Environment group reveals its top spots for snorkelling in Dorset

Keen to highlight the amazing beauty that lies beneath the surface of the sea along the Dorset coastline, the environment group Planet Purbeck has compiled a list of its favourite snorkelling sites.

While Dorset’s natural environment that can easily be seen, like its heathland and rolling countryside, is much admired and protected, there’s often less focus on marine life, which is harder to see.

marine life in the sea at Kimmeridge
Dorset Wildlife Trust

More to see beneath the sea at Kimmeridge in Dorset

“Huge amount of beauty there to be enjoyed”

To encourage more people to appreciate what’s under the surface of the sea in Dorset, the marine and freshwater team of Planet Purbeck have put together a list of 12 good places to snorkel.

The list, called the Go Wet and Wild Guide, also gives an insight into the type of breathtaking creatures and plant life that may be found by those who take the plunge.

Planet Purbeck’s Doug Skinner said:

“Much of the attention about wildlife, conservation and ecology tends to be concentrated on the land, which sometimes means our coastlines and seas get a little lost and left behind, as it were.

“We want to engage people with the sea and the amazing things that are going on in it.

“Despite all the problems connected with the sea, such as pollution and overfishing, there is still a huge amount of beauty there to be enjoyed.”

Doug Skinner
Planet Purbeck

Doug Skinner from Planet Purbeck with Swanage Pier in the distance

marine life in the sea at Kimmeridge
Dorset Wildlife Trust

Plenty of crabs to find

Planet Purbeck’s Go Wet And Wild Guide

  • Man O’War Cove near Durdle Door – A favourite. Spectacular reef that’s breathtaking and unforgettable but sea conditions can be unsuitable for swimming, so check beforehand
  • North Beach, Swanage, below the Grand Hotel – Numerous reefs with huge shoals of young fish, sand eels, wrasse, flatfish and crabs. Very accessible and great on a clear day but the longshore drift can be powerful and make it challenging to follow the reefs out
  • Kimmeridge Bay – Glorious plant life and marine invertebrates including coralline seaweeds and snakelocks anemones
  • Worbarrow Bay – Two sites here – near the Tout promontory, though watch out for spear fishermen, and Pondfield, a small rocky cove with caves
  • Redend Point, Studland Bay – Pipefish, razor shells and several varieties of crab and fish amongst the headland rocks. Avoid weekends due to marine traffic
  • Boscombe – The offshore artificial reef has disappointed surfers but has been colonised by flora and fauna
  • Stair Hole, west of Lulworth Cove – Impressive submarine environment. On a quiet day species such as dogfish and lobster may be seen. Also Mupe Bay, east of Lulworth Cove
  • Seacombe – A little known spot featuring great caves and kelp forest
  • Dancing Ledge – A kelp forest and dramatic submarine landscape
  • Ringstead – Beautiful during clear conditions though not the best for wildlife
  • Frenchman’s Ledge, Osmington – Recommended by ecologists
  • Church Ope Cove, East Portland – Busy but interesting rocky coastline
snorkelling under the sea
Dorset Wildlife Trust

The Dorset Wildlife Trust snorkel trail is a popular summer activity at Kimmeridge

marine life in the sea at Kimmeridge
Dorset Wildlife Trust

Rich colours around the Dorset coast

“Safety is paramount”

Despite its encouragement for snorkelling, Planet Purbeck stresses that individuals keen to have a go must make their own assessments of conditions at each site and be responsible for their own swimming skills.

Not all sites listed are suitable for beginner swimmers. Plenty of outdoor companies in Purbeck run organised snorkelling trips, which may be better for those who aren’t experienced swimmers.

Dorset Wildlife Trust regularly runs a snorkelling trail at Kimmeridge during the summer that’s suitable for families.

Doug Skinner, who will be among the speakers at a Rewilding Our Seas event during Planet Purbeck’s 2024 festival in September 2024, added:

“As in all aspects of life, safety is paramount.”

marine life in the sea at Kimmeridge
Dorset Wildlife Trust

Marine life is often less visible but still a natural beauty


Always check the sea conditions and tides before snorkelling

RNLI open water swimming advice

  • Be prepared – Check the weather and tides, choose your spot, go with a buddy, have the right equipment
  • If in doubt, don’t go out – No matter how much preparation you do, or how experienced you are, if a swim doesn’t feel right there is no shame in getting out of the water straight away, or not entering
  • Make sure you acclimatise to avoid cold water shock
  • Be seen – Wear a bright coloured swim hat and take a tow float
  • Stay within your depths
  • Float to live
  • Call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard in an emergency

Further information

  • More about Planet Purbeck’s festival
  • RNLI guide on how to make the most of your time in the water

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