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.
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 …
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. …
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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 …