This walk follows a hidden valley to the sea, a sandy beach to Sandbacks for a short ferry over to Purbeck, the start of the South West Coast Path (SWCP) along Studland Bay (a long sandy bay great, for swimming, with an official naturist area), a cliff-top pub in Studland village, a cliff top walk out to Old Harry point, a climb up to a ridge, and either a descent along the SWCP into Swanage, or a longer ridge walk inland to Corfe Castle, before catching a bus back to Wareham station
This walks starts with a slow descent to the sea along a path through a forested chine (a steep sided valley).
It then follows the seafront, a sandy beach along a mixture of promenade or for a few short stretches, the sandy beach itself. This stretch is lined with cafes and beach huts, and can be quite busy in summer.
Soon expensive Sandbanks is reached, where there is a short 'chain ferry' crossing (every 10-15 mins, takes 5 mins, 2013 fare: £1.00, free to return) across the entrance to Poole Harbour to South Haven Point. Lunch is at a small cafe just after the ferry with views over the harbour.
South Haven Point also marks the start of the SWCP. After lunch, the walk follows the SWCP / beach path for 4 km. First along Shell Bay to a point (a good picnic spot), which marks the start of the National Trust's Studland Bay, a sandy beach backed by sand dunes. While any part of this walk is good for swimming, the start of Studland Bay is particularly good as there is a sandbar offshore which keeps the sea shallow, and so, quite warm. The middle of Studland Bay is a well known official naturist beach, which is quite busy on a warm summer's day. There is an alternate "heather path" through the NT's Nature reserve behind the beach.
At the end of the bay, there is a cliff top pub in Studland village, with an idyllic location. A bus follows the route of this walk to this point, joining it at the ferry, Studland Village (and Swanage), so it is easy to cut short this walk if you'd prefer to swim or sunbathe.
Here you leave the beach, and follow the SWCP along the cliffs out to 'Old Harry', a stack (pillar of rock in the sea) which has been visible for the whole walk so far. The path climbs a small hill (117m), with a great view over Poole Bay. There is a short cut (shown on the OS map page) from near the pub up to the ridge, missing Old Harry. At the top of the hill, with views inland over Poole Harbour, Studland Beach, and out to sea, there is a choice.
- continue along the SWCP descending steeply into Swanage, a Victorian seaside resort.
- follow the ridge inland for 5 miles, with fine views, to Corfe Castle. (the ridge is bisected at 1 point by a road with the ferry-Studland-Swanage bus route)
Return to the railway line is by this by ones of these buses
- #40 Swanage - Ridge - Studland Bay - Ferry - Bournemouth Station
- #50 or #x43 Swanage - Corfe Castle - Wareham Station (much quicker)
The beaches on this walk will be quite crowded on a sunny weekend day in summer, but much quieter midweek and deserted in winter giving this walk a very different feel.
Long travel times make for a late start for a long walk, and then there's last buses to aim for. An option might be to do the walk in reverse, starting from Wareham or Corfe, doing the cliff/ridge walk in the morning, and then walking along Studland Bay to the Ferry, and catch a bus from there back to Bournemouth or Poole which have more trains than Wareham. This misses out the Sandbanks beach, and the chine, which while very nice, aren't in the same league as Studland, Old Harry cliffs and the ride walk. It also gives you more time for sunbathing and swimming.