Top 10 Incredible Dorset Campsites Near The Beach



Be it buckets and spades in Bournemouth, fossil-hunting on the Jurassic Coast, rockpooling in the bays, taking a dip in secluded inlets or walking the shoreline, there’s a beach around every coastal corner of Dorset.

The 90-mile stretch of Dorset coastline is speckled with caves and coves, all framed by colossal chalk cliffs carved by the relentless waves of the English Channel.

After all that sea air, you’ll be ready to relax with an ice cream at your Dorset holiday base. While you can’t camp on the beach in Dorset, you can certainly pitch on a site with easy access to the best sands and shingle for splashing in the sea.

Here's our pick of the top 10 Dorset campsites near the beach. Sea views are an optional extra but the lovely Dorset landscape and its heritage are ever present.

A summer day at Durdle Door beach in Dorset (Belinda Fewings on Unsplash)

Pilsdon View Camping

This quiet camping retreat occupies three fields beneath the Iron Age fort of Pilsdon Pen. Pilsdon View Camping is hidden down a country lane, a 10-minute drive from Bridport.

The eco-friendly ethos of Pilsdon View is evident in every aspect. It is a place for the self-sufficient camper seeking a back-to-basics holiday. There are no electric camping pitches (there are heated showers though) so your evenings will be spent by the firepits that are supplied while the kids safely roam free taking turns on the tyre swing.

When you are on the beaches near Poole, cast a gaze inland and exclaim “that’s where our campsite is” as you’ll be able to see Pilsdon Pen and its nearby sister Lewesdon Hill. The two prominent elevations were long used as sea-marks by mariners navigating the English Channel. They christened the pair the ‘cow and calf’.

The area around Pilsdon View also inspired two of the greatest British literary figures. William Wordsworth lived in a cottage just north of the campsite and described the views as “the finest in England”. The ‘Heights of Wessex’ in the works of Thomas Hardy were based upon the novelist's musings while on Pilsdon Crest.

Stroll through Pilsdon View’s wildflower meadow and vegetable gardens on your way to the River Char burbling quietly by. You can follow the meandering path of the waterway right to the sea at Charmouth, a small resort that sits in a gap between sheer cliffs overlooking Lyme Bay.

Higher Moor Farm Campsite

Higher Moor Farm Campsite is a little way from the village of Nottington, up on the Dorset hills as they climb up from Weymouth Bay. The family-run camping and caravan park with lodges and pods is a 15-minute drive from the seaside town and its sandy beach.

A two-mile walk (or cycle – there’s bike hire on site) from Higher Moor Farm is Upwey station. From here it’s just a five-minute train ride to Weymouth. You can even arrive here from London Waterloo for a car-free holiday in Dorset. Higher Moor Farm has lodges and glamping pods alongside its camping and caravan pitches, so you won’t need to board the train loaded up with tent and kit.

Higher Moor Farm has lots of amenities without losing its quiet charm. There are indoor and outdoor play areas for the kids. A wood-fired pizza van visits at weekends and in high season a marquee bar has evening entertainment.

The on-site farm shop is stocked with Dorset produce, plus essentials for your stay. It’s got fresh dairy and bakery supplies, and for the barbecue there are sausages and burgers from Dorchester’s famous Kiwi Butcher.

On an evening stroll, wander over to Nottington, once the site of a spa where aristocratic visitors to Weymouth would come to drink the waters. Look out for the white octagonal building of the spa’s old pump house, the only remnant of the gentrified Victorian health seekers.

The View Campsite

The View Campsite sits deep in the Dorset countryside in a 14-acre smallholding. Set on two south-facing sides of a sheltered valley, the site’s tent pitches look all the way down to Poole Harbour, the Purbeck Hills and Corfe Castle.

With a limited number of camping spots, The View has plenty of space for a peaceful stay. A restful and restorative place, it has occasional visits from local musicians in evenings – harking back to the days of the wandering instrumentalists who once travelled the lanes of Dorset.

