England’s first UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site covers 95 mind-blowing miles (150 km) from Purbeck to Lyme Regis in western Dorset and continues on to Exmouth in Devon.
Find your way along winding country roads down to the sea; you’ll discover prehistoric fossils and gigantic footprints at the foot of the ancient cliffs formed 185 million years ago, as well as beaches only accessible on foot across undulating farmland.
Stay awhile at historic Lyme Regis, huddled under towering limestone cliffs and with lots to do, from spotting fossils to quirky museums, art galleries and classy gift shops, or walk along the beach to Charmouth for more fossil-hunting opportunities. Challenge yourself to climb Golden Cap, the highest point along the south coast, for far-reaching views over cliffs and beaches.
All along the coastline, you’ll unearth enticing towns and villages: Swanage offers fish‘n’chips and brisk walks to Studland Bay, Durlston Head and Old Harry Rocks. In Georgian Weymouth, see the road bridge lift to let swanky yachts slip underneath and linger to enjoy the ambience in pubs and bars around the packed, buzzing Waterfront Weymouth.
Drive across the narrow shingle causeway to wind-battered Isle of Portland, possessor of Dorset’s wildest coastline; tour the Tudor castle and clamber up 153 steps in the lighthouse at Portland Bill for views along Chesil Beach. Further down the coast, charming Bridport’s harbour is at West Bay, flanked by golden cliffs and the meandering waters of the river Brit.
Lose yourself in the profoundly peaceful village and almost circular cove at Lulworth and follow the wild headlands to the fabled natural limestone arch at Durdle Door. Walk along part of the 18-mile (29 km) bank of pebbles forming Chesil Beach, backed by the wildlife-rich Fleet Lagoon. In summer months, pay a visit to the Swannery in the photogenic thatched village of Abbotsbury, looking out over Chesil Beach.