A historic market town with a beautiful river frontage, located at the gateway to Purbeck
If you spotted the signs for Wareham on your way to Swanage, you’ll probably have added this Saxon walled town steeped in history to your must-visit list.
Being almost equidistant between Swanage and Poole, Wareham is perfectly placed for exploring what the Isle of Purbeck and wider Dorset county has to offer. You’ll find unique gift shops and an array of cafés, pubs and restaurants, and throughout the year you can pick and choose from a wide range of events including live music and food, art and literary festivals in and around Wareham. With its fascinating mix of heritage and natural beauty, this charming market town, nestled between the River Frome and the River Piddle, is an inviting gateway into the heart of the Jurassic Coast where visitors can explore its rich historic architecture alongside a wide variety of dining options and easy access to nature with views across to the Purbeck Hills.
Make your visit memorable
Live like a local while you’re here and wander down to get your fresh fruit and baked goodies for breakfast at the weekly Saturday market on the quay or the bi-weekly farmers’ market in the town hall on a Thursday. Stop for a coffee at one of the many cafes (or a bacon butty – we know we can’t always resist!, although there’s plenty of tempting veggie options too). You can always walk it off with a gentle stroll along the riverbank. Or for the more adventurous you can grab a kayak or hire a boat to work up an appetite for lunch in one of Wareham’s many popular eateries.
There’s plenty to explore in Wareham town itself. Why not walk in the footsteps of the Saxons and explore the Wareham Walls, or stroll down the picturesque side streets with their hanging baskets and colourful house fronts. You’ll find coffee shops interspersed with art galleries and gift shops along the main streets, and the selection of riverside pubs offer a spectacular setting to kick back with a drink at the end of a long day exploring.
The town’s museum will reveal a wealth of historic local facts and if, after visiting the sculpted stone effigy of Lawrence of Arabia that lies in St Martin’s-on-the-Walls church, you’re inspired to walk in his footsteps, his famous rural retreat at Clouds Hill is a short drive away, surrounded by walking trails through forest and over heathland.
Walks in and around Wareham
Wareham and its surrounding area has long been popular with hikers, dog-walkers, cyclists and horse riders. You can find out more on our Walks page, but some of the closest places to Wareham to don your walking boots include:
- Wareham Forest – The 45ha expanse of conifer plantation and heathland has several walking trails, cycleways and bridle paths. The closest start point to Wareham town is the Sika Trail, from where you can also hire bikes.
- Two river walks (along the Rivers Frome and Piddle) – A walk along the River Frome will undoubtedly take you longer than you think as there’s so much to stop and see; from the Instagram-worthy yachts and sailboats to the abundant wildlife living in and on the riverbank, including water voles, bearded tits and grass snakes. And, if you’re patient and sit quietly, you might even be lucky enough to spot an otter.
- Stoborough Heath and Nature Reserve – This secluded heathland is just a five-minute drive or 15 minute walk from
Wareham and provides a quiet retreat to enjoy the sweeping views and look out for wildlife uninterrupted. While you’re there why not have a stroll around the adjacent villages of Stoborough and Ridge, where you’ll find some very pretty cottages and gardens.
- RSPB Nature Reserve at Arne – This is a popular spot in Purbeck and can be busy in peak seasons, so it’s best to arrive early and make a day of it: bring a picnic to eat on the small beach that appears as if by magic at the end of the first stretch of woodland walk, or take a circular route through the nature reserve back to the café and visitor centre for lunch. As you wander through the reserve you’ll notice glimpses of Poole Harbour through the trees – keep an eye out for the resident sika deer, Dartford warblers and sand lizards. The RSPB team at Arne hold regular guided walks and interactive events where you can get up close and personal to the likes of slow worms and butterflies or learn how to build a nesting box for birds. (If you’re not an RSPB member you can park for the day for £5.)
Whilst dogs are very welcome in most areas of the Dorset countryside – as well as many cafes and pubs (some even have special doggy menus!) – Dorset is lucky enough to be home to a wide variety of nesting birds, sika deer and important wildlife habitats, so if your dog is fond of following his nose and/or having selective hearing! it might be best to use a long lead in certain places.
Exploring Wareham town
- Wareham Boat Hire – You can rent a kayak or paddle board for the afternoon from here, or plan a boat trip along the Frome – sit back, relax, take in the scenery…and of course stop at The Old Granary for a restorative snack on your return. Regular pleasure boat cruises also run to and from Poole.
- Purbeck Sports Centre – Wareham’s sports centre is a short walk from the town and offers regular classes for you to keep up your exercise routine during your stay in Purbeck, as well as a swimming pool with family fun and senior sessions.
- Cycle hire – Bicycles are available for hire from the Sika Trail in Wareham Forest, as well as from Purbeck Park in Corfe Castle.
- Bovington Equestrian – The British Horse Society (BHS) approved riding centre in nearby Bovington Camp near Wool offers tuition and hacking for beginners to advanced riders. Find out more about horse riding in Purbeck here.