The chatter of birdsong provides the day-to-day rhythm of The View’s convivial atmosphere where families relax, drying their swimming gear around the campfire after a day at the seaside. The popular beaches of Lulworth Cove, Kimmeridge Bay and Sandbanks are just 30 minutes’ drive away – as are the secluded sands of Man O’War Beach.

Man O’War Beach in Dorset on the Jurassic Coast (Nick Fewings on Unsplash)

Wooders Camping

Wooder’s Camping is on a working farm on the northeastern edge of Wareham Forest. The site is of the ‘pitch up and pick your place’ variety. Once the owners have finished tending to their 100-strong herd of cattle, they’ll pop up to check all is well.

Wooder’s Camping is a little way from the village of Bere Regis where you’ll find a shop, a cheese barn and a couple of country pubs. A walk of a mile or so takes you into Wareham Forest with its rambling and cycle trails that extend onto the heathland beyond.

A trip down Sugar Hill, the long straight road that leads from the site to Wareham and Wareham Quay, takes you to the famous Silent Woman pub. The hostelry featured in Thomas Hardy’s 1878 novel ‘Return of the Native’. Treat yourself to a home-cooked meal amidst the pretty gardens of this Dorset country inn.

At the bottom of the Wooder’s site, in a plantation of conifers, is the Yon Barrow. The edges of the Iron Age burial mound are home to a handful of badger families. Take a stroll down on an evening and if you’re quiet you might spot one peeking out of its secluded sett.

The Gaggle of Geese

The Gaggle of Geese is the community hub of Buckland Newton on the edge of the Dorset Downs. The Gaggle occupies five acres of tended fields, gardens and wildflower meadows. There’s an apple and pear orchard from which cider has been brewed and juice bottled for sale at the village shop. The Gaggle has a skittle alley, crazy golf course and pygmy goats for kids to stroke and feed.

The Gaggle has tent pitches, bell tents and two shepherd’s huts. It’s also a popular stopover spot for motorhome enthusiasts touring the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

The 150-year old Gaggle of Geese pub has featured on the TV show ‘Escape to the Country’ and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's ‘River Cottage’ series. The pub serves locally sourced fare and has a band playing on most Saturday nights. In the beer garden, a wood-fired pizza oven and barbecue shack serving hog roasts are real highlights.

Buckland Newton is a great family base to explore Dorset and the Jurassic Coast. There are half a dozen of Dorset’s best beaches within a 30-minute drive, including the resorts of Bournemouth and Lyme Regis.

Dapplewood Caravan Site

Dapplewood is an adults-only site in Dorset with just a handful of hardstanding pitches for caravans and motorhomes. Near the village of Holt, and just four miles from Wimborne Minster, this secluded getaway is right on the southern tip of the Cranborne Chase Area of Natural Beauty.

Dapplewood is a great spot from which to explore Dorset and beyond. The New Forest is just 10 miles to the east, and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are each within a half-hour drive to the south.

If peace is the theme for your break, and you want to take some sea air, then it's handy that Shipstal Beach in the RSPB nature reserve of Arne is the nearest secluded stretch of sand. You probably won’t see another soul if you time the visit right.

Bordered by mature oak and ash trees, the stillness of Dapplewood is only ever broken by the breeze and birdsong. If you’re taking a break in Dorset with your dog, there’s private woodland on the site for a little exercise before breakfast or bedtime.

From Dapplewood, it’s a 10-minute stroll to Holt with its cosy pub, the Old Inn. The ancient forest and heath that share the name of the village are easily reachable on foot. The whole area is part of the vast Kingston Lacy estate, now a National Trust property. It was once home to generations of the Bankes family, who abandoned Corfe Castle after it fell during the English Civil War.

Hobby Farm 

Hobby Farm is near the village of Whitchurch Canonicorum, the spiritual heart of Marshwood Vale. With just a handful of pitches and three shepherd’s huts, this west Dorset site is only open to adults (and their dogs).

