Having a true adventure surrounded by nature doesn’t necessarily mean leaving all your home comforts behind. Campervans in Dorset provide a good middle ground between hotels and tents, since they have a lot of facilities but still give you the freedom to park up in scenic settings. Dorset, one of England’s small southern counties, borders Devon and rests beside the English Channel. It’s a lovely place for campervan road trippers, with the ancient Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site proving to be a magnet for visitors. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are abundant in Dorset too, while the towns and villages nestled among the rolling countryside are steeped in history.
Traditional camping trips have had a few upgrades with the evolution of the campervan. Today, these recreational vehicles (RVs) provide quality accommodation. Larger motorhomes even come equipped with showers and toilets. You could hire the most basic Volkswagen van. On the other hand, sophisticated models boast top-class facilities and luxurious fittings. Motorhomes have one thing in common with the humble caravan too: they make the best possible use of whatever space is available.
You can boldly go wherever you want (within reason), driving your high-quality bed with you. And, if you don’t want to buy a campervan for year-round use, Dorset has campervan hire companies for both short and longer excursions. Take time to ponder what you want from your vehicle before making a selection.
It’s important that one person in the camping group has the appropriate driving licence and that the rules of the road are observed. Even rules which seem innocuous, like wearing your seatbelt, should be adhered to. Another matter that’s key in case of an accident is insurance. Country roads provide hazards, just like their city neighbours.
All members of your group should also be aware of the universal camping rules, which have come into use in recent years. Specifically, the ‘Leave No Trace” movement has a number of principles that campers everywhere can follow. While these are sometimes more applicable to those who pitch tents, the ethos is the same in a campervan or motorhome. Respecting wildlife, disposing of your rubbish carefully and being mindful of the damage that campfires can cause are all considerations. Following these principles can reduce the negative impact that camping formerly had on the environment. Your campervan rental in Dorset should complement nature, not challenge it.
Planning in advance for your trip is essential if you travel in peak seasons. This will help you become aware of the campervan rental facilities available. Browse what different campsites have on offer too. For example, you should know in advance whether there’s a water supply for your bathroom and kitchen.
Campsites in Dorset are sprinkled throughout the county, although you’ll need to make sure you choose one suitable for your vehicle. Home Farm Caravan and Camping Site and Hook Farm Caravan & Camping Park are rural spots in West Dorset, close to the cute town of Lyme Regis. This town has a well-known harbour called the Cobb, where you can watch boats bobbing on the water or take a trip out to catch fish. With vistas over Lyme Bay, the museum in the town is another popular attraction. Meanwhile, fossil hunters can stroll along the Jurassic Coast with a local geologist.
Did you know that Lyme Regis was also used by Jane Austen in her novel Persuasion? In fact, Dorset’s landscape has inspired several writers, including Ian McEwan. He wrote On Chesil Beach about a couple honeymooning in Dorset. Chesil Beach is an 18-mile stretch of shingle that joins the mainland at the Isle of Portland. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Lyme Regis, taking a lovely route through pretty villages strewn along the coast.
Climb inside the Isle of Portland lighthouse on your trip, which provides a beacon to ships arriving on the Dorset coast. Walking from the lighthouse leads to Durdle Pier, the perfect spot to listen to the sounds of the ocean. You should definitely try some seafood on this corner of the Jurassic Coast too.
Further east, families might appreciate Corfe Castle Camping and Caravanning Club Site, where days can be spent walking the Purbeck Hills and lounging on Studland Beach. Corfe Castle itself is a point of interest. The ruined castle walls are a thousand years old and provide a window onto the past. Peer into the nooks and crannies on your visit.
Inland, Brewery Farm is a good base within one hour of Dorset’s main attractions. It even has a farm shop selling wonderfully-fresh local produce. A short distance away, explore Milton Abbas where traditional thatched cottages sit side-by-side. Milton Abbey is also worth a trip, a serene heritage building that hosts concerts through the year.
