Joined only to the mainland by a thin strip at the southern end of the sweeping arc of Chesil Beach, the Isle of Portland is the Jurassic Coast’s most southerly point. Its isolated location and beautiful scenery make it a real explorer’s island, while the comparatively mild climate enables a wide variety of flora and fauna to thrive.
The best way to explore this fascinating island is on foot. The South West Coast Path loops around the island, and there is an excellent network of inland pathways giving superb access to a wide variety of features. The buildings on the island are rich in history, while Portland Bill at the southern tip features no fewer than three lighthouse structures. Only one of these remains operational, and includes a recently refurbished visitor centre.
Many parts of the island, including the whole of the coastline, are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Chesil Beach and the Fleet lagoon are of international conservation importance and home to nearly 300 species of bird, over 30 species of butterfly and 720 species of moth. Chesil Beach itself has intrigued geologists for centuries and is one of the finest examples of a barrier beach anywhere in the world. The excellent Chesil Beach Centre tells the story of the region’s unique geology.
Getting to Portland
- There are regular bus services from Weymouth to Portland.
- The nearest railway station is Weymouth, about four miles north of the island.
- By road the island is reached via the A354 which runs south from Dorchester.
Need to know
The island’s most famous export is Portland limestone, which has been used in the construction of well-known buildings including St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace in London, and the headquarters of the UN building in New York. Portland stone continues to be quarried today.