We’re super spoilt in the UK with so much amazing coastline to explore. The Fore team have travelled far and wide exploring loads of it. However, most of all they love kayaking in Dorset.
Fore Adventure’s Top Spots For Kayaking in Dorset
Check out our 5 favourite places to get out exploring our awesome coastline:
- Durdle Door – Limestone Arches and Beaches
- Poole Harbour – Beaches, Marshes and Islands
- Christchurch Harbour – Wildlife and Rivers
- Studland Bay – Calm Waters and Seagrass Meadows
- Old Harry Rocks – Stunning Scenery & Chalk Cliffs
For thousands of years, people have been exploring the coast and sea by kayak. There are lots of different types of kayaks out there (and we can help you choose the right one for you over on our blog “The Best Kayaks to Paddle on Rivers and Sea“) and we’re here to share all of our tips and tricks with you!
With nearly 150km of coast (not including the 100km that comprises Poole Harbour!) there’s so much to see! From the stunning chalk cliffs at Old Harry Rocks to lush sandy beaches in Weymouth. Amazing rock formations, smuggler’s caves and secret beaches only accessible by boat- Dorset has it all!
Equally great for wildlife enthusiasts, you can hope to spot a seal or a dolphin on your paddle. Puffins, Ospreys and Peregrine Falcons also call the county home, as well as an incredible array of other birdlife- bring your binoculars! Check out these webcams of a couple different habitats in Poole Harbour for a taste of what you could spot! So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out on the water!
One of the most iconic sights along the Jurassic Coast, take in the awesome view of Durdle Door from the sea. The limestone arch towers 200 feet above, and the area boasts beautiful beaches and fantastic cliffs to explore from your kayak. It’s definitely a must see when you’re kayaking in Dorset!
Paddling through the limestone arch is an awesome experience and one that the Fore Adventure staff team love doing. Did you know that further down the coast is another arch you can paddle through? Maybe not quite as majestic as Durdle Door, but the teeny chalk arch at Bat Head is just as fun to paddle through!
Nearby Lulworth Cove is the ideal launch spot. When it’s quiet you can drive right down to drop your kayak off, or the tarmac makes it an easy place to use a kayak trolley to transport your boat from the car park. The cove is often sheltered from the wind which makes this a perfect place to explore for beginners, equally if you’re feeling adventurous you can poke your nose out of the cove and explore further. Travelling West from the Cove will take you to Durdle Door and beyond. You’ll pass Stair Hole and explore it’s fascinating geology, as well as awesome caves and arches.
The second largest natural harbour in the world gives endless kayak exploring opportunities. Have you really been kayaking in Dorset if you haven’t paddled here? From sandy beaches, marshes and islands there’s so much to see from your boat. The harbour is a world heritage site and is home to plenty of wildlife and birds. Circumnavigate Brownsea Island where you can spot terns, avocets and more. Check out the Dorset Wildlife Trust webcam here:
Kayaking in Dorset doesn’t get better than this. Navigate the islands, channels and creeks at this beautiful spot. Be sure to know your tides and navigation as you’ll be stuck in the mud if you get it wrong! Alternatively join us on a Poole Harbour kayak adventure on one of our wild camping kayaking and foraging adventure weekends.
Kayaking In Dorset – Christchurch Harbour
A Site of Special Scientific Interest, Christchurch Harbour is a haven for wildlife! There have been 333 bird species spotted in the harbour. Everything from Mute Swan, Oystercatcher to Kittiwake, Arctic Tern and Short Toed Eagle. Find the full list of all birds spotted in the harbour on the Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group website.
Additionally, if you’re really lucky you could spot a seal or an otter on your paddle! Here you will find a small tidal estuary protected from the sea by Hengistbury Head. It is shallow out of the main channel therefore it’s reasonably safe. If you take the river route it’s flanked by nature reserves and local beauty spots. Be mindful of the harbour entrance, as this can be dangerous at certain time of tide– be sure to check and take appropriate safety precautions (keep reading to learn more!)
Studland Bay – Calm, Shallow Waters
It’s where we’re based, and we’re happy to be biased! It’s a kayaking in Dorset gem! Another fantastic place for beginner kayakers, or those looking to relax, to have a friendly paddle. The water in the bay tends to be super calm and sheltered from the prevailing winds. It’s also really shallow- which makes it particularly friendly for beginners worried about capsizing!
