By Parkdean Resorts on 13/02/2023
Holidays offer the perfect opportunity to spend one-on-one time with your loved ones - kicking back and relaxing, exploring the nearby areas and indulging in some action-packed activities. While you can snag a great deal on a self-catering caravan, and you’ll find plenty of free activities and entertainment on offer at our parks, it can be tempting to splurge on costly attractions and meals when you’re out and about exploring the local area. And, if you’re not careful - all too soon, that cheap getaway can end up going over budget.
Don’t sweat it, the picturesque county of Dorset has a whole host of free and cheap days out - we’ve put together a guide of some of our favourites to help you plan an unforgettable and cheap caravan holiday or lodge break for your whole family!
Cosying up indoors is great but when you’re headed on a getaway, there's no better feeling than heading out on an outdoor adventure, exploring the best of what the surrounding areas have to offer. Dorset’s blend of glorious countryside and sublime coastline makes for an idyllic setting for a mini break and acts as a playground for an array of free and affordable outdoor pursuits.
Purbeck Park acts as the perfect starting point for a whole day of adventures. This must-see attraction is free to visit - simply start here and explore the surrounding attractions that Purbeck Park has to offer.
Within the park, set in the woodland surroundings, you’ll find a railway themed adventure playground, where your little ones can burn off some energy.
If yourself and your family are cyclists, there’s no better way to explore the countryside and coastal glory of Dorset than a bike ride. If you don’t plan on bringing your bikes with you on your trip, there’s always the option of hiring them from Cyclexperience, however, it will add to your costs. An alternative is to ask friends or family if you can borrow a bike for your holiday.
RockReef Activity Attraction and PierZip
Situated right at the end of Bournemouth Pier, you will find RockReef - an all-weather activity attraction where your big kids can spend hours of fun. The PierZip takes the title for the very first pier to shore zip wire in the world! There’s even a dual line option which allows you to race your family members! Prices start from just £10 each.
Wareham Quay River Cruises
Enjoy a relaxing cruise along the River Frome from Wareham Quay in an Orca boat, here you can take in some of the captivating history that surrounds Wareham - which was once an important trading port. You will also catch a glimpse of the varied wildlife along the way - including seals and Kingfishers.
Cruises can seat up to 12 passengers and are approximately 40 minutes long, running once an hour. Note, there are no toilets or refreshments served on board but they can both be found at the Quayside. Tickets are £9 for adults and £5 for children, offering an affordable highlight to your holiday.
When planning a getaway it's always good to have an affordable indoor activity on your list, in case the weather takes a turn.
Crazy Golf at Mr Mulligans
Known to be one of the most adventurous things to do in Bournemouth, Mr Mulligan's Crazy Golf Centre is an ideal day out for the whole family to enjoy! There are three uniquely themed courses to choose from including; a comic book setting, imaginary light experience or apocalyptic crash scene. Games start from £9.50 per person, and there are weekday offers and family tickets available.
A visit to a Dorset beach is a perfect free day out for the whole family. There are plenty of great Blue Flag award-winning beaches in Dorset to choose from. Here are some of our favourites:
Durdle Door Beach
Adored for its rock-formed arch in the sea, Durdle Door Beach is known to be one of the most photographed landmarks, along the Jurassic Coast. However, it’s important to note that this beach has no facilities. In the summer, there is a mobile kiosk that parks up on the path leading to Durdle Door that serves both ice cream and refreshments for your little ones to enjoy.
You’re able to swim at Durdle Door Beach, however there is no lifeguard present at the beach so caution should be taken, especially if swimming with little ones.
Dogs are welcome year round.
This soft sand beach is super family-friendly - with lifeguards based there during peak months. At the beach you can find toilet facilities, plenty of restaurants and cafes and parking which is available at a number of different locations along the seafront.
Dogs are allowed all year at the west of the Bournemouth Pier, between Middle Chine and Durley Chine. However, dogs are not allowed on the rest of the beach from the beginning of May to the end of September.
