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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, and the incredible coastline has a bevy of beaches which will be irresistible to walkers, runners and sitters alike.
What not to Miss
- 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. Lyme Regis is right in the heart of the Juassic Coast, and 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, and if you plan to enjoy these, then Shaftesbury may then be one of the best places to stay in Dorset. It’s a charming market town with superb views. 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.
If you want to stay somewhere with a little more action, then we recommend you book a room in Bournemouth. It has an enormous sandy beach (it stretches some 7miles) and there's a wide range of evening entertainment on offer, from cafes and restaurants to pubs and clubs.
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.
The Best Places to Stay in Dorset
For a special occasion
- 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.
- Summer Lodge near Eveshot is a Hardy-esque country house turned 24 room hotel with lovely gardens and lovely views of the surrounding countryside. The decor is elaborate and the restaurant gourmet. Plus there’s a pool, spa ad tennis courts. Perfect for a mini-break.
For a seaside jaunt
- The Alexandra Hotel is a 21 room cliff-top boutique hotel in Lyme Regis, with a gourmet restaurant and a charming terrace which faces out to sea. As well as the bay you have amazing views over the Jurassic Coast.
- The Pig On The Beach is chic, cosy and right beside about four miles of unspoilt South Dorset coastline, on Studland Bay. 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!
- The Green House is a 32 room designer eco-hotel just a few hundred yards back from the beach in Bournemouth. As well as being green and comfortable, this hotel has all the mod. cons. and a fine restaurant with an ambitious menu.
- Also in Bournemouth, the Urban Beach Hotel is just minutes from the beach and offers twelve contemporary chic rooms. But the real hub is the bar and bistro which has a great buzz.
- 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.
- The Stapleton Arms near Buckhorn Weston, is a reinvented English country pub with boutique details, as well as lots of nice original features. The four rooms have been recently designed and the pub has turned gourmet, but it’s still very welcoming.
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.
- The Bridgehouse 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.
- The Acorn Inn is an historic charmer built in the 16th century from the local, honey-coloured stone. Inside many of the original features remain too. There are just ten rooms plus an award-wining restaurant.
- The Grosvenor Arms is a charming old Georgian inn with 16 elegant rooms bang in the centre of Shaftesbury. After a recent revamp the restaurant is now first rate and the rooms definitely have the "wow" factor. But this is still a great value property, with rooms starting from just £100 per night.
- The Wooden Cabbage is a superb country house with stunning views and three, cosy-but-stylish rooms. A charming spot in the country perfect for long strolls.
- The Kings Arms is a grand Georgian property in Christchurch. There are 20 carefully decorated rooms with traditional architecture yet modern furnishings, and a gourmet restaurant.
- Arty B+B by the Sea in Lyme Regis, is a quirky and stylish two room B&B in the centre of town, which is crammed with all sorts of the owner's artworks. This Georgian villa features a sloping lawn where you can take breakfast in warmer months and wonderful sea views. You're also just five minutes walk to the beach.
- 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.
- Holyleas House is a delightful, three room B&B in the quaint village of Dorchester. Decorated in creams and blues, and with a smart dining room used for breakfasts, this is a welcoming place to stay in the heart of Hardy country. Rooms start from around £80 per night.
- For around £90 per night you could stay at The Bull Hotel in Bridgeport, an 18th century coaching inn with 14 individually decorated rooms. Whoever designed this hotel had a bit of fun with it, but it’s quite stylish and there re two great restaurants and a bar.
For a country cottage or seaside apartment
- For a wide range of self catering accommodation, we recommend you visit our online partner, booking.com.
- Bournemouth, Southampton and Exeter airports are all local international airports. And being on the coast, Dorset is also well served by ferries coming from Europe and the Channel Islands - most dock at Southampton and Poole. Alternatively South West trains runs the service to Dorset from London, which leaves from Waterloo Station.
