30 Fabulous Things to Do in Lyme Regis, Written By a Local
Lyme Regis may not be the biggest seaside town on the Jurassic Coast, but it certainly has a bucketload of things to do to keep you entertained during a weekend break. How do I know? Well, not only am I a regular visitor to Lyme Regis (my in-laws live down there), but I went to school in Lyme and grew-up in nearby Bridport – also known as the filming location for ITV’s Broadchurch.
So, whatever kind of activity you’re looking for to fill up your time in the town, start here first. Below are my favourite 30 things to do in Lyme Regis that come with the locals’ seal of approval – including top tips that only those from the area would know. Enjoy.
1. Stroll Along the Colourful Georgian Promenade With Its Pastel Good Looks
Start things off with a burst of sea air and a saunter down Lyme Regis’s beautiful sea-front promenade. On your left, you’re blessed with nearly 95 miles of dramatic coastline – a UNESCO World Heritage site called the Jurassic Coast because of its outstanding geological importance.
This multi-shaded coast runs directly from Lyme Regis, climbs the bulk of Golden Cap, dips briefly for West Bay – aka Broadchurch – then trickles away to become the shadowy point of Portland.
To your right, as you amble down Marine Parade, pastel-coloured Georgian houses hem the wide promenade which runs from one end of town to the other. The houses are a reminder of how fashionable Lyme Regis was in the 18th century when people (Jane Austen included) flocked here to bath in the sea and take in the air.
2. Stay in a huge historic home with probably the most enviable seafront location in Lyme Regis
Amongst all the houses on Lyme Regis Seafront, one stands out above all the others; its honeycombed-stone features cutting a handsome profile alongside the pastels of the other beachfront properties. This is Sundial House. A beautiful four-storey holiday home, with a fat, grinning sundial carving that watches you as you promenade by.
Built in 1903, Sundial House was designed by the Scottish architect Arnold Mitchell, who worked at the most successful London architecture practices of the time, Ernest George and Peto, as a young man. The property has an enviable location just 200 metres from the beach with views from the mullioned bay windows that are absolutely mesmerising.
Striking on the outside, exquisite on the inside: boasting 5 light and airy bedrooms that sleep 9 people. Definitely one of the best places to stay in Lyme Regis – perfect for families and groups of friends.
3. Walk the Cobb and Climb the Famous ‘Granny’s Teeth’ Steps
No visit to Lyme is complete without a walk to the end of Lyme’s famous man-made harbour wall, the Cobb. The Cobb is a thick stone breakwater built to protect Lyme Regis from the battering south-westerly winds and has been of great economic importance to the town, preventing coastal erosion and providing a safe harbour to trade from.
The grade I listed structure curves around Lyme Regis harbour and out into the open water, stretching 870 feet from where it starts. You can walk on either the top along the ‘high wall’ with its dramatic views out to sea, or along the bottom, sheltered from the sea spray and wind.
Sloping slightly to the right, like it’s casually trying to tip you into the sea, it is not a walk that I’d recommend on a blustery day – as the Health and Safety signs will concur. But when the weather’s calm, it’s a must.
Once at the end of the Cobb, you’re rewarded with the panorama of Dorset coastline stretching all the way to Chesil Beach; behind you is the thickly pebbled Monmouth beach and its untamed section of cliffs.
The Cobb features in many books and film adaptations, including The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles (starring Meryl Streep), Ammonite, a film about local palaeontologist Mary Anning, starring Kate Winslet. And Jane Austin’s Persuasion – where it played the setting from Louisa Musgrove’s fall.
Local’s tip: find the steps known as ‘granny’s teeth’ – they are thought to be the site of Louisa Musgrove’s fall in Persuasion. Be careful going up or down them, they are perilous, even if you’ve traversed them a hundred times before.
4. Pick one of the 4 beaches, then spend the day people-watching
Lyme Regis has four south-facing beaches to enjoy: Town Beach, Monmouth Beach, Church Cliff Beach and East Cliff Beach. Each one has its own quirks and curiosities, so it’s worth trying them individually.
Town beach – A flat sand and pebble beach that runs from the east of the town to The Cobb. Probably the most popular beach, suitable for swimming and with easy access to cafes, pubs and kiosks. Lifeguard on duty. Dogs only allowed from Oct – April.
Monmouth Beach – A pebble and rock beach so named because the Duke of Monmouth landed here in 1685 in an attempt to wrest the crown from King James II. It extends for over a kilometre southwest from The Cobb wall and is home to the famous Ammonite Pavement – a 199-million-year-old fossil bed that is the only one of its kind in the world. Dogs allowed. Lifeguard on duty.
