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It's Dorset's seaside that many people are here for, both the wildly fascinating Jurassic Coast and the pretty seaside towns with their piers and arcades. And many of the best places to stay in Dorset are along the coastline.

Criss-crossed with sunken lanes, dotted with gentle hills and unspoilt villages, Dorset has so far escaped the brutality - yet convenience - of a motorway. So the landscape of Thomas Hardy's novels has retained much of its lush, pastoral look.

Dorset is far enough from London to feel properly rural, and the incredible coastline has a bevy of beaches which will be irresistible to walkers, runners and sitters alike. Rich both in fossils and iconic coastal locations, three quarters of Dorset's coast is a World Heritage Site, and over half the county is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Lulworth Cove, the Isle of Portland, Chesil Beach and the impressive 150 million year old Portland stone arch, Durdle Door are all well worth a visit. You might want to pack a copy of Ian McEwan’s short elegant novel On Chesil Beach to read during your stay.

If you plan to do more than eat, drink, sleep, relax and enjoy your surroundings, then you can stick to the Jurassic Coast and hike, sail, kayak, swim or fossil hunt to your heart's content.

Inland you'll find the iron age forts, stately homes and pretty pastoral villages of Hardy. The Dorset County Museum has the world's largest collection of Hardy artefacts if you're interested in the great man. Dorset is also home to Clouds Hill, the home of T.E. Lawrence, which is much as he left it, when he was tragically killed at 46, in a motorbike accident just down the road.

The Roman Town House in Dorchester sits atop many sightseeing lists. The only example of a fully exposed Roman town house in the UK, it is free to visit and open all the year round. Other highlights are Corfe Castle, Sherborne Old Castle, once home to Sir Walter Raleigh, and Kingston Lacy, the stately home which housed the Bankes family after the Roundheads turfed them out of Corfe Castle.

The coastal stretch is hugely popular during the summer months and school holidays, so if you want to guarantee a bed in one of the best places to stay in Dorset, you'll have to get organised and plan ahead. Alternatively visit the county off season when you can truly appreciate the stunning countryside without the crowds.

Best Places to Stay in Dorset

For a special occasion

  • Summer Lodge is a luxurious country house hotel just outside Evershot. Built in the 18th Century, then enlarged, the hotel today is a riot of fabrics and plush detailing in the public rooms and grand comfort in the spacious bedrooms. There are a lot of tartan cushions, brass and fringing, but it's super-comfortable with a fulsome cream tea laid on every afternoon.
  • The Priory Hotel is historic and romantic. Hidden behind a church, just off a lovely market square, the16th Century, family-run hotel is surrounded by dreamy English country gardens. The food is supremely satisfying, served in a stone vaulted cellar dining room.
  • The Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa is a stylish white building right on the harbour and easily one of the best places to stay in Dorset if you want to be right on the coast. Everything is designed to make the most of the views, from the rather glamorous bar to a choice of restaurants - including one outdoors. On the other side of the hotel are lovely gardens. The decor is pale and chic and a bit nautique.

For a seaside jaunt

  • On the Weymouth seafront, B+B Weymouth is part of a chain of concept B&Bs which offer superb value for money. Pale, minimalist and clean with no frills, metaphorical or otherwise, it has an open plan kitchen/breakfast room which serves cheery breakfasts.
  • The Pig On The Beach is chic, cosy and right beside about four miles of unspoilt South Dorset coastline. The stunning views outside are complemented by the shabby chic decor of the 23 rooms and public areas. The food is good and locally sourced - some comes direct from the hotel's garden!

For families

  • Popular with shooting parties for its eclectic, but traditional design, the Castleman Hotel, near Blandford Forum, is a charming eight room 'restaurant with rooms'. The bedrooms are big and the food is good, served in a long functional dining room. And the beautiful gardens mean guests can start enjoying the truly great outdoors of Dorset from the moment they step out of the hotel.
  • The Captain's Club Hotel & Spa is a modern seaside hotel on the banks of the River Stour at Christchurch. There are rooms and suites, plus self-catering apartments, with all the mod. cons - kitchen and otherwise. Many rooms have a lovely balcony, and there's a good restaurant and an even better spa.

For a quick break

  • The Alexandra Hotel in Lyme Regis is a cliff-top boutique hotel, with panoramic views of the harbour and the Jurassic Coast. The rooms are luxurious, and of course they have private balconies, and there's a gourmet restaurant and an excellent spa. Great for a weekend away - think lobster and a sea breeze.
  • Tudor Cottage is a pretty thatched cottage turned B&B just outside Dorchester. Artwork adorns the walls and the property oozes character. Book ahead and enjoy one of Louise's relaxed dinners - as an ex professional cook she provides delicious home cooking.
  • Part thatched and low ceilinged, the Museum Inn is an award-winning country pub in a postcard perfect village in rural north Dorset. Just the thing you crave after a muddy walk, and one of the best places to stay in Dorset for a weekend escape.

