Paddle boarding spots
The Jurassic Coast of Dorset is absolutely stunning, there is no denying it. On a pleasant and calm day the scenery is quite honestly sublime. Thousands upon thousands of people flock to our beautiful beaches and hidden gems along the shoreline to soak in the magnificence.
For those Paddle Board enthusiasts among us or those who own a Paddle Board but haven’t quite got round to using it yet, bringing this water craft along with you will give you the ability to admire this astounding area from a whole new perspective.
In this blog post we will share with you a handful of our favourite spots to explore on a Paddle Board and how to access them, give tips on how to get into the sport if you are a complete beginner and some health and safety advice to assure you enjoy your time on the water.
Location Location Location
As the name suggests, lots and lots of sandy beachfront can be found at Sandbanks. At Land and Wave, this is one of the locations we use to run our Paddle Board sessions from and it is a fantastic place to start out or progress onto longer distance paddling with little commitment.
Starting at Sandbanks (heading east) there is a continuous stretch of sandy beach for around 10 miles, ideal for paddling parallel to the shore. This means you are never too far away from somewhere safe to land, which provides comfort when out on the water, especially for beginners.
The main beach pay and display carpark off of Banks Road is ideal to access Sandbanks beach with your Paddle Board. Alternatively, there is roadside parking available which is also pay and display.
There is also the option to paddle the other side of the road from Sandbanks beach which enables you to explore the beautiful Poole Harbour, the second largest natural harbour in the world. If the conditions are wavy on the beach side, the harbour could be calmer with a much flatter water surface. Brownsea island sits within the harbour just inside the harbours entrance which boasts spectacular views across to the Purbeck Hills.
If you start your paddle from inside the harbour close to the Sandbanks main beach carpark, a loop around the island and back is a distance of around 5 miles, with the need to cross the harbours shipping lane twice.
This shipping lane sees all sorts of traffic passing through including passenger ferries to France and Jersey (not the smallest of vessels.. you definitely do not want to get in the way of them!). The entrance to the harbour also has very strong tidal streams so with all things considered this should only be attempted by the more experienced of paddlers with knowledge of tides and channel markers.
Just the other side of the Sandbanks to Swanage chain ferry, there are even more miles of sandy beaches which can all be accessed by multiple National Trust car parks. Shell Bay, Knoll Beach, Middle Beach and South Beach pretty much merge together to create an almost uninterrupted 3 miles of sand.
The only interruption is no more than 200 metres long, it is a small headland with short, steep cliffs between Middle Beach and South Beach. If you paddle past this, keep an eye out for Fort Henry, a World War 2 bunker used by Churchill and King George VI to observe practice D-Day landings which happened along the whole length of Studland Beach. There are still some ‘pill boxes’ and ‘dragons teeth’ dotted around from the war too which makes a stark contrast to the beautiful scenery.
Old Harry Rocks
From Middle Beach and South Beach, you are able to paddle out to the famous Old Harry Rocks. Around a mile’s paddle from South Beach and a mile and a half from Middle Beach, Old Harry is a fascinating rock formation to explore.
Made from chalk cliffs which have over time been battered and eroded by the sea, the vertical white cliffs and towers of varying shapes stick straight up out of the water. It is great fun to paddle around them and through the naturally formed archways created by heavy erosion at their bases.
Always have a good understanding of the tidal forecast when going around and past Old Harry Rocks. There can be a strong tidal race at the tip of the rocks which can leave you paddling your heart out without making any progress for some time – like some sort of horrible water treadmill.
Make sure to plan your trip and go when tidal streams are at their weakest. Alternatively, there is a place where you are able to land your Paddle Board and walk between the rocks to bypass the race.
Swanage is the most easterly town on the Jurassic Coast, and its gently shelving sandy beach and sheltered waters make this a brilliant location to Paddle Board (in all but easterly winds!).
There is even an old pier to explore with just the vertical timber frames poking out from the water that have survived since it was first built in 1850. It’s easily found just next to the new pier which is still in working order. At Land and Wave, we love to use Swanage as one of our Paddle Board locations.
For the more experienced paddlers, you can get to Old Harry Rocks from Swanage Bay. This should be undertaken only on the calmest of days by confident paddlers. It is roughly a 5 mile round trip.
There is pay and display parking along the beachfront at Swanage, although it’s worth noting that these waterside spaces are only for cars and motorbikes, no vans allowed. Although you will be lucky to get a spot here on a busy Summers day! There are multiple carparks a short walk away if you are unable to get parked at the front.
