Home | News | Coast & Beyond: Best Wintry Walks near Poole

2024 is upon us, but we’re still a good few months away from early sunrises and warm beach days. However, this doesn’t mean the sublime coast of Dorset should be filed away until the turn of the season: we can still enjoy these frosty mornings and crowd-free afternoons with a brisk walk through some of the area’s most beautiful areas.

You can walk virtually anywhere in Dorset and you’ll soon happen upon the true natural beauty of the region, whether you’re strolling on the golden sands of Bournemouth beach or exploring the Jurassic Coast on the Isle of Purbeck. So, wrap up warm whilst we share with you our favourite wintry walks near Poole – plus the best cosy cottages to stay nearby.

Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door

It wouldn’t be a list of the best Dorset walks without a mention of Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, would it? There’s a reason this spectacular circular walk along Dorset’s famous Jurassic Coast is so beloved, and from a local’s perspective, there’s no better time to experience it than in the winter months when it’s nice and quiet.

We recommend you begin your journey at Lulworth Cove, where a clear path will slowly lead you more than 100 metres upwards to the clifftop. A 24 hour car park here plus refreshment options mean you’ll be fully prepared before you begin the gentle ascent.

After walking a mile west, you’ll look over the towering cliffs of white limestone to be gifted with untarnished views out to sea, broken only by the natural stone arches of Durdle Door.

There are a few different routes you can take to enjoy one of Britain’s most photographed natural landmarks, depending on mobility. The walk between Lulworth Cove and the cliffs above Durdle Door is relatively simple and takes about 30 minutes each way – though we recommend allowing more time to take in the views. The steps leading down to the beach at Durdle Door are steep, so take care – it’s not wheelchair or pushchair accessible.

The area can also get quite muddy after wet weather, so pack your walking boots and some wet wipes to get the worst off when you get back to the car!

Where to Stay: Lulworth House, Hamworthy

Our spacious holiday accommodation near Poole is located in Hamworthy, just moments away from gorgeous beach walks and Poole Harbour. It’s the perfect choice for unforgettable family vacations and is just a 30 minute drive away from its namesake, Lulworth Cove.

This Dorset holiday cottage offers a range of features to enhance your stay including a hot tub, a games room, a treadmill, a trampoline, and a gorgeous log burner. Best of all, it’s dog-friendly accommodation, meaning you might just get the perfect picture of your pooch in front of Durdle Door!

Book your Dorset walking holiday here!

Studland to Old Harry Rocks

This 3.5 mile loop takes you from the small, picturesque village of Studland to the dramatic rock formations of Old Harry Rocks which jut out into the English channel from the Jurassic Coast on the Isle of Purbeck.

Once upon a time, the chalk of Old Harry Rocks stretched all the way to the Needles on the Isle of Wight some 16 miles east. After a few thousand years spent being carved by the action of the waves, Old Harry and his wives are all that is left of the formation here in Dorset – and one day, Old Harry will disappear altogether.

From the cliff behind Old Harry Rocks, you can enjoy unbroken views across Poole Bay to the golden sands of Bournemouth, Hengistbury Head, and the rocks’ long lost family on the Isle of Wight.

The walk is relatively gentle, with one steady incline as you walk up Ballard Down after you’ve savoured the sea views with a stroll along the cliff’s edge. If bringing your dog along with you, it’s recommended that you keep them on a lead due to the sheer drop along the edge of the cliffs. Once you get back to Studland village, there are plenty of places to enjoy a hot chocolate or warm meal before you head back to your accommodation.

Where to Stay: Seascapes, Sandbanks

This dog-friendly cottage in Sandbanks sleeps 8, with 4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. It features parking for two cars, an enclosed garden, plus all the mod cons you can hope for – including a TV with Sky, a dishwasher, and a washer/dryer for those particularly muddy winter walks…

Stroll two minutes down the road from this holiday cottage in Poole, and you’ll reach the Sandbanks Ferry. The chain ferry will take you straight across to Studland in less than 5 minutes, making Seascapes the perfect place to stay for walks in Dorset.

As you disembark, you’ll be met with incredible views out into the English Channel from the golden sands of Shell Bay Beach. From here, you can follow the South West Coastal Path down to Knoll Beach – or, wander through the heathland on the Studland peninsula’s west bank to Bramble Bush Bay.

