A local’s Guide to the Isle of Portland
No trip to Dorset is complete without spending a day on the Isle of Portland, a unique island famed for its heritage, rugged landscape and spectacular views. Just a short drive from our Dorset holiday parks, this tied peninsula is steeped in maritime history and offers a wealth of unique and interesting places for intrepid visitors to explore.
As you drive onto the island you will be greeted by the world’s largest man-made harbour and the home of the 2012 Olympic sailing events. Here you can walk around the marina and look at the impressive yachts, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, participate in a range of water-based activities, including sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and stand up paddle boarding.
History and heritage
Continuing your walk around Portland Harbour, you will find Portland Castle, one of Henry VIII’s coastal forts. Experience unrivalled sea views from the gun platform and take an audio tour of this important piece of history, where you can learn about the strategic role it played during the Tudor period and the First and Second World War.
If history is not really ‘your thing’, perhaps a visit to one of the islands magnificent beaches is in order. World renowned Chesil beach stretches 18 miles from Portland to West Bay and is an impressive spectacle, regardless of the time of year. On a calm day enjoy a leisurely walk along the expanse of shingle bank or watch the waves crash onto the shoreline on a blustery day. To appreciate the sheer scale of this beautiful beach a trip to the viewing platform is the order of the day. From the Olympic rings statue, you can see the beach stretch into the distance and enjoy breath taking views over Weymouth Bay and the Fleet Lagoon.
Church Ope Cove is Portland’s hidden gem and a favourite spot for local artists looking for a peaceful place to create. The sheltered and secluded cove is a situated at the bottom of a large flight of stairs, but the peace and tranquil setting is worth the added walk. Simply sit back, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the sound of the waves as you while away an afternoon beside the pretty beach huts. On your ascent be sure to take a moment to explore the abandoned church and the pirate’s graves stones. There’s also an old smugglers tunnel to investigate!
One of our favourite places to visit on the island is the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park and nature reserve. Here you can seek out incredible sculptures and carvings hidden amongst the rocks, including the early work of renowned sculpture Anthony Gormley. There’s also an abundance of wildlife thanks to the unique limestone and grassland habitat. In the summer months butterflies, slow worms and lizards can all be found.
Fancy’s Farm is another popular attraction for families with little ones in tow. This working farm is completely free to enter and houses a number of animals, including wallabies, donkeys, alpacas and sheep.
‘The Bill’ is the jewel in Portland’s crown and an absolute must during any visit to the island. Located at Portland’s southernmost tip, the striking cliffs and unique rock formations are not to be missed. If you’ve got a head for heights, we highly recommend climbing the stairs to the top of Portland Bill lighthouse to enjoy far reaching views across the bay.
Eat and drink
Despite being just over 4 miles long and only a mile and a half wide, Portland has an abundance of pubs and cafés to sample during your visit. If you’re hoping to enjoy a bite to eat whilst gazing out to sea, the Lobster Pot at Portland Bill is undoubtedly the place to go. Watch the ships and fishing boats pass by the clifftop from the comfort of this longstanding café. It has a reputation for excellent waitress service and boasts some of the best crab sandwiches around!
Perched on the edge of Chesil Beach, you’ll find the Cove House Inn, a favourite haunt for locals and visitors alike. This special spot is an idyllic place to mark the end of a fun filled day and enjoy a drink as the sun dips below the horizon.