Portland is an isle of rugged beauty, smugglers' coves and lighthouses, joined to Dorset by the awe-inspiring Chesil Beach.
Portland at a glance
- Climb Chesil Beach for uninterrupted views west
- Take in the sunset at the Cove House Inn
- Find fossils and wild flowers in the old quarries
- Watch the broiling Portland Race from the Bill
- Try paddleboarding or coasteering
- Stretch your legs on the island walk
- Take the bus or ferry in to Weymouth town
- Visit Henry VIII’s Portland castle
The Isle of Portland is connected to the rest of Dorset by the narrow causeway formed by Chesil beach. The Isle itself is a rugged lump of Jurassic limestone, quarried for centuries to build much of London, as well as more humble local cottages. The cliffs and old quarries are now mostly Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and home to a wide range of flora and fauna, including rare butterflies.
The views from Portland down into Weymouth Bay and along the Jurassic Coast are well worth the effort in climbing the hill, but you can also take the bus!
Things to do ashore
Chesil Beach stretches 18 miles from the Isle of Portland to West Bay, past the Fleet Lagoon and Abbotsbury Swannery. It has claimed many lives through shipwreck, smuggling and misadventure, and many broken ankles twisted on the stones, too.
White Portland stone was extensively quarried for some of the best buildings and monuments in Britain (including lots of Portland Marina!) and old quarries pit the Isle. Kingbarrow Quarry is now a nature reserve and Tout Quarry is a sculpture park - both are worth visiting. The stone is dotted with fossils, and the best place to learn about these is at Portland Museum, which is also full of shipwreck and smuggling facts.
Take the 13 mile walk clockwise around the Isle of Portland starting from Portland Castle, a Henrician fort, and you'll soon come to Church Ope Cove, with a ruined church, strange history and picturesque huts. At the south of the Isle is the famous Bill, home to more quarries, a tea room and the red and white lighthouse. Keep walking for dramatic views down the cliffs into Lyme Bay, past the Spirit of Portland and Olympic Rings sculptures and down to Chesil Beach.
Things to do by boat
A water bus service runs in the summer between the marina and Weymouth, and this is a nice way to get about. Ask in the marina office for details.
Why not leave your boat tied to the dock and get afloat another way? Wreck diving and sea angling boats operate from the marina, or you can have a go at paddleboarding, canoeing and windsurfing all within walking distance.
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