Swanage is a popular, traditional seaside town on England’s south coast, that attracts many visitors throughout the year but is especially busy during the summer.
The town expanded rapidly during the industrial revolution as demand grew for building materials and the locally quarried Purbeck stone became much sought after. With the arrival of the railway, red brick terraced houses and municipal buildings were built giving the town its Victorian character.
What makes it really special?
Swanage’s stunning coastal location is what makes it really special. Swanage Bay sweeps from the Old Harry Rocks to the north, round to Peveril Point in the south. It faces east and is protected by Peveril Point from major southwesterly storms, while the Isle of Wight provides a degree of shelter from easterly storms. As such, the bay is ideal for swimming, sailing, fishing, diving and other watersports.
The weather in Swanage is favourably mild, with few frosts and little snow in the winter. During the summer months, there’s usually a pleasant breeze to cool the hottest of days. If you can’t visit but wish to see, then there are a number of Swanage webcams including the one on the RNLI’s boathouse that gives a great view across the sea to the Old Harry Rocks.
Where is Swanage?
Swanage is located on the south coast of England in Dorset. It lies to the west of Poole Harbour and Bournemouth and to the east of Weymouth. From Dorchester, it’s a 25 mile drive in a south east direction. It’s on the Isle of Purbeck and famous for being part of the Jurassic Coast.
Arrive by car
The most flexible way to arrive is by car but in the summer months, the roads are very busy and so it’s best to avoid travelling at peak times. There are two directions to get to Swanage by car, either via Wareham or take the Sandbanks Ferry from Poole to Studland.
Buses, taxis and Wareham Railway Station
Buses run from Poole, Bournemouth and Weymouth and you can also get a bus or taxi from Wareham Railway station – Swanage’s nearest mainline station. There is also the Swanage Railway, but as a heritage line, it only currently runs from Norden to Swanage.
Things to do in Swanage
Both residents and visitors are drawn to Swanage because of its natural beauty and its outstanding sandy bay. Swanage Beach is one of its main attractions and the council-owned central beach has been awarded a Blue Flag, meaning that it meets high standards for its water quality, beach cleanliness, safety and services. However there’s plenty for everyone of all ages to do, in addition to enjoying a day on the beach.
One of the best-known attractions is Swanage Railway and it’s a great way to arrive. It’s a heritage steam and diesel line that currently runs between Norden and Swanage. There’s also Swanage Pier and if you stroll to the end, you get a fantastic view of the town and of Old Harry Rocks.
Durlston Country Park
If you want to go for a walk (although you can drive) head towards Durlston Country Park. Go south out of Swanage and follow the South West Coastal Path. It’s about a 30 minute walk, partly uphill, with lovely views out to sea and across to the Isle of Wight. Once you’re there, there’s Durlston Castle, which isn’t really a castle but a Victorian folly that has a very popular restaurant, shop and an ever changing programme of art exhibitions.
The local area surrounding Swanage
While a week spending time in Swanage can easily keep a family entertained, there’s so many more activities and places to see across the Isle of Purbeck. Lots of local residents say they still have plenty of things left to do on their wish list.
One of the most well-known places is Corfe Castle, a historic and world famous village, dominated by the iconic castle ruin that dates back in parts to the 12th century. The castle, owned by the National Trust, attracts visitors from around the world and is a regularly photographed landmark.
The Jurassic Coast
Just round the coast from Swanage is the beautiful village of Studland. It has a well-stocked village shop, a church and a village hall but the main attraction is the stunning sandy beach that is owned by the National Trust. There are several beach cafes and a lovely view across the sea to the Old Harry Rocks. These rocks mark the start of the Jurassic Coast, that then continues for 95 miles round to Exmouth in East Devon. It’s England’s only natural World Heritage Site and has been recognised by UNESCO for its outstanding geography including the fascinating fossils that are found in the rock.
Great places to visit along the Jurassic Coastline include Kimmeridge Bay with its unusual shale rock ledges where 150 million year old ammonite fossils can be discovered. There’s also a great fossil museum, The Etches Collection to browse around and Clavell’s restaurant that does lovely cream teas.
For a bit of history, visit deserted Tyneham village, which was abandoned during World War Two when the army requisitioned the area for military training. The homes, school and shops were evacuated and the villagers never returned leaving everything frozen in time. Today visitors can wander around the village and see everything just as it was left all those years ago. It’s then worth walking down to the wonderful Worbarrow Bay but as the land is still owned by the Ministry of Defence, it’s best to visit at the weekends when it’s more likely to be open to the public.