It’s worth noting that following the South West Coastal Path south of Knoll Beach will bring you to the Studland Naturist Beach, before you eventually arrive in Studland Village to begin your walk down to Old Harry Rocks. This historic settlement is packed full of interesting landmarks, so keep an eye out for places such as Fort Henry and the nearby ‘Dragon’s Teeth’ WWII defences.

Book this holiday accommodation near Studland here.

Southbourne to Hengistbury Head

Hengistbury Head is one of England’s most important SSSIs with a wide variety of habitats creating a home for a huge variety of plants, birds, insects, reptiles and small mammals. Hengistbury Head holds many secrets within its striking geological formations, and the rangers and volunteers work hard to protect the incredible landscape, wildlife and archeology whilst also providing access to over a million visitors every year.

This walk is one of the best ways to experience Hengistbury Head. The walk begins on Southbourne Beach, which is located to the east of the main Bournemouth beach, along the same spectacular stretch of sand. Park at Warren Edge Car Park and stroll along the promenade until you reach its end, and then enjoy a walk along the sands until they turn to pebbles as you reach Hengistbury Head.

From here, you can choose to continue up and around Mudeford Sandbank, or you can take one of the public footpaths up onto Warren Hill, which makes up the elevated area of Hengistbury Head. Experience incredible panoramic views of Christchurch Harbour, Bournemouth Bay and the Isle of Wight as you wander through the hummocks of heather adorning this unique heathland.

A little stonechat enjoying the winter – this is the best time of year to see them out and about.

The trails will take you past the Hengistbury Head visitor centre and the Hiker Café, where you can stop to warm up with a cup of tea if you wish. Continuing along the paths will then bring you back to Southbourne Beach, where you can rejoin the promenade to make your way back to your car.

Where to Stay: Beachcliff, Southbourne

Beachcliff is a luxuriously modern second-floor apartment with panoramic sea views and two private balconies from which to enjoy them. You can’t get much closer to Southbourne Beach: located on the overcliff, the sands are just a couple of minutes’ stroll away and are accessible via the Fisherman’s Walk Zig Zag.

This holiday apartment in Southbourne sleeps 6 across 3 bedrooms, and boasts a gorgeous open-plan living area with a Smart TV, granite breakfast bar, and a spacious dining area. Beautifully finished, this is the perfect base for enjoying walks along the beach at any time of year.

Book this modern apartment in Bournemouth here.

Canford Heath

Canford Heath is a popular walking and cycling destination just a few miles outside of Poole town centre. It’s one of the largest remaining areas of heathland in Dorset, and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the rare habitats and wildlife found there.

The habitats of Canford Heath include broad-leaf woodland, dry and wet heathland, and valley mire and bog. It’s home to dragonflies and damselflies, as well as Dartford Warblers, nightjays, and all six species of native reptiles in the UK including sand lizards, slow worms, adders, and grass snakes. It’s a true haven for nature and wildlife lovers!

There are numerous paths to follow throughout the reserve which are clearly signposted – so pick one, and get walking!

It’s worth noting that dogs should be kept on the lead when on the reserve in order to protect the local wildlife.

Where to Stay: Heath Reach, Canford Heath

Just a 5 minute walk from Canford Heath Nature Reserve itself, Heath Reach is ideally situated for you to enjoy the miles of fantastic walking trails in the area. This beautifully appointed four bedroom holiday accommodation in Bournemouth sleeps six and is perfect for families, with both a main living room and a second snug/playroom on the ground floor, as well as a garden and two parking spaces.

Book this pet-friendly holiday cottage in Poole here.

Bournemouth Coast

The walk from Alum Chine Beach to Boscombe Pier takes just under an hour, and is the perfect choice for those longing for a beautiful, wintry beach walk. Between the 1st of October and 30th of April every year, dogs are allowed on all beaches in the area, which means your furry friends can properly stretch their legs along the sands.

Along your walk, you’ll pass by several areas with restaurants, cafés and toilets, so you’ll never be too far from a good place to stop for a rest or a bite to eat. Halfway through your walk, you’ll reach Bournemouth Pier, complete with the arcades which are open year round. If you’ve ever visited this area in the summer, you’ll know how busy it can get – as locals, we find visiting at this time of year much better!

