Jurassic Coast stretches along the southern shores of England, from East Devon to Dorset. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s famous for its impressive rock formations, fossils, and geological history.
Like my Eastern Europe trip, my trip to the stunning cliffs of Jurassic Coast was very much inspired by photos on Instagram haha. It’s interesting to think about how much the platform has influenced tourism. While it brings stunning places to our attention, there’s no doubt it’s contributed to overtourism–which drives up costs for locals, destroys wildlife, and just generally makes lovely destinations much less pleasant. That said, the extra tourism–in moderation–can also revitalize dying cities.
Jurassic Coast is definitely a popular destination, and can get overcrowded in the later summer months. I arrived in early June though, which tends to still be slower for tourism, and I had (luckily?) arrived during a period of horrendous weather, probably dissuading most people from traveling.
Nonetheless, I really enjoyed my trip, and think the area is great for solo travelers, friends, couples, families–you name it. Here are my tips for visiting Jurassic Coast–for where to stay, eat, and go (plus a map!).
Best Time to Visit Jurassic Coast
Like I said, I visited in early June, which was actually still shoulder season for Jurassic Coast. Things really tend to pick up in July and August, when the weather is warmer. During my stay, it was actually rainy and cold, so I didn’t get to go to the beach. If you want beach weather, definitely aim for July-August.
If you want to avoid the crowds, aim for April-early June, and October. In these months, the weather’s a little better, and you may get to see some pretty wildflowers along the coast. The popular sites like Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, and Corfe Castle are open year-round, however, so you could technically visit anytime.
How to Get to Jurassic Coast
Since I didn’t have a car, I took the train from Waterloo Station in London to Bournemouth Station (2 hours). You can also take buses from Victoria Bus Station in London to several cities along Jurassic Coast. For greatest mobility, having a car is ideal. I wouldn’t have been able to see a lot of the most iconic sites via public transport, so I ended up paying for a tour. If you want to explore at your own pace and will be going in a group, consider renting a car.
Jurassic Coast: Where to Stay
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I decided on Bournemouth, a seaside town 2 hours away from London by train (it’s also the home and resting place of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein–there’s a semi-morbid, semi-touching story about how she’s buried with her husband’s heart; I encourage you to look it up). I rented an Airbnb, which was about $27/night, or £21 (if you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, you can sign up with my referral link and get $48 off your stay). There are many Jurassic Coast tour companies that pick up in Bournemouth, so that worked well for me as I didn’t have a car. For those with no car, staying in Wool is also an option, as there are buses that connect to popular Jurassic Coast sites.
I would’ve liked to stay in Weymouth, another seaside town known for its colorful houses, but it was 3 hours from London, and housing was much more expensive. I did end up visiting Weymouth and found it charming though–it was much livelier than Bournemouth, but also felt more touristy.
Where to Eat: Jurassic Coast
If you stay in Bournemouth, I absolutely adored Cafe Thrive. They’re a relatively affordable vegan restaurant in the city center with ample seating (perfect for working or catching up with friends). The seitan fried “chicken” sandwich was so rich and filling.
Along the actual Jurassic Coast, there are several cafés and pubs where you can get something quick to eat. A classic is scones with jam and clotted cream (not vegan, but so good). Clotted cream basically seems like butter (at least to me), but it’s a lot creamier.
Where to Go along the Jurassic Coast
Since I didn’t have a car, I signed up for a tour with Discover Dorset. It was pretty pricey at £41 ($52), but there wasn’t really another good way to see the iconic landscapes I came to England for. The tour was well-run and gave us the right amount of autonomy, but I was disappointed that we didn’t really get to visit Old Harry Rocks, these gorgeous chalk cliffs. We stopped at a point in the very far distance and could barely seek the rock formations :/ Still, I found our driver very engaging and attentive–I felt sick in the morning, and he gave me some mints, switched my seat to the front, and checked in on me throughout the day. The other sites we saw were also lovely–here are my favorite stops:
Stops from My Tour of Dorset / Jurassic Coast
Corfe Castle is both the name of the actual castle and the quaint town it’s in. The castle is in ruins as it was besieged by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Entry is about £10, but I didn’t go in–my foot was giving me trouble that day, and I felt that I could see the ruins perfectly fine from the outside haha.
The town itself is charming and is home to many pubs and shops. There’s also a steam railway station with a tiny museum (if you can call it that) and a steam train that still carries passengers regularly!
Durdle Door is an iconic limestone arch along the coast. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but getting to Durdle Door requires a 1/4 mile steep descent along a rocky path. There are actually miles of coastal paths connecting sites like Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, and had I been injury-free, I would’ve loved to do some trail running along them. The first image in this post is also from the Durdle Door area–I definitely found the coastline here most stunning.
There are stairs down to the beach in front of Durdle Door, and you can even swim there. Bring good walking shoes for this visit since the paths are uneven and steep!
Lulworth Cove is another beautiful natural rock formation. Unlike Durdle Door, it’s right next to a town, so you can pick up an ice cream on a hot day, or some tea on a nasty day. I found the short walk to the cove much easier than the one to Durdle Door, though I’d still recommend sturdy shoes.
One thing I appreciated was the little museum/info center, where you could watch a video about the science behind the cove, and take a look at different fossils.
Quaint Towns along Jurassic Coast
Weymouth is a seaside town with colorful houses, beaches, and lots of local souvenirs–it’s basically your classic beach town. It’s easily accessed via train and bus. I found it livelier than Bournemouth and would’ve liked to stay here instead, though housing does tend to be pricier. There are plenty of things to do in Weymouth, including arcades, watersports, and an aquarium. The linked guide will also go over popular hikes, restaurants, and places to stay, all from a local’s perspective!
Poole is smaller than Bournemouth or Weymouth, but is still charming. I especially liked the quaint buildings and storefronts along the harbor, and the charity shops. The city is easily accessible by train, and you can also take ferries to France and Jersey from here.
Map of the Best Places to Visit Along Jurassic Coast, UK
If you’re planning a trip to England and want to go somewhere other than London, or somewhere with more nature, I definitely recommend Jurassic Coast. It is possible to do a day trip from London, but I think it’d be pretty tiring. I’d stay at least a night or two, so you have a full day to explore the coastline. Bring some good athletic shoes, and you’ll be all set for some lovely views and walks.