The camping meadow that spreads gently around a large pond is bounded by large trees and mature hedgerows. Even the country lane running by doesn’t have anywhere to go until an eventual fork – where the most taxing decision is whether to head for the tiny settlements of Shave Cross or Broadoak (only the former has a pub if that helps…)

Keen fisherfolk can dip their rods into the water among the willows, where a rowing boat waits invitingly on the edge. For horsey types, the owners of Hobby Farm also run the stables near the site and can provide you with livery.

Footpaths lead from every corner of Hobby Farm and this is one of the best sites in Dorset for ramblers. You can don your boots and walk to the coast too. Seatown is the nearest seaside spot. You can pick up a section of the South West Coast Path from the tiny fishing hamlet – best done after a meal at the Anchor Inn that overlooks the shingle beach.

The approach to Seatown, Dorset from the South West Coast Path (John-Mark Strange on Unsplash)

Back of Beyond Touring Park

Back of Beyond may be nestled in the heart of the Dorset countryside but it has easy access to beaches on the south coast and to the New Forest. Situated in the valley of the Moors River, Back of Beyond only caters for those aged 18-plus.

The holiday park has 100 pitches set in 30 acres of parkland and a wild camping area. For a Dorset glamping holiday, there are shepherd’s huts, yurts and pods plus two dog-friendly lodges.

Back of Beyond has strolling routes aplenty around the site’s parkland. You can try fishing at two large connected lakes and take a woodland walk by the river (perhaps to pick up kindling if you’re staying in one of the yurts with a woodburner).

The Castleman Trail passes by the holiday park. You can cycle the 30-something-mile round trip to Poole on the gentle route of the former Southampton-to-Dorchester railway line. The trail passes through the lovely East Dorset countryside, passing disused stations and under the highly ornate Lady Wimborne Bridge.

Holyrood Farm Campsite

Holyrood Farm is a back to basics holiday haven. It may be the  closest site to the market town of Shaftesbury but it offers a taste of Dorset wild camping. The tree-lined ridge that overlooks the farmhouse is called ‘the wilderness’, after all.

The site lies in a secluded spot, but local pubs and shops are only a half-mile walk away. Don’t tell anyone if you’re maintaining a wild camping theme on social media, but there’s a supermarket a five-minute drive away.

Shaftesbury is Dorset’s highest settlement, and Holyrood has pitches for tents and campervans, all with views of the Blackmore Vale. Holyrood is a working farm with sheep, cattle, alpacas and rare-breed pigs. You can sample pork reared on the farm for the perfect bacon butty or sizzling sausage sarnie.

For a day at the seaside, Rockley Sands is the nearest dog-friendly beach. A short walk along the shore leads to the sand and shingle of Lake Pier where a small jetty can be fished – mainly for flounder and bass. You and your dog can take a dip in the shallow waters off the pier too (beware, though, the sea deepens suddenly beyond the wooden staithe).

Knoll Farm Campsite

Placed delightfully close to the sea for our final entry is Knoll Farm campsite, in the Isle of Purbeck. Occupying farmland near the village of Norden, Knoll Farm is also close to Corfe Castle.

With sea views to the east, south and west, Knoll Farm occupies a huge field in which you can pick your favourite pitch depending on your scenery preference.

Knoll Farm will take you back to camping trips with the Scouts or Guides with communal campfires surrounded by straw-bale seating and luxuries limited to taps, toilets and temporary shelter in the adjacent barns if the rain turns torrential. There are showers and washing-up facilities too.

Nearby Norden is a stop for the Swanage Steam Railway, which will transport you the short distance to Swanage itself and the town’s pier, beaches of the bay, and walks out to Peveril Point.

New to camping? Check out our guide to everything you need to know.

Ready to book a beach holiday in Dorset? Read on to learn all about camping, caravanning, glamping and more in the South West.

Looking for something a little different from your Dorset break? Choose a cosy kip in a shepherd’s hut among the sheep-flocked hills of Dorset or a quirky site with a story to tell in the county that inspired a thousand tales.