- If you want to hire a car - which we highly advise if you’re staying in Dorset - we recommend you visit our online partner, Holiday Autos.
- This is the UK, so expect changeable weather whatever the season. Dorset is popular in summer, of course, when people are here for the beach. But it’s also beautiful in spring and autumn - if you don’t mind a chill and a bit of a shower or two - and you can still expect plenty of clear days. Winter is wonderful if you like things to be ‘bracing’.
Still not sure which is the best place to stay in Dorset for you?
Best Hotels in Dorset
Holyleas House 3 rooms from $104Dorchester, Dorset
A delightful B&B located in the quaint village of Buckland. Decorated in calming magnolias and blues. Comfy beds and immaculate bathrooms. Enjoy a full English breakfast in the smart dining room: a combined effort between Tia and the local farmer's market. Children of all ages are welcome.Sights nearby - This is Thomas Hardy county: visit his cottage in nearby Dorchester.Great walks - Traverse the dramatic Dorset Downs.Local markets - Dorchester, Sherborne & BridportRecommended by - Sawdays
B+B Weymouth 26 rooms from $111Weymouth, Dorset
Smart B&B - part of a new b+b concept chain - offering modern design on Weymouth's seafront. Simple light and airy rooms with crisp white linen. Comfortable beds with duck down pillows and duvets. Serves delicious Dorset breakfasts. Affordable price in a convenient and central location.Local exploring - Well situated for exploring Weymouth on foot or two wheels, right on the seafront and only five minutes from the town centre.Fishing - For all the fanatics, Sea Angling on the Dorset coast is an absolute must!Great walks - The B&B offers guided walking tours of West Dorset.Views - From some rooms facing the beach
The Bull Hotel 14 rooms from $117Bridport, Dorset
An 18th century coaching inn, yet full of fun from within. Rooms are decorated with individual touches like ornate mirrors, brass beds to antique dressers complete with floral Cole & Son wallpapers. There are two restaurants, with an emphasis on locally sourced seafood and the popular Venner bar.Local markets - Bridport market, open Wednesdays and Saturdays is perfect for hidden gems and bric-a-brac.Great walks - This is the gateway to the Jurassic Coast with all its dramatic coastal paths.Sailing - Lyme Regis is a sailing mecca and a quaint town to spend an afternoon.Sights nearby - Country house lovers will appreciate Mapperton House.Recommended by - I Escape, Mr & Mrs Smith, Good Hotel Guide
Tudor Cottage 2 rooms from $124Frampton, 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.Sights nearby - Explore Dorchester, Weymouth and the Jurassic CoastFour poster beds - One room has an antique four posterRestrictions on children - No children under 12Great walks - Good for walkers.Recommended by - Sawdays
Urban Beach Hotel 12 rooms from $126Bournemouth,, 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.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
Acorn Inn 10 rooms from $129Dorset
The Acorn Inn oozes historic charm. Built in the 16th century from local honey coloured stone, the decor maintains much of the original features; exposed beams, oak panelling and flagstone floors are in abundance. Award winning food in the restaurant. A stylish base for exploring Hardy country.Lively - The Hardy Bar is very popular with the locals with quiz nights, skittles competitions and yard of ale drinking challengesGreat walks - Guests have access to the adjacent 600 acres Melburg Estate and Deer Park with walking and artistic opportunitiesFull of character - Each of the rooms is named after an aspect of Thomas Hardy's 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles'Sights nearby - Manor houses and their gardens are in abundance in this areaRecommended by - Sawdays
Castleman Hotel 8 rooms from $130Blandford Forum, Dorset
Stunning country house in beautiful parkland. Excellent restaurant priding itself on using local produce. Traditional interiors with dark woods, warm coloured walls and chintz fabrics. A handful of rooms some featuring roll top baths and antique four poster beds. The ideal country escape.Exclusive offer - Midweek OfferTotal relaxation - Sipping Champagne in your claw footed tub, feasting on traditional English delights, and bracing walks through the countryside.Great walks - Bring your wellies, there are beautiful walks from the village to sandy beaches, chalk downlands and ancient heathlands.Fishing - Anglers will be kept busy with fantastic fishing on the river Stour, Allen and Avon.Secluded setting - For escaping.Recommended by - Sawdays, Good Hotel Guide
Arty B+B by the Sea 2 rooms from $130Lyme 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.Sights nearby - In the middle of the Jurassic CoastFishing - Sea fishing can be arrangedViews - Great views from hotelSeaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.
