Dorset has it all, from deeply rooted history and incredible architecture to miles of sandy beaches and countless nature reserves.
On top of all this, it’s reported that the quality of life is very high here. Not only this, but Dorset has the highest life expectancy in the entirety of Britain.
Moving to Dorset could be the best leap you’ve ever made. This being said, with so many bustling market towns and fresh coastal resorts to choose from, it can be difficult finding out where the best places to live in Dorset actually are.
For this reason, this article has been put together to help you decide where you will set down your roots for generations to come; as once you move here, you’ll never look back. Here are the 15 best places to live in Dorset:
For Those Retiring
Many who find themselves entering retirement decide they wish to live closer to the glimmering ocean, or maybe to be surrounded by rolling hills in Hardy Country.
Dorset ranked in 1st place in ‘Quality of Retirement’ by The Prudential in 2019 as well as 2014. With an abundance of picturesque towns and villages, your ideal home here in Dorset is just waiting to be discovered:
This quaint village is located in West Dorset, 2 miles north of Dorchester. Sitting at a population of just under 3000, this village offers plenty of adventures and nature, as well as a quiet village lifestyle.
The Ham Stone Tower located here was built in the 16th century, the Wolfeton house in the 15th century, but indications show that settlements as early as the 1st century have been unearthed here.
Teeming with history, Charminster is often overlooked for larger towns and villages. There are properties to suit all price ranges here, from a 2-bedroom maisonette for £140,000 to a £2,000,000 8-bedroom detached Edwardian country house.
Close enough to not be isolated, but far enough to maintain the old-style English village atmosphere; Charminster could be the place for you.
When you first visit Shaftesbury, you’ll be amazed that you’ve never heard of this place before.
Gold Hill is a steep cobbled street that is locally famed for its picturesque overlook. It’s what sets this little market town apart from every other location in Dorset, with many describing it as one of the most romantic sights in England!
Located nearby to the A350, with easy access to the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), as well as being a short drive from Blandford Forum and Salisbury, makes this treasure trove of a town the perfect place to retire.
On average, houses in Shaftesbury sell for £350,000, which isn’t too far above the average for the county. But you won’t only be getting an incredible home, you’ll also be getting access to the incredible nearby countryside and you’ll live in one of the most romantic villages in the entirety of England.
Ashmore will undoubtedly be the smallest village mentioned throughout this article. With a population of only 188 people, Ashmore is often one of those towns overlooked and mainly visited by those who took a wrong turn down the road.
Which is a shame! What many don’t know is that this town is filled with unspoilt history, featuring gorgeous thatched houses which have been perfectly maintained.
Throughout the past century or so, this town has seen some genuine love and care with many buildings being rebuilt or restored to the same fashion that they were in previously, creating an old-England atmosphere like no other place can create.
Offering an escape from the bustling, crowded cities; Ashmore offers incredible views over Dorset, sitting at 700m above sea-level, as well the fresh air that Dorset has an abundance of. Retiring to Ashmore could be the perfect move for you.
Many people prefer to retire to a smaller area of the world, where there aren’t an endless list of events occurring. While this is true for most, some people like the lively atmospheres that larger towns create.
Weymouth is a seaside town and is recognised as one of the most desirable locations for retirement in the whole of the UK.
The fresh coastal air and annual seafood festivals are enough to lure even the most unsure candidate to Weymouth. If that isn’t enough, Weymouth offers some of the best beach walks in the UK along the Jurassic Coast.
On your way back from your hikes, pop into The Nothe Tavern is said to have the best Sunday lunch in all of Weymouth.
With prices starting at £230,000 for a two-bedroom flat, residents in Weymouth can enjoy an excellent quality of life with plenty of amenities, activities and events to keep you busy throughout the years to come.
