The best places to eat, stay, shop and visit in the South West

Bridport and West Bay

The lively market town and its neighbouring harbour are found on one of Britain's best stretches of coastline
West Bay near Bridport in Dorset

The lively market town and its neighbouring harbour are found on one of Britain’s best stretches of coastline. Together they offer the best of both worlds for staycationers seeking coast and culture in Dorset

Where to stay in Bridport and West Bay

It’s a flat 30‑minute stroll from Bridport to West Bay (there’s a bus if you’re not up for the walk) so, wherever you decide to base yourself, it’s easy to flit between the two. There aren’t a huge number of overnight options in the immediate area but Bridport’s The Bridge House is in the heart of town and perfect if you want everything on your doorstep.

The grade II‑listed Georgian townhouse has ten bedrooms which have been dressed with beautiful fabrics and treasures from local antique dealers. From early spring until late summer, its Potting Shed Kitchen & Bar (in the garden) hosts pop‑up dinners from Wednesdays to Fridays, as well as brunch at the weekend.

A ten‑minute drive along the Jurassic Coast from West Bay is The Seaside Boarding House in Burton Bradstock. Each of the hotel’s nine bedrooms is within sight and sound of the sea, making it a fabulous find for those who yearn to fall asleep to the rhythmic crashing of waves on the shore. There are no televisions in the rooms, so you can connect with nature while disconnecting from the outside world.

Motor ten minutes in the other direction from West Bay and you’ll reach Seatown and its beachside pub Anchor Inn. Serving patrons for over 160 years, it’s a popular stop on the South West Coast Path where you can pause to sink a local real ale and dine on the deck. It also houses three boutique bedrooms above the bar which have been modernised to reflect the maritime setting.

Further away, but worth the journey for serious eats, is The Ollerod in Beaminster. The 14th‑century restaurant with rooms has long held a reputation for top‑drawer food, and new executive chef David Vill continues that legacy. Book one of the nine gorgeous guestrooms and finish a day of exploration with a cocktail in the bar and a stirring supper in the conservatory dining room. (Read our review of The Ollerod here.)

The Seaside Boarding House

Where to eat in Bridport and West Bay

Those who need a morning caffeine hit before they can function should make Soulshine their primary stop in Bridport. On first impression the cafe, restaurant and deli appears to be tiny, but wander through the retail space and you’ll find a roomy dining area and garden in which to savour an own‑roasted coffee.

It’s worth extending your visit to sample the breakfast menu of wholesome homemade dishes like shakshuka served with house sourdough dripping in butter. The sociable vibe continues after dark when tables are crammed with small plates of local produce such as cured trout with fermented gooseberries, slow‑cooked lamb with red wine and white beans, and split‑pea hummus with seeds and pickles.

If you want to start your Dorset adventure by the beach, Rise in West Bay is another all‑day destination. On crisp, clear winter days, wrap up warm and sit on the terrace to tuck into antipodean brunch dishes such as the Aussie breakfast (smashed avo, lime, coriander, salsa macha, poached eggs and toast) with views of the harbour.

Also in West Bay and offering waterside dining (this time by its pebble beach) is Watch House Cafe. The lunch menu includes the kind of nostalgic seaside fare – crab sandwiches, steamed mussels, fish and chips – that’s hard to refuse when there’s a briny breeze blowing. However, it also deals in wood‑fired pizzas with alluring toppings such as king prawns, peppers, sweet chilli sauce and coriander. If a post‑feed hike is needed to make room for dinner, follow the South West Coast Path over the cliff s to Burton Bradstock where you’ll find sister venue Hive Beach Cafe (perfect for a turning‑point pit‑stop).

For evening eats with a side of theatre, alight at West Bay’s Station Road to dine in a reclaimed first world war railway carriage. The Station Kitchen doesn’t leave its platform, yet stepping aboard this tiny restaurant is rather like taking a trip back in time. The fabulously eclectic decor, which blends 1930s glamour with splashes of neon and statement wallpapers, is a fun setting for head chef Chris Chatfield’s creative cooking. Go all out with the seven‑course tasting menu or pick and choose from the relaxed dining line‑up.

Back in Bridport, a table at Dorshi is the town’s hottest ticket. Venture down an unassuming alleyway to discover some of the best Asian food in Dorset, crafted from the region’s finest ingredients. Open for dining Wednesdays to Saturdays (the bar operates seven‑days a week – more on that later), its menu is split into ‘dumplings’ and ‘not dumplings’. We recommend ordering from both lists and brushing up on your chopsticks skills in preparation.

Rise

Where to drink in Bridport and West Bay

You don’t have to be an overnight guest at The Bridge House to enjoy the spoils of its Dark Bear Bar. Run by the award‑winning Dark Bear collective, this decadent drinking den is one of the best spots in town for a pre‑dinner cocktail. It also houses a dedicated rum bar featuring over 200 varieties.

If you’re into interesting cocktails you’ll definitely want to hit up the drinks menu at Dorshi. Yes, the main focus here is the food, but the team are also pretty serious about serving innovative cocktails, great wines and darn drinkable beers. Try the herbaceous Little Green Slushy (mezcal, crushed ice, coriander and lime) or the indulgent Short, Dark and Handsome (cold brew coffee and Amaro Montenegro).

For one of the best collections of craft ales and beers (and good wines) in Dorset, head to The Pursuit of Hoppiness in the centre of Bridport. Inside, you’ll find an exciting assortment of local tipples and craft beers from further afield.

Rise Market & Bakery

Where to shop in Bridport and West Bay

From 8am until mid‑afternoon on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Bridport Market takes over three of the town’s main roads. Coincide your visit so you can browse street stalls that sell everything from doorknobs and jewellery to toy cars and retro prints.

If rummaging for bargains at the market ignites an untapped interest in vintage treasures, make tracks to Customs House Emporium for round two. You’ll need to be eagle‑eyed to uncover any significant finds but sifting through the rails of flamboyant coats, denim dungarees and silk scarfs is all part of the fun.

Booked an Airbnb? Stock its cupboards with delicious local produce, booze and baked goods from Rise Market & Bakery. Located in a modest spot between a fuel station and an auto centre on a roundabout, the indie store is easy to miss but worth seeking out for homemade sourdough, Furleigh Estate fizz and Dorset charcuterie and cheese.

Those planning a picky spread of local delights for their casual dinner should add a consignment from Chesil Smokery to their plans. The smokery supplies some of the region’s best restaurants (including Mark Hix’s The Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis), and you can order goodies such as hot‑smoked salmon, smoked haddock and smoked mackerel to pick up from its Bridport HQ.

A smorgasbord supper calls for a top‑notch bottle of wine and that can be found at Morrish & Banham in Bridport. The wine merchant has shops in both Bridport and Dorchester, where customers in search of a recommendation receive expert direction from co‑founder Mark Banham and team.

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