Despite the lack of big cities in Dorset, there are plenty of options for those wanting a shopping fix. From retail giants to quirky little independent stores, Dorset has a lot to offer. For hard-core shoppers on a day out, Bournemouth is for you. Just four miles from the town centre sits Castlepoint – the UK’s biggest shopping park, with a ton of chain stores, cafes and restaurants as well as couple of supermarkets.
Bournemouth has enough shops to keep you busy for days and all the hustle and bustle of a city. The high street offers a real mix of well-known stores and boutique shopping areas, and there is a plethora of restaurants and cafes to choose from if you want to make a day of it. The main shops are only a short stroll from the Lower Gardens and golden sands of Bournemouth beach for a lovely al fresco lunch.
The town also boasts an array of vintage shops for those looking for something unique. Head to Christchurch Road in Pokesdown – named the Vintage Quarter – for a selection of retro bookshops, clothes shops and antique stores. Diamonds are a speciality of Westover Road in Bournemouth, if you’re looking for something super special.
Just a few miles away, Southbourne is the place to go to enjoy cafe culture at its best. Head along Southbourne Grove and soak up an eclectic mix of intriguing independent stores and visit busy delis and bistros. Again, Southbourne features a beautiful beach just a short walk from the shops.
Heading towards Poole, Westbourne is an ‘urban village’ packed full of trendy independent stores, boutiques, bars and gift shops. It is also home to more than 50 eateries. The beautiful undercover Victorian arcade is worth a visit for its individual shops, homewares and fashion stores. If you fancy a night off from dining out, sample a treat from Cook, where you can get a remarkable selection of delicious hand-made dishes to heat up at home.
Bournemouth high street offers a real mix of well-known stores and boutique shopping areas, and there is a plethora of restaurants and cafes to choose from if you want to make a day of it
Shopping in Poole
The charismatic, historic heart of Poole leads up to the water’s edge of Poole Quay. The majority of the high street chains are based inside the covered Dolphin Shopping Centre, which is Dorset’s largest indoor shopping centre, home to more than 110 stores. It’s a handy destination to travel to, with Poole’s main bus station just outside the door and the train station over the road. Every Thursday and Saturday Poole features a weekly street market along the bustling high street and a farmer’s market in Falkland Square on a Thursday morning.
Outside the conurbation of Poole and Bournemouth there’s a selection of small towns that are worth a trip for their retail treats. Lucy’s Farm in Swanage is decked out with quirky images of cows painted by Lucy – she also does pet portraits on commission, while the county town of Dorchester has a selection of independent shops and a load of historic charm. There are more than 400 shops and businesses in the lively town centre.
Wander along cobble-stoned Antelope Walk to find gift stores, cafes, a very busy pasty shop and a vintage barber. If you are shopping with children it is worth visiting Munchkins, a specialist children’s cafe, where kids can play whilst you enjoy lunch. At the train station you’ll see Brewery Square which is a £100 million development on the former brewery site. Chain stores and cafes encircle water fountains which are popular in the summer, with children running in and out, and onlookers sitting on the auditorium-style stone seating. There’s a large screen on the side of the Odeon cinema which screens big events such as Wimbledon.
In the winter there is an ice rink, popular day and night. The square leads to Dorchester South Station, directly on the London line, which can also take you either to Weymouth or Bournemouth. Over the road the market comes alive on a Wednesday morning with traditional stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat, plants and more.
The much-celebrated urban extension of Dorchester is a place called Poundbury which is worth a visit for its independent shops. For specialist children’s stores, try traditional Boo’s Toy Shop, or Cath Kidston specialist shop Magpie with its children’s counterpart, Mini Magpie. There is also the very stylish Cherryade gift shop which has an extraordinary range of gifts, toys, cards, presents and homewares sourced from all over Europe and the UK.
There are pieces from Scandinavia and Denmark, bright children’s items and party products from France. And award-winning Yard is a women’s boutique which features garments from brands such as French Connection and Great Plains.
