By Lorna Cowan
Stretching 95 miles from Exmoor in Devon to Swanage in Dorset, the Jurassic Coast is England’s only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site – and a sight to behold.
Breathtakingly beautiful, the coastline is of incredible geological importance, with the cliffs dating back almost 200 million years.
Unsurprisingly the area attracts lots of visitors, but there are secret spots to be explored, if you know where to find them.
Exmouth to Sidmouth
Visit the Regency resort of Sidmouth, with its vivid red sandstone cliffs, and head to the town’s lesser-known Jacob’s Ladder Beach. At low tide, you’ll find a large expanse of sand and rock pools aplenty.
The shingle beach at Beer, tucked beneath chalky white cliffs, is idyllic too, and never feels busy.
Watch fisherman unload crab and shellfish from their boats or wander the village’s cobbled lanes. The Marine House and Steam Gallery both showcase local artists’ works.
Where to eat and drink: Mickeys Beach Bar in Exmouth is a stylish new seafront restaurant serving up cocktails and coffees through to steaks and lobster. For locally caught fish head to Neil’s Restaurant in Sidmouth. While The Harbour in Axmouth, with its thatch roof and beer garden, is the place to go for classic pub grub.
Where to stay: Enjoy five-star accommodation and Michelin-star dining at Lympstone Manor in Exmouth. Find cosy and characterful rooms at the Masons Arms in the village of Branscombe. While the rooms at Dukes Inn have views over Sidmouth seafront.
Fossil hunters flock to beaches at Lyme Regis and Charmouth, never sure what they might unearth.
For a guaranteed discovery, make for Monmouth Beach to see a spectacular graveyard of marine molluscs, known as the Ammonite Pavement.
Bridport is famous for rope making, a hat festival and antiques galore. A street market is held every Wednesday and Saturday and there’s also a monthly Vintage Fair.
Nearby West Bay from ITV’s Broadchurch is popular, so visit the beaches at Eype or Cogden instead.
Where to eat and drink: Lyme Regis is a foodie’s heaven. The Oyster & Fish House by chef Mark Hix has a menu centred around the catch of the day. Swim cafe has cool and casual seafront seating. In Bridport, check out Dorshi, Soulshine and the Red Brick Café. Burton Bradstock’s Hive Beach Café also offers top-notch food and sea views.
Where to stay: Book a room with a view at the Alexandra Hotel or check into Dorset House or Lyme Townhouse. Three boutique rooms with roll top baths are available at the Anchor Inn at Seatown. A sanctuary of calm awaits at the Seaside Boarding House – the terrace is perfect for a sundowner.
Weymouth and Portland
A great way to explore Weymouth and the neighbouring isle of Portland is by bike.
Cycle to the Taut Quarry Reserve and Sculpture Park, search for artist Antony Gormley’s creation, then make for a secluded cove.
Church Ope is a top diving and snorkelling spot, and as the pebble beach is also south-facing, sunworshippers will be happy too.
Even more remote is Chapman’s Pool, though getting to this one involves a scramble over rocks.
Where to eat and drink: The Crab House Café at Chesil Beach is a firm favourite of fresh oyster fans, and Rockfish also offers sustainably caught seafood. For takeaway fish and chips, locals rate the family-run Marlboro and Fish ‘n’ Fritz. If you like Italian fine dining, Al Molo will impress. Early risers will love breakfast at colourful Quiddles Cafe Beach Bar.
Where to stay: Moonfleet Manor is a family and dog-friendly Georgian hotel near hidden caves once frequented by smugglers. Booking a group holiday? Self-catering Pennsylvania Castle sleeps 20. Step out of No 98 Boutique Hotel and on to Weymouth’s seafront promenade. Guests who book direct get a complimentary bottle of fizz.
Kimmeridge Bay is undoubtedly a romantic spot, especially at sunset.
If you don’t want to share the beach, swim in the shallow water and follow the snorkel trail, looking out for marine life.
Take to the sea at Durdle Door too, where you can kayak around the famous arch.
Chocolate lovers will love Chococo in Swanage. Treat yourself to a Jurassic Coast Hamper or attend a workshop and have a go at making your own handmade sweets.
Where to eat and drink: Close to the South West Coast Path, The Smuggler’s Inn at Osmington Mills is a treasure of a find, serving locally brewed Badgers beers. Fresh fish is always on the menu at Lulworth Lodge, and you can also order a picnic. A few
miles away is The Castle Inn, a traditional pub serving all day food.
Where to stay: For a unique stay, the magical Clavell Tower sits high on a cliff overlooking the Jurassic Coast. The self-catering Landmark Trust property sleeps two. The PIG-on the beach is close to rock formations which jut out into the sea, known as Old Harry Rocks, and the gorgeous sandy beaches at Studland Bay. In the market town of Wareham, a little inland, escape to sophisticated hotel The Priory.