Advice

The best family-friendly Dorset hotels, from adventure playgrounds to fossil collecting

Lockdown rules now vary across the UK. Check the postcode of your destination before travelling as the local rules may differ from your own. Please note our writers visited these hotels prior to the coronavirus pandemic

Dorset is a county of exceptional natural beauty. The Unesco World Heritage Jurassic coastline is famous for coves, ‘fossil forests’, coastal paths, and the imposing limestone arch of Durdle Door; verdant interiors are intertwined in Thomas Hardy’s literature, with rolling downs, Bronze Age burial mounds and castle ruins. Warm summers and mild winters make it a popular year-round destination for families with children of any ages – there are plenty of places to pitch-up along the way, from traditional seaside lodgings elevated into the 21st-century to destination restaurants with rooms. Here’s our pick of the best family-friendly Dorset hotels, including the top places to stay for interconnecting rooms, swimming pools, tennis courts, playgrounds, spacious apartments, crèches and cinemas, in locations including Lyme Regis, Bridport, Studland, Weymouth, Beaminster, Christchurch and Evershot.

Alexandra Hotel & Restaurant

Lyme Regis, Dorset, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

This is Lyme Regis’ answer to a boutique coastal break with children. It’s a luxury, family-friendly hotel with lovely views of Lyme Bay and the surrounding Jurassic coastline – opt for a sea view Poulett or Gould room to make the most of it. In any case, nearly all of the bedrooms can accommodate kids (five on chair beds, others with Z-beds), plus there are two apartments that can host families of four or six. From its perch overlooking the bay you get road-free access to the shore (borrow buckets and spades from the hotel). Outside is a play area with swings, climbing frames and trampolines; in poor weather, try seaside-themed mocktails and board games in the lounge.


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180

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• The best hotels in Dorset

Moonfleet Manor

Weymouth, Dorset, England

7
Telegraph expert rating

A family favourite, with contemporary and period-style rooms, and a busy restaurant. Youngsters come first – from nightly films to outdoor sports – while adults can unwind with spa treatments and walks along the beach. Much of the accommodation has single beds for children; if more are needed, the hotel can provide camp beds. There is also a free baby listening service. Children’s high tea takes place every afternoon. Staff are used to dealing with children, with smiles and jokes all round. The facilities make it a perfect base for all ages: an Ofsted-registered crèche; indoor pool; mini cinema; air hockey; trampolines; sandpit; and two tennis courts (coaching is available).


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119

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• Britain’s best seaside hotels

The Ollerod

Beaminster, Dorset, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

Inside this caramel stone house is a true destination restaurant with rooms from a chef with a Michelin-starred background, where the traditional and contemporary rub together throughout, paying homage to the building’s 13th-century roots. Luckily, it is absolutely open for the whole brood to visit. There are two family rooms, and seven others that can fit extra beds and cots. The restaurant offers a children’s menu that can be scribbled all over with colouring pencils, and little activity packs are left in the rooms when younger guests are coming to stay. The seaside isn’t far and Hardy’s Wessex lies all around.


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145

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• The best family-friendly hotels in England

Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Spa

Evershot, Dorset, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

Though it only accepts children over seven years of age, it’s still a great spot for slightly older families. There are interconnecting rooms plus a two-bedroom cottage. Indoors, families can play board games, use the Nintendo Wii or splash in a heated pool. Outdoors (the hotel has four acres of garden) there are tennis courts and coaching, children’s croquet and free bicycle hire. This is the heart of Hardy country, and as such the hotel is perfectly placed for those wishing to explore the surrounding landscape on which his Wessex novels were based. Adults will appreciate the popular spa, which offers facials, massages and holistic therapies, plus a gym and whirlpool.


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235

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• The best family-friendly Cotswolds hotels

The Acorn Inn

Evershot, Dorset, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

A village that inspired Dorset’s most famous author might not be an obvious choice for the whole family but provides a wonderful countryside escape. The Acorn is ‘gastropub’ (without forgetting its foundations as a proper pub) and children can tuck into their own menu or smaller portions from the main menu. There’s plenty to get you outside, such as the five-mile walk through Melbury Estate parkland that keeps you cocooned in old-world Dorset, and it’s not far to West Bay and the Jurassic Coast. Acorn guests can use the pool and spa at nearby Summer Lodge.


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105

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The Bull Hotel

Bridport, Dorset, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

A Georgian coaching inn, painted zaffre blue and popular with stars of Broadchurch and Far From the Madding Crowd. Since a mid-noughties refurbishment, the hotel has been a favourite destination for city dwellers searching for country charm that retains urbane style, with a secret speakeasy for late-night cocktails. It’s very family-friendly: travel cots and foldout beds are available, and there are five family rooms. The management is very sympathetic and flexible when it comes to children so they’ll provide food anytime during the day, and tweak the menu to your needs. There’s also a babysitting service available at an extra cost.


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100

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• The best family-friendly hotels in Cornwall

Knoll House

Studland, Dorset, England

7
Telegraph expert rating

This coastal retreat on Dorset’s Purbeck peninsula was inspiration for Blyton’s Famous Five series – the uninterrupted sea views are still likely to stir the imagination. Tennis courts and a nine-hole pitch and putt golf course are made all the better due to their clifftop location, a games room boasts pool and ping-pong tables, table football and vintage arcade games, and outside the adventure playground is made up of slides, a zip wire, climbing frame and ‘pirate ship’, as well as a garden chess set. There’s a separate playroom for the youngest guests – pens, paper, cuddly animals, toys and more – next to the bistro, so parents can keep an eye during their own coffee break.


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89

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The King’s Arms

Dorchester, Dorset, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

Having been neglected and dreary for decades, a four-year £5 million renovation gave the county town’s landmark building (immortalised in Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge) a new life. Cots are offered without charge and a number of rooms are big enough for Z-beds (£20 per night, which includes breakfast). Younger guests can spend time in all of the public spaces – there is a lovely terrace at the back of the property – and smaller portions of the menu are available, plus a dedicated children’s menu. If the family extends to a four-legged friend then they can come, too, welcome in nine of the rooms.


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95

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Captain’s Club Hotel

Christchurch, Dorset, England

7
Telegraph expert rating

On the outskirts of a town famed for it’s smuggling heritage you’ll find the Captain’s Club Hotel, which takes subtle cues from the area’s seafaring connections to offer polished accommodation, extensive spa indulgences and a spot for cocktails on the river’s edge. It’s very family friendly, with a ‘junior shipmates’ menu in the restaurant, cots available and entertainment on the Smart TVs among the offerings. On-site spa facilities are popular with adults, and include a hydrotherapy pool and sauna as well as an extensive list of treatments. Smart hotel staff are polite and well trained. On warm days, the riverside terrace is the place to be.


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239

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Sandbanks Hotel

Poole, Dorset, England

7
Telegraph expert rating

Sandbanks Hotel sits on a spit of Dorset land famed as a millionaire’s playground, home to Premier League managers and astronomical property prices. In addition to scheduled kids’ activities, the hotel can provide cots and fold-out beds, and some rooms contain sofa beds. There’s a children’s menu as well as a children’s buffet served each day between 6pm and 8pm. In school holidays the ‘Funsters’ team occupy youngsters with beach games, art sessions and cabaret shows. There’s an indoor pool and gym, but the Water Sports Academy is the highlight: paddleboarding, kayaking, kitesurfing and more, with a surf shop to hire equipment (and clothing to look the part). The Academy has a 44ft catamaran to charter too.


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139

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