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Camping in Dorset

Playing on Studland Beach

We spent a lovely week for our Summer 2021 holiday, camping in Dorset. Exploring the beautiful Studland peninsular.

Studland is just a couple of hours drive from Bath, through the beautiful Dorset countryside. Good beaches, usually kind weather and a stack of other activities should keep everyone busy! Because of the demand, and price of, self-catered accommodation we chose to camp (we also had a fancy new tent to use!), but there are plenty of other options from self-catering cottages and lodges, to fancy hotels.

The Campsite

I’ve camped in Studland many times before but this was the first time visiting the area as a family. We choose to stay at Burnbake, not far from Corfe Castle. For 5 nights (mid-week) it cost £149, so around £30 a might, which seems pretty average for camping.

Burnbake is a large site with two camping fields, one large open area and a smaller wooded area. It also offers luxury lodges. Facilities include a shower/toilet block, a shop and outside cafe (open for breakfast and dinner) and a small play area.

What we liked

We chose to stay in the larger open field. There was plenty of space and you could pick where to pitch – great if there is a group of you. The field is flat and surrounded by woodland, so a very pretty setting.

There are lots of walks from the campsite and being surrounded by woodland it’s great for older kids who can disappear off and play. The campsite is also on the National Cycle Network.

Fire pits are permitted (as long as the fire risk isn’t high) and you can bring your own or hire one. Logs were available. The kids love the fire pit (marshmallows every night!) and it’s great for the adults to huddle around in the evenings.

What we were less keen on

The campsite is big, and despite a scattering of port-a-loos I think the facilities would be overwhelmed in peak weeks.

There was no facility to freeze ice-packs, you could hire them but this was a pricey option. Thankfully it was not a hot week when we stayed so we could get away without.

Camping at Burnbake Campsite in Dorset
Plenty of space and flat pitches at Burnbake campsite in Dorest

Exploring Studland

Studland Beach

We love visiting Studland beach, it’s sheltered location, sandy shoreline and shallow waters make it a fantastic beach for small children! There is a cafe, ice-cream kiosk and toilets. There is also water sports equipment available for hire from Studland Watersports. We have previously hired kayaks and SUP’s from them and the equipment has always been top notch stuff. The beach is long, so you can spread yourself out from the crowds (the very end section is a naturist area). So, even on the busiest of days, there is space for everyone if you are prepared to walk!

Top tip – Don’t forget your National Trust card if you have one (parking is free for members) and arrive early on sunny days, the car park fills up quickly.

The Tank Museum

The kids have been desperate to visit the Tank Museum since they saw it marked on the road signs as you drive through Dorset. This was a really fab day out for the whole family – even those who are less keen on tanks! It is good value, costing less than £40 for our family (under 5’s are free) and the ticket is valid for repeat visits within the year.

The Tank Museum is definitely a full day out and there are a lot of tanks! Over 300 military vehicles on display! From WWI through to the present day, it is difficult not to be impressed – despite the darker side of their history, which the museum does not shy away from.

The highlight of the day for all of us was the live ‘battle’ in the outside arena. A selection of tanks take each other on in a staged battle, complete with pirates and controlled explosions!

The Tank Museum
Realistic displays at the Tank Museum

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle dominates the skyline as you drive towards Swanage. This National Trust owned property is well-worth spending a couple of hours exploring. Nestled in the rolling Dorset hills, with the steam train puffing past, it really is a Famous Five location with only the lashings of ginger ale missing!

A short walk from the car park (paid but there are some free spaces round the back of the castle) takes you uphill into Corfe Castle village. The entrance to the castle is in the village – across the drawbridge!

The castle is a ruin, so there are no complete rooms to wonder around but it still fascinating to explore. The kids loved the medieval games that were free to play just inside the castle gates. These included tug of war, archery and medieval tennis! We spent around 3 hours exploring the castle from top to bottom!

Tug of war at Corfe Castle
Tug of war at Corfe Castle

Other things to do

Studland is a beautiful area to explore with loads of opportunities for walking and biking. The RSPB Arne nature reserve has some great way-marked trails with stunning views of Poole Harbour.

There is also the quintessential English seaside town of Swanage, complete with pier, amusement arcades, ice-cream and fish and chips!

For such a small area the Isle of Purbeck really packs a lot in, we could have easily spent two weeks here exploring all that is has to offer.

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