Weymouth and Portland lie at the southern tip of the Jurassic Coast, and represent a perfect location from which to explore the World Heritage Site. They also offer rewarding visitor experiences in and of themselves, rich with history, both natural and human.
- The seaside town of Weymouth is one of the Jurassic Coast’s most beloved holiday spots, with a history of tourism dating back to at least the late 18th century, when it was regularly used by King George III as a summer residence. The town features a superb harbour and entertaining beachfront, accompanied by a variety of shops, restaurants and cafes, as well as events and festivals throughout the year.
- The Isle of Portland lies to the south of Weymouth, and is one of the Jurassic Coast’s most fascinating destinations. It is an island hewn from stone, where quarrying has been taking place for centuries, and geology is intimately linked to local lives. It offers some of the area’s most spectacular views, as well as brilliant walking opportunities and the picturesque Portland Bill lighthouse.
Weymouth plays host to a number of popular events and festivals, including the Dorset Seafood Festival and the Weymouth Beach Volleyball Classic. Check out the We Are Weymouth website for a full listing of upcoming activities.
The town hosted the sailing events at the 2012 London Olympic Games, operating out of the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy. The waters here are considered some of the best in northern Europe for sailing.
If you’re visiting and can prise yourself from the beach, Weymouth also boasts some fascinating historic attractions, including the Nothe Fort, which was built in the 1860s to protect the harbour and Royal Navy base.
There’s also Radipole Lake, an important RSPB wildlife reserve located in the heart of the town.
Nearby geological points of interest include Bowleaze Cove, Ringstead, Osmington Mills, and the eastern portion of Chesil Beach.
The Isle of Portland is a bewitching destination that rewards visitors with smaller crowds, fascinating stories, and a seemingly endless amount of hidden nooks and crannies.
The island’s geology dates to the late Jurassic period, about 145 million years ago, when its distinctive limestone formed in a warm, shallow sub-tropical sea. This high quality, hard and durable rock has underpinned Portland’s centuries-old quarrying industry, and has been used in well-known buildings across the world, including St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace in London, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Portland’s position at Dorset’s southern tip has made it a long-running location of historic and military interest. It was occupied by the Romans (who named it Vindelis), and was later home to the first Viking raids in the British Isles in 789. King Henry VIII built Portland Castle in 1539 to protect against attacks from the French, and it remains one of the best preserved castles from this period, looked after by English Heritage. The island also played a significant role in WWI and WWII, including acting as a launching site for the D-Day Normandy landings.
Portland’s isolated location make it a fantastic spot for wildlife, with much of its coastline and quarrying areas designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Highlights include nearly half of the UK’s known butterfly species, as well as a variety of sea birds, and oceanic mammals such as dolphins and seals.
Portland Bill Lighthouse’s visitor centre is well worth a visit, with a fascinating exhibition detailing the lighthouse’s history, and a newly modernised, climbable tower opening in Spring 2020.