Situated where the River Jordan joins the sea, this sand and shingle beach is separated into zones, forming pockets of splash pools offering the perfect location for your little ones to splash about.
Dogs are welcome, too!
If you’re looking for more than just a relaxed meander or a day of sunbathing, there are plenty of beachside activities to get involved in during your stay in Dorset.
Fossil hunting on the beach
Explore the past and get lost in another world with an afternoon of fossil hunting. There are a number of beaches in Dorset which are famous for their fossilised finds. During the Jurassic era, Dorset was covered by the sea, leaving behind the remains of ancient creatures as it retreated out to reveal the landscape seen today. The most popular beaches for fossil hunting in the region include; Charmouth, Kimmeridge, Lyme Regis, Ringstead Bay and Lulworth Cove.
Rock Pooling in Dorset
Dorset has plenty of rocky shores to go rock pooling. It’s a great way to pass the day for free, offering fun for all the family.
Crabbing in Dorset
If you have little ones, grab a bucket, net, and an old washing tablet bag to attach a crabbing line and you’re all set. Top tip: crabs particularly like bacon!
There’s no better way to explore the gorgeous coastline of Dorset than on a kayak. Here you can explore caves, beaches and cliffs from a unique angle. If you’re a lover of kayaking, be sure to drop by Durdle Door and Old Harry Rocks. Kayaking is accessible to everyone with Land & Wave, book a group kayaking trip for as little as £20 per person, including all of the specialist equipment.
Nature and Wildlife
Nature and wildlife lovers, this one’s for you. If you love nothing more than exploring the very best of mother nature's delights, then a trip to Dorset truly is an unmissable experience. With plenty of free parks and nature reserves, as well as affordable family attractions, there’s something for everyone.
Durlston Country Park
Explore the best of what the Jurassic Coast of Dorset has to offer at the Durlston Country Park. Get ready to favour acres of wildflower meadows, woodland areas, wildlife trails, coastal walking paths and spectacular views. Situated within the park is Durlston Castle which offers a whole host of gallery showings for you to enjoy and a cafe serving up some seriously tasty treats, should you get peckish whilst you’re there.
The Durlston Country Park is free to visit, however there is a small fee for parking. Dogs are welcome!
Located in Poole Harbour with breathtaking views across the Purbeck Hills, National Trust park Brownsea Island is thriving with spectacular natural habitats including; a glorious woodland area and picturesque lagoon. Here you’ll catch a glimpse of wildlife including rare red squirrels and a wide variety of birds. Adult entry costs £9.50 and a child are £4.75.
Farmer Palmers Farm Park
Little ones will love meeting and feeding the adorable farm animals at Farmer Palmers Farm Park. After that, let them burn off some energy on the adventure playground or pedal go-karts. Before heading on a peaceful woodland walk and finishing off the afternoon with a bite to eat at the Hen House Restaurant. Prices vary for entry into Farmer Palmers Farm Park, it is £16 each for both adults and children above the ages of 3 on weekends, and and £14 in term time if you book online.
Situated in Purbeck, is the Arne nature reserve - this is the perfect day out for nature lovers to explore acres of heathland and woodland in the search for shelducks, siskins and sparrow hawks, to name just a few. RSPB Arne has an entrance fee of £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. Children under the age of 5 go free.
Walks and Hikes
Dorset certainly isn’t short of walking and hiking locations, so whether you’re looking for a peaceful meander or challenging stroll there’s a walk guaranteed to suit everyone. What better way to spend a day out, exercise, fresh air and beautiful scenery that doesn’t cost a penny!
Situated on the South West Coast Path, The Golden Cap is known to be the highest point in Dorset at 191 metres above sea level. Surrounded by a whopping 2,000 acres of National Trust land, there’s plenty to discover when you’re there. Head out and explore the spectacular views on the 630 mile long coastline of the South West Coast Path.
