With the majestic Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site covering most of Dorset's coastline, it's no wonder this glorious county houses some of the most spectacular beaches on the south west coast of England.
Sparkling turquoise waters, golden sandy coves, nature reserves filled with wildlife, fossil-filled cliffs, never-ending walks with breathtaking views; the Dorset coastline has it all.
Step off the beaten track and away from popular hotspots, and you'll find an abundance of lesser-known gems that are hardly touched by anyone. Quiet sandy inlets, hidden by cliffs and backed by dunes.
Here we've picked five of our favourite hidden beaches to visit to escape the crowds and explore the unspoilt beauty of Dorset. Plus, we've included brilliant food havens and walks for you to discover whilst you're there.
A beautiful secluded cove with crystal clear waters found at the southern edge of St Aldhelm's Head on the Isle of Purbeck, just a 20-minute drive from Swanage. Due to its remote location and having to be reached on foot, this magical place is rarely visited by anyone.
The footpath down to the beach is slightly challenging, but once at the bottom, you'll be greeted by wonderful golden sand, calm turquoise water and fantastic views. During the 1800s, the cove housed the local lifeboat station. Now, local fishermen use the cove to launch their fishing boats.
To reach this hidden gem, we recommend parking in Renscombe Car Park which is just under a 30-minute walk from Chapman's Pool across the fields. Alternatively you can park in Worth Matravers just next door, an idyllic coastal village filled with pretty stone cottages. Walking to the cove from here takes just under 40 minutes, plus it's the perfect place to enjoy a bite to eat and coffee before or after your hike.
Worth Matravers Tea & Supper Room (pictured above) do brilliant coffee, homemade cakes, light lunches and vintage afternoon teas. If you fancy a well-deserved pint, check out The Square and Compass; a country pub offering local beer and cider, live music and a pretty pub garden. You'll find both in the centre of the village.
I'm sure you've heard of the famous Chesil Beach, a beautiful long stretch of shingle beach set along the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Cogden Beach, which is now owned by the National Trust, occupies a small section of Chesil Beach between the villages of Burton Bradstock and West Bexington, and in our eyes is one of the most striking.
Set in a wonderfully remote setting, surrounded by wildflower meadows and fields, you won't be bumping into many people here. Plus you'll enjoy magnificent ocean views towards Lyme Regis and the Isle of Portland.
Just above the beach is a convenient National Trust Car Park from which you can easily access the beach - it's about a 6-minute walk. You can bring your furry friends too. The beach is dog-friendly all year round.
We recommend walking along the beach to Hive Beach Café (pictured above), a rustic beach hut café which serves fabulous fresh fish and seafood, including lobster, crab and scallops. Tuck into a delicious crab sandwich, scallop and red mullet risotto, or a whole plaice with garlic samphire. The sunsets from here are fantastic.
The Cogden Circular is also a brilliant walk to do from Cogden Beach to admire the beautiful surrounding scenery. The circular route is 3.5km and takes about an hour.
A tranquil unspoilt haven nestled amongst the Purbeck coastline just 1 mile from Tyneham, Dorset's famous 'ghost' village.
Deserted in 1943 so that the Ministry of Defence could make use of the land during World War II, civilisation has never returned since. Now the village holds fascinating history. We highly recommend having a walk around. Despite a lot of the buildings in the village having naturally worn away (the post office is pictured below), both the school and church remain standing.
There is plenty of parking in Tyneham from which you can walk to Worbarrow Bay. The walk takes about 30 minutes across serene Dorset countryside and the views down to the bay are spectacular. The crescent of sand is surrounded by white chalk cliffs and sandstone containing small fossils and dinosaur footprints - keep an eye out!
Due to the land being owned by the Ministry of Defence, both Tyneham village and Worbarrow Bay are only open to the public at certain times during the week (mainly weekends) which is why they are both such special places to explore.
Dogs are welcome at both Tyneham village and Worbarrow Bay.
After exploring these hideaways, we suggest driving 10 minutes along the coast to The Weld Arms (pictured left above), a charming thatched 17th century coaching inn tucked away in the picturesque village of East Lulworth. It sits at the foot of Lulworth Castle, another brilliant historic gem to explore. Expect dishes championing local and wild produce.
Another food favourite is The Boat Shed Café (pictured right above) at Lulworth Cove, just below West Lulworth. Enjoy delicious homemade cakes, cream teas, breakfasts and light lunches overlooking peaceful ocean views. The coffee here is brilliant too.
Located on the Isle of Portland, just a 20-minute drive from the buzzing town of Weymouth, this characterful dog-friendly cove is the perfect place to relax in peace.
South-facing and surrounded by cliffs, the cove is sheltered from winds and enjoys sun for most of the day. It's a prime spot for sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling and diving. However, there can be some strong currents outside the cove, so we suggest not swimming too far out.
This cove holds intriguing history. Not only was it once a smugglers' landing site, it was also used as the beachhead for the British Isles during Viking raids. You'll find Rufus Castle, a striking construction created by the Normans, just above the cove which offers fabulous views across the ocean. Plus, it provides a brilliant look-out for watching wildlife - keep an eye out for dolphins in the surrounding waters.
Another historic landmark to walk to from the cove is Durdle Pier which you can reach via the South West Coast Path. The views along here are spectacular!
For parking, find Church Ope Car Park just above the cove. A brilliant nearby café is The Hayloft (pictured above) which is part of the wonderful Pennsylvania Castle Estate. They offer a wide range of healthy food with an indulgent twist and a focus on local producers. Enjoy fresh salads, vegetables and fruit from their Estate kitchen garden, picked that day.
A local's best kept secret, with sparkling waters and brilliant views along the deep orange cliffs of the Lyme Bay Jurassic coastline. Enjoy stunning sunsets from this beach too.
This tranquil golden stretch is enjoyed by bathers, surfers and hikers as they take a break from walking along the South West Coast Path. The walks around here are endless, and canine companions are very welcome on the beach.
Spot the Golden Cap in the distance - the highest point on the Jurassic Coast. If you're up for a hike we highly recommend walking along to this point. The walk all in is 6 miles, but incredibly worth it for the views. Another option is to drive halfway along to Seatown Beach (a little busier than Eype Beach) where you can park and then walk the remaining distance.
Park just above the beach in Eype's Mouth Car Park and enjoy an easy stroll down to the beach from there. Check out Eype Eats Cake Shop and Bakery above the car park (pictured left above) for delicious homemade cakes, sandwiches, pastries, ice cream and more. The organic barista coffee is a must-try.
Another fabulous foodie haven in the area is Downhouse Farm's Garden Café (pictured right above) which offers a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, wonderful views across Lyme Bay and Portland, and delightful homemade dishes made from organic local produce. A lot of the vegetables and herbs they use in their cooking come from their kitchen garden.
Last updated: 09.07.21
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)