Why the Jurassic Coast is the Best of Dorset and Devon

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Chalk cliffs and the sea
Old Harry Rocks at the east end of the Jurassic Coast

What makes visiting England a must-see destination is the contrast of energy in London to the beautiful, tranquil countryside of the Cotswold. Or the white sandy beaches along the Jurassic Coast between Dorset and Devon.

Housesitting in Devon and Dorset opened our eyes to some amazing local towns and quaint seaside villages. We fell in love walking the lanes between villages, picking wild blackberries and enjoying the most amazing sunsets.

And finding dinosaur fossils along the Jurassic Coast was unexpected.

Grab your London City Walk to help you navigate the must-see places for the best experience of London.


Where is the Jurassic Coast?

The coastline from Exmouth, Devon, to Old Harry Rocks, Dorset, is the area known as the Jurassic Coast. In 2001, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The easier option to explore the Jurassic Coast is a road trip. However, a popular option is to walk the 153 km (95 miles).

With cliff-top hikes, amazing beaches, fantastic sunsets, fossils and incredible rock formations, the Jurassic Coast is a perfect break away.

If you watched the drama series Broadchurch or the movie Dunkirk, Dorset was the chosen location for filming.

How to Get to the Jurassic Coast

You have a few options for getting to the Jurassic Coast:

  • Take the bus
  • Buy a train ticket
  • Hire a car

Your quickest starting point by train is from London Waterloo to Poole or Bournemouth (about 2 hours).

To book a train ticket, check the timetable at National Rail.

But your best option is to rent a car to make the most of your vacation time.

A road trip along the Jurassic Coast, staying at least three days, gives you time to absorb its incredible beauty.


Best Places to Stay on the Jurassic Coast

A stone cross in front of as thatched cottage
The quaint village of Hawkchurch

Our suggestion is to book a Jurassic Coast Airbnb. You have a larger space to relax and often a kitchen to prepare your meals.

However, a great option is to book one of the cosy pubs along the coast. Or a small village near the coast, like The Old Inn Pub at Hawkchurch.

We were lucky to have a housesit in the small village of Hawkchurch. After a night or two at The Old Inn Pub, we were given lots of places to visit in Dorset and Devon.

They even mentioned a special field down the road. It’s where we could put one leg in Dorset, the other leg in Devon, and if we threw our arm backwards, we would be in Somerset, too. Brilliant!

But the highlight was choosing picnic foods from the surrounding local markets.

Visit the Local Markets in Dorset

A hand picking red and black berries
Picking berries along the lanes in Hawkchurch

Having fresh local produce on your doorstep is one of the bonuses of living in a small village.

Nearby we could shop at:

Miller’s Farm Store in Kilmington (near Axminster).

Our favourite for local fresh produce, French wine and cheeses, and baked sourdough.

Axminster in Devon has been famous for Axminster Carpets since 1755. Thomas Whitty created a patterned carpet for Royals. The museum has an informative display of Axminster’s local history.

Bridport Market in Dorset

A Saturday market on the main street. We loved the little cake shop near the square with its ginormous local cakes. Our favourite was a slice of the Dorset Apple Cake.

Charmouth Market in Dorset

The market is held in a large paddock hosting a variety of produce. A favourite was the local Deli van selling “put together” produce at ridiculous prices. We bought a bag of yummy small Cornish pastries for a pound.

So, with your accommodation and food choices sorted, here are the ten best places on the Jurassic Coast.

10 Best Places on the Jurassic Coast

Here are ten ideas to plan a road trip to the Jurassic Coast.

1. Eat Fish and Chips at Lyme Regis

A view along the beach of a coastal town
The seaside town of Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a quaint seaside town with a local marina on the Jurassic coastline. The beach and township are popular with tourists because of their temperate weather.

If you love dinosaurs, you can stroll east along the beach. Locals and tourists can be seen splitting rocks to find fossils they can sell or keep.

Unfortunately, at this end of the beach, the erosion of the sea cliff reveals an old dump. So wear your shoes to wander past.

The township has lovely old streets and shops. Some are too narrow, which makes them perfect for pedestrians.

And a walk up to the hillside church gives you wonderful views across the bay. Especially the beautiful garden overlooking the west side of the harbour.

Perfect for a picnic or to find some interesting sculptures.

You can walk down amongst the local fishing cottages to the harbour wall. Here you’ll find small fish and chips shops too.

A couple eating on the beach
Fish and chips on the beach at Lyme Regis

Sitting on the pebbly beach or the soft hillside grass, watching swimmers and people enjoying the sun. Perfect.