Church Cliff Beach – A small sandy cove that lies to the east of Lyme Regis town. Is entirely submerged at high tide but at low tide you’ll find a patch of sand and a number of rock pools, making it a great spot for finding shrimp and other sealife. No dogs in the summer months. Lifeguard on duty.
East Cliff Beach – Probably the quietest stretch of beach in Lyme Regis, running east towards Charmouth. A mixture of sand and shingle, with the chance to spot many fossils that’ve come from the cliffs above (which are prone to collapse, so take care). Dogs allowed. No lifeguide on duty. Important to check the tide times if you want to walk towards Charmouth.
5. Get Bendy On the Beach with Pip from Maitri Yoga
Feel the beauty of the Jurassic coast from within thanks to Pip from Maitri Yoga. Her yoga sessions take place on Lyme Regis beach on Thursday and Saturday mornings, but she can also run private sessions with you in a location of your choice.
You can choose the beach or a different setting – inside or outside: in the garden, in the living spaces of your accommodation in Lyme Regis. Wherever there is space to practise, Pip can make it possible to do so. Regular sessions on Lyme Regis beach cost £10. Bespoke yoga brought to you costs £60 for 60 minutes.
6. Nosey Around John Fowles Former Home, Belmont House
Belmont House has to be on your list of things to do in Lyme Regis, trust me. This spectacular salmon-pink Georgian villa, with its stunning interiors and gorgeous views, was home to author John Fowles. From the window of his writing room at Belmont, the author of The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Magus had an enviable view onto his beloved garden and the sea beyond.
The property is owned by the Landmark Trust and rented out for private use, but it does hold open days throughout the year. So, if you have your Lyme Regis accommodation already sorted, then book onto one of the free open days.
7. Cosy Up to the Local Sea Creatures at the Marine Aquarium
It may be small in size, but the Marine Aquarium in Lyme Regis packs a hearty punch. Fun, interactive and family-run, it’s a fascinating place to visit on a Lyme Regis weekend break come rain or shine.
Find it at the end of the Cobb, brimming with the amazing marine life that can be found along the Jurassic coast, as well as interesting presentations and historical exhibits. You can handfeed grey mullet, hold starfish, and get up-close with crabs and lobsters.
8. Catch and Cook Your Own Fresh Mackerel with Harry May
The seafood in Lyme Regis is delicious, but you won’t get fresher than catching your own lunch or dinner on one of the many fishing boat trips out of Lyme Harbour. Our top fishing trip recommendation is Harry May deep sea and mackerel fishing trips. Harry is a well-known face of Lyme and a fun, friendly skipper to take you out to catch your own.
Marie F and Sunbeam — Harry’s two custom-built fishing boats — regularly set out from the end of the harbour with up to ten passengers each in search of mackerel or more exotic fish. Harry promises a safe journey, hours of fun and the excitement of the catch. All the equipment is provided plus tuition if needed.
Local’s Tip:Ask Harry to clean, gut or fillet your fish for you then when you’re back on dry land, you can take it over to a local chipper where they’ll happily cook it up for you (Ask Harry for his recommendation).
Stop for a Cheeky Seafood Snack at Locals’ Favourite, The Seafood Bar
Local’s love the Seafood Bar on Ozone Terrace Cobb Square in Lyme Regis, just a slip away from the Cobb on the corner of Monmouth Beach car park. Don’t be put off by the location; the seafood here is super-fresh (caught by the owner and his sons), the choice excellent and the prices won’t leave you crabby.
Get your cockles, whelks, crab, lobster or prawns from here, and if you’re not sure about how to cook your catch back home, don’t worry. The owner’s wife will give you all the advice you need. Take your mini catch on a short walk past the RNLI lifeboat station to the harbour wall to watch the boats coming in and going on out. Or, if you fancy a date with more seafood, try the Wet Fish Shop.
10. Blast along the Jurassic Coast on a Lyme RIB Ride
Hold on to your cockles, this blast ride along the Jurassic Coast is a real thrill. Sea Spirit is the name of the RIB (rigid inflatable boat) that’ll be your stead for 20 exhilarating minutes. It’s a custom-built tour boat, with leather bench seats (seating up to 12) and two 250hp Honda engines so you’re going to go fast, have no doubt.
If you want something more leisurely, take the 2-hour Platinum Cruise. This premium round trip will take you to Beer Head and West Bay before returning to Lyme Regis. See the beautiful Jurassic Coast including the white cliffs of Beer Head, Golden Cap and the sandstone cliffs at West Bay, made famous by the TV series Broadchurch.