For Those With Family
Some of the best places to live in Dorset are filled with families and top-quality schools. You can have peace of mind when moving to Dorset, with brilliant schools such as the Thomas Hardye School and Atlantic Academy Portland, and excellent opportunities for family days out:
Dorchester is arguably one of the best locations in Dorset, maybe even the UK, for raising a family. Not only are you not isolated from the outside world, but you also have a wide array of brilliant schools right on your doorstep.
Dorchester is a short distance from Weymouth, surrounded by the Dorset AONB, and it also contains two train stations, Dorchester South and West. These train stations connect Dorchester to Bath, Bristol, London and Bournemouth (among other towns and villages).
Back to the fantastic schools on offer, Ofsted has rated FIVE primary schools here as “outstanding”, with the previously mentioned Thomas Hardye School being located here, also receiving an “outstanding”.
A day out with the family will never be boring here in Dorchester, with fantastic attractions such as Weymouth SEA LIFE and the Tutankhamun Exhibition nearby, there are countless things to do here. If you prefer a bit of history, then go and visit the Maiden Castle, an Iron Age hill fort a short distance from Dorchester.
A traditional market town, only a 45-minute drive from Bournemouth and Poole; Blandford Forum offers a slightly different experience than elsewhere in Dorset.
In 1731, there was a devastating fire here. Two brothers, known as the Bastard Brothers (Bastard being their surname), helped rebuild the town, creating an eye-grabbing town in the Georgian architecture style.
Property prices here are just above the average for the county at £355,000; however, if you’re looking to bag one of the Georgian style homes here, you may be looking at a slightly higher amount.
When it comes to schools, Blandford Forum has plenty of choice. The closest secondary school is Blandford School, which is a mixed-gender school for 11-18-year-olds. This school, in particular, was given an Ofsted rating of “good” with ‘the potential to become Outstanding’.
Away from the noise, but close enough that a trip to most of the towns and villages in Dorset are under an hour away. Blandford Forum is a great location in Dorset and offers everything you could want in a town when growing up.
Ferndown is one of those locations in Dorset that truly belongs in Dorset, from the 700-acre pine forest to the bustling yet uncrowded town centre. Being the second-largest non-coastal town in Dorset is very attractive to many, and with the abundance of open space Ferndown has to offer, it’s obvious why.
Ferndown, being on an ancient heathland, has an expansive network of outdoor space. The Longham Lakes are often considered an excellent place for a walk, especially if you have a dog. With over 147 species of bird here, these lakes offer a fantastic day out for the family.
Moving with children is never an easy task. Therefore, you’re most definitely looking for the best places to live in Dorset that will have great educational facilities for your children. Ferndown has three schools, one in each level of education (nursery, primary and secondary), all of which received a “good” from Ofsted.
For further education, Bournemouth University is just a short distance away, offering 100’s of degrees in science and technology, media, management and more.
Outside of town, the world is your oyster. Travel south to the Jurassic Coast or maybe head into Bournemouth’s town centre. If you’re feeling adventurous, then take the kids for a day out at GoApe and traverse the treetops, swinging through the trees.
This picture-perfect town is full of history, boutique shops and vibrant markets. Situated in north-west Dorset, Sherborne is home to some fantastic locations and incredible architecture.
The town wears a golden hue, luring those from afar to move into one of the beautiful period homes scattered throughout the area. The town also has a bustling nightlife, but not one large enough to disturb the early risers.
Sherborne has five weekly markets, enough for all your needs ranging from the farmers market to the weekly book fair.
The town also has very high achieving schools in both the public and prep schools sector. Sherborne Primary School is known to be well above average in achieving in many subjects. The Gryphon School is an incredibly sought-after secondary school with an incredible and competitive sports scene.
Sherborne has great transport links directly to London Waterloo, the housing prices are competitive and the local area is rich with history, making Sherborne a fantastic place to raise your family.
For The Young Professional
You’ve just secured a job, and now you’re moving to Dorset, looking for the best places to live. While Dorset may not initially sound like a hub for young professionals, there are plenty of large towns here that have ample to offer:
Poole has seen tremendous developments occur over the past decades, from the renovation of quayside areas to the housing developments within Poole.