A fossil imprint in a stone
Finding fossils at Lyme Regis

2. Golden Cap at Seatown

A man standing on a big stone at the top of a hill
At the top of Golden Cap

Golden Cap is the highest point on the Jurassic Coast at 191m.

Access to the Golden Cap is via the road to Seatown, between Bridport and Charmouth. There is paid parking available near the path up to Golden Cap.

The walk-up takes you through some bush and across paddocks. It can get a little busy on a sunny day with walkers from the nearby campground. But when you reach the top, the views are spectacular up and down the coast.

And on your return to Seatown Beach, enjoy a beer and lunch at The Anchor Inn.

3. Visit Abbotsbury and Upper Eype

Looking down a coast from a high point
View from Thorncombe Beacon

Another place on the Jurassic Coast is the small stone village of Abbotsbury. There are fantastic views along the coast of Portland Isle.

And if you are feeling a little peckish, take the road to Upper Eype for lunch. The farm cafe has access to Thorncombe Beacon. You also have views along the Jurassic coast to Golden Cap.

4. Spend the Day at the Isle of Portland

A large rock formation in the sea
Pulpit Rock on the Isle of Portland

Portland Castle was the attraction today on the Isle of Portland. The castle was a defensive fort built by Henry VIII to protect the harbour from the French.

Portland Harbour was the sailing base for the 2012 Olympics.

Although Portland was once a naval port, the quarried rock was once the main source of income. The rock was shipped to London for buildings such as the Houses of Parliament.

Next to an old jail hidden within the hillside is the original quarry railway with its steep incline down to the port.

Not surprisingly, it can be windy if you visit the lighthouse, Portland Bill, on the English Channel. From here, you can walk down to see the famous Pulpit Rock and, if you’re lucky, maybe a Puffin bird.

Beach huts and a small lighthouse
Beach huts on the Isle of Portland

With the wind above and the waves crashing below, some holidaymakers enjoy the sea and sun in their small one-room beach huts.

A tall white and red lighthouse
Portland Bill on the English Channel

Take a Detour to Poole

A moored sailing ship
A tall sailing ship moored at Poole

Even though the seaside town of Poole is not part of the Jurassic Coast, it is worth a stop. Poole is the second-largest natural harbour in the world.

You’ll find buildings dating back to the era of the old port. And if you were ever a scout or guide, there is a statue of Bowden-Powell.

The nearby Brownsea Island is the birthplace of the Bowden-Powell Scout and Guide Movement. You can book a cruise boat tour at the port.

A couple either side of a statue of a scout master
Bowden-Powell statue in Poole

5. Lunch at Studland Beach

A sailboat anchored in a bay
Looking across to Studland Beach

Leaving Poole, you have two options to get to Studland Bay (named for Equestrian, not men.)

You can take the car ferry from Bournemouth to Studland Bay or drive overland across The Purbecks. We chose the drive through The Purbecks countryside, arriving at Studland Bay for lunch.

Studland Beach is in the Studland and Godlingston Heath National Nature Reserve. What a mouthful. But its beach was clean and pristine, where we found Joe’s Cafe (really a shack) for a scrumptious sandwich.

The walk from the cafe takes you along the beach to the path up to Old Harry Rocks.

6. Walk to Old Harry Rocks

A lady crouching in front of chalk islands
At Old Harry Rocks on Jurassic Coast

So why is it called Old Harry Rocks?

There are always a couple of stories to be told. One says the devil used to sleep on the rocks, while the other tells Harry Paye the pirate would hide his ships behind the rocks.

Whatever the story, these chalk rocks form the most easterly point of the Jurassic Coast on the Isle of Purbeck.

And only 200 meters south of Old Harry Rocks are The Pinnacles, formed 66 million years ago. Impressive.

Seeing the natural beauty of the Jurassic Coast is why you want to spend a weekend break here.

7. Admire Corfe Castle

Ruins of a stone castle
The ruins of Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle dates back to the 11th century, an inland drive from the coast. The stone village is a favourite for visitors enjoying lunches at the local inns.

And even though the castle was demolished when seized during the civil war in 1645. It is an impressive sight as you enter the village.

8. Relax at Lulworth Cove

A man above a cove
View down to Lulworth Cove

We passed by Lulworth Castle before arriving at a busy Lulworth Cove village.

There is plenty of parking available, at about £4 per hour. And it’s an easy walk down to Lulworth Cove. A stunning bowl-shaped bay dotted with moored boats and surrounded by white chalk cliffs.

And if you climb the hill above Lulworth Cove, you can see the narrow entrance of the cove. And a naturally formed hole in the rock called the Stair Hole. 

