Church Ope Cove
Church Ope Cove is one of just a few beaches on the Isle of Portland. South-facing and with cliffs on three sides this pebbly beach is sheltered and safe for swimming, snorkelling and diving. A steep public footpath with many steps descends from the car park. Overlooking the cove are the ruins of Bow and Arrow Castle, the oldest castle on Portland.
A clean, safe and sandy beach runs the length of the town of Weymouth, situated 8 miles south of Dorchester and 5 miles north of the Isle of Portland. Weymouth has had a strong tourism tradition since the 18th century and the beach remains a busy place, home to a sand sculptor, a Punch and Judy show, a helter-skelter, swing boats and donkey rides. It is popular with both swimmers and water sports enthusiasts and the waters of Weymouth and Portland, credited by the Royal Yachting Association as the best in Northern Europe, will host the sailing events of the 2012 Olympics. As well as water sports the beach plays host to a number of beach volleyball and handball events each year including the international handball championships. The beach at Weymouth is also home to an international kite festival which can attract up to 40 000 spectators each May.
Overcombe, situated just a mile east of Weymouth, is a shingle and sand beach very popular with windsurfers and, increasingly, kite surfers and kayakers. Buses run to and from Weymouth every fifteen minutes, although it is only a thirty minute walk into the town centre. Ten minutes away by foot is the Ladmoor Nature Reserve and the Weymouth Sea Life Park. There is a café right on the beach and the water is safe for swimming.
Two miles west of Weymouth is the popular Bowleaze Cove, a pebbly beach backed with cliffs on the top of which is a grassy space used by picnickers, dog-walkers and kite-flyers. The River Jordan flows into the sea at this busy cove, which is home to an amusement arcade and a funfair and sports a slipway from which to launch jetskis. The water is ‘zoned’ to keep swimmers and watersports enthusiasts apart and the ruins of a Roman Temple on top of Jordan hill make it an interesting place to spend the day. There are cafes, shops and a pub close to the beach.
Ringstead Bay is a small shingle beach with some sand whose inaccessibility protects it from the worst of the summer crowds. Situated five miles east of Weymouth, this sheltered bay is overlooked by unspoilt farmland and cliffs and reached by means of a private road. The bay has an interesting geology, from the famous coral beds at one end to the white chalk cliffs of White Nothe at the other, from the top of which are spectacular views of the Isle of Portland. The beach is also a popular haunt for fossil collectors, who can often be found rummaging in the rubble at the base of the cliffs for crushed ammonites and other fossils.
One kilometre west of Lulworth Cove is Durdle Door, a shelving, shingle beach named after the world-famous massive rock arch that separates this beach from the neighbouring Man O War Bay. Exciting caves and interesting rock strata make this beach popular with families and geologists alike.
Pebbles and high cliffs characterise Lulworth Cove, where the difference between the Portland stone and the softer Purbeck can be clearly noted in the bay’s near-perfect circular shape, making it a sheltered harbour for boats. The Portland stone, which guards the entrance, erodes much more slowly than the Purbeck, giving rise to one of Dorset’s most famous coastal images. The Lulworth Cove Heritage Centre and the 17th century Lulworth Castle make Lulworth Cove and its crescent-shaped pebbly beach extremely busy in summer.
Kimmeridge Bay is an excellent place from which to experience the extraordinary geological importance of the Jurassic Coast, a ninety-five mile stretch of coastline between Swanage and Exmouth that became England’s first Natural World Heritage Site in honour of its unique insight into 185 million years of the Earth’s history. This sheltered bay, though not sandy, is a designated area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and home to the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Marine Centre. There is a car park at the end of a toll road (£3) and a pub and shop in the local village, about twenty minutes walk from the car park.