Known for having the second biggest natural harbour in the world, many visit Poole and spend countless hours at the surrounding beaches, the lighthouse art centre and the old town. There is so much to do here in Poole, making it one of the best places to live in Dorset for young professionals.
Poole is home to plenty of pubs, restaurants and clubs, for those looking for a great start and end to the night. Make sure you visit The Clay Pipe Inn and the Drift Micro Bar to switch your night up a bit.
In addition to this, Poole is far from isolated. It’s got excellent transport links to the rest of Dorset, especially Bournemouth and Christchurch, both of which (like Poole itself) have a range of employment prospects and are very well known for their nights out and incredible towns.
Surrounded by beaches, markets, an indoor shopping centre and opportunities for water sports year-round. Poole is a great choice for any young professional moving to Dorset.
Speaking of Christchurch, not many people know that Christchurch has only been within Dorset’s borders since 1974.
Located east of Bournemouth, this location offers excellent access to London as well as the South East. The brilliant train network here means its 8 minutes to Bournemouth, 49 minutes to Southampton and just under two hours to London Waterloo.
This bustling town offers a thriving arts scene and plenty of outdoor activities to keep you entertained throughout the weekend. With the government Help to Buy ISA or Lifetime ISA, buying a new house has become that little bit easier. With one-bedroom flats going for as little as £100,000, get moving!
Known as the Garden City because of its many beautiful parks, gardens and tree-lined streets; living in Christchurch is as close as you can get to living in a bustling town but also in the countryside. If you wanted some more greenery, a short trip down the road takes you to the New Forest or Cranborne Chase AONB.
Bournemouth is an obvious choice for any young professional looking to move to Dorset. Not only is the great nightlife nearby, with countless pubs and restaurants to choose from; there are many opportunities for work here as well.
If you’re in the engineering or aviation industry, then Bournemouth airport will likely be a brilliant place for you to find work, with companies ranging from Honeywell and Meggitt to Drilling Systems UK and Mildren Construction. You’ll find a range of jobs here to choose from.
If you’re in the arts sector, then Bournemouth is home to a thriving arts scene, with its very own Arts University Bournemouth.
It’s well known that Bournemouth isn’t the cheapest place to live in Dorset, being the largest town in Dorset; but if you’ve got the money, then you can purchase a wonderful one or two-bedroom flat here. New developments, such as Gervis Road flats by Harlequin Homes, offer a fresh opportunity to get on the housing market early on.
Everything is within a stone’s throw here in Bournemouth: Jurassic Coast; kayaking in Studland Bay; The Pavillion Theatre; and Bournemouth Pier which is close to home. With so much to do, Bournemouth is by far one of the best places to live in Dorset as a young professional.
While you may be a young professional, not everyone is looking for a busy town which feels like a city. Some prefer being in a quieter town, a bit closer to nature.
Well, the market town that is Bridport is an incredible location with plenty to do throughout the year without creating a sense of crowding.
This is yet another town with a thriving culture and arts scene, with the famous Bridport Arts Centre opening in 1973, hosting everything from gigs to exhibitions. Everything is easily accessible from Bridport, but this doesn’t mean you have to travel far to do something enjoyable and exciting.
On top of this, the average property price is lower than that for the county of Dorset! While this does in no way mean that all properties here are cheap, you’ll likely be able to find a bargain if you keep your eyes peeled.
With access to the Jurassic Coast, Lyme Regis, Dorchester and Devon, Bridport offers a fantastic location for those looking for something a little quieter with great links to the rest of Dorset, without leaving you bored out of your mind and isolated.
Here in Bridport, you’ll find a new adventure every day.
The Overall Best Places To Live In Dorset
The above towns and villages are perfect for certain types of people, or if you’re looking for something specific. If you want something with a bit of everything, then the following three towns are by far the best options for you, mixing the outdoors and busy shopping centres alike.
