The jewel in Swanage’s crown is its beautiful beach that sweeps around the curve of its sheltered bay.
Despite being one, long stretch of golden sand, the beach in Swanage has a different feel to it depending on where you are along it – meaning you can have a different day out each time you visit.
The busy hubbub nearest to town – with its coffee shops, restaurants and traditional amusement arcade – has that typical British seaside buzz that gets you queueing up for a 99 ice cream and digging out the buckets and spades.
Slightly further along is a more active scene, with various watersports on offer. Hire a pedalo for some shallow-water fun, or a sea kayak to get out on the waves. You can also book a diving lesson off Swanage Pier.
For a more relaxed, sophisticated seaside experience, sit on the deck with a drink at The Watering Hole or outside the Cellar Bar, or sample some seafood at Gee Whites and watch the world go by.
You can also hire a deck chair, sun lounger or windbreak for the day – the friendly team located on the beach opposite the Swanage Information Centre will come and collect the fee once you’re settled.
Further north along Swanage beach you’ll find various more secluded spots, dotted with ice cream huts and even two surprise cafés on the beach – The Cabin and Down the Beach are perfect for an impromptu breakfast on the shore.
Swanage Beach has received the coveted Blue Flag Award and Seaside Awards year-on-year since 2001.
The awards celebrate excellent water quality as well as high standards of cleanliness and good beach management.
Swanage Beach has grown steadily in popularity as a UK seaside destination since it was first identified as a perfect bathing spot by the Victorians, transforming the then traditional quarrying and fishing town into a must-visit seaside resort – Princess (soon to be Queen) Victoria even coming to stay. A road was built along the seafront in 1823, giving rise to the promenade we know today.
The prom is lined with everything you’d expect from a typical English coastal town:
- Indoor amusements – K’s Funworld is an indoor entertainment centre with arcade games for all ages, as well as an 18+ section
- Outdoor amusements – Santa Fe Fun Park is a small amusement park situated above the beach, overlooking the sea, and offers a Jurassic Coast-themed adventure golf, giant inflatables and small rides, such as a mini go-karting course
- Ice cream vendors – There are a range of British-produced ice cream parlours and huts both in town and along the beach
- Souvenir and beach toy shops – Whether you want to take a memento home with you or have forgotten to bring swimwear or wetsuits, or if you want to pick up your holiday bucket and spade or inflatable beach toy while you’re here, there are various options along the promenade and in the town itself
- Cafés and refreshments – You’re never far from hot & cold drinks and a range of refreshments options along Swanage Beach, from the award-winning Fortes Gelateria and café to spots like Wright on the Beach fish and chips or a traditional 99 from a hut on the beach itself
- Seating areas – You’ll find various covered seating areas along the promenade, so you can enjoy the view whilst keeping out of the elements
- Children’s play area – The playground situated above the beach (next to Santa Fe Fun Park and Mermond Place car park) overlooks the sea and has a large green space next to it for picnicking. There are also several other playgrounds around town for kids to explore
- Toilet facilities – Public toilet facilities are available on Shore Road (including disabled facilities and beach shower) as well as at North Beach car park. There are also public toilets in the Main Beach car park, Mermond Place car park, and along the stone quay toward the southern end of the bay
- Beach huts – Beach huts are available to hire throughout the year. Find out more below, or on our Beach Huts page
You’ll also find various independent shops, supermarkets, bars and essential stores such as chemists all within a short walk of the beach.
The town’s cinema and theatre building, The Mowlem (named after John Mowlem, one of the founding fathers of the town as we know it today) is also situated right by the beach, so if the weather isn’t great or you fancy something different, you have the option of a movie or a show at your fingertips.
There are various ramps and slipways along the beach, providing access to wheelchair-users and pushchairs.
The closest one to town is by The Mowlem, but there is also a slipway at the other end of the beach, next to the Watering Hole and Ocean Bay Watersports.
There is seafront disabled parking on Shore Road, and throughout town, as well as accessible toilets for disabled visitors.