11. Take to the High Seas on a SUP Safari with Jurassic SUP
There’s no better way to see the dramatic Dorset coast than from the sea itself. So, take to a Stand-Up Paddle Board with SUP instructor and guide, Esther, and set off for a wonderful 1.5 hr paddle.
Starting at Monmouth beach, you’ll head out east towards Charmouth taking in the Cobb and the beautiful seaside town of Lyme Regis. Or, alternatively, you can choose to head west towards the deserted beaches and staggering beauty of Undercliffs.
This is a really special experience, best in calm conditions, as an evening or early morning paddle. Suited to all abilities. All equipment provided. From £40 pp.
12. Capture your Staycation with famous local photographer Simon Emmett
You might not have heard of Simon Emmett, but you will probably have seen his work. His famous ‘Face in the Wave’ photo of a human face appearing in sea spray from waves pounding The Cobb went viral. Simon’s other work has been seen in magazines and TV and he’s often called on to shoot celebrities and well-known figures.
As a Lyme local, Simon’s passionate about the town and the surrounding coastline, and often seen around the area taking beautiful images. If you’d like to capture your visit to Lyme Regis professionally, Simon offers photoshoots around Lyme Regis and Charmouth from as little as £150.
13. Try Local Lyme Bay Gin and Fizz at the Lyme Bay Winery
Lyme Bay Winery is a small winery found in the gorgeous Axe Valley, Devon – a short drive from Lyme Regis – and home to LBW drinks. With award-winning English still and sparkling wines, spirits, ciders, and meads under its belt, a visit is sure to be satisfying.
Head to the winery shop and sample the Lyme Bay Dry Gin and Lyme Bay Brut Reserve Sparkling. Both are marvellous and the perfect addition to your suitcase for the journey home. Sadly, the vineyards are not open to the public but you can tour the winery – be sure to book in advance.
14. Kick Back with a Craft Beer at Lyme Regis Brewery
Lyme Regis Brewery was founded in 2010 as The Town Mill Brewery. The group of gents who established the brewery wanted to create award-winning cask ales in Lyme Regis, and to demonstrate the craft of brewing to visitors of the Town Mill. Since then, the brewery has gone from strength-to-strength and moved to larger production facility just outside of Lyme Regis.
Head to the Tap Room in the courtyard of the Town Mill. The Tap Room is housed in the old malthouse building, which was also the battery room of Lyme’s first power station. Today, it’s a buzzing social spot where you can enjoy one of the brewery’s craft beers, guest beers, artisan ciders, or house spirits.
15. Meet the Artists of The Town Mill – the Creative Heart of Lyme Regis
The Town Mill is a unique mix of working watermill, art galleries and creative artisanal businesses. Dating from 1340, The Town Mill was rescued from dereliction in 1991 and after 10 years of restoration, plus the sweat and tears of local volunteers, Lyme’s 700-year-old watermill is turning once again.
Centred around a beautiful mediaeval cobbled courtyard and featuring a landscaped ‘Miller’s Garden’, it now houses the creative heart of Lyme Regis and an altogether too-good-to-be-true coffee shop.
Finding The Town Mill is half the fun. It’s set back from the main town, behind a tumble of cutesy cottages. Once there, you can potter in the pottery shop, nibble Dorset’s dairy wares in the cheesemongers, strike up chit chat in the silversmiths, and settle for a scone in the Courtyard Cafe.
16. Sew ‘Frocks that Rock’ with Sew La-Di-Da Vintage
The Town Mill is also home to vintage dress boutique with a difference: Sew La-Di-Da Vintage. Inside, it’s a veritable sewing sanctuary for anyone into retro glamour. You won’t simply find dresses for sale here, instead you’ll discover gorgeous frocks you can make yourself thanks to gorgeous off-the-shelf patterns and to-die-for fabric.
Brainchild of vintage frock designer, Caroline Smith, Sew La-Di-Da’s ever-expanding range of patterns are all designed for different body shapes and personalities. You’ll find many good beginner sewing patterns suitable even for complete sewing novices.
Of course, if you fancy some tuition from an expert, Caroline teaches course and workshops. The one that caught our eye: Frocks that Rock, a 2-day workshop that’ll see you creative a vintage outfit of your choice.
In 2012, Banksy came to Lyme Regis and left his mark on the town in the form of an origami crane with a goldfish in its mouth. Like most of Banksy’s work, the artwork appeared overnight, painted on the side of a Palmers Brewery-owned garage at Gosling’s Bridge in Coombe Street, next to the River Lym.