Not the easiest spot to access, but one of the more quiet and wonderfully striking locations. We would only recommend this spot to those with inflatable paddle boards and a good level of fitness. The walk to Chapman’s Pool from the closest car park is around one mile long down a steep hill which can get pretty muddy, especially in the Winter months. The car park is called ‘Renscombe Carpark’ and is free of charge. It is accessed by driving through Worth Matravers, a very cute little village slightly off the beaten track which is a 15 minute drive from Swanage town.
Once parked, exit the car park via a kissing gate at the far end, then cross the farmers crop fields to meet and cross straight over the South West Coastal Path. Pause momentarily at the top to admire the incredibly dramatic view of Chapmans Pool and Houns Tout before following the winding path down the hill to a gate on a small stoney track.
Turn left and follow this track all the way to some fishing huts and the waters edge. There are tons of fossils in the soft clay mud cliffs which are to the right of the fishing huts when looking out into the cove. Explore Chapmans Pool by land and water before slogging back up the hill!
Lulworth Cove & Durdle Door
All part of the Lulworth Estate, the stretch of coastline between Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door is beyond magnificent. If you are feeling especially strong and have an inflatable board, it’s possible to park at the Durdle Door car park (pay and display which is accessed through Durdle Door Holiday Park) and hike down.
You can pump up at either of the beaches that flank Durdle Door before hitting the water to explore Man O’War Bay with its many protruding rocks and of course paddle through Durdle Door itself. Make sure to leave yourself enough energy to tackle the short(ish!) and steep walk back up to the car with all of your kit!
Another option would be to park at Lulworth Cove and launch from the beach to explore the almost perfectly circle cove. This distinctive, rounded bay is an ideal Paddle Board hotspot. If the sea state and tides allow, it’s around a three mile round trip from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door and back, passing by Stair Hole.
Do take note that the first and last mile of the journey does not really have any safe landing points. After that there is a beach to land on but the only emergency exit point to a road would be up the steep access path at Durdle Door. The round trip should only be considered in good conditions that you are comfortable paddling in as well as having a good understanding of the tides.
If you have never tried Paddle Boarding before, a great first step is to take a lesson. The basics of the sport are not hugely complex, but there are easier, more efficient ways to paddle and there are times where guidance would really benefit a novice.
Even if you are an absolute adonis with a natural talent for everything you put your hand to, there is still lots to learn. A lesson can help develop your skills in a safe environment and even enable you to learn some more advanced moves (yes there are some pretty advanced cool things that can be done on a Paddle Board!).
Once you have the basics nailed and you want to start getting out onto the water on your own, try to build your Paddle Boarding distances up gradually. Start off playing near the beach and then slowly increase the distance of your paddles. Why not try some of the popular Paddle Boarding spots we have included in this post?
Health & Safety
Be careful Paddle Boarding in off-shore winds. Even in super flat, calm and inviting conditions, wind can still be strong enough to push you out to sea, sometimes without you really noticing. Try to get into the habit every time you get onto the water of starting your paddle heading into the wind to gauge how strong it is and if you can confidently paddle against it.
Do not fall into the trap of just paddling with the wind straight away. It will feel super easy and you will not notice how strong the wind is until you turn around and attempt to get back to where you started! Many people get caught out with off-shore winds and it can be extremely dangerous if you are a beginner. It is not unheard of for people to get blown out to sea, unable to get back to dry land, eventually needing to be rescued by the Lifeboat.
Be careful of tides too. We highly recommend learning about and understanding the way the tides work and how they will affect you on the water. They will not be the same every day and are constantly changing time and strength so always look them up before you go Paddle Boarding without a guide or an instructor.
You can use many sources on the internet to check tide times and heights. The BBC has a good and easy to read breakdown of set locations along the coast on their website, but it is important you know how to interpret the information on the forecast.
All Paddle Boards should come with a leash attached. Always make sure you wear your leash as it will ensure your board is kept close to you in the event you fall off. Your board is a big floaty thing that you will want to keep very much attached to you and not floating off over the horizon.
Even in very light winds it can keep moving away from you at a decent speed, leaving you in the water without your board and a long old swim to catch up with it.
Make sure you always take some sort of buoyancy device with you. Buoyancy aids are always a great idea and will assist keeping you on the surface in the event of falling into the water.
There are also less bulky alternative buoyancy devices on the market such as airbelts with inflatable bladders inside that you can take out and inflate in an emergency situation.
Come and join us!
Paddle Boarding is one of the fasted growing sports in the UK and Dorset is one of the best places to give it a go. At Land and Wave, we have locations in Sandbanks and Swanage, which as we have already mentioned are both incredible places to get out on a board and test out your paddling skills.
We cater to a wide range of groups, from families to stag and hen do’s and are able to create the perfect session for you. Your Paddle Board instructor will be able to take you from never paddling before and give you the knowledge and skill to stand up and begin developing your technique. Check out what Paddle Boarding session we offer here. We hope to welcome you soon…