Dorset’s Jurassic coast is home to some of the best beaches in the UK, including the famous Durdle Door, a place that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.
If you are looking for the best tips and advice on where to go, dog friendly places, where to stay and how long it takes to walk to the iconic beaches, you can find it all within this post.
What Is Durdle Door & How Was It Formed?
Durdle Door is one of England’s most iconic landscapes forming part of the Jurassic Coast. It was recognised by UNESCO in 2001 as England’s only natural World Heritage site, for its significant rock formations, fossils and outstanding beauty.
As you walk along the coastal path and catch your first glimpse of the breath-taking archway and the glistening turquoise sea, you won’t quite believe you are still in England! The closest thing I have seen to Durdle Door is the Azure Window in the Mediterranean Sea of Malta, which I would often visit as a child.
Durdle Door’s natural limestone archway which extends out into the sea was formed by waves crashing against the rock over thousands of years. The Portland limestone that shapes Durdle Door and the Jurassic Coastline is thought to be over 150million years old and if you are lucky you can still find fossils in some areas.
Although already one of the most famous and photographed landmarks in England, Durdle Door has recently found fame as the backdrop in Bollywood movie Housefull 3
Where is Durdle Door?
Durdle Door is located on the Southern Coast of England in Dorset, a stone’s throw away from the historic village of Lulworth.
Sitting at the heart of the 95 mile stretch of Jurassic Coast, Durdle Door is approximately 130 miles from London which took us around 3hrs 30mins by car. The closest popular seaside town is Weymouth, approximately 30mins away.
Is Durdle Door a Sandy Beach?
This is something I wish I had known before I went. Although the photos of this iconic landscape often appear to show stretches of golden sand, Durdle Door and the surrounding beaches are in fact all shingle and pebble beaches. I would highly advise wearing a pair of old trainers, as trying to walk across loose pebbles and down steep pathways in flip flops was incredibly tiring and difficult!
What To Do In Durdle Door
Man O’War Beach
Once you arrive at the carpark for Durdle Door most people will b-line down the path towards the famous archway, which is of course the main reason you are there too, however, there are actually two beaches you can enjoy.
Man O’War Beach is the hidden treasure of Durdle Door, sitting to the left, right behind the arch. Once you reach the end of the steep pathway that leads to Durdle Door there will be a few viewing points to take photos and then take the steep wooden steps to the left which will lead you to the bay. Despite the incredible views of Durdle Door, this beach was actually my favourite, it’s quieter, more secluded and ideal for paddle boarding and snorkelling.
Then of course there’s the must see famous Durdle Door, the main reason over 500,000 people visit this part of the Jurassic Coast every year.
The world heritage shingle beach has naturally carved itself into the white cliffs creating a spectacular backdrop of caves and rock formations to the impressive arch and shimmering turquoise sea.
As with all beaches in the area it is super dog friendly making it ideal for paddles with your four-legged friends.
When we visited there were no facilities or food outlets at Durdle Door or Man O’War Beach, so we stocked up on plenty of food and water in Lulworth village before we headed down.
Sitting at the base of West Lulworth village you’ll find the shimmering blue waters of Lulworth Cove, which naturally formed at the end of the last ice age! I was blown away by the crystal clear water and panoramic views that wrap around this horseshoe bay. There were plenty of paddle boarders gliding across the water and I wish I'd had my wetsuit with me to finally give it a try! If you are looking for a beach with stunning views, easy accessibility without the strenuous steep walk at Durdle Door and a carpark just 5mins away, then this is the beach for you. If you are wondering what facilities there are, you’ll walk past a number of small cafes and ice cream shops on the path leading to the cove. Traveling by car? Pop this postcode into your satnav, BH20 5RQ.
Visiting Durdle Door & Man O’War Beach
- The Steep Walk -
If traveling by car, to access both beaches at Durdle Door, you'll need to park in the car park at the top of the cliff and then it’s a steep 15 minute, 900m walk across the cliffs which reveals spectacular views and endless photo opportunities. The pathway that leads you there is fairly steep and once you reach the end, there are over 100 steps on either side that take you down to the separate beaches. It's hard work, especially on your way back up, but it's well worth the effort! Good sturdy shoes or trainers are a must.
Whilst it might be tempting for some daredevils to skip the stairs and attempt a short cut down the cliff, it is not only impossible but incredibly dangerous. We sadly witnessed a woman lose her life trying to do just this, so whilst it’s very easy to get carried away with excitement when visiting, please don’t take short cuts or risk your life for a cliff selfie.
The easiest way to reach the landmark is by car, pop BH20 5PU into the satnav which will lead you directly to the main Lulworth Estate carpark. It costs £10 for a full days parking or just £5 if you want to stay less that 4 hours.
It might be good to know that you will receive hardly any mobile reception whilst down at the beach, just in case you need to stay connected or meet friends.
Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door Walk
You can also easily reach Durdle Door on foot from Lulworth Cove by taking the path behind the Lulworth visitor centre, which leads you across the beautiful countryside hills and along the cliff edge, taking approx. 30mins. It’s an incredibly scenic and popular walk with breath taking views across the Jurassic Coast. Pop BH20 5RQ into the map to pin point the path.
Best Time To Visit
If you want the whole of Durdle Door beach to yourself, I highly recommend you arrive early between 8am - 9am. The shot below was taken at 8:30am on a Monday morning and within an hour, floods of tourists had already started to pile onto the beach.
We visited from Sun to Tuesday in the middle of June way before schools had broken up for summer and it was still very busy, so whichever time of year you plan to visit, the earlier in the day the better.
Man O’War Beach
Luckily this little hidden gem right behind the Durdle Door archway isn’t visited as much, so you can guarantee it will not be as busy. We arrived on a Tuesday at 10am and apart from us, the dog and a few other people we had the whole bay to ourselves.
We visited this picturesque cove at around midday on a Sunday in mid-June and although it was fairly busy, it didn’t feel overcrowded and there was still enough room to find a good spot with uninterrupted views.
When planning your visit to any of these beaches, I would recommend keeping an eye on the Lulworth Estate website for the most up to date info on closures, as sometimes the beaches/paths need to be closed for safety reasons.
Snorkelling & Scuba Diving
If you are brave enough to dive into the icy-cold water around Durdle Door which reaches an average of 17°C from June to August there is actually a fair amount of diving and snorkelling to enjoy.
You can even explore a number of wreck dives, including army tanks dotted along the Jurassic Coast, with some fairly close by to Durdle Door. Speak with one of the local dive clubs in the area to arrange a trip.
I definitely wasn’t ready to brave a snorkel without my wetsuit, however, the local divers in the area helped shed some light on what can be discovered below the crystal clear water.
The pebble beach slopes down to a sandy bottom of no more than 15metres making it ideal for both diving and snorkelling around the famous arch. If you are lucky you might spot a variety of marine life from wrasse to crabs living amongst the large boulders and healthy kelp.
Man O’War Beach
Just behind the Durdle Door archway I’m told there’s a small hidden underwater cave, illuminated with dazzling light from the sun that breaks through the blowhole, just big enough for a pair of divers to explore.
Lulworth Cove Snorkelling
If you want to know the best places to spot a variety of marine life, you can book a guided snorkel tour with Lulworth Outdoor from the visitor centre. You’ll be guided around kelp forests, spotting a variety of gobies, wrasse and even anemones along the way.
Is Durdle Door Dog friendly?
Of the beaches we visited, Durdle Door, Man O’War Beach and Lulworth Cove are all dog friendly, all year round. One thing I would advise, is if you have a small or elderly dog, the steep walk down to Durdle Door might be too difficult , so be prepared to carry them. I had to carry my little one all the way because of the pebbles.
The Village of Lulworth is extremely dog friendly and we were welcomed everywhere we went. All of the local restaurants, pubs and even hotels are dog friendly, which made it super easy for a staycation away with our four legged friend.
Where To Stay Near Durdle Door, Jurassic Coast?
The closest place to stay to be within walking distance of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door is in West Lulworth, a charming historic fishing village surrounded by rolling countryside and some of the prettiest pastel coloured cottages I have ever seen, dating back over 400 years.
Here are a few hotel options that came up as the top 3 when planning our trip:
Limestone Hotel & Restaurant | We Stayed Here |
This dog friendly secluded country house hotel sits up on the hill, overlooking cute thatched cottages with incredible sunset views across the rolling countryside.
We chose to stay in their snug and cosy Hideaway cabin, hidden within the trees making it the ideal romantic coastal retreat. All of the hotel toiletries are organic, eco-friendly and ethically sourced from Dorset. There is also a restaurant at the hotel serving delicious sustainably sourced produce from local suppliers which we just managed to get a table at on our last night, so I highly recommend making a reservation prior to your stay.
From here you can walk to Lulworth Cove within 10mins and Durdle Door within 25mins or just 4mins by car.
Rudds Of Lulworth
This boutique hotel has one of the most idyllic ocean view locations, nestled right on the edge of Lulworth Cove. It’s moments away from ice cream shops, fish and chips and delicious handmade fudge from The Dolls House. From here you can access the pebble beach within minutes or if you prefer you can just lounge around the pool admiring the views of Lulworth Cove.
Lulworth Cove Inn
This 400 years old family & dog friendly English pub, once a haven for smugglers of French lace and brandy, is now home to 12 coastal themed rooms complete with drift wood details and roll top baths. The coastal path leading to the iconic Durdle Door sits directly opposite this charming inn, just behind the visitor centre.