Dorset is a hidden gem for a beach holiday family staycation – and a lot closer to home than we expected.With the pandemic restricting travels this year, a staycation for many of us has been the ultimate break.
By Natalie Hodgson
The best part of a staycation is the fact that there are no luggage restrictions and so with jammed packed car we spent days chasing sunshine in Dorset and was pleasantly surprised at what we found.
Dorset is probably the most accessible part of the West Country – just a two-hour drive – windows down, to reach this countryside of thatch-dominated villages through winding narrow roads and rolling hills, passing weather worn wooden signs marked ‘broad beans’, ‘homemade cider shack’ and ‘Pick your own S & B’.
In just three days, we squeezed in a seafood brunch in Poole, a splash underneath the arches of Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. A jurassic walk to the famous Harry’s Rocks, the Tank Museum and a culinary treat at Rick Stein’s Sandbanks location.
Our first stop led us to the bay of Poole. The soft sand was covered with enthusiastic beach goers (mostly vocal children), bustling with buckets, spades, frisbees and beach balls. The shoreline was filled with animal floaties and boogie boards wading through the whitewash. This is a sight I miss, having been raised by the coast all my life but now living in Bristol.
Then we took the half hour drive from Poole to Durdle Door. A sweeping coastline of prehistoric cliffs that overlook sea-smoothed multicolored pebbles. This quaint spot entertains the kids for hours. The picturesque archways are the perfect back drop for a little paddle and for those more adventurous can swim out to it and jump from the cliff edges.
The next day we ventured out to Studland Beach. There are few experiences more pleasurable than a walk with your family along coastlines formed over 10,000 years ago. You cannot help but marvel as you look around to see how it continues to evolve as the sea erodes the soft chalk into natural art master pieces. Our 20-minute stroll to Harry’s Rocks was interrupted by cricket chirrups, dodging hourse dung and birds songs in the hedgerows that led to hidden sea views for those Instagram selfies. Many a kayak and SUP boarder were seen looking down at the shoreline below. If it had been just myself and my partner, I would have kept walking until sunset along these idyllic cliffs.
Joe’s café on Studland beach provided us a much-needed ice cream treat in large waffle cones but also provided light lunch takeaway meals. For this beach stop make sure you have cash for parking and booking if you prefer a pub lunch.
Dorset caters to a range of tastes up to seriously chic boutique B&Bs, hotels and some of the south west’s finest restaurants. On our last day we decided on Rick Stein’s Sandbanks restaurant where our taste buds were delighted with seabass Indonesian curries, mussels, sirloin steaks and passion fruit pavlovas. As a bonus, the famous TV chef happen to be there on the day!
Where else do you see monkeys next to tanks? Well in Dorset as both Monkey World and the Tank Museum in Bovington are sign-posted together.
We didn’t get to Monkey World, but I’ve heard great things and driving past it looks to be an expansive property. The Tank Museum was something completely different to add into the mix family to-dos in Dorset and is a great rainy day option.
Surprisingly, I found it as exciting and engaging as my son and husband. A great way to experience history and innovation through tank development. From Leonard Da Vinci’s first concept model, to the World War 2 “funnys” crocodile, floating and inflatable tanks, to today’s hi-tech battle machines. Set aside plenty of time to explore the huge collection, theatres of war exhibitions, and outdoor live action displays when they are on.
Dorset is famed for its family breaks, with its walking trails, sea-based activities and endless bays to discover. Toddlers will love collecting pebbles and shells on the beach or paddling in the rock pools, whilst older kids and teens can get stuck into sea kayaking, trekking or go karting. There’s something for everyone and so much more to explore. We will most definitely go back.