With its milder climate, being on the South West Coast of England, Swanage is a year-round destination.
Swanage enjoys pleasant springs; comfortable autumns; typically warm, sunny periods in summer; and chilly, rather than biting cold, winters.
You can check Swanage’s webcams to see how the area looks at different times of year, or to keep connected to your favourite places after visiting.
And check in with community radio station Purbeck Coast 101.2 FM for the latest local weather, news and travel.
When to visit?
A visit to Swanage or Purbeck offers something different at each time of year – from the traditional British summer seaside holiday, complete with fish and chips by the bay and a wealth of watersports and family entertainment options, to a cosy getaway in winter, with welcoming log fires, local music and hearty Dorset cuisine to warm up with after a bracing beach walk.
Spring and autumn tend to be quieter than the summer months and are the perfect seasons to witness the incredible array of wildlife and wild flowers this part of the South Coast of England is home to.
The fours seasons of Swanage and Purbeck
Witness the world waking up across Swanage and Purbeck – from lambing in the farmlands to a walk through a bluebell wood or startling rapeseed field.
Hedgerows are abundant with wildlife and you might be lucky enough to spot a fawn as the many resident Sika deer give birth to their young.
Visit Durlston Country Park as it welcomes back returning migratory birds, which come to the warmer climate of the south of England to breed.
Visiting Swanage during spring is a great way to spend some quieter time living like a local; or come during the school Easter Holidays when there is lots going on for families, but when it’s not quite as busy as summer.
Best places to visit & things to do in spring
- Swanage parks and gardens – Take a stroll under the blossom trees in Day’s Park; visit the wetland area of King George’s Park; and spot the first spring butterflies at Durlston. Look out, too, for open gardens events in spring
- Corfe Castle – Visit the 1,000-year-old ruin and explore everything the village of Corfe Castle has to offer
- Purbeck Art Weeks – Visit working artists’ open studios and exhibitions of work, along with a full programme of concerts, art workshops and family events
- Tyneham – Take a touching walk back in time to the ‘ghost village’ of Tyneham, where its residents were asked to leave during WWII and never returned
- Lulworth – Lulworth Cove and Estate will be less busy now than in summer, but no less spectacular
- Old Harry Rocks – Look out for an array of coastal wildflowers on the walk to Old Harry Rocks. Pick a mild day to sit and soak up the incredible views
Spring events include
- Swanage Blues Festival (there is also an autumn one) – The spring Blues Festival is typically held in March and brings Swanage town to life with live bands playing across the weekend in all the pubs and in dedicated marquees. A mixture of headlines acts, local bands and open mic opportunities. Here’s a taster of what to expect:
- Swanage Fish Festival – This popular event’s hub is at Prince Albert Gardens, near to the Swanage Pier and boasts an array of food stalls, cooking demonstrations and live bands, with Swanage Bay as its backdrop. Whether you prefer a good old traditional fish and chips, or want to sample some seafood paella, or oysters and champagne, there is something for everyone, including vegetarian options. Admission is free
- Corfe Castle May Fair – A traditional village fair held in the grounds of Corfe Castle, with craft and bric-a-brac stalls, children’s entertainment and dog show. Normal admission to the castle applies (free for National Trust members)
Visitors have been flocking to Swanage and its nearby beauty spots in the summer months since Victorian times to take advantage of its safe and sheltered bay and relatively warmer weather – with temperatures of up to 22°C or higher throughout July, August and even into September.
Best things to do in summer
- Hire a pedalo or kayak – Messing about on the water is an integral part of summer life in Swanage. There are also various options for sailing, paddle boarding and even diving in Swanage and over the headland in Studland
- Fish & chips on the seafront – Watch the world go by and soak up the beautiful views across Swanage Bay
- Coasteering – For the more adventurous, there are various companies that will take you rock climbing, cliff-jumping and exploring caves off the Jurassic Coast. A popular spot is Dancing Ledge, which also makes for a great walk
Summer events include
- Swanage Regatta & Carnival – One of the highlights of the year for locals and visitors alike, this week-long celebration of all things Swanage has been going strong for some 200 years. With over 100 events across the week, the carnival is a huge fundraiser for local charities. Choose from live music, barn dances, extravagant fireworks displays and a spectacular carnival procession that draws thousands to the area. There’s also a sailing regatta, masquerade night, sandcastle competitions and dogs shows, along with traditional fairground rides, food stalls and beer tent.
The 2019 Swanage Carnival procession:
- Swanage Jazz Festival – Taking place at various venues across town in July, the Swanage Jazz festival features a diverse array of musicians and groups
- Purbeck Valley Folk Festival – A small, family-friendly festival in the heart of the Purbeck countryside, just outside Swanage, with five stages showcasing national, international and local folk groups and artists. There’s also circus skills and craft workshops and the ever-popular traditional barn dance
- Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle – Swanage is a great base for day-ticket visitors to Camp Bestival, held in August. Headline acts for 2021 include Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. There are traditional camping and glamping options, and a wealth of activities for young and old alike. Considered more family friendly than its older sibling Bestival, there is a dedicated kids’ area with all the usual entertainment options
- Open-air theatre – Held at various locations, including the amphitheatre in Swanage’s Prince Albert Gardens and the grounds of Corfe Castle, travelling theatre productions can include modern retellings of Shakespeare and classics such as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The Purbeck Film Festival also holds outdoor cinema screenings on August evenings in Corfe Castle
With a typical mixture of surprisingly mild days – especially in September, when the sea is still warm from the summer sun – and cooler, more blustery days, an autumnal day in Swanage offers the perfect antidote to everyday life.