In these three towns/villages you’ll find everything to keep you busy, as well as providing you with plenty of access to the rest of the UK, including the best Dorset has to offer.
A list compiled by the Sunday Times in 2019 named Lyme Regis as one of the top 10 Best Places To Live In The Southwest in 2019.
Lyme Regis has something for all. Its brilliant location is one of the main attraction points, but so are the renowned schools that are found here; as well as the brilliant nights out in the town centre.
Often dubbed ‘The Pearl of Dorset’, Lyme Regis is like something out of a dream. With winding roads leading you to sweeping views over the ancient harbour and the market town attached, Lyme Regis is abundant in beauty.
Being a coastal town, the majority of houses for sales are flats; however, this doesn’t mean that all sales are. One problem with being one of the top places to live in Dorset is that the housing market here is very competitive and houses tend to get sold within a week or two of being put up for sale.
Lyme Regis attracts artists from all over, with the Woodroffe School being incredibly strong in visual arts as well as one of the most innovative schools in the country.
Moving to Lyme Regis will open up the Jurassic Coast to you, allowing you to spend hours searching for fossils from an era long gone. You’ll find some incredible food here, especially in the famous Oyster and Fish House, which serves fresh seafood with spectacular coastal views. There is so much more to uncover here, making it one of the three best places to live in Dorset.
Another incredible town located on the Jurassic Coast, Weymouth is home to over 70,000 people as well as the best beach in the UK. Alongside this, Weymouth is surrounded by Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, meaning a great day out for all the family is just a short drive away.
A vast choice of primary schools are available to you, with the best in the area receiving a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted. On top of this, if you live in the right location between Weymouth and Dorchester, you may be in the intake range for the famous Thomas Hardye School.
Weymouth is a great location to start cycling. It is a beautiful way to take in everything that Weymouth has to offer, with 6 to 17-mile trails and plenty of different routes depending on your expertise.
This town is well-connected; offers incredible views of the coast; you’ll have a long list of bars and clubs when looking for a night out; has brilliant schools nearby, and the property market is relatively affordable, with a new two build apartment selling for £170,000.
Weymouth is a mixture of history, nature and beauty all rolled into one town; so what are you waiting for?
Southbourne is on the outskirts of Bournemouth, and incredibly close to Christchurch. This prime location offers access to both of these incredible towns as well as the coast and it isn’t isolated, making it a perfect location for trips around the country.
This location is perfect for all retirees, young professionals and families alike. You’ll find the mix of people here refreshing, and it’s often said that this is a safe place to raise families and well located for a night out.
Southbourne has a unique mix of properties available, from luxury apartment flats and larger houses for families on Boscombe Overcliff Drive to retirement properties and two-bedroom apartments for under £150,000.
Tapas, sourdough pizzas, handmade burgers and rustic delis can be found in Southbourne’s artisanal food venues. Looking for a unique gift for a friend or loved one? You’ll most definitely find it here with the range of shops available to you.
On top of all this, Southbourne has ample educational institutes; plenty of gyms; water sports at Hengistbury Head Outside and infinite coastal walking locations. Let’s not forget about the amazing countryside available to you and the history to go along with it, just a short journey from Southbourne. What more could you want?
Did You Find Your Best Place To Live In Dorset?
With so many locations available to you, it’s not an easy task picking just one place, but hopefully, this article has helped you decide where your future will be.
Maidmans are here to help. With over 40 years of experience in the removals industry, specialising in the small roads and country lanes that Dorset has ample of, we can make your move smooth, stress-free and pleasant.
Our professional and experienced team are on call to help with any questions you may have throughout your move. Your possessions will be fully protected every step of the way, no matter how far the journey.
We project manage your entire move, getting involved as early as possible even before you have a completion date. Should you choose us, we can carry out or advise on packing and storage solutions from the home you are leaving to your future home.