Explore Swanage from coast to coast by hopping on one of the ferries that dock here, or take a short cruise somewhere new from Swanage Pier.
A ferry is one of the best ways to experience Purbeck’s stunning Jurassic coastline – pick one up from Swanage Pier for a fantastic day out on the water and a unique way to view the gently curving Swanage Bay.
Swanage to Poole & Bournemouth via Studland
The Sandbanks car ferry is the area’s main ferry and runs throughout the day, every day, from around 7am till late.
You can drive or go as a foot passenger on this service, as well as taking the bus – simply catch the No 50, which runs a regular service across the ferry between Swanage and Bournemouth.
The chain ferry crosses Poole Harbour in just four minutes and is a handy and picturesque alternative to going around the road.
Along the way from Swanage you’ll pass through the village of Studland and see the beautiful expanses of heathland that stretch out either side of the road and down to the sandy beaches of Studland Bay. You’ll also get a good view of Brownsea Island as you make the short crossing.
Chain ferry prices
- Pedestrians, bikes, motorbikes £1
- Cars & light vans £4.75
- Buses, coaches & goods vehicles £9.50
Swanage day cruises
Swanage Jurassic Coast cruise
Enjoy a cruise along the beautiful Jurassic Coast right from your doorstep in Swanage and soak up the scenery with a drink from the on-board bar.
Choose from a circular cruise that will take you from Swanage Pier, past Old Harry Rocks and Studland Bay, on into Poole Harbour and back, or a shorter Swanage to Poole Quay cruise, with a few hours’ stop-off to explore Poole town.
Running daily from March to October, weather permitting, the cruise takes around two hours and 15 minutes, or an hour for the shorter cruise.
If you’re coming to Purbeck from Poole, a great way to explore the area for the day is on the popular Sea Train Adventure – from Poole Quay you’ll sail to Swanage before taking a ride on the heritage Swanage Railway line from which you can explore the historic Corfe Castle village and its striking castle ruin or walk the Purbeck Ridgeway.
Prices for a return cruise from Swanage to Poole are £17.50 for adults and £12 for children. Family discounts are available.
Dogs are welcome on board at a cost of £2.
For full details of all City Cruises visit their website: www.cityexperiences.com/poole/city-cruises/sightseeing-tours/
Boat trips from Swanage Pier
Regular special boat trips run from the restored Victorian pier throughout the summer months, including the famous Waverley – the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world.
Waverley is a famous and striking vessel, with a special place in the hearts of many around the world. As well as Swanage, calling ports in Dorset include Weymouth and Poole, as well as further afield at Southampton, Portsmouth, Worthing and Yarmouth.
Check all the latest updates and sailing timings on the Swanage Pier Trust website: www.swanagepiertrust.com/boat-trips
Swanage Pier is a must-visit attraction in itself, for old-world British seaside charm.
Explore its history in the pier’s museum, take photos of the atmospheric old pier that runs alongside the newer one, and enjoy an ice cream or light lunch at the pier’s very own café.
Brownsea Island Ferry
Swanage to Brownsea Island via Sandbanks or Poole
Explore this rugged little island that is home to the red squirrel amongst other wildlife, and which is regarded as the birthplace of the Scouts.
Brownsea Island can only be access by boat – a yellow ferry from Poole Quay or via a limited boat service from Sandbanks.
National Trust members may visit the island free of charge, however ferry fees are payable by all visitors.
Brownsea Island is typically open between March/April – October inclusive.
The Sandbanks Jetty boat service is offering a limited service to Brownsea Island.
This service must be pre-booked.
Postcode: BH13 7QJ (next to the chain ferry)
The walk-in (no booking required) service from Poole to Brownsea takes approximately 20 minutes.
Postcode for departure: Brownsea Island Ferries (yellow kiosk) at Poole Quay, Poole, Dorset, BH15 1HJ
Car parking is available at the Quay Visitors’ multi-storey car park on Old Orchard Road (BH15 1SB).
Full information and ticket prices online: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/dorset/brownsea-island/booking-your-visit-and-travelling-to-brownsea-island
Wareham river cruises
Paddle steamer Monarch
The spring and summer service on the 42-foot paddle steamer, Monarch, takes you on a picturesque forty-minute cruise up and down the River Frome from Wareham, which is around a 15 minute drive from Swanage.
Wareham Quay is a delightful place to stop for lunch, with a choice of pubs and restaurants nearby. On the quay itself is The Old Granary, with its riverside seating, as well as boutique hotel The Priory. The Quay Inn pub and The Italian Kitchen restaurant are also set just back from the quay.
The Saxon town of Wareham is a good way to spend the day if you’re staying in Swanage, with its ‘Wareham Walls’ walks (earth ramparts constructed by King Alfred the Great), an effigy of Lawrence of Arabia in one of its churches and a variety of places to have a bite to eat or try some local food. There are pleasant walks alongside the river, as well as easy access to Wareham Common, Wareham Forest and Wareham train station if you want to explore further afield.
Monarch operating times
The river here is tidal and therefore timings may be subject to change.
- May to September – Saturdays and Sundays
- August – Most days throughout August, weather permitting
- September – Certain days in September
Check the sailing times calendar for exact, up-to-date days and timings, or call in advance:
- 📞 01929 556031
- ℹ️ paddlesteamermonarch.wixsite.com/ps-monarch
Poole to Wareham river cruise
Visitors can also take a return ferry from Poole Quay to Wareham Quay – cruise duration time is around three and a half hours, including a stop for an explore and lunch.
You can also do a one-way cruise, which is approximately an hour and ten minutes.
For the most up-to-date price list and information on discounts for larger groups, visit Wareham River Cruises online: www.greensladepleasureboats.co.uk/wareham-river-cruise
International ferries from Poole
If you live here in Swanage and fancy crossing the English Channel for a holiday in France, you can sail from nearby Poole.
Ferries also go direct from Poole to Jersey and Guernsey.
It’s around a half an hour drive to Poole Port from Swanage. You can also catch a bus from town or a train to Poole from Wareham to leave the car behind, although you’ll probably want to grab a taxi from the station to the port itself.
Poole ferry destinations
There are two main ferry companies that sail from Poole: Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries.
Brittany Ferries runs the Poole to Cherbourg route and Condor operates the St Malo, Guernsey and Jersey sailings.
Crossing durations are as follows:
- Guernsey – Three hours
- Jersey – 4.5 – 5 hours
- Cherbourg, France – 4 hours, 15mins
- St Malo, France – 6hr 30min
Visit Brittany Ferries’ website for full details of the Poole – Cherbourg crossing: www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/ferry-routes/ferries-france/poole-cherbourg
Visit the Condor for St Malo, Guernsey & Jersey crossings and information on Poole Port: www.condorferries.co.uk/ferry-routes-ports/plan-your-journey/ports/poole