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.
You can also hire a deck chair, sun lounger or windbreak for the day – the friendly team located on the beach opposite Swanage Information Centre will come and collect the fee once you’re settled.
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 either inside or outside at the Cellar Bar, or sample some seafood at Gee Whites and watch the world go by. Or take a stroll toward the southern end of the bay, where you’ll find year-round dog-friendly Monkey Beach and Peveril Point.
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 is 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 and 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 sheltered from the elements
- Children’s play area – The Chadwick 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 along the prom close to town as well as further along on the beach – perfect for a guaranteed spot to yourselves to store your beach gear or watch the world go by sheltered from the sun or an unexpected sea breeze
Swanage beach huts
Hire a beach hut for the day, the week, or the whole holiday season, for a handy beach-side base.
The closest beach huts to the centre of town are those set just back from the beach on Shore Road, which is pedestrianised during the summer months.
These beach huts are very popular with families, being near to all of Swanage’s amenities as well as a large toilet block.
Further along Swanage Beach there are further beach hut options, such as the Spa Bungalows and Spa Retreats.
Various privately-owned beach huts may also be for hire, and some do come up for long term hire or sale.
To enquire about hiring a beach hut in Swanage, visit Swanage Information Centre or give them a call on 01929 766018
Swanage Information Centre is located on Shore Road opposite the beach and just below the Santa Fe Fun Park and Jurassic Golf.
Nearby facilities and entertainment
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 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 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 on the beach 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 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 further into town, is another locals’ favourite chip shop Harlees (Phone numbers for each: 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 & Bistro – Swanage Pier‘s 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
- Pier Head – Contemporary seafood restaurant serving light lunches, dinner, tea & cake and cocktails. Located on High Street with views across the bay. Find out more: pierheadswanage.com
- 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
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 Chadwick 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 – use this postcode for your SatNav: 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 (postcode: 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 (postcode: BH19 2AP)
- North Beach car park – The northern end of Swanage is served by North Beach car park, just off Bonfields Avenue (postcode: BH19 1NL)
There is also 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.
Where to stay
When it comes to a place to stay for your holiday in Swanage you are spoilt for choice – from boutique shepherd huts to natural camping options, and from holiday parks with entertainment and family facilities to cosy self-catering cottages with sea views, there’s something for all the family – and for a different experience of Swanage each time you visit.
There are three main hotels in Swanage – The Grand, The Pines and Purbeck House Hotel – as well as a great range of established guest houses and B&Bs, and a budget-friendly youth hostel all within walking distance of the beach.
And if you want to camp near the beach, the closest camping & caravan sites closes to Swanage Beach include Swanage Bijou, Swanage Bay View Holiday Park, Swanage Coastal Park, Ulwell Holiday Park and Herston.
For a list of campsites ideal for accessing everything Swanage & Purbeck has to offer, visit our Campsites & Caravan Sites page.
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