Once you reach Boscombe Pier, you can loop back on yourselves and return the way you came, or you can walk up to the Overcliff through Boscombe Chine Gardens. Continuing on this route will bring you across the cliff top with fantastic views down to the beach and out to sea before you reach Bournemouth Pier once again. You can continue along the West Cliff Promenade which will eventually take you to the wooded area at Durley Chine, Middle Chine, and eventually back to the Tropical Gardens at Alum Chine where you started.

The beaches at Alum Chine, Durley Chine, Fisherman’s Walk and Manor Steps have all been awarded Blue Flags for their exemplary levels of environmental consideration and safety measures.

Where to Stay: Sea Spirit, Alum Chine

Located just a 60 second walk from the sands of Alum Chine Beach, Sea Spirit is a contemporary and stylish apartment complete with an open plan design and a spacious terrace, perfect for families with children. The three beautifully presented bedrooms sleep six in total, making it the ideal base for a family holiday.

Book this family-friendly holiday apartment in Bournemouth here.

River Stour (Kingfisher Barn to Throop Mill)

The River Stour offers a myriad of beautiful walks along its waters, from the source at Stourhead in south-west Wiltshire to its mouth at Christchurch Harbour. The Stour Valley Way runs the length of this 66-mile river, but you don’t need to trek from top to bottom to enjoy what this walk has to offer.

This easy walk starts and ends a few miles north of the river’s end in Muscliff, at the Kingfisher Barn Visitor Centre. There is limited parking here, but you’ll usually find a space easily enough in the winter months. The visitor centre offers refreshments for you to enjoy at either end of your walk.

Part of the Stour Valley Way, this walk begins by taking a right as you approach the river from the visitor centre. The trail is particularly popular with dog walkers, as the shallow parts of the river offer dogs the perfect place to play.

Kingfisher Barn isn’t named as such for fun: make sure you keep an eye out for the river’s resident Kingfishers as you follow the path alongside the river. You can continue along the grass area beside the river until you arrive at Throop Mill – however, it can get quite soggy during the winter months, so keep an eye on the weather before you go. Otherwise, you’ll deviate from the river trail through fields of cows and sheep – it’s all clearly signposted.

Eventually, you’ll reach Throop Mill, an abandoned water mill. From here, you can continue along the Stour Valley Way behind the mill and across the bridge to the other side of the river. This one-way walk is 2 miles in length, so trekking back to where you parked your car brings the circular trail up to 4 miles in total.

Where to Stay: The Willows, Christchurch

From its beautiful, functional log burner to the free standing roll-top bath, this old railway cottage dates back to 1925 and is full of character and period features. Perhaps best of all, you can bring up to two dogs, who will love the pretty courtyard which is private and enclosed. There’s plenty of parking in front of the cottage, plus TVs in all three bedrooms, the kitchen and the living room – just because this Christchurch holiday let is steeped in history, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the modcons!

Located near St Catherine’s Hill nature reserve, The Willows is a 20 minute drive from the Kingfisher Barn, sandwiched between both the River Avon and River Stour.

Poole Park, Whitecliff Park and Baiter Park

Situated in the heart of Poole, these three adjacent parks provide a wonderful place for a family-friendly, dog-friendly walk set against a backdrop of clear waters and woodland. The traffic-free route makes for a simple coastal walk with much to spot and ponder, including local wildlife and sailboats as they come and go from the marina.

You can begin your walk from any of the three parks, as each has plenty of parking available. Children will love Poole Park in particular, which features an indoor soft-play area, an ice-skating rink and a café at The Ark, as well as outdoor play areas and mini golf.

As you journey around Parkstone Bay, look across the water to spot Brownsea Island, as well as some of Poole Harbour’s smaller islands and, further afield, the peninsula of RSPB Arne.

You can tailor this walk to whatever you have the time and energy for thanks to the many paths which link the parks. Generally, the walk will be about 2 to 3 miles in total. If you are wishing for a longer walk, we recommend you continue west from Baiter Park along to Poole Quay, before heading up and around Holes Bay and eventually, Upton Country Park.

