Idyllic walks, unique museums, leading conservation parks and one of the country’s best-loved coastlines, Dorset has so much to offer.
While you can spend time at your Dorset holiday cottage enjoying the shopping and tea rooms, why not try something the whole family will enjoy? Get out into the stunning scenery and discover the best family days out in Dorset with this useful guide.
Discover the Jurassic Coast
Walk across a landscape that dates back more than 180 million years – the Jurassic Coast. England’s first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site unearths the lives of prehistoric animals that once ruled the world. The coast unearths the lives of prehistoric animals and documents how life changed over the millions of years. Dinosaur skeletons, plants and other fossils have all been found along this dramatic coastline and more are waiting to be discovered.
Go Fossil Hunting
There aren’t many places where you can walk away with a piece of Earth’s ancient history, nor a fossilised creature from millions of years ago. But at the Jurassic Coast, you have every chance of finding one.
While you can find them along the whole stretch of the Jurassic Coast, Charmouth is regarded as the best fossil hunting spot. Visit the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre and you can see brilliant displays of fossils found in the local area, or even join a fossil hunting walk. Fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast is a great family day out and something that can be enjoyed all year round. While the summer weather will make the beaches even more appealing, the rough winter weather can make the fossils easier to find.
Visit the Dinosaur Museum
Sticking with the prehistoric theme, why not visit the Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester? Dinosaurs are an instant favourite with children and can even bring out the inner kid in you. Opened in 1984, the museum has welcomed millions through its doors eager to see its collection of fossils, skeletons, dinosaur reconstructions and hands-on displays.
As Britain’s first museum dedicated entirely to dinosaurs, it was nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award in 1985 and has gone on to win a number of accolades in the years since, including ‘Dorset’s Family Attraction of the Year’.
Sea life Weymouth
Enjoy a day out with your family at the Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park and Tower, as you discover life above and below the waves.
Over 1,000 marine creatures from crocodiles, penguins, seals and seahorses can all be seen at Sea Life. While the array of animals will keep the whole family entertained, the park also has great indoor and outdoor features including a Splash Zone and great educational talks and feeding sessions running throughout the day. By visiting you will be supporting marine conservation efforts that are working towards protecting the world’s oceans.
The Teddy Bear Museum
This is a unique family experience waiting to be enjoyed. The Teddy Bear Museum in Dorchester is an unmissable attraction showcasing over 100 years of teddy bears, ranging from the earliest antique examples to modern favourites.
Almost everyone had their own favourite teddy growing up, and we’re sure your kids have one that they can’t bear to be without.
The bears date back as early as 1906, and include significant imported bears from the likes of The Ideal Toy Company, Farnell and Deans. Set in the house of Edward Bear – a human-sized teddy bear – who collects bears with his family, you can also see the famous names of Rupert, Winnie the Pooh and Paddington on display. A trip that is brimming with nostalgic joy, enjoy the bears and exhibits in the Teddy Bear Museum before visiting the shop to perhaps start your own collection.
Hidden in the beautifully scenic Purbeck countryside is a blood-pumping, wet and wild family day out at Dorset Waterpark. This aqua-based, inflatable, fun-filled day out is going to be a huge hit with the whole family, who can all get involved with the watery fun. Tackle the 65m Action Loop made up of trampolines, slides and flip bags on Castle Lake, before setting off for the Woodland Lake to jump into the monkey bars, wiggle bridge, slack line and more.
Refresh and reflect on the action at the snack shack providing hot and cold drinks and small bites to refuel on after a long session. Or bring a picnic and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Dorset Waterpark overlooks the stunning Corfe Castle and is surrounded by beautiful woodland.
The park is controlled by qualified lifeguards on hand to ensure that a great day out in Dorset is had by all.
Take your own little monkeys to Monkey World, a leading sanctuary for over 250 primates. The 65-acre centre lies amongst Dorset woodland and this year celebrates its 30th anniversary, when Jim Cronin provided a home to abandoned Spanish beach chimps in 1987. Today the whole family can enjoy seeing more than 20 species of primates that live and play within the safety of Monkey World, which has taken in animals from all over the globe.
You may recognise the sanctuary courtesy of the television series Monkey Life that appeared on Channel 5, focusing on the work of Dr Alison Cronin, MBE, and her team at Monkey World. The programme, documenting the rescue and rehabilitation of primates, ran for nine series and aired in over 140 countries.
In 2016 Monkey World received a silver award at the Dorset Tourism Awards for Large Attraction of the Year and was a finalist in the Dorset Echo Industry Awards for Best Contribution to Local Tourism.
A fantastic day out is to be had at Monkey World, where your children can get face-to-face some of our closest relatives and be educated in the conservation and protection of these brilliant animals.
Visit Lyme Regis
Nicknamed ‘The Pearl of Dorset’, Lyme Regis is a beautiful coastal town in the west of the county. Historic and brimming with picture-perfect photo locations, the town is made up of steep streets lined with quaint shops. Lyme Regis is blessed with a number of beautiful attractions, including the beaches. While Monmouth Beach is pebbly, the front beach is flat and sandy, offering a portal to Cobb Gate.
One of Lyme Regis’ most popular attractions is The Cobb, an imposing harbour wall of Portland Stone. Featuring in a number of Jane Austen’s novels, it has also been a part of several films and books.
Lyme Regis, situated at the western end of the Jurassic Coast, is another popular spot for fossil hunting, with some examples found dating back as far as 195 million years.
Whether you wish to explore the town and its many amenities, try your hand at the great water sport opportunities in Lyme Bay, or explore the beautiful landscape, Lyme Regis is a great place for a family day out.
Telling the story of armoured warfare from World War One to today, The Tank Museum in south Dorset boasts a collection of over 300 vehicles. Regarded as the best collection of its kind in the world, the exhibits include the world’s first ever tank – Little Willie, the German Tiger tank and the modern Challenger 2.
Bringing history to life, you can marvel at the array of tanks and machinery on show and even be blown away by the live displays. This is perfect for anyone interested in history, and is sure to keep the kids interested.
Events are run throughout the year, including TANKFEST, Tiger Day and the Vintage Christmas Festival and Craft Fayre.
There are few places in the UK that can stand up against Dorset for its choice of days out. Whether you are stepping back in time to walk amongst prehistoric creatures on the Jurassic Coast, getting wet and wild at a water park, or marvelling at the animals and conservation efforts at the local zoos and centres, we are sure that you will find a great family day out in Dorset.