Having been subjected to the elements of the river for seven years, the painting is now fading fast. But you can still make it out – if you’re in any doubt, just ask a local and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Pic Credit: The Lyme Regis Society/Happy Famous Artists
Lyme Regis sprung up around the mouth of the River Lym, which flows from the inland village of Uplyme down over 5km to the sea. Walk the restored footpath from Lyme Regis to Uplyme – or vice versa – it’s an easy 1.5 mile path to follow in both directions.
Along the way, you’ll see the historical remnants of the mills that were at the centre of the 18th and 19th century wool and cloth industry in the Lim Valley, including The Town Mill.
19. Meet Lyme’s Most Famous Chick, Mary Anning
Lyme Regis is world-known for its fossils. And local girl Mary Anning is the town’s much-lauded paleontologist. Her ichthyosaur and plesiosaur finds in the early 19th-century brought her much acclaim and were central to the development of new ideas about the history of the Earth. To swot up on Mary Anning and her fossil finds, take a trip to the Lyme Regis Museum (built on Mary’s former home and fossil shop).
Lyme Museum is three floors of total brilliance. Excellent displays sweep you through Lyme’s fascinating (and rebellious) early history, past heart-wrenching stories of sea disasters, into a world of crumbling cliffs and dusty dinosaurs, before lifting you up and into the 20th century with exhibitions about its local writers, artists and poets.
20. Go on a fossil-hunting walk following in Mary Anning’s footsteps
One of the best ways to discover more about Mary Anning is by taking a fossil walk following in her footsteps. For that, book to explore the local beach with expert Fossil Hunter Paddy Howe from Lyme Regis Museum.
This fascinating 3-hour walk takes you to the spots Anning used to hunt in and gives you the chance to discover your own fossils to take home. You’ll also hear about the amazing fossils discovered in Lyme Regis and the fascinating geology of the Jurassic Coast. Walks start from outside the front of Lyme Regis Museum.
Local’s Tip: The best place to look for fossils is on Monmouth Beach or, a little further afield, on Charmouth beach. Look for fossils among the pebbles and rock pools on the foreshore and only fossil hunt at a low or falling tide.
21. Sink into the Quirkiest Bookshop in Lyme Regis
Sanctuary Bookshop on Broad Street is packed with books and personality. As quirky on the inside as it is on the outside, this cosy bookshop has spent 23 years in the same spot satisfying the book-buying needs of Lyme’s bookworms.
There are ten rooms of books on four floors to explore. Some of the gems housed here include the complete range of Beryl Cook Cards & Prints, artwork by Hundertwasser, and some John Fowles’s rarities. T
here are rows upon rows of quality paperback literature (mostly for £1 or less), a reading room with comfortable armchairs and a cozy fire.
22. Discover the Jurassic wonders of Dinosaurland Fossil Museum
Step into a Jurassic world in the heart of Lyme Regis at the Dinosaurland Fossil Museum. A private museum, owned and run by palaeontologist Steve Davies and his wife Jenny, the museum offers a fascinating insight into the local Jurassic marine life.
Altogether the museum has more that 16,000 specimens of fossils on display, making it one of the best fossil collections on public display in the South West of England. Expect to see fossils ranging from the largest Ichthyosaur through to ammonites, belemnites, fish and starfish, and the tiniest microfossil.
Local’s secret: Dinosaurland is housed in a Grade 1 listed building which used to be the Congregational Church. Mary Anning was baptised in this church in 1799 and worshipped here until she defected to the Church of England shortly before she died.
23. Play the penny slots in the Marine Parade arcade (and keep the winnings)
You can’t miss the whistles and dings of Lyme’s one and only arcade. It’s been flashing away on the ‘front’ since I used to hang out there with my friends, and hasn’t changed much – it’s large enough to hold a good variety of holiday cash-grabbers, and isn’t as scruffy as some arcades.
If you’ve kids, Lyme Regis amusement arcade will keep them happy until the small change runs out. If you’ve a 67-year-old granny with you, be warned: like shiny is to a magpie, an arcade is to the older Irish lady. I speak from my personal experience; give my mum a bag of 2ps and she’ll battle the slots and shelves of the Flip 2 Win machine like a woman possessed.
24. Take Tea in Jane’s Café, named after a certain Miss Austen
As Lyme’s seafront promenade gives way to sand, Jane’s cafe is the first one you’ll reach. Sure, there may be more sophisticated coffee pit stops around, but Jane’s delivers a hug in a cup, friendly staff, and a cracker of a view over this pebble-free slice of Lyme.