Where to Stay: Park Lake View, Poole

You can’t get much closer to Poole Park than this gorgeous two-bed, two-bath apartment situated just moments from the park entrance. Enjoy your breakfast alongside views across the lake before you set out on your journey around the best parks Poole has to offer.

Book this dog-friendly apartment in Poole here.


As a mix of healthland, woodland and coast, the aforementioned peninsula of RSPB Arne is one of the RSPB’s flagship sites and packed full of incredible wildlife which you can see on one of the various family-friendly walking routes around the area. It’s even the setting for the BBC’s 2024 Winterwatch series!

Visiting RSPB Arne in the winter months provides a completely different experience to visiting in warmer weather, with crisp frost underfoot and an array of finches, tits and robins to spot. If you get lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of some birds of prey including White-tailed Eagles and Marsh Harriers. Listen out for the noisy stonechats and Dartford warblers as you make your way around one of the many trails.

If you so wish, you can walk to Shipstall Hill and its corresponding beach on the east of the peninsula, which will provide you with fantastic views across Poole Harbour to Brownsea Island, Poole Quay, and Parkstone Bay.

After your trek, you can enjoy a nice hot chocolate and a bite to eat at the onsite café.

Where to Stay: Palma, Hamworthy

This three-bedroom house sleeps five, and is located in a quiet residential area just a two minute walk from Lake Pier and Beach on the coast of Poole Harbour. From here, you can enjoy unspoilt views across to RSPB Arne, with only a few hundred metres of water and sailboats in between.

There are a couple of ways to get from here to Arne to explore the heath and marshland. During the summer, there is a launch and landing zone on the north coast of Arne which can be used for kayaks, canoes, and SUPs (stand-up paddleboarding).

The launch/landing zone at Lake Pier is open all year round, but during the winter months, you will need to paddle down the Wareham Channel, past Arne and Gigger’s Island and onto the River Frome to land at Ridge Wharf Yacht Centre (paid) or Wareham itself (free). Always check the most updated information prior to setting off, as changes are often made for safety reasons or to protect local wildlife. There are also many local water sports businesses nearby which offer guided tours of the area.

Alternatively, you can drive around from Hamworthy to park at the main RSPB Arne car park, which takes around 25 minutes.

Book your Dorset walking holiday here!

Upton Country Park and Holes Bay

Slightly north-west of Hamworthy is the small town of Upton, which is home to the beautiful 19th century wooded parkland of Upton Country Park. The sprawling 160-acre grounds of this beautiful park back onto Holes Bay, an intertidal bay just off of the main Poole Harbour.

Upton Country Park features an array of family-friendly things to do in Poole, including pottery painting, an art gallery, a wooden playpark and a dog-friendly café. The gorgeous walled garden is a sight to behold, even in the winter months.

The footpaths around the park are clearly marked and take you both through the woodland and along the shoreline, providing views of the harbour along the way. Heading south will bring you to The Lookout, which is the park’s bird hide overlooking the salt marsh and intertidal mudflats of Holes Bay.

You may then decide to continue along the Shoreline Path to Poole – following this trail will eventually bring you near the train station, Asda, and the RNLI College. Here, you can also stop off at Lakeside Fish & Chips for some fantastic food.

Where to Stay: Edward Cottage, Poole

This cosy terrace is located in Poole Old Town, and sleeps four across two bedrooms. It’s just a 10 minute walk from Poole Quay to the south, and it’s also 10 minutes from the end of the Shoreline Path that runs around Holes Bay.

Beautifully presented, this cottage provides the perfect place to curl up after a day exploring Upton Country Park and Holes Bay in the winter.

Book your Poole walking holiday cottage here.

Visit Poole with Quay Holidays

Interested in visiting Poole on your next holiday? We know you’ll love it just as much as we do, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.

Our range of self-catering holiday properties in Poole and Bournemouth are each beautifully unique – whatever you’re looking for, we’re passionate about finding the perfect holiday property for you. From quaint cottages for two to spacious, modern five-bedroom houses, we’re proud to offer a true home-from-home experience on Dorset’s stunning Jurassic Coast.
Based in Poole’s historic Old Town, we provide a comprehensive full-management service to ensure your holiday is as perfect as can be.

Whether you’re booking a last-minute weekend getaway or your next big family holiday, browse our range of self-catering properties or get in touch with us to get started.

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