Explore the Jurassic Coast in South Dorset

White cliffs and blue sea of Dorset coast

It took 185 million years to create the Jurassic Coast. It will take you a lifetime to explore what it’s got to offer.

To help you get started, we’ve put together this quick guide to the highlights near to Upton Grange. We’re sure that once you’re out and about, you’ll find plenty more that grabs your interest.

A quick introduction to the Jurassic Coast

Nearly 100 miles of the coastline in Dorset and Devon has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of only a handful of coastal World Heritage sites in the UK, and it marks our beaches and cliffs as being somewhere very special.

It’s the only place on the planet where rocks from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods can be seen in one place. But what’s so important about these rocks?

Firstly, these rocks are stuffed full of fossils. Every day hundreds of people pick over the pebbles on our beaches to find dinosaur bones, spiral ammonites and the remains of many other ancient animals and plants.

Second, the sea has shaped the rocks into some amazing shapes. The rock arch of Durdle Door, the perfect cove at Lulworth and the incredible Chesil Beach are just some of the spectacular sights of our seaside.

People come from all over the world to enjoy the wonders of the Jurassic Coast. We’re blessed to have them on our doorstep, and we love sharing them with our guests.

Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove

We’ll start this guide with perhaps the most famous of our Jurassic Coast landmarks. Durdle Door is an ancient rock arch that’s featured in countless photos and been used in so many films and TV shows.

It’s relatively easy to get to from Upton Grange, although it does get very busy in the summer months.

Nearby is the delightful natural harbour of Lulworth Cove. Millions of years ago the sea broke through the hard rocky cliffs to scour out a beautiful sheltered bay. It has a pebble beach, rock pools and delightfully blue water.

Today there’s a visitor centre and other facilities.

Explore the cliffs to find other, smaller arches along with caves and blowholes. 

natural rock arch with beach busy with holidaymakers

Charmouth Beach

Fossil hunting is a popular pastime on the Jurassic Coast, with Charmouth being one of the most popular spots.

The cliffs at Charmouth, and nearby Lyme Regis, are closely associated with famous fossilist Mary Anning. This was where she found some of the very first dinosaur fossils that people took a scientific interest in. Some of the creatures she discovered are displayed in the Natural History Museum, London, and in other leading institutions around the world.

When you walk the beach at Charmouth, you’re almost guaranteed to find fossils, even if it’s just a fragment of a belemnite. 

You’re encouraged to collect fossils. If they’re left on the beach, they’ll be destroyed by the sea – so if you see one, please pick it up.

If you go to Charmouth, or anywhere else, to collect fossils, please respect the Fossil Collecting Code.

In short, the code says:

  • Always check the tide times before going out
  • Don’t dig into cliffs to find fossils
  • Be aware of hazards like unstable cliffs and mudslides
  • If you use a hammer, wear safety goggles
  • If you find a fossil that’s scientifically important, be sure to report it to the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre.

Isle of Portland

You could spend several days just exploring what’s on Portland. 

Until 200 years ago, it was only reached by boat or by walking across the sand at low tide. This meant it was relatively isolated, despite being the site of several quarries. Rock from Portland is used on many landmark buildings, including St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Places to visit on Portland include:

  • Portland Bill and lighthouse
  • Church Ope and ‘pirate graveyard’
  • Deadman’s Cove
  • St George’s historic church

Today, Portland is a popular destination for cruise ships. The port is inside one of the largest man-made harbours in the world. 


The picturesque seaside town of Swanage is sometimes called ‘Little London by the sea’.That’s because it’s full of pieces of old London.

Look carefully at some of the street furniture, such as bollards, and you’ll see mentions of London and areas in the city. From the beach you can see a prominent tower that once stood near London Bridge, as a memorial to the Duke of Wellington.

The tower, and all the other bits and bobs from London, came here in ships arriving to collect stone for building. Purbeck stone, like that of Portland, was quarried and sent to London. On their return the ships needed ballast, so they were filled with builders’ rubble. This included bollards and bits of old buildings.

Swanage has plenty to keep you interested. Besides the lovely beach, there are rockpools, cliff top walks, the nature reserve at Durlston Country Park and the heritage steam railway.

swanage beach

Worbarrow Bay

If you’re looking for a slice of Jurassic Coast that’s close to being as it was hundreds of years ago, you’ll be heading to Worbarrow Bay.

There are no holiday caravans, kiosks or car parks. It’s unspoilt.

The beach at Worbarrow is approached through Tyneham, a village that was evacuated in the 1940s to make way for army training. The area is still inside a military firing range and only open at weekends and during holidays.

This limited access has made Tyneham and Worbarrow somewhere very special to visit. 

From the beach, and the cliffs above, you can admire views of the white cliffs that make up the coast coming towards us, at Ringstead. You can also see Weymouth and the Isle of Portland on the horizon.

Warbarrow Bay