With a dramatic coastline boasting captivating arches, stacks, coves and the famous fossil-packed Jurassic Coast, it’s no wonder camping in Dorset is such an ideal holiday for an outdoor enthusiast.
Known for stunning landmarks such as the ancient stone arch Durdle Door, and the majestic layered cliffs near Lulworth Cove, Dorset is brimming with amazing discoveries and surprises.
Whether you are planning to hike, cycle, visit on a day-trip, or are just looking for an inexpensive way to visit this region, camping in Dorset can be a cost effective and fun way to do that. It’s also a truly unique opportunity to lose yourself in the quiet scenery that makes this place so special.
There are several campsites in Dorset to choose from. We give some thoughts on our top picks below, alongside our recommendations for places to eat near each. Then we show you some of our favourite walks and things to do in Dorset, and also look at wild camping in Dorset later in this article too.
Camping in Dorset
A Dorset holiday is guaranteed to be fun, with activities such as fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast, wildlife spotting, badger watching, and sunbathing on the sandy beaches at Poole, Weymouth and Swanage.
There are some great campsites to choose from that are located close to some of the best beaches and main walking routes in Dorset – we give some of our favourites below.
A good quality walking in Dorset book – like this one – can help you plan what area you may want to visit and walk in, and therefore what campsites might be of interest to you.
However if you’re looking for impartial information on Dorset’s campsites, we have you covered below!
Camping in Dorset: Some of the best campsites in Dorset
South Lytchett Manor Caravan and Camping Park
Beautifully located in 25 acres of pristine parkland, South Lytchett Manor Caravan and Camping Park is the perfect base for discovering the rugged Jurassic Coast. It’s immaculate, well-maintained, and has great facilities – and has even won awards for its toilets!
Situated in the charming village of Lytchett Minster, the site is just three miles from Poole, and 20 minutes drive from Bournemouth.
The scenic Durdle Door is just 2.5 miles away from the site, as is the White Nothe Circular Walk – one of our favourite walks along the South West Coast Path.
Set on 13 acres of camping field, Rosewall Camping boasts stunning views of Weymouth Bay and the surrounding countryside. Kids will enjoy the variety of fun activities on-site such as fishing in two well-stocked lakes and horse riding.
The site is located just 5 miles from Dorset Falconry Park, where you can enjoy a picnic , explore the butterfly garden, and meet the 100+ species of birds that live here such as falcons, eagles and vultures.
Try the food at SAMBÔ RODIZIO if you can. This Brazilian restaurant is situated just 4 miles from the site. The fresh buffet is exceptional.
Higher Moor Farm Campsite
Open from April to the end of October, Higher Moor Farm Campsite offers you several accommodation options in a charming and tranquil setting.
As it’s located in the village of Nottington near the south coast, there are nice sandy beaches within a 15 minute drive from the site.
We loved the long walks nearby and the amazing sunsets seen in the town of Weymouth – a spot that’s famous for its stunning golden sands. The Jurassic Coast, Isle of Portland and Dorchester are all located close to this site too.
If you do end up staying here then try the ice cream at Boho Gelato in Weymouth, just 3 miles away.
Acton Field Camping Site
The glorious views, tranquil setting and simplistic style at Acton Field Camping Site is what makes it such a great place to recharge your batteries and get away from the hustle and bustle of life. From your tent you can admire views of Swanage Bay, the Purbeck Hills, and the Isle of Wight.
Set in three hectares, this campsite gives you the freedom to choose where you want to pitch, and there’s ample space between each tent to give you a sense of privacy.
It’s a leisurely walk through stunning wild flowers to the nearby coastal path which takes you along the Jurassic Coast – an area known for its fossil hunting opportunities and special geology.
Wild camping in Dorset
Like other areas of England, wild camping in Dorset isn’t officially allowed. Although campers are allowed to pitch their tent if they have the permission of a landowner.
However as this area is a popular walking area with amazing natural beauty, outdoor enthusiasts do sometimes wild camp here. If you are planning to wild camp in Dorset – and can’t be swayed to stay in a campsite instead – we’ve compiled the following guidelines to help keep you out of trouble and camp in a considerate manner:
- You should camp in the same place for one night only, and pitch your tent discretely and in a remote place which will not be easily seen. Therefore don’t camp in or near settlements, someone’s farm or on cultivated land. If you think you’re on private land, always seek out the landowner and ask permission. They may request a small fee.
