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Sandbanks, sea stacks and salt marshes — Bournemouth Coast Path

Jess

Sandbanks, sea stacks and salt marshes — Bournemouth Coast Path

Hiking Collection by Kit P

3-5

days

3-5 h

/ day

37.6 mi

1,350 ft

1,325 ft

Linking the South West Coast Path with the Solent Way, this stunning section of coast path guides you through some absolutely phenomenal places. From shingle banks and golden beaches to saltmarsh nature reserves and enormous harbours, there’s no part of this hike that’s dull.

At 37 miles (58 km), the Bournemouth Coast Path stretches from the beautiful cliffside town of Swanage in the west to the Georgian market town of Lymington in the east. Never deviating from the coastline, you’ll even have to catch a quick ferry on this adventure. Shorebird calls, crumbling clay cliffs, tidal races and the scent of seaweed under sunshine will all ignite the senses and keep you firmly in the present moment.

I’ve split this route into three stages and while there’s some elevation change, particularly in the Swanage area, it’s a predominantly gentle hike. Poole Bay and Christchurch Bay are the two huge scallops in this coastline, like vast ice cream scoops taken out of the land. Speaking of which, you will never be short of ice cream eating opportunities on this hike.

Sat around halfway along England’s south coast, Bournemouth often enjoys warm summers and mild, wet winters. Aside from Swanage and, to an extent, Bournemouth, much of this hike is exposed to the prevailing south westerlies which can make for some blustery clifftop sections if the wind is up. You can absolutely hike this throughout the year but do take a windproof jacket regardless of the season, as the afternoon sea breeze appears fairly regularly.

There’s no shortage of food and accommodation options so you can stick to the stages I’ve created or stop wherever you fancy. There’s a fantastic YHA hostel on the cliffside in Swanage and everything from B&Bs and hotels to campsites and private accommodation throughout the route. Pubs, takeaways, cafes, kiosks, restaurants and bars are never far away either.

To reach the beginning, the easiest way is to catch a train to Wareham and take the number 40 bus to Swanage. At the end, catch a train from Lymington station to Brockenhurst for links to Bournemouth, Southampton and London.

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Bournemouth Coast Path

36.7 mi

1,300 ft

1,300 ft

Last updated: November 4, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Swanage to Bournemouth — Bournemouth Coast Path

    Difficult
    06:10
    14.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    750 ft
    725 ft
    Ferry
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    This first stage takes you from Swanage in its gorgeous cove past the Old Harry Rocks and along the beach at Studland. With a short ferry crossing (four minutes!) to reach Sandbanks, this hike truly immerses you in beach life. Traversing miles of golden beach promenades, you finish in the holiday hotspot

    by Kit P

    View
  • Intermediate
    03:53
    9.27 mi
    2.4 mph
    350 ft
    300 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    The middle stage has everything from cliffs and beaches to harbour crossings and glorious views as it whisks you along from bustling Bournemouth to the quieter stretches of east Dorset. As with the first stage, there’s a short ferry crossing involved in this stage which requires more planning if you

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    05:43
    13.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    250 ft
    300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage of this glorious coastal hike spoils you with yet another incredible spit, allowing you to see thriving wildlife habitats and enjoy fantastic views. Mostly flat, this stage takes you along the clifftop past Barton and Milford to the secluded harbour and nature reserve of Keyhaven. Finishing

    by Kit P

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    3
  • Distance
    37.6 mi
  • Duration
    15:46 h
  • Elevation
    1,350 ft1,325 ft

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