Swanage is probably most well-known for its superb, sweeping sandy bay.

Being sheltered and with relatively calm waters, Swanage Bay has been popular with locals and visitors alike for generations.

Fishing boats in Swanage Bay Boats in Swanage Bay Seafood menu and flowers at Swanage restaurant Mackerel boat going out at Swanage Bay Table overlooking the sea at the Cellar Bar in Swanage Palm trees and sea at Swanage

The bay stretches from the Ballard Down headland to the north, right across to Peveril Point to the south of the bay.

Swanage Bay has both lively sections as well as more secluded spots, meaning there is something for everyone. The bay also serves as a vibrant hub for watersports, with a boat park, boat and kayak hire, a diving school, and local sailing and sea rowing clubs.

And with its sandy beach with varied sections – from lifeguarded, safe-swimming areas to more rugged areas further from town, and from busy boating areas to the grandeur of the Victorian pier, Swanage beach and bay makes the perfect retreat from the bustle of the modern world.

Swanage Beach and sea with The Mowlem in distance

Swanage Beach is consistently awarded Blue Flag status for its water quality and cleanliness, making Swanage Bay a holiday hotspot for families as well as watersports enthusiasts

The bay is also flanked by a promenade, beach huts, a variety of eateries, gifts shops and amusements, giving Swanage that charm we’ve come to expect and love in a seaside town.

Walk along the promenade to discover family-friendly fun to sophisticated ‘grown-up’ dining; and dog-friendly cafés to the traditional British fish and chips at the seaside experience.

Swanage Bay watersports

There are various places along the bay to have a go at a water-based activity. Hire a boat from the stone pier, mess about on a pedal with friends on the central beach, or try your hand at kayaking or have a go on a jet-ski further along the beach with Ocean Bay Watersports.

Sea kayaks and pedalos for hire on the main stretch of Swanage Beach

Boats and watercraft can be launched from the boat park at Peveril Point (located just off Broad Road car park).

Users are required to follow local regulations, observing the five-knot buoy area from 15 March to 30 September. Full details can be found on the Swanage Town Council website: www.swanage.gov.uk/BoatParkRegulations.aspx

Dinghies and other non-power-driven small craft may be launched from the Parish slipway, Ocean Bay Watersports and Monkey Beach. Note that theses areas can receive a high volume of traffic during the summer months.

Diving school

During the summer months, Swanage Pier sees an influx of divers who come from around the globe to experience the crystal clear waters and wreak sites off the Pier and surrounding area.

Divers Down diving shop on Swanage Pier

Divers Down at Swanage Pier

Charter diving boats operate from the pier area and are available for hire throughout the year.

Divers Down also offers diving instruction for the complete beginner to the more advanced.

For more information visit Divers Down’s website: www.diversdownswanage.co.uk 

Swanage Sailing club

Swanage sailing club boat park overlooking Swanage Bay

Swanage sailing club boat park

Swanage Bay is home to a sailing club, which offers tuition and ‘Return to Boating’ courses for local members.

Run by volunteers, Swanage Sailing Club has been in operation since 1935 and is situated on Buck Shore, between Swanage Pier and Peveril Point.

To find out how to become a member visit the Swanage Sailing Club (SSC) website: www.swanagesailingclub.org.uk 

Swanage Sea Rowing Club

Swanage sea rowing club road store doors

Swanage Sea Rowing Club boathouse

Open to everyone, the Swanage Sea Rowing Club (SSRC) is a welcoming and friendly gig club based at the southern end of Swanage, close to the sailing club and Peveril Point boat park.

There are over 140 members who take part in a range of activities, including:

  • Racing and regattas (both home in Swanage Bay and away)
  • Fitness sessions
  • Recreational rowing
  • Indoor and on-the-water training for members wishing to work toward competitive rowing

Session timings and details

Swanage Sea Rowing Club in the bay (Picture credit: Snapshooter46)

  • Ladies – Ladies’ training takes place on Wednesday and Sundays
  • Men – Men’s training is on Thursdays and Sundays
  • Juniors – A junior group for rowers aged 10-16 meet on a Monday evening between 6pm – 7pm
  • Open rowing – Open to non-members, open rowing sessions are held twice a week on a Tuesday at 6pm and Saturdays at 10am. Taster sessions are free

For more information and to check updates, such as session status and weather conditions visit the Swanage Sea Rowing Club Facebook page: https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/56231058969/ 

Swanage Bay dog rules

Cavalier King Charles spaniel on beachDogs are welcome on Swanage beach between 1 October and 30 April.

Between 1 May and 30 September, dogs banned from the main beach, however, they are permitted on Monkey Beach, which is close to the pier, near the old stone quay.

Note that various parts of North Beach are privately owned and each owner may have their own regulations in place, with signs to indicate individual dog regulations.

The history of the bay

Swanage Bay’s history is entwined with Victorian England and, further back, smugglers’ tales and Saxon and Viking adventures.

There is a commemorative statue on the Shore Road promenade to King Alfred the Great who, it’s said, defeated the Danes in the sea here in AD 877. This is, however disputed, and the Viking ships are also said to have perished in a severed storm off Peveril Point.

People sitting on promenade by the King Alfred memorial in Swanage

Sun setting behind the King Alfred memorial on Swanage seafront

This Tuscan column was erected by local Victorian businessman and one of Swanage’s founding fathers John Mowlem (who the town’s cinema and theatre building is named after) in 1862. The Mowlem overlooks the bay and is an important cultural feature of the town.

It was during the Victorian era when Swanage came into its own, flourishing as a seaside resort, and even drawing a young Princess Victoria to stay before she became Queen.

Before this, the main economy was still centred around the bay, built around quarrying and fishing. The area’s rich quarrying history can still be seen today in areas of Purbeck such as Winspit and Dancing Ledge.

Today, tourism remains a vital industry for Swanage, with many activities, venues, events and accommodation geared toward visitors throughout the year.

Nearby bays to explore

Whether you’re looking for an active watersports scene or a tranquil, secluded cove to moor your boat or have a quiet picnic, there Purbeck’s coastline has a diverse range of bays to explore.

  • Studland Bay – Home to various watersports facilities across its four beaches, Studland Bay offers both adventure and solitude depending on where you go along its four miles of sandy beaches. You’ll find sea-foraging expeditions, kayak hire, banana boat rides and a dedicated kite-surfing area amongst other water-based activities
  • Chapman’s Pool – A more remote bay that is a bit of a walk to get to, but is a perfect place to picnic and watch the world and boats go by
  • Lulworth Cove – With the village facilities of West Lulworth on its doorstep, Lulworth Cove is a lovely spot for a ramble and picnic, or for a more active way of exploring the area Lulworth Outdoors offers a range of both land and water activities
  • Man O’ War Bay – A pleasant walk from Lulworth Cove, this small bay is right next to Durdle Door – one of the Jurassic Coast’s most iconic landforms
  • Kimmeridge Bay – In contrast to the sandy bays of Swanage and Studland, or the shingle of Durdle Door beach, Kimmeridge Bay’s rocky ledges and shallow water make for superb rock-pooling and snorkelling. It’s also an important geological site on the Jurassic Coast with its abundance of fossils and fine examples of Kimmeridge Clay. The bay is also becoming more popular with surfers
  • Worbarrow Bay – The unspoilt Worbarrow Bay is great for a day of hiking and historical exploration, with access to the Lulworth Ranges and South West Coast Path, as well as the now abandoned Tyneham village