Whether it’s a white Christmas or just a chilly one, the festive season is a glorious time of year for a Dorset break, with lots of fun events to enjoy and all of that gorgeous countryside and those lovely beaches to enjoy free of the crowds of summer before heading home to one of our cosy country cottages to warm up over a hot chocolate or a mulled wine.
Larger towns and cities such as Weymouth, Bournemouth, Poole and Dorchester also have ongoing celebrations that vary by place but often include Christmas lights switch-on events, Christmas markets, carol-singing, ice-skating rinks, lantern parades, street performances and late-night shopping. Meanwhile, independent boutiques around Dorset provide inspiration for unique gifts including local artisan crafts and regional food and drink.
And throughout the season, village inns, pubs and restaurants by the sea or in the countryside will be serving an array of seasonal treats and special menus, including everything from Christmas roasts to spiced cider, mince pies and eggnog.
We’ve shared to some of your favourite things to do in Dorset at Christmas, whether you visit as a family, with friends or as a couple.
Father Christmas Magic at Farmer Palmer’s, 20mins from Greenwood Grange
Santa’s visits at his cabin in the Little Farmer's Fun Barn at the popular farm park with its tractor-trailer rides, bottle-feeding, guinea-pig handling and pony-grooming sessions.
Santa at SEA LIFE Adventure Park, Weymouth, 30mins from Greenwood Grange
Elf-led journeys through a festive forest to meet Father Christmas in his Christmas cabin, plus a festive crafts zone. Other things to see at this iconic attraction include Fairy Penguin Island, home to the only colony of Eudyptula minor – the smallest penguins in the world – that you can see in Europe.
Corfe Castle, 30mins from Greenwood Grange
Various special events and activities at this atmospheric castle on different dates, including sing-along Christmas carols, journeys through the castle ruins joining in with medieval games, dances and entertainment in the company of the Lord of Misrule, and tours of the grounds with their sparkling winter lights.
Santa Express, Swanage Railway, 45mins from Greenwood Grange
One-hour return journeys by steam train, with a present from Santa, balloon-modelling and snacks for kids, plus a mince pie and festive drink for parents.
Sail with Santa, Poole, 45mins from Greenwood Grange
City Cruises jaunts around the harbour, passing Brownsea Island, Sandbanks peninsula and Studland Bay, with a magic show, balloon-modelling, snacks and a gift from Father Christmas, plus treats for accompanying adults.
Christmas Illuminated Trail, Forde Abbey, 1hr from Greenwood Grange
An enchanting garden walk, plus festive cheer within the house itself including Santa’s visits on selected dates and festive favourites in the tea-rooms.
Christmas Pantomimes, Various Locations
Weymouth Pavilion: Cinderella (including relaxed and adult-only performances)
Lighthouse Poole: Jack and the Beanstalk