There’s plenty to see in Studland, the long sandy beaches stretch over towards Sandbanks, Poole and Bournemouth. Old Harry Rocks watches over the bay and provides a stunning backdrop. We’re also pretty spoilt for wildlife! With Oystercatchers, Peregrine Falcons and Cormorants nesting in the nearby cliffs, as well as lots of life under the water…
Back on dry land you’re spoilt for choice for places to refuel… The Bankes Arms serves hot food and locally brewed beer in their stunning beer garden overlooking Old Harry and Studland Bay. If you’re looking to really treat yourself, The Pig on the Beach hotel restaurant serves top notch local food from it’s 25 mile menu. After a long day’s paddle you’re pretty likely to see the Fore Team picking up something tasty from The Sandy Salt Pig in Middle Beach Car Park. Fore Co Founder Dan will have a coffee, while his instructor team are usually more interested in the sausage rolls and ice creams!
Discover The Seagrass Meadows
Studland is home to amazing seagrass meadows. The seagrass meadows provide a vital home to a range of species including pipefishes and colourful wrasses. Excitingly we also have the short-snouted seahorse and the long-snouted (or spiny) seahorse in the bay. Studland is the only known breeding site for long-snouted seahorse in the UK.
Another vital told the seagrass beds have in the marine ecosystem is that they provide perfect nursery areas for the endangered undulate ray and the sea bass.
Important for many reasons, seagrass can reduce the energy of waves and tidal currents. It also traps nutrients and particles of sand that would otherwise get washed away. Despite occupying less than 0.2 per cent of the world’s seafloor, seagrass accounts for 10 per cent of all the carbon that gets buried in ocean sediments, meaning the meadows are vital for reducing the effects of global warming.
So why not hop off your kayak into the warm, shallow water and explore this amazing underwater environment- bring your goggles or a snorkel and enjoy the crystal clear waters.
If Studland seems like your kind of adventure, you can hire a kayak or paddleboard from us at Middle Beach and enjoy the peace of being out on the water. Or if you’re keen to go where pirates and smugglers went before, join our Old Harry Rocks Kayak Tours, and read on to find out more!
We believe Old Harry Rocks is simply the best place to sea kayak in Dorset! Launching in sheltered Studland Bay, simply follow the chalk cliffs to discover this amazing rock formation. Stacks, stumps, arches and coves create this special playground for kayaking- pull up on the beach and take in the views.
But why is it called Old Harry Rocks? Well there’s a few different theories and legends, which we explored in detail over on our blog “The Legend Of Old Harry“.
You may be surprised to hear it’s not named after our neighbour Harry Redknapp who famously lived over in sunny Sandbanks! “Old Harry” is rumoured to be an old fashioned nickname for the Devil! And despite looking lovely, Old Harry Rocks can be a dangerous place for ships- being very shallow and a tidal race whips around the end of the rocks creating dangerous currents. Therefore, if Devil Rocks was on your map- you’re likely to stay away!
The Legend of Old Harry Rocks
Similarly, we had a squash buckling devil of our own in the area many moons ago… Harry Paye (or Arripaye, to the Spanish) was a pirate from Poole. The legends say he would lure ships to wreck on Old Harry Rocks, allowing him to take their goods! Why not shiver your timbers on Harry Paye day– a popular event in Poole year after year!
So while you’re kayaking in Dorset, discover the legends and walk in the footsteps of pirates and the Devil himself! You can see why we love paddling at Old Harry Rocks!
Our favourite part of exploring Old Harry is manoeuvring our kayaks between a small gap in the rocks, and ending up on the other side! With towering cliffs, arches to explore and secret beaches only accessible by boat, this is a highlight! On calm days, it’s possible to snorkel here, as well as honing your kayak skills by negotiating the rocks. There’s still plenty to see here, with Swanage just around the corner, and the Isle of Wight out in the distance.
Check out panoramic views of Old Harry, the Isle of Wight and Swanage Bay round to Durlston on this handy webcam based at Peverill Point in Swanage.
