Swanage

The view across Swanage Bay. Photo M Simons DCC
The view across Swanage Bay. Photo Mark Simons

Swanage is the most easterly town on the Jurassic Coast, and its gently shelving sandy beach and sheltered waters have made it a popular destination for families since Victorian times. Despite being just six miles from the urban expanse of Poole and Bournemouth, Swanage feels a world away, and retains a sense of bustling but easy-going seaside charm. The beach also holds the prestigious blue flag for beach cleanliness.

The town makes a great base to explore the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast. The iconic chalk stacks of Old Harry Rocks are a three-mile walk north east along the South West Coast Path, while Durlston Head is a short walk to the south. From here there are spectacular views of the Jurassic Coast extending westwards, with the Isle of Wight visible to the east.

Durlston Country Park is a fabulous 280 acre countryside paradise with wonderful walks and a huge variety of wildlife. The visitor centre at Durlston Castle, within the park, features a superb introduction to the Jurassic Coast, created with the support of the Jurassic Coast Team and Trust.

A spectacular aerial view of Durlston Castle and Country Park. Photo by Roy Eggleston
A spectacular aerial view of Durlston Castle and Country Park. Photo Roy Eggleston

Swanage is also the southern terminus of the famous Swanage Steam Railway, which offers an entertaining and nostalgic trip through the glorious Purbeck countryside to Norden just north of Corfe Castle. The town also has a thriving events calendar, with a variety of railway events and other highlights including hugely popular jazz and folk music festivals.

Getting there

  • Bus services connect Swanage with Wareham, where it is possible to connect with the Jurassic Coaster bus service to explore more of the coast.
  • Wareham railway station offers direct trains to London, Dorchester and Weymouth.
  • By road Swanage is reached via the A351 running through Wareham and Corfe Castle.
  • The chain ferry at nearby Studland also connects Swanage with Sandbanks for access to Poole and Bournemouth.

Need to know

From 2016 the Swanage Railway will be running a limited service connecting Swanage with the mainline railway station at Wareham. Initially running as a two year trial, the project will see the reintroduction of a service not seen since the line was last used in 1972. There are plenty of accommodation options near by including hotels, guest houses and campsites in Dorset.