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We're all ready to get away and have a proper family holiday after the long lockdown, but where to go to have a wonderful time?
Dorset, on England's south-west edge, has everything you need to make happy family memories. With 100 miles of coastline, from the wide sandy beaches of Bournemouth to the shingle and fossil-laden stretches west of Weymouth along the famous Jurassic Coast, and with beautiful mellow stone-built villages in valleys surrounded by gently rolling hills in Thomas Hardy country, come to Dorset and you'll have a holiday to remember.
You'll also find fantastic geologic landmarks, like the arch of Durdle Door, the bay of Lulworth Cove and plenty of traditional seaside treats, like fish and chips, salt-water taffy and local ales. Read on to find out our top recommendations for a brilliant family holiday.
Cloud Nine Glamping, Wimborne
Set in the vast grounds of St Giles House, home of the Earl of Shaftesbury, there's exciting self-catering family-friendly luxury accommodation under canvas here for memorable holidays. Choose from bell tents, teepees or an emperor tent, all of which sleep up to five people, based on two adults and three children. And - bonus - they all come with a private toilet and dedicated shower. While kids will enjoy all the on-site activities, such as horse riding, bush crafts and sports days, adults will appreciate the street-food vendors, craft ales and small bites for small eaters options. Nearby Cranborne is home to shops and pubs, Bournemouth is just over half an hour’s drive away and Monkey World is under 30 minutes by car. Everything is in line with the latest government guidelines on social distancing and, if you need to cancel, you’ll be offered a full refund. Bookings are being taken for August.
Sandford Holiday Park, Poole
You may never leave this Dorset holiday park if the kids have anything to say about it. There’s an outdoor adventure play park with climbing wall, crazy golf, a virtual-reality experience, kids’ clubs and nature trails. Parents will appreciate the on-site restaurant, laundry and shop selling essentials, along with the free WiFi and evening entertainment, such as bingo, quizzes and films, where the whole family is welcome. Nearby are beaches, water sports and Poole Harbour, where you can take the ferry over to the wonderfully unspoiled Studland Bay. By booking one of the brand-new caravans here, your self-catering accommodation will have all the conveniences of home, including a fully equipped kitchen, TV and BBQ – and pets are welcome. To keep to government guidelines, swimming pools are currently closed, as are indoor play areas and live entertainment.
Knoll House, Studland
An old-school hotel in the very best sense, though never stuffy or sniffy, this house began life as a family’s Dorset summer home, then morphed into a hotel in 1931. With its fabulous position overlooking the National Trust-owned Studland Bay, it’s long been known for its nothing-is-too-much-trouble, family-friendly stays, as well as being dog friendly. There’s an adventure playground, games and soft-play room – or just walk a few minutes over to the beach for a day of uncomplicated outdoor family fun, like paddling and crabbing. Take one of the Knoll House picnics with you and visit the nearby pretty coastal town of Swanage, or take the ferry to Brownsea Island nature reserve, or drive to atmospheric Corfe Castle. From socially distanced check-in to abundant hand-sanitiser stations, Knoll House is taking government safety guidelines seriously, making it a perfect Dorset family holiday destination.
Moonfleet Manor, Weymouth
One of the Luxury Family Hotel group of hotels, this one in England's south west and set up specifically to cater for families who don’t want to compromise on comfort, while making sure children feel very welcome. They cater for the needs of babies upwards, so expect quality childcare with an Ofsted-registered crèche (for a bit of time to yourself), all the baby and toddler gear on-site (think changing mats to toilet seats), baby listening and family suites, children’s high tea or family dining, plus heaps of outdoor play facilities, such as climbing frames, trampolines, table tennis and guided fossil walks along the Jurassic Coast near Weymouth. Every member of the family will appreciate the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, where children can wander and explore at will. The swimming pool, spa and treatments are on hold for now, but expect disinfected surfaces and spaced-out dining seating..