Anybody looking to walk sections of the South West Coast Path in Dorset should consider parking up close to Studland where it begins. Studland to Swanage, for example, takes in just over four miles of the path. Beautiful wildflowers decorate the landscape in spring and summer, and wildlife thrives here. You will also enjoy amazing views across Poole Bay to Bournemouth. Dorset is perfect for hiking adventures, with easy coastal routes and hillier climbs available.
Campervan rental in this county allows you to access many different parts of England. Even if you stay in one spot, driving some of the local itineraries on day trips is recommended.
Exploring Dorset in a Campervan
So, where should you begin your journey of South West England? Busier Dorset towns like Bournemouth or Weymouth are good starting points where you can hire a campervan. Reaching these places by rail or even air is possible, while bus links connect them with the rest of the United Kingdom.
From Weymouth, you could consider meandering west all the way into Cornwall on the A35 and A30. The beachside town itself provides visitors with pristine sands and waters for paddling. Georgian and Victorian roots give Weymouth its personality, and the Nothe Fort provides a look at some of this history. The fort has a warren of underground passages and open areas for tourists to explore. Weymouth is also home to Radipole Lake nature reserve, a spot where kingfishers and even otters come out to play.
Pit stops in Dorset on this route from Weymouth include West Bexington, Golden Cap and Lyme Regis. Golden Cap marks the highest point on the South Coast, and a ramble to see out-of-this-world views is wonderful on sunny days. Visitors who continue on to Cornwall will venture through Devon, another popular county for campervanning.
If you hire a vehicle in Bournemouth, on the east fringes of Dorset, it’s possible to drive a short distance to visit the town of Poole. The harbour there has an amazing history, since it was formed at the end of the last ice age. Poole Harbour attracts visitors for both geographical and historical reasons. Get back in your camper and head south on the A351 to reach the Isle of Purbeck, which is actually a peninsula. Along the way you will pass through the tranquility of Hartland Moor National Nature Reserve. You might also wish to pause to admire Corfe Castle.
Selecting this itinerary from Bournemouth gives you the chance to discover some marvellous towns. Let’s take a closer look at what east Dorset has to offer.
The town of Poole lies close to the Jurassic Coast. Combining a visit to Poole Harbour with this stretch of coastline will give you a prehistoric delight. Many campervan explorers come to witness the natural beauty of Dorset here.
Of course, scenery is not the only attraction. Stroll along the High Street and you will discover Poole Museum, which traces the history of the land and the people who have inhabited it. Four separate buildings house the museum, including an old Victorian grain warehouse and a medieval domestic building. Kids, on the other hand, will enjoy a trip to Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park. There, they can meet and pet animals such as cows, guinea pigs, alpacas and even a donkey.
Bournemouth is another national treasure in Dorset. It features a legendary seven miles of beaches and affords the perfect seaside retreat. This town grew and shone in the Georgian and Victorian eras, and continues to do so today. A charming seafront combines with an exciting nightlife to form the quintessential English town. Campsites in and around Bournemouth provide a comfortable option for parking your campervan overnight.
On a rainy day, try the oceanarium for fantastic marine displays. Children will adore the cute little clownfish, plus lots of lobsters, jellyfish and blacktip reef sharks. The Bournemouth Big Wheel is a fun summer activity too.
Isle of Purbeck
The Isle of Purbeck is a prehistoric wonder – a Dorset peninsula surrounded on three sides by water. It has its own distinctive formations and characteristics. Charming villages and historic sites from both Roman and Saxon times are features of the isle. Several museums and galleries vie for attention too, including the Purbeck New Wave Gallery in Swanage. Discover artwork by local artists before sampling some chocolate at the cafe next door. Another intriguing attraction is The Etches Collection at the Museum of Jurassic Marine Life. This relatively new site transports you back through millions of years. Follow picturesque A and B roads through the Isle of Purbeck on your campervan adventure, and soak in the relaxed pace of life.