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Dorset Attractions

The sheer diversity of Dorset attractions means there is always plenty to keep everyone entertained.

The obvious draw for many holiday-makers is the beaches. Dorset is rightly famous for having miles and miles of safe, sandy coastline. In fact, we thought the beaches deserved an article of their own, so check out the Heritage Coastline page for more information.

Holidays often seem to revolve around the children, so keeping them happy is a priority. Theme parks are always popular, and Adventure Wonderland, one of the largest in the South West, is located just outside of Bournemouth. There is a variety of indoor and outdoor activities here to suit most age groups. Or for something with a more nautical flavour, a visit to the Sea-Life Park and Marine Sanctuary at Weymouth will be both educational and entertaining. Children love getting close to animals, and at Farmer Palmer's Farm Park, they can do exactly that. A fun-packed and unforgettable day out, especially for the younger members of the family.

Nature features quite highly in the list of Dorset attractions. There are nature reserves, such as that at Studland Beach; in fact, over 40% of the county is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You can learn more about Dorset's natural side on our Rural Dorset page.

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Both children and adults alike love castles. Perhaps your interest lies in the history and architectural background of these fascinating relics of bygone ages. Or perhaps you just like running around on battlements pretending to repel marauding armies. You can satisfy both urges by visiting any of several castles in the county. Some of the more prominent ones can be found at Lulworth, Corfe, Portland, Highcliffe and Sherborne. A few provide additional attractions as well, such as the model village at Corfe Castle, or the Woodland Walk and adventure play area at Lulworth Castle Park.

For a more leisurely day out, why not check out some of the many country houses and gardens in the area. Athelhampton for example, is one of the finest manor houses in England. It has some glorious gardens and features some world famous topiary pyramids. Visit Forde Abbey, one of Britain's oldest inhabited buildings founded in 1140 as a Cistercian Monastery. Or try Staplehill Abbey, where you can tour round a working crafts centre, and afterwards, take a pleasant walk through its award-winning gardens. For something more unusual, Abbotsbury sub-tropical gardens features a 20 acre garden filled with rare and exotic plants from all over the world.

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When it comes to museums, many people conjure up an image of endless rooms of stuffy glass cases full of old bones. Not so here in Dorset. There is a wide choice of specialist museums worth visiting. How about a museum devoted to teddy bears? The Dorset Teddy Bear Museum in Dorchester is open all year round. For the boys, (and dads!), there is the Bournemouth Aviation Museum. Many of the exhibits here can, and still do, fly. If that sort of thing appeals to you, you might like the Tank Museum at Bovington featuring live action displays, or The Keep Military Museum at Dorchester, or the Royal Signals Museum. On a more sedate note, the Dorset County Museum has roman mosaics, dinosaur footprints and features lots of activities to keep the children enthralled. Dorchester also boasts two museums not usually found in rural England – one dedicated to Egyptology (The Tutankhamun Exhibition), and another featuring Chinese Terracotta Warriors. But if, after all that, you are still hankering after some old bones, why not try the Dinosaur Museum, also in Dorchester. Far from finding lots of stuffy glass cases, you will instead discover fossils, skeletons, and life-size reconstructions combined with exciting hands-on and multi-media displays.

As you can see, the list of attractions in Dorset is very diverse. By mixing and matching the different types of venues, you can easily satisfy all tastes and age groups. Hopefully, the whole family will take away many fond memories of their stay in Dorset.

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