To escape

  • The Bridge House Hotel in Beaminster, run by London escapees, blends traditional bedrooms with more modern though still country style public areas. Lovely light dining room and friendly efficient service in a building with real character. Low ceilings, big fireplaces and comfy sofas ensure cosy relaxation.
  • Plumber Manor, outside Sturminster Newton, in the heart of Thomas Hardy country, is a charmingly fading Jacobean house which has been owned by the same family since it was built. This extremely homely and welcoming hotel is run by three members of that family who look after guests like friends, helped by a few laconic labradors.

Still not sure which to book? Browse though our list of all the best places to stay in Dorset, or contact one of our friendly Gurus for advice. Alternatively widen your search and take a look at our recommendations in Devon and Cornwall.

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The best hotels in Dorset

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  • B+B Weymouth

    Weymouth, Dorset

    Smart B&B - part of a new b+b concept chain - offering modern design on Weymouth's seafront, opposite the beach, for an affordable price. Convenient and central base.

    23 rooms from $104
    Views  -  From some rooms facing the beach
    Sailing  -  Can be booked nearby.
    Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
    On the beach  -  In front of the hotel.
  • Stapleton Arms

    Buckhorn Weston, Dorset

    A reinvention of the English country pub, boutique style. Original highlights - wooden beams, inglenook fireplaces - retained, with addition of stylish, freshly designed rooms.

    4 rooms from $134
    Restaurant  -  Excellent Sunday roast and breakfasts
    Great walks  -  Maps, wellies and picnics can all be provided.
    Lively  -  Buzzy in the evenings and at weekends
    Romantic  -  Good for couples.
    Recommended by  -  I Escape, Sawdays
  • Castleman Hotel

    Blandford Forum, Dorset

    Charming and eccentric restaurant with rooms, bags of character, in a Queen Ann manor house. Good value, simple rooms, old fashioned, in great countryside.

    8 rooms from $134
    Exclusive offer
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
    Four poster beds  -  For romantics.
    Quirky  -  An experience!
    Full of character
    Recommended by  -  Sawdays
  • Tudor Cottage

    Frampton, Dorset

    Thatched tudor cottage turned B&B just outside Dorchester. Period features and walls crammed with art. Only two bedrooms ensure an intimate atmosphere. Great bolthole for exploring the Jurassic coast and surrounding area.

    2 rooms from $141
    Sights nearby  -  Explore Dorchester, Weymouth and the Jurassic Coast
    Four poster beds  -  One room has an antique four poster
    Restrictions on children  -  No children under 12
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
    Recommended by  -  Sawdays
  • Urban Beach Hotel

    Bournemouth,, Dorset

    Attractive boutique hotel in Bournemouth just five minutes from the beach and not far from the New Forest. Contemporary chic rooms have paintings, luscious fabrics, and all the mod cons. A lively bar and bistro is a focal point. Family friendly, stylish, and surrounded by easily found attractions.

    12 rooms from $144
    Sights nearby  -  Visit the magnificent Durdle Door or Kimmeridge ledges.
    Sailing  -  Can be booked nearby.
    Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
    Recommended by  -  Sawdays, Good Hotel Guide
  • Wooden Cabbage

    near Dorchester, Dorset

    Superb private country house b&b wonderfully situated amidst fields, for total relaxation, walking & good food. Secluded with great views, surrounded by lovely countryside.

    3 rooms from $149
    Views  -  Beautiful valley views from the garden and terrace
    Great walks  -  Itineraries planned by Lee, one of the hosts
    Cooking classes  -  At neighbouring Abbotts Hill Farm
    Full of character
    Recommended by  -  Sawdays
  • Arty B+B by the Sea

    Lyme Regis, Dorset

    Quirky and stylish artists house and studio - Georgian villa with sloping lawn and seaviews in charming seaside town. Five minute walk to the beach, and right in the middle of town.

    2 rooms from $149
    Sights nearby  -  In the middle of the Jurassic Coast
    Fishing  -  Sea fishing can be arranged
    Views  -  Great views from hotel
    Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
  • Grosvenor Arms

    Shaftesbury, Dorset

    After a makeover, this former Georgian inn in the middle of Hardy country oozes casual elegance. Retire to stylish rooms upstairs after dinner in the first-rate revamped restaurant. Great service and classy accommodation without the high price tag.

    16 rooms from $149
    Sights nearby  -  Walking distance to all Shaftesbury's sights
    Local markets  -  Good for local colour.
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
  • Museum Inn

    Blandford Forum, Dorset

    Award-winning thatched country pub in picture postcard village in rural north Dorset, with great food (game a speciality), and cosy, stylish rooms.