Dogs at Swanage Beach
Dogs are welcome on parts of Swanage Beach year-round, however the following seasonal restrictions apply:
Dogs are not allowed on the beach between 1 May – 30 September.
This applies to the main, Central beach, which is very popular with families during the summer months.
Dogs are very welcome, however, on the small Monkey Beach at the southern end of the town near Swanage Pier all year round.
Dogs are also allowed on the furthermost North Beach, which is typically used by residents, throughout the year.
It is worth noting that some stretches of Swanage Beach further away from town have their own private rules, which are clearly indicated with signs.
Areas such as Peveril Point are also dog-friendly all year around, though can at times be slippery underfoot (or paw).
Safety on Swanage shore
The central area of Swanage Beach is lifeguarded during summer months – you’ll be able to spot the sections they patrol by their red and yellow flags.
Lifeguards can typically be located on the beach between 10am and 6pm from mid-June to the beginning of September.
During the busier summer months, Swanage Beach has designated safe swimming areas with lifeguards on duty
There are various safety signs with useful information and emergency contact numbers along the seafront.
Anyone who gets into difficulty in the water, or sees someone else in difficulty, should alert a Swanage lifeguard or call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
Beach-side bites – where to eat along Swanage Beach
Whether you want to sample some fresh, local Dorset seafood, or grab a traditional fish and chips to eat on on the shore or (as many locals do) up in Prince Albert Gardens, overlooking the bay, there are plenty of beach-front dining options in Swanage.
- The Cabin – Al fresco dining doesn’t get much closer to the sea than this. Perfect for breakfast, brunch or lunch with a very special view, The Cabin is situated at the foot of the Grand Hotel and is accessed either via the steps off Burlington Road or simply a stroll along the beach from town. Check out their Facebook page for more information: www.facebook.com/pages/category/Cafe/The-Cabin-Swanage 📞 07342 322162
- The Cellar Bar – Situated right on the bay, underneath Swanage’s cinema and theatre The Mowlem, The Cellar Bar’s relaxed, on-trend decor makes for a pleasant spot to for a drink and catch-up with friends
- The Fish Plaice and The Parade – These two next-door neighbour fish & chip takeaways both have dining-in options and are popular with locals and visitors alike and can be found right by the bay close to the central hub of other restaurants, pubs and shops. Equally popular, though set back from the shore, is another locals’ favourite chip shop Harlees (The Fish Plaice: 📞 01929 423668; The Parade: 📞 01929 422362; Harlees, 355 High Street 📞 01929 423578)
- Gee Whites – This hugely popular, relaxed outdoor dining experience just off High Street attracts many visitors and locals alike, so be prepared for a short wait in line to grab your seat on busy days. Watch people crabbing in the bay or the boats coming and going while you wait. And there’s a waffle shack right next door for afters 📞 01929 425720
- The 1859 pier café – Swanage Pier‘s very own bistro, the 1859 (named after the year the pier was built) is a great way to combine a stroll along Swanage’s restored Victorian pier and offers a unique perspective on the town 📞 01929 500387
- Scoopies – Treat yourself after a beach-side lunch or dinner with one of eco-conscious Scoopies’ unique bubble-waffles filled with ice cream, marshmallows, fruit, chocolate or sprinkles (or all of the above!) 📞 01929 475837
- The Watering Hole – Situated at the northern end of town, and right on the beach, The Watering Hole is a beach bar and café with both indoor and outdoor seating, serving light snacks, hot drinks and draft beers. Check out their Facebook page for more information: www.facebook.com/thewateringholeswanage/ 📞 01929 422222
Perfect for storing beach toys and swimming gear while you explore a different aspect of Swanage and its surrounding area, or for sitting and taking in the view across the bay, beach huts in Swanage are available for hire throughout the year.
With toilet and shower facilities close by, hiring a beach hut can make a trip to the seaside an easy, fuss-free experience.
There are also options for long-term rental for residents.
Shore Road beach huts
During the peak summer season (1 May – 30 September), the road in front of the Shore Road beach huts is pedestrianised for your safety and enjoyment.
There is a choice of fully accessible, standard or larger family huts, and lower or upper levels.
