Visitor centres and country parks
A listing of Dorset visitor centres and country parks from the east to the west of the county, providing a wealth of information on the region's natural history.
Steamer Point Visitor Centre, Christchurch. Tel: 01425 272479.
Located within Steamer Woods and overlooking Friars Cliff, the centre is the main information point for Christchurch Countryside Service.
Highcliffe Castle (opens in a new window) , Christchurch. Tel: 01425 278807
Highcliffe Castle is a Grade I listed building which was built between 1831 and 1835 by Lord Stuart de Rothesay. It has been described as "the most important remaining example of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture."
Brownsea Island (opens in a new window) . Tel: 01202 707744
There are National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust visitor centres on Brownsea Island. Fees apply to non-members. The National Trust also runs a shop and cafe near to their Visitor Centre.
Studland Beach Information Centre (opens in a new window) . Tel: 01929 450259
Near the beach at the Knoll car park, the National Trust cafe and shop have an exhibition about the fascinating dunes and their associated wildlife.
Castle View Visitor Centre (opens in a new window) , Corfe Castle. Tel: 01929 481294
Located at the foot of the ramparts of Corfe Castle, the centre tells the dramatic history of the castle and provides a gateway to other National Trust properties in Purbeck. A telephone booking system is in operation for the many events organised by the Trust. For education and group booking enquiries, Tel: 01929 480609.
Fine Foundation Marine Centre, Kimmeridge Bay. Tel: 01929 481044.
Managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust, the centre explores the exceptionally rich marine life found on the numerous rocky ledges that run across the bay and also interprets the wider marine environment found within the Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve. 'Snorkelling for softies' and a live underwater camera are special features at this centre.
Lulworth Heritage Centre (opens in a new window) , Lulworth Cove. Tel: 01929 400587.
The centre explains how the beautiful Lulworth coast has evolved as the sea has eroded its way through soft and hard layers of rock over millions of years. It also covers the landscape, wildlife and their careful management through the Lulworth Estate.
Chesil Beach Centre (opens in a new window) , Weymouth. Tel 01305 760579.
A small centre packed with information about Chesil Beach and the Fleet Nature Reserve, one of the most important wetland sites in Britain, if not Europe. Telescopes are on hand to enable you to take a look at the prolific bird life attracted to the tidal and semi-tidal waters.
Portland Bill Visitor Centre, Portland Bill. Tel: 01305 861233.
The centre provides an introduction to Portland Bill and the 'Isle' as a whole. It is important not to miss the rest of the Isle, hosting stunning coastal cliffs, hidden coves and disused quarries.
Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre (opens in a new window) , Charmouth. Tel: 01297 560772.
Charmouth is world famous for fossils and the centre explains what they are and how to find them safely and without causing damage to the cliffs or beaches. A second important aspect is the rich marine environment contained within Lyme Regis and the Charmouth Voluntary Marine Nature Reserve. Fossil-collecting walks are very popular here.
Pound Cottage, Kingcombe Meadows. Contact
Dorset Wildlife Trust (opens in a new window) .
The small centre, located within Kingcombe meadows Nature Reserve, contains information about the beautiful meadows which are at their best in the spring and early summer.
Avon Heath Country Park, Ringwood. Tel: 01425 478082
The Park encompasses 580 acres of valuable heathland and woodland and is managed as a partnership between Dorset County Council Countryside Service and the RSPB. The visitor centre contains information and displays and the Rangers offer walks and events throughout the year.
Durlston Country Park, Swanage. Tel: 01929 424443
Located on the cliff top at Durlston Head and with magnificent views over to the Isle of Wight, the park contains cliffs inhabited by sea birds, wildflower meadows and woodlands of great nature conservation interest. There is a visitor centre where Durlston Marine Project is based and a cafe.
Lodmoor Country Park, Weymouth. Tel: 01305 838000
Just a 15 minute stroll from the town along the Esplanade and through the beautiful Greenhill Gardens is Weymouth's 350 acre Lodmoor Country Park.
Moors Valley Country Park, Ashley Heath. Tel: 01425 470721
Managed by the East Dorset Countryside Service, the Park covers some 750 acres of woodland and lakes. There are several walking and cycling routes, a visitor centre, play areas, a steam railway and a golf course.
Upton Country Park (opens in a new window) , Poole. Tel: 01202 265265
The park is run by the Borough of Poole and consists of woodland, parkland, salt marsh, gardens and farmland habitats by the shores of Poole Harbour. There is a bird hide with disabled access and a "hide screen" suitable for wheelchair users. There is a tearoom on site.