A weekend adventure to the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset

17 January 2022

Spend a few days exploring the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset and you’ll be immersed in the rugged coastal scenery and in awe of beautiful public gardens.

The well-known seaside resort of Bournemouth is close to Purbeck with an excellent bus service across Poole Harbour via a chain ferry, from the famous Sandbanks peninsula to the tip of Studland.

There’s so much to see and do in this area, from sunny days on the beach to energetic walks featuring the picturesque Jurassic Coast.

Whether you follow this itinerary step-by-step or pick and choose what really stands out, you’ll enjoy some incredible adventures!

Let the adventure begin

Bournemouth is brimming with accommodation from luxury boutique hotels to beach huts.

It’s also an ideal base to explore the Isle of Purbeck, Brownsea Island, and the historic port of Poole.

We recommend arriving on Friday to spend some time exploring Bournemouth itself, where beautiful golden beaches stretch for miles.

As you stroll along the promenade, you’ll have great views of the Isle of Wight on one side of the bay, and the famous Old Harry Rocks that mark the start of the Jurassic Coast on the other.

But a real gem here is the linked Grade II listed gardens.

Gardens of Bournemouth

Start in the Lower Gardens on the seafront. Formal flower beds are surrounded by beautiful lawns that stretch down to the River Bourne.

From here, exit the Lower Gardens and cross Bournemouth Square to enter the Middle Gardens.

The River Bourne runs through the middle of these gardens, with trees and blooming plants on both sides – you’ll notice the occasional bridge offers the opportunity to cross over the river.

Beyond the Middle Gardens, and some interesting artwork under the flyover, the Upper Gardens go as far as the pretty Coy Pond.

The gorgeous rock gardens on the way here are maintained by volunteers.

You may want to stop for a break here before walking back into town and have something to eat (there are plenty of choices).

The local bus service offers an easier route back into the centre of town.

Want to splash out on a special dinner>? Head to NEO Restaurant, close to the seafront in Bournemouth.

And take it from us: you must try one of their fifty different gins while you browse the menu!

Russell-Cotes Museum

Should your preference be an unusual experience for the afternoon, we suggest you head to the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum on the West Cliff of Bournemouth.

The Russell-Cotes were avid travellers and amassed a huge collection of artefacts and art on their travels. So big they had to build a house for it.

The impressive Victorian building and the entire collection was given to the people of Bournemouth and the museum is well worth an explore.

You’ll see the house is laid out as it would have been when the Russell Cotes lived here – some artefacts they collected during their journeys around the world are beautifully displayed in these rooms.

There’s also an elegant dining room but no kitchen. It’s thought that when the couple entertained, they would ring a bell under the table and the food would be brought from the Royal Bath Hotel next door.

A series of interesting art galleries are accessed through the living rooms. Enjoy a steamy cappuccino and a homemade cake in the cafe during your visit.

Brownsea Island beckons on Saturday

Head for Poole Quay and book your ticket to Brownsea Island on one of the Brownsea Island Ferries.

This historic quay is a wonderful place for a stroll through history, and you’ll find information boards dotted around that detail points of interest.

Get there early to enjoy the ambience and a coffee at one of many cafés

on the front before boarding the ferry (fares apply) to cross to Brownsea Island.

It’s easy to spend a few hours here enjoying woodland and coastal walks.

There’s a café on the island but also plenty of places to enjoy a picnic – but watch out for the resident peacocks and exotic hens looking for a tasty snack.

You’ll also find a Tesco on the quay at Poole and the ideal place to grab some picnic treats. Brownsea Island is famous for its Sika deer and red squirrels.

We recommend finding a quiet spot in the woods and you may find a curious squirrel will creep out of the undergrowth to say hello!

As the last ferry leaves the island at 5 pm, you’ll no doubt be ready for a meal when you land back on Poole Quay.

If you like fish and chips, there are several shops on the quay and in the town.

But Chez Fred in Westbourne (a short bus ride from Poole on the M1 or M2) is a marvellous place to indulge.

Open from 4.30 pm every day, the restaurant does not take reservations. Just turn up and queue – you won’t be disappointed.

Sunday strolling from Studland to Swanage

Hop on the 50 Breezer bus from Bournemouth (you can buy a day ticket onboard) and head for Studland Village.

This open-top bus goes through Sandbanks to the chain ferry.

See if you can grab a seat on the top deck and enjoy the sensation of a sea breeze sweeping through your hair.

As you leave the bus at Studland Village, take the path towards the sea. You may be ready for a coffee at the Bankes Arms which is signposted on your way.

Or you may prefer the more secluded South Beach where you’ll find a little shack that serves hot drinks and snacks.

From here, follow the South West Coast Path admiring Old Harry Rocks on your way and enjoy the spectacular scenery from the clifftop.

This path will take you into Swanage, once famous for the exportation of Purbeck stone.

Walkthrough the town to the Victorian Pier and walk to the end to enjoy fantastic views of the Jurassic Coast.

We also recommend a quick pit stop at the Pier Café to enjoy some amazing coffee and a delicious homemade cake.

Dorset cream tea in Corfe Castle Village

Swanage is also famous for its steam railway, and a ride on the steam train to Corfe Castle Village is a great finale to your weekend.

After exploring the castle ruins, indulge in a delicious Dorset Cream tea (jam first) at the Model Village Café before you catch the bus back to Poole.

However you decide to spend your time on the Isle of Purbeck, you’ll find it’s a treasure trove of historic buildings and stunning natural scenery.