkelling. The cove holds fascinating history - it is said that the first Viking attack on the British Isles took place here back in 789 AD. Look out for Rufus Castle, Portland's oldest castle which is thought to have been built for William II in the 11th-century. You can sometimes spot dolphins from the top.
Where to eat and drink: The Hayloft Café and Bar is part of the Pennsylvania Castle Estate and dishes up delicious fresh plates using daily-picked salad, vegetables and fruit from the Estate kitchen garden.
This crescent of velvety sand, sheltered by tall chalk cliffs and fossil-filled sandstone, sits on the Purbeck Heritage Coast just below Dorset's 'ghost' village, Tyneham - the area was deserted in 1943 so that the Ministry of Defence could use the land during World War II. On the walk down to Worbarrow Bay from the village, keep an eye out for dinosaur footprints.
Where to eat and drink: Drive ten minutes along the coast and you'll reach the cutely thatched Weld Arms in the pretty village of East Lulworth below the 12,000-acre Lulworth Estate - you might find Estate venison burger with smoked bacon jam or broad bean and spring onion risotto on the menu.
Last updated: 01.09.22
Photo credit: Shutterstock (Kevin Eaves - Chapman's Pool/Paul Cowan - Worbarrow Bay/JLR Photography - Tyneham/Church Ope Cove - Al Lou Photo/Eypemouth Beach - Wilsmore); Unsplash (Belinda Fewings - Cogden Beach)