Grosvenor Arms 16 rooms from $130Shaftesbury, 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.Sights nearby - Walking distance to all Shaftesbury's sightsLocal markets - Good for local colour.Great walks - Good for walkers.
Stapleton Arms 4 rooms from $143Buckhorn 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. The gourmet pub food has gained a reputation for Sunday Roasts, inspired menus and a breakfast fit for a king.Foodies - Locally sourced, responsibly reared meats, veggies from the back garden, homemade pork pies, scotch eggs and relish- heaven!Families - Child and dog friendly, with kids menu, highchairs, crayons, and plenty of fun countryside activities.Great walks - They will show you where to go, supply you with wellies, umbrellas and picnics- so get out there and explore!Local markets - Towns of Shaftesbury and Gillingham both have markets to explore.Recommended by - I Escape, Sawdays
Museum Inn 8 rooms from $143Blandford Forum, Dorset
The Museum Inn is an award-winning country pub located in a picture-postcard village in rural north Dorset. Eight individually designed rooms either in the main house or converted stables feature plush decor with Bramley bathroom accessories. Plus a separate large cottage for families or groups.Foodies - Both gastropub and fine dining options at the Museum Inn offer locally sourced, wholesome food, expect game from nearby shoots.Groups - Moles cottage sleeps up to 16 and is popular with shooting parties in the season and families in the summer.Fishing - Damerham Fisheries offers Trout fishing and Gorcombe Farm boasts fishing, clay pigeon shooting and archery.Great walks - Explore the surrounding area of outstanding natural beauty, Cranborne Chase.Recommended by - Sawdays
Wooden Cabbage 3 rooms from $150near Dorchester, Dorset
Superb private country house with stunning views. Cosy and stylish decor with oh so comfy beds. Enjoy the very local produce for breakfast whilst surrounded by lovely countryside. Ideally situated for walkers in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A charming spot for a country escape.Country Escape - A country house with charming hosts, sweeping views of the Dorset countryside and fragrant flower filled gardens.Sights nearby - Visit any one of the many local stately homes including Mapperton House and Gardens, Forde Abbey & Gardens or Montacute House.Great walks - Take your pick of rolling hills or stunning coastal walks on the beach or headlands (20 minutes drive).Local markets - Shop in the local market towns of Sherborne, Beaminster, Crewkerne and Bridport.Recommended by - Sawdays
The Pig On The Beach from $155South 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.Exclusive offer - Complimentary UpgradeRestaurant - James Golding prepares delicious food from the kitchen gardenFull of character - Shabby chic rooms with vintage touchesGarden - Kitchen garden, terrace and huge lawnOn the beach - Four miles of unspoilt beaches
The Kings Arms 20 rooms from $176Christchurch, Dorset
This grand Georgian property provides a stylish stay. Inside it is a sympathetic blend of traditional architecture with modern furnishings. Rooms are decorated with velvet headboards, sumptuous armchairs and luxurious bathrooms. The gourmet restaurant has a seasonal delicious locally sourced menu.Sights nearby - The historic Christchurch Priory Church, Christchurch Castle and Highcliffe Castle are within walking distance or very close.Great walks - The many pathways of the Jurassic Coast are on your doorstep.OpulentSailing - Can be booked nearby.
