If you love Studland’s beaches but would prefer a more ‘local’ vibe head to South Beach.
It still benefits from the safe, shallow waters that Knoll Beach offers, but it’s a little more secluded and rugged.
South Beach also offers stunning views across to Old Harry Rocks. There is a path that leads up to the iconic chalk stalks direct from the beach – it’s fairly easy and takes around half an hour. There are also various options for exploring Old Harry Rocks via kayak and horseback.
South Beach is popular with kayakers and paddle boarders due to its relatively calm, shallow water. It also has a designated safe swimming area.
There are also echos of the past – both man-made and natural – with a World War II pillbox on the beach itself and unique red and yellow-coloured sandstone cliffs.
This family-friendly beach has attracted both visitors and locals alike for many years – in fact, it used to be home to an annual August regatta where locals and visitors competed in rowing and sailing races, as well as tug-of-war games – with the winners being treated to a free pint at the local pub.
Food and facilities
South Beach has a cafe hut with an outdoor seating area, which sells hot and cold snacks and drinks using organic, Fairtrade and locally-sourced ingredients where possible.
Picture credit: @joescafesouthbeach Instagram
Joe’s Cafe is open daily between 11am – 4pm throughout the year.
Book in advance for evening meals, including regular paella evenings: 07931 325243
The cafe also lends out beach equipment including windbreaks and buckets and spades.
The Bankes Arms
South Beach is the closest of Studland’s beaches to the village pub, The Bankes Arms, which serves traditional pub grub as well as on-site brewed Isle of Purbeck beer.
Picnic essentials can be purchased from the village shop, along with a wide variety of household items, pet supplies and souvenirs.
It is located on the main road as you come in to Studland (Swanage Road) and is open seven days a week.
Monday – Saturday 8am – 6pm
Sunday 8am – 4pm
Note that there are no public toilets at South Beach – the nearest one is on Watery Lane.
There are also public toilets at nearby Middle Beach and Knoll Beach.
History meets geology at South Beach
It’s hard not to notice the reminders of both recent and ancient history along the Jurassic Coast and this small beach – once known in fact as ‘Little Beach’ by locals – is no exception.
Towards the northern end of South Beach (walk left when you arrive on the strand) are two intriguing features of local history – one natural and one man-made.
Stunning sandstone cliffs
The striking red and yellow sandstone of the cliff at this end of the beach is an example of the rich and varied geology of this part of the Jurassic Coast.
It’s thought the many small holes throughout the rock have been made by bees.
World War II pillbox
These WWII pillboxes are dotted along the Dorset coast (you may have spotted the one in Kimmeridge Bay).
Manned by a single gunman, these intriguing structures served as lookouts in case of German invasion from the sea.
This one – a type 25 ‘Armco’ pillbox – at Redend Point on South Beach is a Grade II listed building and was installed as part of the Studland coastal defences in 1941 after the area was deemed liable to invasion. It’s believed to have fallen on to the beach from where it would have originally been situated on the cliff above it, where the gunman would have had a clear view across the beach and across to Old Harry Rocks.
During the war, and in preparation for D-Day, Studland Bay was used as an amphibious assault training area. The rehearsal – ‘Exercise Smash 1’- was the largest live ammunition rehearsal exercise of this time.
Many of the beach huts on South Beach are privately owned and have been in the same family for generations, however there are some available for hire.
To find out more and check availability visit the National Trust’s beach hut information page: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/studland-bay/features/beach-huts-at-studland-bay
How to get to South Beach
For your SatNav: BH19 3AU.
This will take you to the National Trust car park, which is situated next to the Bankes Arms pub on Manor Road in Studland village.
South Beach is a short walk from here – you’ll find a sign post for the beach as you walk down the hill past the pub.
Drive via Northbrook Road and Ulwell Road until you join the B3351and follow the signs for South beach when you reach Studland village.
From Wareham and Corfe Castle
From Poole and Bournemouth
Whilst you can go around via the A351, a quick and scenic route from Poole and Bournemouth is via the Sandbanks Ferry. Once you alight, follow Ferry Road, past signs for Knoll Beach and you will see signposts for both Middle Beach and South Beach car parks.
You can also reach South Beach by taking the number 50 Purbeck Breezer bus from Swanage or via the Sandbanks chain ferry.