It’s a pretty special spot- and we absolutely love sharing it. Why not come along and learn more about the area, spot some of the wildlife and learn new kayaking skills? As well as our signature tours to get you kayaking in Dorset, running daily to explore Old Harry Rocks and priced from just £40pp, we provide sea kayak coaching, from £60pp for a half day, so you can learn something new, or build on the knowledge you already have.
Keeping Safe While Kayaking In Dorset
At Fore Adventure, safety is our number one priority. Founder Dan Scott holds the highest sea kayak leadership award, the Advanced Sea Kayak Leader, and our instructors all hold their BC Paddle Sport Instructor and sea kayak award qualifications plus have extensive in house training. In the event of an incident, all of our guides carry the necessary safety kit, including Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) so that help will come straight away.
If you want to stay safe while adventuring yourself, there’s lots to learn, and it can feel overwhelming. Never fear though, we’re here to help! Check out our blog for “Kayak Safety Kit – The Essential Guide“. It’s also well worth looking into guidance from the RNLI on staying safe in your kayak, or learn more from British Canoeing, the National Governing Body of kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddleboarding in England.
Once you’ve got all the gear to help you stay safe, it’s also important to understand how weather and tide will impact the conditions you’re paddling in.
How Will Tide Affect Your Paddle?
As you already know, the tide comes in and out and gives us a couple of high tides and a couple of low tides every day. This can impact whether you can access the water, whether it’s shallow or muddy, or if you’ve got a looooong walk to the water’s edge!
The tide also creates currents. When the tide comes in or goes out, it means loads of water is moving up or down the coast. The fastest point is in the middle, so halfway between the high and the low tide. This is when we get potentially dangerous currents, as well as waves and surf. This is something you may well encounter when kayaking in Dorset.
It’s worth investing in a tide time booklet (available from lots of water sports shops and tourist information centres near the sea) or an app that you can use for local tide times. Local knowledge is also a great resource. Speak to people who paddle at your chosen location and learn what to look out for.
Have You Considered The Weather?
With so much exposed coast makes kayaking in Dorset great fun, however the wind can have a big impact on sea conditions. Lots of wind coming in to the coast can cause waves and swell which can make you unsteady in your kayak. While choppy conditions and surfing can be fun, it’s important to know your limits. Wind can also carry our kayaks, so it’s worth keeping an eye on offshore winds which could blow you out to sea. It’s equally important to be aware of other weather than might impact your time on the water
Other weather phenomena, like thunder and lightning can be dangerous for obvious reasons! It’s also worth being aware of the temperature, both of the air and the sea. Getting too cold should be avoided, but it’s also worth considering the heat. Sun cream, sunhat and plenty of hydration is key to being happy and healthy on the water in the summer!
Our Favourite Sources For Weather And Tide Info
The Fore Team wouldn’t go on any kayaking adventure without checking these websites and apps, so we can have a safe and enjoyable day on the water, and know what to prepare for.
- XC Weather – great for wind forecasting
- Easy Tide – shows tidal information, times of high and low tide, as well as a handy graph for various UK locations
- Met Office Inshore Forecast – another great place to check wind forecast, as well as sea state, visibility and general forecast
- Lightning Maps – no one wants to get caught out with lightning on the water! We can track storms live here.
Find Out More About Kayaking In Dorset
We hope you get out and explore some of the amazing places this county has to offer. There’s plenty to learn about having an enjoyable and safe time out on the water, and we love sharing our knowledge with novices and experienced paddlers alike. So why not come and join us on your own Dorset adventure? Let us show you why Old Harry Rocks is altogether our number one kayaking in Dorset location.
We run a whole host of exciting activities in Studland Bay… Find out more:
- We run tours of Old Harry on our super stable sit on top kayaks, seeing the sights and allowing people who’ve never kayaked before the experience the thrill of exploring this special place.
- We also run sessions in closed cockpit sea kayaks, with a range of options suitable for beginners, as well as intermediate and advanced paddlers.
- We also have plenty of special events– including kayak fishing and foraging.
- Don’t fancy the kayak? We also run a half day Old Harry Rocks tour on SUPs.
- For the landlubbers, we run Coastal Foraging walks, bushcraft sessions and our extra special Feast events.
We can’t wait for you to join us! We’ll have you kayaking in Dorset in no time!