Dorset is a beautiful county on the south coast of England with much to see. It’s filled with beautiful landscapes and pretty coastal villages. We wanted to make the most of the limited time we had in the eastern part of Dorset and the Sea Train Adventure from City Cruises Poole was a great way to do that. You get to see the Poole Harbor, Harry’s Rocks, Swanage, and Corfe Castle. In this post, I wanted to share my experience on the Sea Train Adventure Tour and a few helpful tips. You will also find ideas for things to do in Swanage if you are planning to spend the day there.
*If you are planning a trip to Dorset, check out my free travel planning checklist.
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I love that you get to see a few different areas in Dorset and experience different modes of transportation on the Sea Train Adventure. The tour starts in Poole Harbor where you board the boat for a ride to Swanage. You have some time to explore the cute seaside town and then you take the Swanage steam train to Corfe Castle. After your visit to Corfe Castle, you take the steam train to Swanage and then the boat back to Poole.
Boat Trip Highlights
The ride from Poole to Swanage is a little less than an hour. We had lovely weather and the ride was smooth. The boat has several levels with both indoor and outdoor seating, a snack bar, and bathrooms. The live narration pointed out the highlights and provided interesting information with a sense of humor. I had no idea that the Poole Harbor is the largest natural harbor in Europe.
We sat outside for most of the time but moved inside when it got a bit windy. For the best views of Harry’s Rocks, sit on the right side of the boat going to Swanage and the left side of the boat on the return. A good portion of the cruise is actually in the harbor and there is plenty to see. We were lucky and it was clear enough to see the Isle of Wight in the distance.
First, we passed Brownsea Island, which is the largest island in the harbor. We could see the beautiful natural scenery and even the castle. It is known as the birthplace of the scouting movement. There are great hikes there and you might even see a rare red squirrel. You can take a ferry to the island from Poole Quay but keep in mind that in addition to the ferry ticket you will also have to pay a landing fee if you are not a National Trust member.
Sandbanks and the Chain Ferry
Sandbanks is a peninsula with some of the most extravagant houses you will ever see. It’s a popular spot for celebrities (especially big names in soccer) to buy second homes. As you would expect, the beach there is beautiful. It is definitely on my list for the next time I am in the area.
Across the entrance to the harbor, there is a chain ferry that connects Sandbanks and Shell Bay. The ferry runs on a chain between the two points. This was my first time to ever see one and I have added going on a chain ferry to my bucket list. If you were driving from Poole to Swanage, the Sandbanks ferry would save you 25 miles on the round trip. The ride only takes five minutes and costs £4.50 for the car. The Sandbanks Ferry is 242 feet long and can hold 48 cars.
Old Harry’s Rocks
My favorite part of the cruise was when we were passing by Old Harry’s Rocks, which is the beginning of the Jurassic Coast. The rocks are huge and just off the coast, so the best way to see them is from a boat. The white rocks against the blue sea and sky were breathtaking. It was interesting that some of the rocks would blend in with the rest of the coast depending on the angle. I took tons of photos!
The beach is the biggest draw. The water was beautiful and there were views of the Jurassic Coast. It looked so clear and calm when we were there. Personally, I think the water is too cold to swim in, but we saw several people doing it so I guess not everyone agrees with me! If you keep walking along the beach past the town, you will also find some adorable beach huts. (Not quite as bright as the beach huts in Whitby though).
Fish & Chips
One of my favorite things about being by the seaside is having some fish and chips! Swanage has several fish & chips shops, but I would recommend going to The Fish Plaice. You can order it to go and eat it by the sea, just like we do in Aldeburgh.
If you don’t like fish & chips, don’t worry there are other places to eat in Swanage.
As we were walking around Swanage, we stumbled upon a sign leading to the Gaol, the old spelling of jail. We decided to check it out. It was different than any other jail I had seen and not at all what I had expected. It’s a little stone cabin. According to the sign, the gaol was built to enforce good conduct and lock up offenders. It’s definitely worth a quick look, you can find the gaol just off Town Hall Lane next to Town Hall Lodge.
The Swanage Museum is small but it had some interesting artifacts and exhibits. I enjoyed learning about the different types of stone and being able to see them with a magnifying glass. They also had a collection of drawings of Swanage by Hume Swaine. Hume Swaine was from London but spent time in Swanage. In 1893, he published a book called An Artist’s Ramblings Round About Swanage. There is also a gift shop. Entry to the museum is free.
Swanage Boat Trips
Even if you have just got off a boat, this is a great area to be on the water. As I was walking from the Pier to the village, I saw some places offering different boat trips that you can book on the spot. If you want to try fishing, there is Swanage Sea Fishing. You can also rent a kayak through Dorset Kayaking.
Swanage Steam Railway
The Swanage Steam Train Station is a 15-minute walk from the Swanage Pier. Walk up High Street and then when you get to the fork go left on Institute Road. It curves around and turns into Station Road and will take you right to the train station. You show your ticket from City Cruises Poole to the conductor onboard the train.
