Jurassic Coast, Dorset

Dog friendly beaches in Dorset

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The beaches of the South West are renowned as being the best in the country. Even amongst the stiff competition of its neighbours, Dorset stands out with its gorgeous Jurassic Coast. We know there is no better companion to explore these wild and beautiful beaches with than your four-legged friend and that’s why we’ve compiled this list of our favourite dog friendly beaches in Dorset.

Of the many beaches lining the Dorset coast, only a portion allow dogs all year round. The good news is that we have done the investigating for you to determine which beaches are dog friendly and put together this list to save you a wasted journey. This guide is made up of five of our favourite beaches in Dorset where you can be sure your canine friends will always be welcome.

Man O'War Beach (Durdle Door East), West Lulworth

Man O'War Beach (Durdle Door East), West Lulworth
Man O'War: gateway to the iconic Durdle Door

Dogs allowed: all year round

This is a popular beach of sand and shingle on the east side of the Durdle Door headland. This headland shelters the beach, providing safe bathing in shallow water for both you and your canine. Man O’War Beach is on the Purbeck Heritage Coast and the Jurassic Coast, and is adjacent to the South West Coast Path for those who wish to extend walkies.

The beach is only accessible by a steep hill and lots of steps; if you can make the walk, it’s worth the trip just for the up-close view of the majestic natural limestone arch alone. The beach is pebble so be sure to bring good footwear for the walk. There’s plenty of paid parking, but there are no toilets or other facilities at Man O' War or Durdle Door beaches. There are toilets at the top of the cliff, but it’s a long walk back up, so make sure to go beforehand.

Church Ope Beach, Wakeham

Church Ope Beach, Wakeham
Church Ope: an awesome Dorset outpost

Dogs allowed: all year round

This pebble beach is a south-facing sun trap, bordered by cliffs. The beach has its fair share of history with Rufus Castle sitting atop the cliff. The beach is great for water sports so you will see snorkelers, divers and swimmers in the warmer seasons.

Church Ope Beach is one of the most dog friendly beaches in Dorset, allowing pooches to roam off the lead throughout the year. This makes it a popular spot for local dog owners. Dogs may also paddle in the waters but be cautious of the strong current outside the direct cove area. If you’re just looking to go for a quick walk with your dog then Church Ope is ideal – thanks to its pebbly terrain, you’ll find that a sandy boot won't be an issue on the way home! A cafe and toilets are found nearby, while a car park is available along Pennsylvania Road.

Mudeford Sandbank Beach, Christchurch

Mudeford Sandbank Beach, Christchurch
Mudeford Sandbank: more than enough space to stretch the legs

Dogs allowed: all year round

At the mouth of Christchurch Harbour, in a designated Site of Nature Conservation Interest, lies this sandy spit, one of the best dog friendly beaches in Dorset. Mudeford Sandbank Beach has plenty of activities including, but not limited to jet skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, water skiing and of course, swimming. The water is divided up accordingly to ensure the safety of bathers.

The beach is also an excellent place to walk the dog with beautiful, unbroken views of Christchurch Harbour and as far as the Isle of Wight’s famous Needles. Please note that while dogs are allowed, they must be kept under control and no dog bins are available on the beach itself. Mudeford Sandbank Beach can be accessed all year round on foot, by bike or by land train from Hengistbury Head and in the summer, it’s also possible to arrive by ferry from Mudeford Quay or Christchurch Quay.

Shell Bay, Studland

Shell Bay, Studland
Shell Bay: sand dunes for days

Dogs allowed: all year round (to be kept on a short lead 1 May - 30 September)

You cannot fault Studland’s prettiest offering. Beautifully situated at the tip of the National Trust owned Studland Peninsula, this beach runs for three miles, giving your plenty of space to run around with your four-legged friend. Shell Bay supplies stunning views with dunes stretching out for acres in front of you and a wildlife haven to the rear. Most of the year the beach here is an oasis tranquillity, the silence only broken by the gulls and pied wagtails. The extensive dunes, while out of bounds at present, give the area a feeling of wildness. Summer is a different story however and the beach attracts many visitors, including families looking to escape the usual bucket and spade locations.

Dogs are welcome all year, from the 1 October - 30 April there are no restrictions, but from 1 May - 30 September dogs must be on a short lead (max 2m). The beach has all amenities that you would expect from a National Trust beach including free parking if you are a member and clean toilets. Shell Bay can be reached either by driving along the peninsula from the Swanage end or via a short ferry ride over from Poole Harbour mouth.

Harbour Lake Beach, Hamworthy

Dogs allowed: all year round

Lake Pier Beach is located on the Northern shore of Poole harbour, in Hamworthy. The beach is a mix of sand and shingle that is surrounded by a nature reserve. The old wooden pier jutting out into the harbour makes the beach instantly recognisable. It has some historical behind it too- it was visited by barges carrying clay for local pottery, but it’s now a popular spot for crab fishing families, anglers and landscape photographers. The weathered structure looks particularly photogenic at sunset when silhouetted against an orange sky, so make sure you bring your camera if you visit later in the day.

The beach is also popular for windsurfing, swimming, sailing and kayaking, the community led group Dorset Dogs also host guided circular dog walks along the beach and through the surrounding heathland. Visitors are invited to attend with or without a dog! There’s a pay and display car park with public toilets close to the beach. However, the beach is just a 15-minute walk from our Rockley Park Holiday Park through the delightful Ham Common Nature Reserve, a route which we highly recommend.

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