Kayaking and canoeing in Dorset


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Kayaking on the Dorset coast is an unforgettable experience. With over 285 km of stunning coastline it’s the perfect way to explore isolated bays, view wildlife and get unique views of the outstanding coastal geology that this area is so famous for. The variety of conditions along the Dorset coast, from sheltered bays to strong current areas, means that it is the ideal place for trying out kayaking for the first time or for the more experienced looking for new adventures. There are 25 slipways along the length of the Dorset coast so finding a place to launch and try out different areas is easy. If you are new to kayaking you should go on a guided tour or have tuition with a British Canoe Union qualified instructor.

What do I need?

If you do not have your own kayak then there a several places along the Dorset coast where you can hire them and/or go on a guided trip. If you are more experienced and planning a longer trip then a full equipment list is available from the Maritime Coastguard Agency. No matter how experienced you are as a kayaker it is always recommended that you wear a buoyancy aid/life jacket and that you never go out alone.

When is the best time to do it?

Kayaking in Dorset can be done all year round on the Dorset coast but you should always check the weather, tides and currents before you go. During winter months the water is colder, winds stronger, there are rougher seas and less hours of daylight – this all needs to be taken into consideration.


Planning your trip

What to look out for

Sea kayaking and canoeing along the Dorset coast can offer fantastic opportunities to see wildlife such as seabirds and seals, and dolphins in their natural environment. The Jurassic Coast displays unique geology. The waters can get busy, especially close to amenity beaches. There may be other users in the water including swimmers and divers so you should be observant and careful when you are out.

Some places along the coast offer good waves where the more adventurous can use their kayak to surf the waves.

Do your bit:

Watch out for the wildlife

Please follow these steps to make sure that you do not disturb wildlife while you are kayaking on the Dorset coast:

  • Think about whether you are going to be going through or landing at any areas that are important for wildlife.
    • The Dorset coast has several Special Protection Areas for birds. In these areas we need to have an awareness of bird breeding and “over wintering” seasons because birds are particularly sensitive to disturbance between:
      • November and March birds are “over wintering” and need to conserve energy reserves.
      • Mid-April to the end of June when birds are breeding. If birds are disturbed during this time then they can abandon eggs or chicks.
    • Keep your kayaking group small – lots of people all kayaking together can cause disturbance to wildlife. A maximum of twelve people is recommended.
    • Don’t linger for too long when you are close to wildlife – by all means look, but then move on.
    • Keep back and stay slow around dolphin and whales
      • When you are within 300 metres of dolphins move at a constant slow speed, don’t go any closer than 100 metres.
      • Avoid sudden or repeated changes in speed or direction.
      • Do not chase whales or dolphins when they leave you.
      • Do not attempt to approach mothers and young calves.
    • Avoid damaging plants and the habitats
    • Report live strandings of cetaceans, and injured/entangled marine mammals to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (24 hours). Report all other live injured or entangled animals to the RSPCA 0300 1234 999.
Watch out for other users
  • Look out for other users in the sea and share the water with any you come across – swimmers, jet skiers, divers, windsurfers etc. all use the water too so be observant, careful and respectful when out kayaking.
  • Tankers, ferries, military ships, fishing boats and cruising boats all use the Dorset coast too. Most of these vessels carry out their activities further offshore than you will be planning to kayak, however, it is important to remember that these vessels have slower stopping distances and can travel at faster speeds than you so keep out of their way.
  • Landing – If you are planning to land on an area that is private property you will need the permission of the owner.
Watch out for the environment
  • Take home all your rubbish – do not discard rubbish at sea or on the beaches. Marine and beach litter spoils peoples experience of the Dorset coast, can harm marine wildlife and can disrupt commercial industries such as litter getting tangled up in fishermen’s nets. Find out more about Marine litter in Dorset.

Find out more about doing your bit whilst kayaking at Canoe England.

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