Situated right next to town, beach huts are equipped with table and chairs and electricity, and are in close proximity to a recently-refurbished toilet block.
The town’s local amusement arcade, shops, playground, restaurants and cafés are a short walk away, making these beach huts popular with young families.
Spa Bungalows and Spa Retreat beach huts
A little further along Swanage Beach are the popular Spa beach huts.
Set slightly further back from the beach, but with stunning bay views, these beach huts are a little more secluded, offering a more private beach hut experience.
Note that access to these beach huts is via steps.
There are also a number of privately-owned beach huts along the beach.
Book a beach hut through Swanage Information Centre
To find out more and enquire about booking any of the beach huts in Swanage contact the Swanage Information Centre:
📞 01929 766018
Daily, weekly, seasonal and annual tariffs can be found on the Swanage Town Council website: www.swanage.gov.uk/BeachHuts.aspx
There are numerous public toilets located around town, most of which are accessible.
- Shore Road – The largest public toilets are located at the southern end of town, close to the central beach, on Shore Road.
- Main Beach car park – Located just off Victoria Road
- Mermond Place – In the car park near to the Santa Fe fun park and playground
- Swanage Railway station – Toilets are open when trains are running on the railway
- Beach Gardens – Situated half way between the main section of town and North Beach
- North Beach car park – The furthest toilet away from town
Where is Swanage Beach?
Located on the South West Coast of England, and close to Bournemouth, Poole, Sandbanks and Studland, and within easy reach of West Dorset, Swanage Beach is easily accessed from major cities such as London, Bristol, Exeter and Southampton.
With views reaching across the sea to the Isle of Wight, and with a bay enclosed by the beautiful headlands of Ballard Down and Peveril Point, the sandy, sheltered beach at Swanage is the ideal place to escape it all.
Swanage Beach is located off Shore Road, close to the centre of town: BH19 1LB
Parking for the beach
There are various options for parking for Swanage Beach, depending on where you want to go.
The following are all long-stay options:
- Main Beach car park– The most popular car park for both the centre of town and central stretch of beach in Swanage, Main Beach car park is just off Victoria Road as you come into town (BH19 1PW)
- Broad Road car park – Located at the southern end of town, Broad Road is handy for the dog-friendly Monkey Beach, as well as access to Peveril Point and The Downs. It’s also a good base for exploring attractions around Swanage Pier, such as the diving school, sailing club, restaurants and walking routes to Durlston Country Park, BH19 2AP
- North Beach car park – The northern end of Swanage is served by North Beach car park, just off Bonfields Avenue, BH19 1NL
There is also some beachfront parking on Shore Road, as well as short-stay car parks in town, which are handy for a quick scamper on the beach, including Mermond Place (BH19 1DQ) and at the Co-Op (BH19 1HP).
Note that a section of Shore Road near to town is pedestrianised during the summer months (1 May – 20 September), so parking will be unavailable.
Nearby beaches to explore
We are spoilt for choice on the Isle of Purbeck for beautiful sandy bays and coves to explore and, whilst Swanage is one of the most family-friendly and accessible, you don’t have to go far to see what else this special part of Dorset has to offer.
Use Swanage as a base from which to discover these Jurassic Coast gems:
- Chapman’s Pool – Accessible via the village of Worth Matravers, this quiet cove is an off-the-beaten-track discovery
- Durdle Door – The shingle beach at Durdle Door is not suitable for swimming due to strong tides and currents, but makes for a lovely place for a picnic or a walk at one of Dorset’s more famous beauty spots
- Knoll Beach – Just over the headland of Ballard Down at the northern end of Swanage Beach lies Studland Bay and its magnificent sandy beaches. Knoll Beach is the largest and most popular with families
- Lulworth Cove – Part of the Lulworth Estate, Lulworth Cove is a picturesque spot at the foot of the traditional fishing village of West Lulworth. You can also walk to the iconic Jurassic Coast landform Durdle Door from here
- Worbarrow Bay – Accessed via a walking path from the abandoned Tyneham village, Worbarrow Bay is an unspoilt stretch of coastline popular with walkers