Dewflock Farm Camping, Winterborne Monkton
Into the idea of rolling up with your own tent for accommodation and pitching it in a field, but like the idea of having a few amenities on site to both amuse and supply the basic necessities? Check out child-friendly Dewflock Farm. Animal-loving kids will enjoy the opportunity to interact with the sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and ponies on this working family farm, while parents will appreciate being centrally located in the beautiful county of Dorset, meaning it’s just a hop, skip and jump to plenty of day-trip worthy destinations, like Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, castles and local towns. Plus, if you have a little petrol head in the family, check out the Mini Landies here: real, live, miniature cars that children can drive – after careful instruction. Social distancing measures and regular sanitising will be taking place.
Lancombe Country Cottages & Lodges, Maiden Newton
A small, family-run holiday compound in Thomas Hardy country that has such a beautiful setting and comfortable, self-catering accommodation that it’s easy to see why people come back again and again. It’s also wonderfully child friendly, with a fairy wood (can you spot one?) to walk through, chickens to feed, a small playground, plus swing ball and basketball, and plenty of space to run about and play games in. They’ll also provide baby and toddler equipment, like stair gates, highchairs and bed guards, so you can travel light(ish!) and don’t need to worry if you forget something. There’s even local buggy hire which will deliver. Holidays in this part of Dorset are within easy driving distance of Chesil Beach, Weymouth and the Jurassic Coast. The three lodges and six friendly cottages offer flexible accommodation and families can use the pool one ‘bubble’ at a time.
Newlands Holidays, Charmouth
Time to go all Famous Five, with a stay at this fantastic spot for a great family holiday Dorset-style. On a hillside overlooking the cute little town of Charmouth, with its shops to keep you stocked up, Newlands holiday park is near the beach with its famous Jurassic Coast fossil-hunting centre. Accommodation choices are self-catering in your own tent, a glamping pod, a comfy lodge, hiring a caravan or staying in one of the newly refurbished apartments. Facilities on site include a shop, WiFi, outdoor play area with a zip wire, plenty of open space for games and a dedicated toddler play area. Daytime family workshops are also held, subject to social distancing, and might include pottery painting or circus skills and crafts. Lyme Regis is three miles away, which makes a fantastic walk or there’s a regular bus service from the park. The restaurant is currently only serving take-away meals.
The Alexandra Hotel, Lyme Regis
Known for its relaxed, family-friendly vibe, while maintaining a ‘whatever you want, we’ll try to make it happen’ attitude, the Alexandra offers a children’s menu of local, seasonal dishes, a play area and, best of all, direct, road-free access to the beach in this spot in west Dorset. All this plus highchairs, cots and baby listening combine to ensure the whole family can relax and enjoy the hotel’s enviable spot on the edge of historic Lyme Regis. If you can tear yourselves away, nearby you’ll find plenty to keep all ages occupied, from the addictive pastime of fossil hunting along the coast to sandcastle building and pretending to be the French Lieutenant’s Woman with a walk along the cob. Social-distancing measures, and extra cleaning of rooms and surfaces, is taking place.
Oakdene Forest Park, St Leonards
Family holidays to Dorset are what memories are made of and Oakdene Forest Park ticks all the boxes. With caravans that sleep up to five – some with hot tubs – and lodges featuring big decks for alfresco living, along with its beautiful position on the edge of the Hurn & Avon Forest on the eastern edge of Dorset, this family favourite holiday park offers a fantastic base. You can walk out of your holiday home and straight into the woods for a leafy meander, plus there’s free WiFi, the Blue Flag beaches of Poole and Bournemouth are just a 10-minute drive away and not far off is (whisper it) Peppa Pig World, which is now open again. This is a pet-friendly, as well as child-friendly, holiday park, so you can bring the pooch. While many of the usual on-site activities are closed for the time being, you can still enjoy the beautiful woodland and coast of Dorset.
At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things, that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.
We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it's important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.
Kidadl provides inspiration for everything from family days out to online classes, arts, crafts and science experiments. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.
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