The Bournemouth Pier to Swanage Walk is a stunning 12.2 miles coastal walk along some of Britain’s best beaches. Highlights include Bournemouth Pier, Sandbanks Beach, Poole Harbour, Sandbanks Ferry, Shell Bay, Studland Beaches, Old Harry Rocks, Ballard Down and Swanage.
Distance: 12.2 miles one-way Difficulty: Medium Estimated time: 5 hours 35 minutes Total ascent 984ft, Highest point 364ft Starting point: Bournemouth Pier (Google map) OS Map: Explorer OL15 Purbeck & South Dorset Date of Walk: 28th May 2023
When you arrive at Sandbanks Shore Road Beach the beachside promenade stops and you have a couple of options to continue on your walk to Sandbanks Ferry. The map above shows the route turning right down Shore Road until you meet Banks Road. You then turn left and follow Banks Road along the edge of Poole Harbour until you arrive at Sandbanks Ferry. I would recommend this route if you are new to the area as the views of Poole Harbour are a nice contrast to the beach. This route also takes you past a Tesco Express where you can stock up on supplies and ice cream which are cheaper than the beach cafes.
Alternatively you can just carry straight on and walk along the beach all the way to Sandbanks Ferry.
Take the Sandbanks Ferry to Shell Bay Beach on the Studland Peninsula. The price of the ferry for pedestrians is £1 from Sandbanks to Shell Bay. You can’t pre-book your ticket. The first ferry departs at 7am and then every 20 minutes thereafter until 11pm. You can buy a ticket at a small booth on the quayside or from a ticket machine. I paid cash. I read on their website that you can also pay by cash or card on the ferry itself if the booth is closed. Pedestrians only have to pay one-way. It’s free for pedestrians to come back from Studland to Sandbanks. For more info see https://www.sandbanksferry.co.uk/
At the exit to Middle Beach Car park you’ll see a path heading off to your left. Just follow this dirt track.
After passing the pub and at the bottom of the road you have a couple of options. The official route of the South West Coast Path takes you down a lane on your left to South Beach (the lane is about 20m before the public toilets). At the beach you turn right along the shore for 100m before following a path up the side of the hill on your right. The footpath is signposted. At the top of the hill the narrow footpath joins a larger track which you follow to you left towards Old Harry Rocks. The beach it nice so worth a visit and there is a good little cafe on the each – Joe’s Cafe South Beach.
Alternatively it’s easier just to continue past the pub and at the bottom of the road you see some public toilets on your left. Follow the track past the toilets – it will be signposted to Old Harry Rocks. Just keep on the path.