You can't be bored in Dorset! It has an extensive coastline that is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, bustling towns, perfect country village lanes lined with thatched cottages, and a substantial history that dates back to the dinosaurs, and provides a pirate's treasure of treats for visitors.
Wimborne Minster is a lovely market town that takes its name from its impressive church. It has an abundance of buildings dating back to pre-Tudor times, and strict planning laws have helped preserve their beauty and that of the streets around them. You can see Wimborne Minster in miniature in the Wimborne Minster Model Town. Built in a 1:10 scale, it is incredibly detailed, and you may feel a tiny bit voyeuristic as you peer into gardens and shop windows! Just outside the town is Kingston Lacy, a magnificent country house now managed by the National Trust.
As well as the beautiful church, you should go to the Priest's House Museum and Garden. It gives a fascinating insight into East Dorset in centuries past, there are lots of hands-on exhibits to keep the kids happy (though beware if your child gets spooked by mannequins), and a good cafe. There is a charge to go into the museum but if you just want a sit down and have a cup of tea in the cafe, go around to the back where you can enter the walled garden for free.
With its pretty harbour, award winning beaches, and plentitude of parks, Poole is an obvious choice for a day full of fun. Away from the typical shops selling everything you could want for a day at the seaside, Poole's Old Town is full of old nautical charm with its narrow streets lined with elegant Georgian homes and its historic quay. Pay a visit to Poole Museum and find out how Poole grew from a small settlement 2,500 years ago to be a Roman fishing town, the target of two Viking raids, a busy port, and a key location for D-Day operations. Nature lovers should take a day trip to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, which is an oasis of calm inhabited by red squirrels, among other creatures.
Poole is the sort of place you can wander down lanes and feel like you're discovering secret nooks and crannies, yet it's small enough that it's hard to get lost. The Cockle Trail is a self-guided walking tour laid out by brass plates set into the pavement. You can download a map here. You can also discover the town by downloading an app and following the Poole Trail.
Sherborne is elegance in bricks and mortar. It's amazing how well some of these buildings survive when you consider how old they are. Top of the list is Sherborne Abbey. It feels calm now, but relations between the monks who used to occupy the site, and the townspeople, were once so poor that in 1437 parts of the Abbey were set on fire during a riot. As interesting as its history is, it is the vaulted ceiling that is Sherborne Abbey's crowning glory (small pun intended). It is a pleasure just to stand there and marvel at the skill of the stonemason who created such beauty.
Sherborne Castle is another building locals are justifiably proud to have. Privately owned by the Digby family since 1617, its gardens were cleverly planned to be a delight in any season. If you're not into all this new-fangled architecture, the ruins of medieval Sherborn Old Castle next door, once the home of Sir Walter Raleigh, may be more your thing.
It is easy to see why Lyme Regis has captivated visitors for millennia. Cliffs rise from the sea to give the town a dramatic backdrop that is constantly changing based on the weather and daylight, but which is always beautiful. Lyme Regis is well known not only for the quality of its sandy beach but also for its superb deposits of fossils. It has a laid-back vibe where nothing is too much trouble, and everyone is happy to do their part to make sure you enjoy your time there.
Lyme Regis is certainly an outdoorsy town. Visit the harbour, known as The Cobb, where moored boats bob in neat lines and you can try your hand at crabbing; follow in the footsteps of Louisa Musgrove from Jane Austen's novel Persuasion; or walk the wall and enjoy the views. Test your skills sailing, go for an ocean swim, or promenade along the Undercliff with an ice cream or through the Langmoor and Lister Gardens.
Dinosaurland is a museum packed with thousands of different types of fossils set out in a child-friendly way to entice budding paleontologists. If the weather isn't great or your fishing is unsuccessful, stop by the aquarium. It's small, but better value and a more fun way to spend an hour or two than in the cinema. Lyme Regis is the perfect British seaside resort.
It's called Dorset's Lost Village, but ghost village is a more accurate description for Tyneham. Unfortunately for the villagers who were living there in 1943, the government decided it was the ideal place to train soldiers preparing to fight in WWII, and took it over. The move was supposed to be temporary, however, residents were never allowed to return home and the village with its houses, cottages, church, and rectory, remains abandoned.
Tyneham is still controlled by the Ministry of Defense. It is part of Lulworth firing range and is only open to visitors on select dates, typically during school holidays. Check here for details.
Dorset Coast Path
One of the nicest ways to discover Dorset is on foot via the Dorset Coast Path. It is part of the 630-mile long South West Coast Path to give you a challenge with the reward of spectacular views. The South West Coast Path terminates at Poole Harbour and is signposted clearly. There is a handy map here to help plan your walk whether you want hours of solitude with nothing more than seabirds for company, a short perambulation to follow a Sunday lunch, or a family adventure.