A range of workshops and classes run throughout the year in and around Wareham, including:
- Furzebrook Studios, just outside Wareham, offers a range of art, pottery and craft classes
- Metal Clay Ltd, situated near Wareham Station offers jewellery-making taster sessions and multi-day courses with international tutors
- The Olive Tree cookery school – take a taste of Dorset home with you with short courses ranging from summer entertaining to coastal foraging and cooking
If you’re staying a little longer and want to explore what Purbeck and Dorset have to offer, there is something for everyone just a little further afield.
Some highlights include:
- Swanage Bay – the golden sands of Swanage beach with its wide variety of cafes, shops and entertainment are sure to have you returning time and again
- The Blue Pool and Tearooms – an enchanting lake hidden within 25 acres of heath and woodland between Wareham and Corfe Castle. It derives its name from the clay suspension in this disused clay pit, which makes it a striking turquoise colour
- Corfe Castle – Purbeck’s iconic ruin sits atop a hill at the entrance to the village of the same name. Regular historic reenactments, fairs and family fun events run in its grounds – and a trip to Corfe Castle Model Village is a must while you’re here
- Splashdown in Poole and Dorset Adventure Park near Corfe Castle – a day out for kids and big kids alike not to be missed. Splashdown has indoor flumes and outdoor slides, and Dorset Adventure Park has a giant outdoor floating Wibit Water Park. Both have refreshment options
- Swanage Railway – step back in time as you ride the steam train through the Purbeck Hills. It runs from Swanage to Norden, stopping at Corfe Castle, Harman’s Cross and Herston and holds several events throughout the year
- Lulworth Estate – home to the stunning limestone arch of Durdle Door and enclosed Lulworth Cove where you’ll be spoilt for choice with ice cream parlours, pubs and even a chocolate shop. A visit to Lulworth Castle is also a must
- Studland Bay – there are three beaches and stunning sand dunes and heathland walks just a short drive from Swanage or Corfe (also accessible via the Studland ferry)
- Monkey World – the ape rescue centre in nearby Bovington is home to over 250 rescued and endangered apes. The park is dotted with adventure playgrounds and has a cafe and gift shop making this a fun-packed day out
- Putlake Adventure Farm in Swanage and Farmer Palmers in Organford – bottle-feed lambs or take a tractor ride at these local adventure farms. Both have soft play areas and outdoor fun zones
- The Tank Musem – one of the world’s biggest collections of tanks is just a short drive away in Bovington and is packed with history and interactive exhibitions and activities
Whether you live here or are visiting, shopping at local markets helps support local producers – and means you’ll have a truly ‘Dorset’ experience.
Wareham Quay Market: Every Saturday from 8am. Stalls range from fresh meat and fish to flowers, cheeses and collectibles.
Wareham Farmers’ Market: Held in the Town Hall on East Street every second and fourth Thursday of the month, with the exception of December, which is the first and third Thursday.
How to get to Wareham
You can get to Wareham by car, train and bus. From Swanage, you can hop on the Number 40 bus or use one of the town’s friendly taxi services.
From further afield:
By car: Via the A351 from the West, the A352 from the East, and the B3075 from the North and South
By train: Wareham Station is on the London Waterloo – Weymouth line and is less than a mile from the town centre. Trains run twice hourly each way. Local taxi services also run from the station.
- Take the number 40 from Poole (or First Bus X54). If you’re coming from Bournemouth you can hop on to this at Poole bus station by taking the More Bus M1 or M2
- From West Lulworth: take the More Bus number 30 or First Bus X54
- From Weymouth: take the More Bus number 30 or First Bus X54
Car parks in Wareham
As well as various free 1 hour parking spaces along the main streets, there are a number of car parks in the town, as well as all-day parking at Wareham Station.
- Wareham Quay (pay and display only.) (Note that this will be unavailable on Saturday mornings due to the weekly market)
- Bonnets Lane
- Connegar Lane
- Howards Lane
There are also car parks behind the two supermarkets in the town:
- Sainsburys: Rempstone Centre (Church Street, behind Sainsburys)
- Co Op: Streche Road (long stay)
Good to know…about Wareham
- For four-legged visitors: Purbeck Pets & Equestrian is open from 9am – 5.30pm, Monday – Friday and 9am – 4pm Saturday & Sunday, and stocks a wide range of pet food, toys and accessories. There are also three vets in Wareham
- The town is served by two supermarkets (Co-Op and Sainsburys) as well as a variety of independent shops that sell local produce – there are three butchers, three bakeries and a health food shop.
- Public toilets are situated on The Quay and at Howards Lane car park. Both are open from 7am – 7pm daily and have disabled facilities.
Five Facts about Wareham
1. Lawrence of Arabia loved it – you can even sit in his favourite seat at the Anglebury House
2. The Rex is one of the country’s oldest-running cinemas and was first used in 1889 to host travelling theatre shows, banquets and concerts
3. Wareham is a gateway to the Jurassic Coast Word Heritage site and Dorset AONB
4. King Alfred the Great commissioned the Wareham Walls as defences against the Vikings – the history of one of them is so gruesome it’s known as the Bloody Bank
5. Wareham was once an important port, and even had its own royal mint.