A refreshing cliff walk followed by a cosy cup of coffee in a coastal cafe overlooking the ever-changing colours of the sea is the perfect reset ahead of the winter.
The woodland walks in Purbeck seem to be designed by nature to give us the opportunity to be outside in nature whatever the weather.
The RSPB Nature Reserve at Arne can be sheltered from wind and rain amongst the trees and will allow you to explore all the flora and fauna of the forest in this season, and with it being rutting season you’re likely to see some of its resident Sika deer.
Another good place for deer-spotting is Wareham Forest, with its 112 hectares of conifer plantation and heathland.
Swanage also often enjoys ‘Indian summer’ evenings, which draw the locals down to the beach after school and work. Join them for a seafood supper on the beach or up at Prince Albert Gardens to watch the sun set over the bay.
Best places to visit & things to do in autumn
- Collecting conkers and pine cones – Explore the various parks in Swanage for good old-fashioned conker-collecting. There are also various woodlands nearby to get that autumnal fix of autumn colours and smells. Try Day’s Park for conkers (and excellent playground) and Wareham Forest or the Arne Nature Reserve for pine cones
- Winspit – If there are still blackberries out, you can keep yourselves busy on the walk down to Winspit where you can check out the caves of this disused quarry
- Pick a pumpkin – There are various places to get the Halloween festive feeling going. Try Lenctenbury Farm, off the A351 between Corfe Castle and Wareham for interesting varieties
Autumn events include
- Swanage Blues Festival – If the spring Blues Festival got your toes tapping and eager for more, it happens all over again in October
- Pumpkin & Beer Festival – The small, traditional pumpkin festival at The Square & Compass pub in Worth Matravers harks back to simpler days with its vegetable ‘monster’ and scarecrow-making competitions, pumpkin weighing, locally-produced food and drinks, and live music
A wintry day in Swanage will leave a lasting memory – whether you take an invigorating walk along the beach or watch the waves crash against the pier before warming up by a log fire in one of the town’s cosy pubs.
Winter in Swanage is a romantic time for exploring a different side of the town and its surrounding areas, and as the temperature rarely falls below 1°C even on the coldest days, exploring Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck is easy, enjoyable, and makes for some stunning scenery.
And there are plenty of delicious, interesting and welcoming indoor attractions to pop into to escape a shower.
You can also catch a play or a movie at The Mowlem in Swanage or the 1920s Art Deco cinema The Rex in Wareham.
For little ones, there is an indoor soft play area at Putlake Adventure Farm in Langton Matravers and, further afield, Farmer Palmers in Sandford and Lemur Landings in Poole’s Tower Park leisure complex.
Best things to do & places to go in Winter
- Purbeck hills – With so many walking routes and interesting nuggets of history and geology along the way, exploring the Purbeck hills is a never-ending delight. And winter provides quiet, stunning views for crisp mornings and atmospheric evenings
- Sunrise at Durdle Door – One of the most photographed landforms in Britain is a short drive from Swanage. Whilst it can be busy during summer months and school holidays, getting up that little bit earlier to watch the sun come up through the iconic arch is a magical experience
- Durlston Country Park – Go for an invigorating cliff walk at Durlston before warming up in the café in Durlston Castle. Check what exhibitions and workshops are running, too
- Village walks – Swanage is surrounded by many pretty villages that take on a special atmosphere during winter, made magical by Christmas lights and decorations. Be sure to check local village halls for festive events throughout November and December
- Deer-spotting – The best time to spot deer in Dorset is early morning or mid- to late evening as they come out to graze. Corfe Common, Wareham Forest and the RSPB Arne Nature Reserve are all good places to see deer. Keeping a distance so as not to disturb them and taking a pair of binoculars and a flask of something hot means you can hang out with these fascinating animals for longer
- Stargazing – Many places around Swanage and Purbeck are ideal for watching the night sky, but if you’d like a guided tour of our skies at night, the Durlston Astronomy Centre holds regular sessions from its observatory dome, where you’ll get the chance to look through telescopes and learn about the constellations and more. Book a spot with the Wessex Astronomical Society: http://www.wessex-astro.org.uk/durlston.php?subject=Overview
Winter events include
- Swanage Christmas Market – See Swanage come alive with Christmas magic as Santa arrives. Meander around the festive stalls lining the streets with a mulled wine and soak up the Christmas spirit with live music and carols
- Craft fairs and carol concerts – There’s a full calendar of events in Purbeck throughout November and December, with most of the villages surrounding Swanage holding festive events. Highlights include the Swanage, Corfe Castle and Wareham Christmas Lights Switch-Ons
- Pull-a-pine for Christmas – Pick and pull your own Christmas tree at Arne. The annual event is a sustainable way to grab yourself a locally-sourced tree and also helps with the management and conservation of the reserve’s landscape
- New Year’s Eve fancy dress street celebrations – Kick-start the new year in style as celebrations spill out onto the streets of Swanage and into the square at Corfe Castle at midnight
- Festive fun on the Swanage Railway – The must-see Christmas train will make for an unforgettable experience for young and old alike. Colourful Christmas lights adorn the steam train as it chugs through the Purbeck countryside past magical lit-up deer – and maybe even some real ones.
Things to do on a rainy day
If it rains unexpectedly while you’re here – and even if it doesn’t! – there are plenty of indoor things to do and see in and around Swanage, such as the local artisan yards, art galleries or museums.