So, pick a table on the terrace and grab a cuppa tea or coffee. If the sun’s warm, you can easily lose 45mins soaking up the good vibes as families, couples and friends buzz around you.
Local’s Tip: If you want a good non-traditional breakfast spot, head to The Beach House Café (offering all-day breakfasts from 8am – 3pm) and order their Middle Eastern shakshuka. Delicious.
Pic Credits: Weekend Candy/The Leaky Traveler
25. Head to The Marine Theatre to see a live gig, band or play
Right on the seafront, with sweeping views across the coastline, is the Marine Theatre. It’s been at the centre of the cultural and social community of Lyme Regis for over 125 years. In its former life, The Marine Theatre was a sea water baths, opened in 1806, pumping water directly from the ocean below. It’s also been a Drill Hall for military drills as well as a cinema.
Today, the Marine Theatre hosts a vibrant programme of entertainment – along with theatre productions. Live bands, films, comedians, plays, screenings, and community-led events take place here all year round, so it’s worth checking ‘what’s on’ before your trip to Lyme Regis in case there’s something that takes your fancy.
26. Nosedive into the Best Fish and Chips in Lyme Regis
If you’re a local you know that the best place to go for decent old-fashioned salty, hot chips warpped in paper is Lyme Fish Bar. It might not be as slick and trendy as some of the gastro joints in town, but the chips are the bomb.
The Lyme Fish Bar plates up portions that are easily the size of a hamlet – one portion is enough to feed a few thousand hungry tummies. Two portions will leave you with enough chips to start your own chippy. Just the way we like it.
27. Explore the Sculpture Trail at Langmoor and Lister Gardens
Lyme Regis’ award-winning seafront gardens have one of the finest views across Lyme Bay. Found above the main beach, they’re an oasis of calm from the bustling vibe down below. Walk along the gently curving paths, passed grassy banks, planted borders and mature trees exploring the sculptures created by selected local artists as you go.
There’s a shaded woodland boardwalk on the upper level and at the eastern section of the gardens (known as Lister Gardens), you’ll find mini golf and table tennis. Although taking your eyes off the jaw-dropping views to concentrate on your game may be hard.
Pic Credits: The Arts Development Company/Lyme Regis Town Council
28. Dilly Dally with Buccaneers and Smugglers on a Fascinating History Walk
Lyme Regis has seen its fair share of drama and conflict over the years. To hear the tales and relive the town’s past glories and conquests, take a 1.5hr history walk with local history enthusiast, Chris Lovejoy.
You’ll learn how Lyme rose to vast wealth and influence, as a major Elizabethan port, declined dramatically for a hundred years, then reinvented itself as a fashionable Georgian tourist destination.
You’ll also discover what Lyme Regis has to do with Bermuda, hear about the Siege of Lyme, see where Jane Austen once danced and come swashbuckingly close to buccanners and smugglers. Starts at the Marine Theatre at 11am. Costs £8 Adults £4 Children. Booking not required.
29. Visit the Poorly Teddies at Alice’s Bear Shop, known locally as the Teddy Hospital
Alice’s Bear Shop in Lyme Regis is one of the UK’s last remaining ‘toy hospitals’ and certainly worth a detour. Inside, the dedicated team of ‘doctors and nurses’ perform all kinds of ‘surgery’ from simple restringing and re-stuffing to head re-attachments and complete skin grafts to bring the valuable bears back to life.
Go to see the bear repairs in action and the pre-loved bears looking for new homes. You can even pick up your own heirloom bear or rag-doll craft kit to make your own special companion at home.
30. See the Largest Contemporary Art Collection in Dorset at Art Wave West Gallery
Head out of Lyme Regis on the A35 towards Morcombelake and you’ll come to the Art Wave West Gallery. This detached white building, which used to be the local village pub The Ship Inn, houses the largest collection of contemporary art in Dorset.
Set up in 2009, it’s the place to come to see art and exhibitions by acclaimed and emerging UK artists in a relaxed, modern environment. There’s a lively programme of frequently changing exhibitions along with a large stock of additional artwork, so you’re guaranteed to see something new. And each month throughout the year, a different professional artist will be resident offering activities and drop-in sessions for visitors to meet and engage with.
Local’s secret: Art Wave West used to be a pub called The Ship Inn. How do I know? Because I lived in it when I was a child. It was also the place I saw my first ghost. No kidding.
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CLAIRE, CHIEF WEEKENDER