Durlston Head and Dancing Ledge
Indulge in breathtaking views of stunning cliffs and moores on this 5.5 mile circular walk along the Purbeck Coastline. On your stroll, you can spot dolphin pods off the coast, enjoy breathtaking cliff top views, and historic limestone quarries. The dancing ledge is a natural shelf of flat rock, which juts out into the sea. The walk starts and ends at the Durlston Country Park, which is a nature reserve that looks over Swanage Bay.
Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and Bat’s Head
Known to be one of the most popular short walks in Dorset and for good reason, Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and Bat’s Head allows you to explore the very best of the Jurassic Coast, including stunning limestone cliff walks, natural arches, acres of rolling countryside and must-see picturesque villages. The undulating path is just over a mile long in each direction and only takes 30 minutes to cover (one way).
Gardens and country parks
There’s nothing quite more enchanting than a peaceful walk through a picturesque garden and Dorset has plenty of gardens and country parks on offer. Here are some of our favourites:
Christchurch Quay is home to the Quomps - a large green space with a splash park which is open seasonally with a play area. Here you can spend a whole day relaxing on a nice day, admire the boats on the water and feed the ducks.
Athelhampton House and Gardens
The beautiful Athelhampton House and Gardens dates back to the 15th century and is a great example of Tudor architecture. The gardens include the Great Court filled with 9m tall pyramid yew trees, a private garden and Octagonal pond that all lead you down to the river Piddle. Here you can follow the river down towards the ancient dovecote. While you’re wandering the grounds it’s worth paying a visit to the St Edward’s Church. Garden admission for adults is £11 and free for children 12 and under.
Kingston Maurward Gardens and Animal Park
This is the perfect cheap family-friendly day out - without breaking the bank - the 32 acres of beautiful grounds and lake of the Kingston Maurward Gardens and Animal Park. There are so many animals to see including; goats, ponies, many diverse types of birds, ducks and even alpacas. Whilst you’re there, pay a visit to the Japanese Garden and The Elizabethan Walled Garden before heading to the park cafe for a well deserved treat. What’s more, admission into the gardens is now free!
Known as an area of outstanding beauty, Dorset has plenty of delightful coastal spots ideal for fishing. If carp is you’re preferred catch, then Warmwell Holiday Park is the ideal place to stay, with its very own stocked lakes and tackle shop, just steps from your accommodation.
It is important to note that before you head out on your fishing trip, you’ll need to buy a rod licence for both sea and shore fishing, from the Dorset Council website. 1 day passes vary from £6-£12 and 8 day passes vary from £12-£27 depending on the type of fishing you are going to be doing. You can also apply for a junior licence too.
Swanage is a town in Dorset renowned for fishing, where you can (hopefully) secure Mackerel, Cod, Bass, Whiting and Pouting to name just a few.
Bournemouth Pier, Jurassic Coast
Here you can enjoy a fishing trip experience for both beginners and experienced anglers. Expect to catch species including; bass, catsharks, mullet, garfish, bream and rays to name just a few.
Chesil Beach is known to be one of the best fishing destinations in England. The water of the shingle beach is extremely deep meaning it can be fished at any state of tide. In the summer months you can catch mackerel - great for a BBQ on the beach, or in the colder months, cod, whiting and conger eels can be caught at shore.
Museums and Castles
There is plenty on offer for history lovers with a trip to Dorset. Here are our some of our recommended museums to visit:
Gold Hill Museum
Famous for being in the Hovis advert, Gold Hill museum paints the picture of how Shafesbury was formed and is home to Dorset’s oldest fire engine which dates back to 1744.
This museum is free for entry but donations are welcome.
The Keep Military Museum
Situated on Bridport Road in Dorchester, the Keep Military Museum is a renowned landmark in the region. The museum was built to preserve the history and artefacts of the regiments of Dorset and Devonshire.
There are a number of different exhibitions to explore while visiting and you can get a great view over Dorchester from the roof of the West Tower. Adult admission is £7.50 and children aged 3+ are £3.00 each.
What are you waiting for? Start planning your adventures in Dorset today! Discover more of the local attractions in Dorset here.