BridgeHouse Hotel 14 rooms from $208Beaminster, Dorset
Renovated country town hotel. Cosy atmosphere with wooden beams and open fireplaces. Traditional and romantic rooms with dark hues and four poster beds. Award winning restaurant and some of the most picturesque countryside in the UK. Ideal for a country weekend away.Country Escape - A perfect country house hideaway, with cosy fires, excellent food, old oak beams, Georgian panelling, and wonderful walking.Great walks - The Jurassic Coast on your doorstep, throw on the wellies and head out rambling- don't forget your packed lunch.Sailing - The hotel arranges RIB rides along the Jurassic coast from West Bay to Lyme Regis.House party feel - Be prepared to meet people.Recommended by - I Escape, Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
Plumber Manor Hotel 16 rooms from $208Sturminster Newton, Dorset
Characterful, family-run Jacobean manor house in glorious Thomas Hardy country. This quintessentially English manor has been in the same family for centuries, with portraits to match. An air of faded grandeur. The real deal.Country Escape - A perfect base for exploring the Dorset countryside- gardens, National Trust Houses, villages and walks.Great walks - Bring your dog and enjoy the 20 acres of well kept grounds, with a river running through.Birdwatching - Take a deckchair and plonk it down by the river, sit, relax and listen to the birdsong.Full of characterRecommended by - Good Hotel Guide, Sawdays
The Green House 32 rooms from $208Bournemouth, Dorset
Eco hotel a few hundred yards from the beach. Contemporary rooms with designer wallpaper and some with free standing baths. Award winning restaurant uses produce from the local area. Well placed for exploring Dorset and the New Forest.Sailing - Bournmouth Cruises offers both cruises and rides on their speedboat.Great walks - Within easy access of the New Forest - a paradise for walkers.Sights nearby - Visit Christchurch Castle ruins.Seaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, Johansens
Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa 64 rooms from $208Christchurch, 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.Kayaking - Complimentary single and double kayaks available for the guests to use.Great walks - Plenty of coastal walks for all abilitiesViews - Superb views over Christchurch harbourSwimming Pool - Indoor/outdoor
Alexandra Hotel 24 rooms from $234Lyme 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.Views - Fabulous views over Lyme Bay and the Jurassic CoastSeaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.Diving - Good diving nearby.Great walks - Good for walkers.Recommended by - Johansens, Sawdays
Priory Hotel 18 rooms from $287Wareham, 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. Classically styled rooms and a beautiful garden. Plenty of great excursions for adults and older kids.Local exploring - From the Saxon town walls of the ancient market town of Wareham to the rolling Dorset countryside there is plenty to see.Great walks - The lovely gardens slope down to the River Frome, a perfect starting point for an afternoon stroll.Sights nearby - Check out nearby Corfe village with the spectacular ruins of Corfe Castle, only a few miles away.Restrictions on children - Not under 14Recommended by - Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Johansens, Sawdays
Captain's Club Hotel & Spa 17 rooms from $298Christchurch, 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.Riverside - Perfectly set on the banks of the River Stour.WeddingsFamiliesSights nearby - Poole Harbour, one of the world's largest natural harbours, is 15km away.Recommended by - I Escape, Sawdays
Summer Lodge 24 rooms from $345Evershot, Dorset
A Hardy-esque country house turned hotel, surrounded by lovely gardens and spectacular countryside. Luxurious rooms boasts elaborate floral fabrics and plush furnishings. The gourmet restaurant is not to be missed, nor the extensive bar. A cosy countryside base, complete with pool, spa and tennis.Foodies - The dream team of Head Chef Steven Titman and world-renowned Sommelier Eric Zwiebel make dinner an unforgettable experience.Romantic Break - Let your romantic side out with candlelit jacuzzi sessions, in room champagne and rose petals on the bed.Great walks - Borrow wellies for strolls around the English garden or the adjoining deer park teeming with wildlife and natural beauty.Private Hot Tub - Ivy Cottage features a private outdoor hot tub.Recommended by - I Escape, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Johansens, Kiwi Collection, Relais & Chateaux, Michelin Travel