Wander along cobble-stoned Antelope Walk to find gift stores, cafes, a very busy pasty shop and a vintage barber
Some 20 miles east of town, Winfrith Village Stores is an old time grocery, with a striped awning and plenty of tasty Dorset fare on offer. And the famous seaside destination of Weymouth, six miles to the south, offers a selection of high street and family-run independent stores.
Along the main pedestrianised thoroughfares of St Thomas Street and St Mary Street you’ll find high-street chains, while along iconic bunting-lined St Alban’s Street there’s a selection of gift shops, cafes, vintage stores and tourist and souvenir outlets. If you’re here at lunch time head to the harbour for a vast number of cafes and restaurants and the town’s famous fish and chip shops.
Just a short walk over the harbour bridge and into Hope Square and you can visit the shopping village of Brewer’s Quay. The former brewery has been redeveloped into a Victorian labyrinth of cobbled streets which houses the town museum and also a fascinating range of little shops and souvenir stores.
Dansel Gallery in nearby Abbotsbury specialises in lovely gifts crafted from wood: platters, toys, lamps and more. While, heading further afield into West Dorset, the delights of Lyme Regis are well worth at least a day trip. The beautiful seaside town is crammed full of iconic independent retailers selling everything from beautiful jewellery made from local rocks to delicious local food.
Take a hike (it is pretty steep) up and down Broad Street where you will find lots of gift and home shops but also discover hidden gems along the myriad of side streets that snake around the main street. At the Lyme Regis Fossil Shop you can purchase beautiful jewellery made from ancient stone from the Jurassic Coast, and Jurassic Gems sells a similar range, as well as running fossil walks.
Just a short walk over the harbour bridge and into Hope Square and you can visit the shopping village of Brewer’s Quay
The beautiful North Dorset town of Sherborne is worth a visit to walk down its historic streets and browse quaint little stores. The rural towns of Blandford, Wimborne and Shaftsbury are also worth a visit, with a wealth of independent retailers. Wimbourne Market dates back to 1855, and sells bric-a-brac, clothing and fresh produce.
There’s also a cafe to keep you refreshed and a kids’ den to keep little ones amused. In West Dorset head to Shoe Lane in Bridport, which is worth visiting if you love antiques and shabby chic furniture. The Art and Vintage Quarter, based on the St Michael’s Trading Estate, comprises a quirky assortment of antiques and vintage outlets. The Alleyways Bridport Antique Centre features more than 50 traders selling an eclectic mix of English and European artefacts from the 1700s through to the 40s, 50s and 60s. In the far corner of the charismatic shopping area is the charming Red Brick Café, serving food from local suppliers.
On the last Sunday of every month (between March and September), Bridport Vintage Market takes place here and has a wonderful atmosphere. In nearby West Bay (just one mile from Bridport), Customs House is a buzzing venue offers a selection of vintage, art, home-made stalls, pop up shops, market stalls and workshops.
In the county town of Dorchester you can discover another emporium called the Dorchester Curiosity Centre at the Old Bus Depot on the Grove Trading Estate. You’ll find more than 100 traders here selling everything from hand-made furniture to refurbished shabby chic items and vintage collectables in the 12,000 sq foot warehouse. It is a regular haunt for antiques enthusiasts in the west and has a charming little cafe in the middle that is perfect for a refreshing cup of tea and cake.
With such a wealth of food producers in Dorset, the weekly Dorset Farmers’ Market, which moves around weekly, is well worth a visit. It runs most Saturdays but at different venues every week – check online for the most up-to-date venues. The producers sell delicious food perfect for a picnic.
If you are planning a Christmas shopping trip then Bournemouth is a great destination. The town pulls out all the stops with lights and decorations and the annual German-style bar and market in the square is always popular. In recent years the Lower Gardens has also featured events and an ice skating rink to complete your day.
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