Swanage is a traditional Victorian seaside town, in the heart of Purbeck. Its sheltered bay has a Blue Flag award, meaning that water quality and facilities are considered to be excellent, and the sandy beach is very popular with families in the summer. Swanage is just one of the new beaches the RNLI have been patrolling since May 2016, and dogs are welcome on the beach from 1st October to 30th April.
The shopping streets next to the beach have some well known stores but most are interesting independent shops as well as pubs, restaurants and cafes, including traditional fish and chip shops.
At the western end of the town is Swanage Pier, which also has a shop, café and exhibition featuring Swanage memorabilia and maritime history. Swanage is particularly popular with divers and fishermen, and visitors can take boat trips from the pier along the Jurassic Coast or into Poole Harbour.
Beyond Swanage is Durlston Castle and Country Park, recently renovated and now with information about the Jurassic Coast, engaging exhibitions, a shop and a café. The views along the coast from Durlston Castle are magnificent, particularly at the top (which can be hired for special events). The country park is where the giant stone globe of the world (also a famous Dorset image) can be found.
Don’t forget to tell visitors about Swanage Tourist Information Centre, where they can find more information.
Set away from the coast, Wareham is a picturesque market town set between two rivers – The River Piddle and the River Frome – and a hub for local communities. It was an important town during Saxon times and a strategic stronghold for King Alfred the Great – visitors can walk around the old Saxon walls and view St Martins-on-the-Walls Church which houses an effigy of the author T.E. Lawrence – Lawrence of Arabia.
Wareham Quay is a focal point for the town where it is possible to hire a boat, cruise down the river or just sit and relax. The Discover Purbeck Information Centre is located on South Street close to Wareham Quay, where there is a Saturday market. There is also a farmers market every 2nd and 4th Thursday in the month at the Corn Exchange which features local produce.
Wareham Town Museum is great for local history and has an exhibition on T.E. Lawrence of Arabia.
Other villages of note are Worth Matravers (a pretty pond, tea trooms and village pump), West Lulworth (which visitors walk through to access the famous cove) Corfe (location of the castle) and Studland with its National Trust owned beach and nature reserve. A famous image of Dorset, the magnificent Old Harry Rocks, is a short walk from Studland and marks the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast (described in more detail in the main Dorset section).