An alternative walk from Lulworth Village to the west is the Man of War Beach and Durdle Door. A natural limestone arch jutting out from the coast.

An old building selling ice cream and fudge
Fudge and ice cream store at Lulworth Cove

9. Ride the Tram in Seaton

An old tram
Tram rides in Seaton

The Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a coastline of 154 km from Exmouth in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks in East Dorset.

The seaside town of Seaton is in East Devon. And Seaton has a lot on offer, especially with walks in the Seaton Wetlands Nature Reserve. You can also buy a ticket for a tram ride along the River Axe up to Colyford thatched village and Colyton.

And you can expect the Polar Express at Christmas and the Tram of Terror at Halloween.

But for those who enjoy a walk, the Seaton to Beer 3.2km walk is across the chalk cliffs. It starts from Fisherman’s Gap in Seaton, with some steep sections of the climb on the walk to Beer.

10. Go for a Swim at Beer

Looking at a beach from a high point
View of the beach at Beer

Beer is also a beautiful little seaside cove in East Devon.

Because the beach has very large pebbles, large rubber mats are laid down to make walking to the seawater heaps easier. Very quirky.

But we have to say we were a little confused with the town’s name.

Where is the beer?

We thought there must be a brewery at the beer caves. But no, Beer, an old Anglo-Saxon term, means a wooded grove.

The Beer Quarry Caves have a 2000-year history used by smugglers. But more importantly, as a supplier of stone to buildings in London City, like St Paul’s Cathedral.

Going inside the caves, an unexpected surprise was the small ornate chapel.

If you plan to visit the Beer Caves, bring an extra top, as it’s a little chilly.

Inside a cave
Inside Beer Cave Quarry

Take a Detour to Devon

If you love the Jurassic Coast experience, you could take a detour to see more of Devon.

Places near the Jurassic Coast to visit are Exeter, Dartmouth and Tilverton.

Walk the City of Exeter

A medieval square
Exeter Cathedral Square

Exeter is an easy city to walk in, with plenty of pedestrian areas.

A starting point is Cathedral Square for cafes, an old Roman Wall, and Catherine Walk with its lovely old shops.

Exeter Cathedral’s exterior is true workmanship. The detail on the 900-plus-year-old building will keep you looking up for a wee while.

Royal Albert Museum, housing 2000 years of world history, is a must-see, especially the exquisite interior.

Exeter Quay on the River Exe was once a port for overseas shipping. Today, the renovated warehouses have cafes, museums and apartments, both old and new.

Tip: Fly into Exeter airport and hire a car to road trip the Jurassic Coast.

A medieval cathedral
Exeter Cathedral

Take the Train to Dartmouth

A port with colorful houses
Colourful old houses at Dartmouth Port

Dartmouth is our pick of seaside towns in England trip so far. Leaving the car at the marina, we walked down the hill for the passenger ferry ride across the cove.

As there is no bridge crossing the Dart River, ferries have been used since the 1300s.

We loved the quaint shops, waterside cottages, and gardens. We even did the 15-20min walk to the entrance of the cove to explore Dartmouth Castle.

And, of course, we couldn’t resist a local fish and chip lunch. Finding a spot on the waterfront, we ate and admired the activity on the water.

Tip: Take the steam train from Paignton through Kingswear.

View of a large building complex above the water
Britannia Royal Naval College

Enjoy a Long Boat at Tiverton

A boat moored on a canal
Tiverton Canal Boat, Devon

Tiverton town connects to the Grand Western Canal, built over 200 years ago to bring limestone to the Tiverton wharf.

It’s why one of the main tourist attractions is a horse-drawn canal boat ride. A chance to travel back in time. These beautiful horses pull not only the boat but also at least 70 passengers inside.

And make sure to wander through Tiverton town to find the local church of St Peter’s. Here, you can admire its 300-plus embroidered kneelers. The intricate detail and craft show the dedication of the embroidery.

And remember to look up at the impressive chandelier for Queen Anne.

Cushions in an old church
Embroidered book covers, Tiverton

Jurassic Coast Wrap-up

Teo beers glinting in the sun
Enjoying a beer after climbing down from Golden Cap

We had a great month housesitting in the quaint village of Hawkchurch. And we always found time for one more beer on the amazing Jurassic Coast.

A road trip from Devon to Dorset Jurassic Coast has opened our eyes to more of England. Not only the beauty of the beaches but the clifftop walks with views of the chalk cliffs. And, of course, the cosy pubs and restaurants with seaside menus.

With choices of tramping and glamping along the cliffs or hiring a car and Airbnb, England’s Jurassic coastline makes a perfect destination for your next vacation.