Swanage is a coastal town in the south east of Dorset. Before our party (consisting of three under fives and three adults) arrived here I had heard great stories about the area and how brilliant it was for littlies. As such Swanage had a lot to live up to; luckily it didn’t disappoint.
Location: Swanage, Dorset
Swanage is a lovely coastal town with a population of around 10,000. The sandy beach, amusement arcade and smell of fish and chips give the town a lovely British holiday spirit without having the tackiness of some other British seaside locations.
The Swanage Pier (Pier of the Year in 2012, no less!) is lovely to stroll along and from which to gaze out to sea – with one eye at least, the other keenly ensuring none of the little ones gets too close to the edge. The plaques under foot lie in testament to the 100-year history of the structure and depict many happy memories of people who have strolled along before you.
The amenities in the town are great with plenty of places to eat and drink and lots of local shops and supermarkets to stock the cupboards of your holiday home. I was particularly impressed with Phoenix Wines which had a number of tasty (and fairly potent) local ciders in barrels to sample and purchase by the litre, self service from the barrel. Very enjoyable once the kids are in bed!
Accommodation in Swanage
There are a multitude of private let apartment/flats and houses within the area. Our accommodation was a delight. We opted for a four bedroom two bathroom house with a large kitchen diner and a larger lounge with attached dining room. The house, typical of beach locations, was upside down, lending itself to beautiful sea views from the main living area. The property also had a large decked balcony area with sea views and a gas BBQ for those sunny days as well as a games room set up in the garage for the rainy ones with table tennis and table football.
Our accommodation was a delight with clean modern fixtures and finishes which included a hob that cooked carrots quicker than you could peel them. I couldn’t fault the accommodation and if you are thinking of travelling to this area I’d recommend a look at this property and others from the same owner. You can view the details of the property here, but if you’d like to book, email the owners Bob and Mary Foster and mention you saw their accommodation detailed on this site, they will probably give you a discount.
Things to do in Swanage (and around)
The Dorset coast is awash with activities and exciting things to do with youngsters and adults alike. A National Trust membership can be well used in this area with loads of their properties and nature reserves dotted around.
The first day we travelled to Corfe Castle, about 20 minutes by car from our accommodation; however we took the train. There is a preserved steam railway which runs from Swanage to Norden with a stop just outside Corfe Castle. The well-preserved traditional steam train had the children giggling with delight as they rode on “Thomas” or his equivalent name given at the time.
Corfe Castle and its surrounding village are both worth visiting, the former being grand and imposing, the latter very quaint. The castle itself (National Trust) was great for our little explorers – who were rock climbers, knights, princesses and witches within the space of an hour. Of course they learned a couple of things as well; the delight on a four-year-old girl’s face when she found out that in medieval times if there was suspicion that the food was poisoned the boys were made to sample it (but never the girls) was brilliant. There was also much amusement at the fact that it was not acceptable to blow your nose on the tablecloth… unlike today of course!
The hills on which the castle rests are also ideal for rolling down, but adults beware: high speeds can be reached resulting in significant bruising of shoulders and backs… the children were fine though!
Our best accident was when we happened across Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park. This was fabulous, particularly for us as visiting in spring meant that the children could feed the very hungry lambs, as well as grooming the pony and stroking the guinea pigs.
There were lots of indoor and outdoor play areas so this is ideal whatever the weather. The haystack slide barn was a big hit with adults and children alike, even my niece with a fear of slides tackled some of the larger ones once we’d convinced her they were nice “slowly, slowly” slides (just a little white lie…)!
As Swanage is a gateway town for the Jurassic Coast we decided fossil hunting was worth a pop with visions of finding the next great beast for the Natural History Museum. After explaining the day’s activities to the children, my youngest daughter (aged 2, and who is dinosaur crazy) was adamant she would find a pterodactyl and a T-Rex by lunchtime. I already feared the looming disappointment. We headed to Charmouth Beach where we understood fossil remains could quickly be found.
A top tip would be to visit the Heritage Centre first to see examples of rocks in which fossils are more frequently found and descriptions of what to look for. We had a good hour or so of fun banging rocks together and looking into the rock pools before we struck gold. Despite no pterodactyl or T-Rex bones my eldest daughter came home happy with her finding of a dinosaur tooth and a “dinosaur nostril”. We also had a couple of ammonites in our pockets too and, despite nothing worthy of the great halls of the Natural History Museum, there were no disappointing expressions on the faces of the girls. The adults were a bit gutted though!
On the way back to Swanage we stopped off at Lulworth Cove. It was stunning with lovely views and well worth a visit. With beautiful white pebbles beaches, which the children collected and later decorated, it is a great spot for an ice cream or just a nice stroll.
This area of Dorset is also not short of lovely sandy beaches and we spent a day on Studland Beach where the children could happily bury each other’s feet, chase the waves and throw pebbles into the sea. A lovely, clean picturesque beach which was nice and quiet at this time of the year (early April), though watch out for the nearby nudist beach, unless you’re that way inclined of course.
At the end of the week we were all left wanting more. The location of Swanage gives you access to Poole by ferry which means it is well situated for further exploration of the surrounding coastline. Of the mountain of visitor attractions, historical sites and places of natural beauty we feel we barely scratched the surface of what Swanage and its surrounds had to offer. A great place to holiday and I have every intention of returning to the area again.
Oh and as for the kids, their favourite bits of the holiday were:
“The local swimming pool” – Jess, aged four and a half
“The shower at the swimming pool” – Edith, aged two
“Winning the lolly” (on the penny slots) and “running… I loved running” – Esme, aged two and a half.
So much for the dinosaur tooth, the medieval castle, the steam train, feeding the lambs, the hay-barn slides and nearly getting blown off the pier. If only they’d told us before we could have just jogged to the local swimming pool and treated ourselves to a 10p lolly afterwards!
Fancy a trip with a difference? Check out our Caravanning in the Nordic Nations feature!
Orlando Florida has loads to offer kids and here are 7 great fun things they’ll love!
Fancy a Scottish Adventure? Check out our ideas for a fun long weekend in Scotland…
Heading to the States? Your options for getting around aren’t limited to a road trip…
Check out our feature on 5 Unusual Backpacking Destinations if you fancy something a little different!