Within 30-60 minutes
There is so much to do and see in Dorset, it’s impossible to list everything, but here are some of our suggested highlights, all within a short drive of Downwood.
The Jurassic Coast
This fabled stretch of coastline is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Millions of visitors flock to the Jurassic Coast each year to study, explore and marvel at it. It’s a great place to hunt for fossils with the kids and a must-see for anyone interested in natural history. One of the most iconic (and certainly most photographed) sites along the whole coast is the natural limestone archway, the Durdle Door. This is a popular spot for swimming and surfing and is accessible from the nearby holiday park. If you fancy a longer walk, the coastal path takes you between the Durdle Door and the village of Lulworth and picturesque Lulworth Cove. The crystal clear water of the cove makes it popular for swimming and snorkelling. There are also many hiking trails to be enjoyed in and around this area.
Dorset has many fabulous beaches along its 100-mile coastline. Bournemouth Beach is famous for golden sands and clear waters, making it extremely popular with families. This well-maintained beach offers a variety of water sports and has lifeguards on duty during the summer months. Blue flag Weymouth Beach is consistently rated as one of the best in Europe – its golden sands and safe, shallow waters are a big hit with beachgoers. Sandbanks Beach is another breath-taking blue flag beach – its soft sands are ideal for building sandcastles and making memories. For something a bit different, head to Chesil Beach and explore the spectacular 18 miles of shingle. Swimming is not recommended here. It runs from Portland to West Bay (which you might recognise as the setting for ITV’s Broadchurch).
Fun for all the family
If you’re looking for a great year-round day out, Monkey World is only a short drive from Downwood Holidays. This ape rescue centre has plenty going on to keep the whole family entertained. For military enthusiasts, the Tank Museum is a fab day out. Likewise, Corfe Castle is well worth exploring. This medieval castle has a rich history spanning more than 1,000 years, and it enjoys fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.
Homes and gardens
Bookworms might enjoy a visit to the childhood home of Thomas Hardy. The cob and thatch cottage, built by Hardy’s great-grandfather is where Hardy wrote his early works, including Far From the Madding Crowd. One for the history buffs, Sherborne Castle is only 20 miles from Downwood. Built by Sir Walter Raleigh, this historic house and its incredible gardens are well worth exploring. It’s open from April to October. Kingston Lacy country house is also worth visiting to enjoy its marvellous architecture and beautiful gardens. It is surrounded by parkland and has two children’s play areas.
The New Forest
Although not in Dorset, this beautiful national park is close by – and well worth a mention. Covering approximately 220 square miles, the New Forest has many enjoyable walking and cycling routes, as well as a range of other outdoor activities on offer. You might even manage to spot some of the famous population of wild ponies that roam freely. The area is also home to picturesque villages and historic landmarks, such as Beaulieu Abbey and the National Motor Museum.