Beach, dunes and harbour views at Studland, Dorset

Studland, near Swanage, Dorset

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
A view of the entrance to Poole Harbour from Shell Bay, Dorset © National Trust/Jon Bish

A view of the entrance to Poole Harbour from Shell Bay, Dorset

A female emperor dragonfly © National Trust / Harry McMahon

A female emperor dragonfly

A view of Poole Harbour from Jerry’s Point, Studland © National Trust/Will Wilkinson

A view of Poole Harbour from Jerry’s Point, Studland

Route overview

A short circular walk on level ground from Shell Bay car park near Studland, Dorset offering views from both sides of the Studland Peninsula.

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Map for Beach, Dunes and Harbour Views at Studland, Dorset walking trail
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Shell Bay Car Park, Dorset (grid ref: SZ035863)

  1. From the car park walk across the boardwalk towards the beach. Listen carefully as you cross the boardwalk and see if you can hear the distinctive calls of moorhens, coots and the elusive willow warblers that are found in the reed bed.

  2. Walk over the dunes and take in the fantastic views across the bay. Follow the edge of the dunes towards the point and approximately two thirds of the way along the beach follow the signs for Heather Walk.

    Show/HideShell Bay Views

    Shell Bay has commanding views over the entrance to Poole Harbour with its chain ferry shuttling back and forth. The deep water channel passes close by and is often busy with craft ranging from yachts to cross-Channel ferries. The view stretches around to take in Poole Bay and the Isle of Wight.

    A view of the entrance to Poole Harbour from Shell Bay, Dorset © National Trust/Jon Bish
  3. Before the second sign follow the track that heads inland through the dunes.

  4. Follow the track. On your left will be the wet mire with its distinctive bog myrtle and on the right will be the heather of the dunes. After approximately 100 yards, on the right there is the remains of a ‘blow-out’ caused by wartime shelling of the area. This area has now become a thriving habitat for reptiles, dragonflies and birds.


    Studland is an important habitat for dragonflies and damselflies, which can often be seen flitting about in the summer months. One of the most impressive is the emperor dragonfly, Britain's biggest, which grows to nearly 80cm in length.

    A female emperor dragonfly © National Trust / Harry McMahon
  5. Carry on the track, keeping the trees on your left with the ridge of dune heath on your right. Watch out for the deep water areas near the trees which are havens for the dragonflies that populate the area. On the ridge to the right can be seen the remains of World War Two bunkers. At the end of the track turn right.

  6. Follow the route through wooded areas and open mire and heath. When you arrive at the road, cross over and access the heath on the opposite side (take care here as the road may be busy).

  7. Follow the track to Jerry’s Point, passing the relatively new lagoon on the right. As you walk, look on the ground and see if you can see any broken clam shells dropped by the birds to break open so they can get at the food inside. At Jerry’s Point, take in the views of Brands Bay and Brownsea Island opposite. Turn right and head back down the beach taking care to keep an eye out for oyster catchers, egrets and Brent geese which frequent this area.

    Show/HideBrownsea Island

    Brownsea Island, directly north from Jerry's Point, is the largest of Poole Harbour's islands. As it is owned by the National Trust, the public can visit it (the only one that they can visit). Brownsea Castle began life as one of Henry VIII's chain of coastal defences and much of the island is a nature reserve. Brownsea is famous as the location for Baden-Powell's first scout camp in 1907.

    A view of Poole Harbour from Jerry’s Point, Studland © National Trust/Will Wilkinson
  8. Follow the beach, passing the abandoned jetty and head towards the house boats. Walk along the beach and at the last house boat head back inland along the track which will bring you back to Ferry Road opposite Shell bay car park.

End: Shell Bay Car Park, Dorset (grid ref: SZ035863)

In partnership with

Cotswold Outdoor logo © Cotswold Outdoor
  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 2.25 miles (3.6km)
  • Time: 2 hours
  • OS Map: Explorer OL 15 (Purbeck)
  • Terrain:

    Beach and level, sandy trails through dunes and heathland. Some areas may be boggy after rain. Dogs welcome all year round, but please keep them on a lead of less than 2m anywhere on the beach between 1 May and 30 September. From 1 October to 30 April dogs can be walked on the beach off the lead. Please respect others all times and pick up after your dog, using the dog bins provided.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: From Sandbanks, follow Banks Road (B3369) round to Ferry Way and walk on to the chain ferry (£1 fee for pedestrians). From Studland follow Ferry Road to the road end

    By bike: Cross over the chain ferry from Bournemouth/Poole or head north along the Ferry Road from Corfe Castle or Swanage

    By bus: Wilts and Dorset number 50 from Bournemouth or Swanage, or from Poole, number 52 to Sandbanks. Then follow foot directions

    By car: Follow B3351 from Corfe Castle (11 miles) to Shell Bay or from Bournemouth/Poole via the chain ferry

  • Facilities:

    Toilets and restaurant/bar at Shell Bay. National Trust cafe and shop at Knoll Beach (2 miles).

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