The ride takes about 20 minutes and goes through the scenic countryside. All the seats have a table and you can bring snacks or tea to enjoy on the ride. Going to Corfe Castle, sit on the left side of the train. When you get close to the castle, you will have a nice view. Corfe Castle is the second stop (unless the train makes the optional stop at Herston, then it is the third stop).
Corfe Castle Village
Corfe Castle is the name of both the castle and the village. While the castle ruins may be what the village is best known for, there is more to see.
Corfe Castle Ruins
Corfe Castle is now just ruins, but it is still pretty to look at. It’s perched on top of a hill in the middle of the idyllic village so you can’t miss it. You can imagine how impressive it must have been in its prime. They started building the castle over 1,000 years ago. The keep was built in the early 12th century for King Henry I, William the Conqueror’s son.
During the English Civil War in the 17th Century, the Bankes family who lived in the castle supported the Crown. Eventually, it was conquered by the forces supporting Parliament. Captain Hughes of Lulworth was given the orders to destroy the castle. After some time had passed, Corfe Castle was given back to the Bankes family who donated it to the National Trust in 1982.
It costs £11.50 per adult to visit Corfe Castle (on peak days – Corfe Castle prices are a pound less during off-peak days), but it’s free for National Trust members. (Click here to get more information about National Trust Membership or the National Trust Touring Pass for visitors from overseas). You can check which days are peak here.
They also have a tea room at the entrance to the castle. There are also a few walks around Corfe Castle where you can get a nice view of the ruins.
Other Things to in Corfe Castle Village
Corfe Castle is a pretty village that is more than just the castle. There are other things to do near Corfe Castle. You can visit the Corfe Castle Model Village to see what the castle and village would have looked like before its destruction by Oliver Cromwell. You can also go inside the Corfe Castle Church and the Corfe Castle Village Hall which holds a small museum. In addition, there are a few pubs in Corfe Castle including the Castle Inn and the Fox Inn that both have garden areas. Also, there is a small museum at the Corfe Castle Steam Train Station that tells the history of the railroad.
Logistical Information For Your Poole Boat Trip
The boat leaves daily at 10:30 from Poole Quay right in front of The Quay pub. Look for the red kiosk. Be sure to arrive 15 minutes early because you don’t want to miss the boat. The schedule for the steam train varies depending on the day that you are going. You can check it online here. There are return boats to Poole leave from Swanage Pier at 2:30 and 4:45 most days.
Your tickets include the boat and train ride. I like that the transportation is provided and you get to decide what you want to see at each stop. It’s nice that there are plenty of options to choose from. Entrance to Corfe Castle is additional. Corfe Castle is a National Trust property, so National Trust members get in free.
If you drove to Poole as we did, the Quay Visitors Parking Garage is a short walk from the boat. It has 550 spaces and 6 for disabled use. It is located on Strand Street, Poole, BH15 1SB. If you are looking for a place to stay, check out the hotel options in Dorset here.
Note: City Cruises Poole allows both dogs and bicycles for a small extra charge.
About City Cruises Poole
City Cruises Poole is a branch of City Cruises which operates boat tours in London. City Cruises also has a branch in York. They are all about good times and want customers to be able to relax and have fun. You can choose from several Poole boat trips for all ages all year round. From Poole Quay, they offer Poole Harbor tours, Jurassic Coast cruises to Swanage, and the Sea Train Adventure.
We opted for the Sea Train Adventure because I thought it would be fun to combine the boat ride with a journey on the steam train. City Cruises Poole also does special event cruises like a Fireworks Cruise and a Sail with Santa Cruise. In addition to the partnership with the Swanage Steam Railway, they have also partnered with City Sightseeing Bournemouth to offer a combined boat and bus tour. You can check out all their different boat trips from Poole here.
Sea Train Adventure Review
Overall, we enjoyed our day with City Cruises Poole. It was relaxing and fun. We got to see a lot – Poole Harbor, Jurassic Coast, Swanage, and Corfe Castle – I wish the tour would have been longer because there is so much to do in the area. The narration on the boat was entertaining and informative. I would love to try one of their special events cruises.
Have you done a boat tour along the Jurassic Coast or visited any of the places we went to? I would love to hear about your experience.
Expert Tips For Your Sea Train Adventure
- Check the Swanage Steam Train schedule. Remember that it is about a 15-minute walk from the Pier to the Station. You do not want to miss the boat or the train.
- Check out the different boat trips from Poole offered by City Cruises Poole. I am sure you will find one that you will love.
- Consider joining the National Trust for free entrance to Brownsea Island and Corfe Castle. You can find more information about National Trust Membership here or the National Trust Touring Pass for visitors here.
Disclosure: As guests of City Cruises Poole, we were providing complimentary tickets for the Sea Train Adventure so that we could share the experience with our readers. All opinions are my own.
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