    8 rooms from $164
    Restaurant  -  Award winning restaurant specialising in game
    Four poster beds  -  For romantics.
    Full of character
  • The Pig On The Beach

    South Dorset

    Chic, cosy hotel for a weekend break in Dorset. 23 rooms are ultimate shabby chic with four-posters, wooden floors, stand alone bath tubs. Gourmet restaurant uses produce fresh from the kitchen garden. Miles of English coastline to explore and stunning views. The perfect getaway.

    from $177
    Exclusive offer  -  Complimentary Upgrade
    Restaurant  -  James Golding prepares delicious food from the kitchen garden
    Full of character  -  Shabby chic rooms with vintage touches
    Garden  -  Kitchen garden, terrace and huge lawn
    On the beach  -  Four miles of unspoilt beaches
  • BridgeHouse Hotel

    Beaminster, Dorset

    Renovated country town hotel, with great food, for romantic weekending. Stylish mix of contemporary and traditional, in an excellent town for antiquing surrounded by great countryside.

    13 rooms from $187
    Sights nearby  -  The Jurassic Coast on its doorstep
    Local markets  -  Local antiqueing and markets
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
    Fishing  -  Excellent fishing nearby.
    Recommended by  -  I Escape, Good Hotel Guide
  • The Green House

    Bournemouth, Dorset

    Designer eco hotel a few hundred yards from the beach, with fine dining - great for business stays or small conferences.

    32 rooms from $192
    Eco  -  Everything about this place is green from the beds to the wallpaper to the cooking oil that fuels the car!
    Sailing  -  Can be booked nearby.
    Designer  -  Uniquely designed interiors.
    Restrictions on children
    Recommended by  -  Mr & Mrs Smith
  • Plumber Manor Hotel

    Sturminster Newton, Dorset

    Characterful Jacobean manor house hotel in glorious Thomas Hardy country, in the same family for centuries, with portraits to match. An air of faded grandeur. The real deal.

    16 rooms from $223
    Restaurant  -  Award winning restaurant, popular with locals
    Garden  -  20 acre grounds
    Owner managed  -  Since 1660!
    Full of character
    Recommended by  -  Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays, Signpost
  • Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa

    Christchurch, Dorset

    Style and exceptional service on the Dorset coast. The newly refurbished Christchurch Harbour Hotel offers smart bedrooms, excellent food, pampering spa and wonderful views. Perfect for an indulgent break by the sea.

    64 rooms from $238
    Kayaking  -  Complimentary single and double kayaks available for the guests to use.
    Great walks  -  Plenty of coastal walks for all abilities
    Views  -  Superb views over Christchurch harbour
    Swimming Pool  -  Indoor/outdoor
  • Alexandra Hotel

    Lyme Regis, Dorset

    Panoramic views over the ocean and the harbour from this cliff top boutique hotel. Luxurious bedrooms, gourmet restaurant and sea-facing terrace, and an excellent spa too. Great for a weekend away, think lobster and sea breeze.

    21 rooms from $188
    Views  -  Fabulous views over Lyme Bay and the Jurassic Coast
    Seaside  -  Ideal for a seaside holiday.
    Diving  -  Good diving nearby.
    Great walks  -  Good for walkers.
    Recommended by  -  Johansens, Sawdays, Signpost
  • Priory Hotel

    Wareham, Dorset

    A slice of old England served with China tea, a peaceful and romantic hotel in lovely Wareham on the edge of the Isle of Purbeck. Plenty of great excursions for adults and older kids.

    18 rooms from $305
    Garden  -  Idyllic garden leading down to the River Frome
    Sights nearby  -  Corfe Castle a few miles away
    Restrictions on children  -  Not under 14
    Four poster beds  -  For romantics.
    Recommended by  -  Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Johansens, Sawdays
  • Captain's Club Hotel & Spa

    Christchurch, Dorset

    A modern seaside hotel on the banks of the River Stour in Christchurch. Self-catering rooms and suites have fully equipped kitchens, modern furnishings, and balconies with views. Top of the range spa and therapies, terraces, good restaurant, and plenty of local activities. Very family oriented.

    17 rooms from $340
    Riverside  -  Perfectly set on the banks of the River Stour.
    Sights nearby  -  Poole Harbour, one of the world's largest natural harbours, is 15km away.
    Recommended by  -  I Escape, Sawdays
  • Summer Lodge

    Evershot, Dorset

    Hardyesque country house hotel that pulls the stops out, with spa, pool, gourmet cooking and luxurious rooms. Multiple fabrics and plush furnishings, not for minimalists.

    20 rooms from $342
    Child friendly  -  Child menus and plenty of things to do including outdoor activities, plus wii and playstations with games!
    Good wine list  -  Top class sommelier
    Restaurant  -  Recommended.
    Great walks  -  Borrow wellies for strolls round the local lanes
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