- Campers should set up their tent at dusk, and take it down at dawn. A tent that is discreet, blends in with the landscape, and pitches quickly is best. Therefore a lightweight walking tent like this one would be a great investment for someone planning to wild camp in Dorset.
- If you are walking a trail you should camp away from the path as a matter of courtesy.
- When wild camping in Dorset you must never make a campfire. For cooking, use a storm cooker. Our recommendation would be the Swedish brand Trangia, as their storm cookers are safe and virtually indestructible. Portable solar ovens, like this one by GoSun, are also a good fuel-less option.
- Take any rubbish with you, and leave your camping spot exactly the way you found it.
Some of the best places to visit when camping in Dorset
The Chocolate Hotel Bournemouth
Situated in Bournemouth’s trendy Soho Quarter, this quirky spot run by owners Gerry and Roo will satisfy all with a sweet tooth. Known as the UK’s only chocolate-themed hotel, this place will give you serious Willy Wonka vibes. With 15 tantalising rooms to explore – all decorated in different shades of chocolate – kids as well as adults will love this place.
Athelhampton House and Gardens
This ancient 15th century house is a great way to explore Dorset’s Tudor history. The nine meter tall pyramid yew trees, gardens and octagonal pond are pretty spectacular too.
You can visit St Edwards’s Church as well, which was built in 1861 and remains in use today.
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens
This stunning award-winning garden boasts many exotic and rare plants from all over the world. Four-legged friends can also accompany you in the gardens too.
Expect tropical vibes as you enjoy the palm tree-lined pathways, eucalyptus and banana plants here. There’s also fantastic views over the Jurassic Coast from the top of Magnolia Avenue.
Some of the best walks in Dorset
Durdle Door & White Nothe Circular Walk
This 7 mile-long challenging walk along the South West Coast Path boasts unparalleled views, rare flowers, beautiful birds and clouds of butterflies!
You can catch your breath by pausing and admiring the unique views as you go up Hambury Tout – a large chalk hill by the coast near Lulworth. The walk will also include many of the geological highlights of the Jurassic Coast, as well as views across to Portland Island, St Aldhelm’s Head and even an Iron Age hillfort!
Old Harry Rocks
This walk takes around 2 and a half hours, and brings you to Old Harry Rocks – three stunning chalk sea stacks that were formed by erosion.
This 3 and a half mile-long walk is easy and begins and finishes at the 16th century pub The Bankes Arms. It will take you along the clifftop, through chalk grassland, and gives you unparalleled views from Poole Harbour to Bournemouth and across to the Isle of Wight.
Chideock to Charmouth
This fantastic 5.4 mile-long coastal walk was definitely the highlight of our last trip to Dorset.
You can try your hand at fossil hunting along the coast here, and the unique cliff top views make this walk one of a kind.
Starting in Charmouth you will walk the hilly clifftop route following the South West Coast Path. You can also do a detour via Golden Cap – the highest point on the south coast of England.
Camping in Dorset: The weather and best months to visit
With mild to warm temperatures, spring is the perfect time to visit Dorset as families can make the most of a full day exploring the nature reserves and coastline. Temperatures range from 5°C to 14°C, and visitors can see flowers in full bloom and birds can be spotted during walks.
Summer is a great time to visit as Dorset’s daytime temperatures reach between 15°C and 20°C. It’s also a perfect time to undertake relaxing walking trails as the land will be dry and hikers can enjoy longer daylight hours. Kids will love the opportunity for fossil hunting during this season too.
With milder temperatures during autumn – ranging between 8°C to 17°C – it’s a fantastic time to avoid the peak summer tourist season, go on hikes, take in the majestic coastal views, and enjoy the beautiful landmarks here. In particular, we love the atmosphere when visiting Xtreme Falconry at Dorset Falconry Park at this time of year.
Winter brings the shortest daylight hours and coolest temperatures, ranging between 4°C and 9°C, but visitors can enjoy the crisp air during walks on the different trails around the area.