Best places to paddle in Dorset

From sea dragons and ammonites to an atmospheric harbour and fine cliff scenery, this paddle along the Jurassic coastline begins just below Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre. After viewing its amazing collections, including the 200 million-year-old ichthyosaur skeleton, families can enjoy sheltered paddling in the mouth of the River Char and plenty of fossil hunting on the beach.

This is route 91 in our latest book “Paddle Boarding South West England:100 places to SUP, canoe, and kayak in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Bristol

Launching west (right) from the beach, you’ll see the outline of the Cobb at Lyme Regis as you paddle towards Black Venn. At this famous fossil-hunting location, a huge mudslide constantly brings new specimens to the base of the cliff. Pass the Spittles, where 12-year-old Mary Anning uncovered the sea dragon and stop off along the shoreline of Lyme Bay to make your own discoveries. On reaching the sandy cove at Lyme Regis, land at the small beach south of the Cobb and stroll around this historic and still-working port. There are plenty of great eateries in Lyme Regis, which is also unique in having a luxury harbourside, wood-fired sauna. To extend the trip, in calm conditions it’s possible to continue further west to explore the deserted beaches and remote beauty of the ‘undercliff’.

Why is the Jurassic Coast a special blue space?

The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site that stretches from Exmouth in Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, and includes the coastline of this paddle. The site spans 185 million years of geological history, and natural features along this coastline include arches and sea stacks, and coves. The cliffs around Lyme Regis exhibit 71 different rock strata, each with its own species of ammonite. Lyme Bay’s reefs are also a key part of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) which covers the seabed here. The MPA protects places like rocky and stony reefs as well as vast fields of seafans, rare corals and abundant fish and shellfish populations.

Distance 7km (return)

Starting point Charmouth Beach, DT6 6LR. Grid ref. SY 3650 9299 (50.7331, -2.9011)

Launching Short walk from car park (pebble beach; beware of larger rocks offshore)

Parking Foreshore car park, Lower Sea Lane, Charmouth, DT6 6LL (further car parks next to beach)

Pitstops Charmouth great vibe, coffee and cake at the Bank House in the main village, tel. 01297 561600. Lyme Regis(near the Cobb) hand-dived scallops from the Fisherman’s Wife; a pint overlooking the Cobb at popular Cobb Arms; enjoy a spot of luxury at the Shoreline Sauna, tel. 07875 204410.

Lessons, hire, tours Jurassic SUP & Fitness, Charmouth, tel. 07713 470000; Boylo’s Watersports , Lyme Regis, tel. 01297 444222

Getting there A35 SW from Aximster to Charmouth, following signs to town centre. At Post Office turn R into Lower Sea Lane (signed ‘the beach’) and continue to end of road and car park

Access restrictions The Cobb is a working harbour: no access 

Special points Check swell in Lyme Bay via webcam and Charmouth area ; temporary rips form and change throughout tides, although tidal flow along this part of coast is not strong. Best paddled 2hrs either side of high tide. Pebble beaches are steep at low water and waves start to dump making it harder to launch.

Offshore wind: NE through to NW

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