As part of the famous Jurassic Coast, a certified World Heritage Site, visitors to Bournemouth can experience amazing and captivating historical attractions right on the town’s doorstep. This region has a rich and storied history and these attractions, all within twenty or so miles of Bournemouth seafront, are perfect for a family day out when staying in Bournemouth. Whether it’s natural or man-made attractions that are your preference – when visiting Dorset, you and your group can soak up millions of years of history in some of the most pleasant countryside and coastal environments in the UK.
One of Dorset’s most iconic landmarks, the Durdle Door is a 200-foot tall natural limestone archway that protrudes out into the sea not far from Lulworth Cove. This impressive geological structure was formed by constant waves eroding the softer limestone rock at the core of the archway but not the harder rock around it. Durdle Door takes its name from the old English world thirl, which to means ‘to pierce’ or ‘drill’. It was designated a world heritage site in 2011. However, we would suggest you avoid travelling here at peak hours – especially during the Summer season when the roads around this popular tourist spot can get clogged up with visiting holidaymakers.
Dorchester Dinosaur Museum
One of this picturesque town’s most famous attractions, Dorchester Dinosaur Museum obviously can’t approach the budget and size of London’s Natural History Museum – but still provides plenty of interesting historical information and exhibits that reveal the area’s fascinating geological and fossil history. In recent years, the museum has made an effort to become more family friendly with interactive exhibits including mock excavations, iPad games and bone assembly puzzles. Other highlights include life-size reconstructions of a T-Rex and a Stegosaurus as well as genuine fossilized dinosaur poop. Again though, this is quite a small museum so either visit during the off-season or be prepared for long queues and a fairly busy experience.
This original Victorian steam railway starts its meandering journey in the coastal town of Swanage, about 20 miles drive from Bournemouth town centre. Alternatively, interested riders can take the trip to Corfe Castle Station, around five miles closer. From here, the Swanage Railway runs all the way to Swanage and back again – from 10am to 6pm every day of the week during the Summer season. First opened in 1885, when William Gladstone was the serving prime minister and the British Empire was still in full force, the Swanage railway line was closed as a public concern in 1971. It was opened again by a team of local volunteers, and now treats visitors to a windingly beautiful 10-mile trip that takes in the imposing ruins of Corfe Castle and acres of gorgeous rolling hills.
Cerne Abbas Giant
This 55-metre giant drawing, known as a hill figure, is cut into the chalk cliffs of Cerne Abbas, again about 20 miles from Bournemouth by car. Scientists still debate whether it is an ancient construction or the work of a rich local prankster from the 17th century. However, the Cerne Abbas Giant is famed for his massive permanent erection and lacks tourist facilities directly nearby – so we don’t recommend bringing your kids to this one.