UK - The South Coast - Dover to Dorset Self-Driving Itinerary

Take to the South Coast on this incredible 5-day road trip of England's seaside towns, from the White Cliffs of Dover to the charming Brighton and the wonderful Isle of Wight.

Set out from Heathrow Airport to discover where English soil meets the Channel, encountering the villages and towns that have shaped counties from Kent and Sussex to Hampshire and Dorset. You'll also get the chance to visit the Isle of Wight and put your feet up in this endearing holiday spot before continuing on to Bournemouth and wider Dorset.

  • Dover
  • Brighton
  • Portsmouth
  • Isle of Wight
  • Bournemouth
  • Dorchester
  • Weymouth

Distance: 320 miles
Download: England South Coast Self-drive itinerary

Day One: Heathrow - Dover (1 hour, 45 mins)

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This means that when you touch down at Heathrow, all you have to do is rock on up to your hire car firm, pick up the keys and jump behind the wheel. You'll be skirting around the boundary of London on the M25 before following the M20 south to Dover.

Spend the day exploring Dover, visiting local sites such as Dover Castle. Building commenced in the 1180s, and since then the castle has seen its fair share of history over the past nine centuries, with its network of secret tunnels being used during the Napoleonic and Second World wars.

You can get a glimpse of the famed White Cliffs of Dover at St Margaret's Bay Beach, or admire the view from the Roman Lighthouse, Britain's oldest standing building.

Day Two: Dover - Rye - Brighton (2 hours, 40 mins)

Head along the A20, passing through Capel-le-Ferne to Folkestone where you can stop in for brunch or a coffee at The Full English or endearing Steep Street Coffee House with its bookshelf-lined walls.

Hug the coastline as you pass through Dymchurch to follow the A259 all the way to Rye, a postcard-perfect mediaeval town in East Sussex that was once home to acclaimed writer Henry James. After grabbing a quick lunch, your next destination is along the A259 at Hastings, where the eponymous battle of 1066 took place. While you're here, take a look at the remains of the castle built by William the Conqueror, as well as the beautifully preserved Old Town.

Your last leg of the day will take you just over an hour along the A259 and A27 right through the heart of the scenic Lewes Downs National Park. Take the turn for the A270 and follow it down to the seaside town of Brighton, your stop for the night.

Day Three: Brighton - Portsmouth - Isle of Wight (3 hours)

Spend the morning exploring the wonderful Brighton, from the iconic pier to the Royal Pavilion and Sea Life Brighton. Make like the locals and grab a seat at Bill's for a scrumptious brunch to fuel you up for the day ahead.

Once you're ready to move on, join the A27 to cut a path through the countryside to Portsmouth, a waterfront city that has a long marine heritage. Spend a leisurely afternoon exploring sites such as the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Southsea Castle, the majestic HMS Warrior 1860, Nelson’s iconic flagship, HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar and the Mary Rose, the lead ship in Henry VIII’s navy that sank in 1546 and was raised in 1982. All can be seen at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Literary buffs might also be keen to squeeze in a visit to the Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum before making your way to Canalside to catch the Isle of Wight ferry.

After disembarking at Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight, pass through Wootton Bridge to follow the A3054 into Newport, the central town of the island to drop your bags for the night.

Day Four: Isle of Wight - Bournemouth (2 hours)

Welcome to the Isle of Wight! Home to roughly 140,000 people, the island has plenty to offer visitors in terms of old world seaside holiday charm, as well as natural beauty with the Needles Battery along the coast. It's also home to the hugely popular Isle of Wight Music Festival held each June.

With your watch set to island time, take it easy soaking up the atmosphere in Newport before going further afield to visit places such as the Needles rock formations, or the historic Osborne House. There's also Monkey Haven, a sanctuary that is bound to enchant any little ones you have in tow.

When you're ready to depart from the Isle of Wight, head to Yarmouth to catch the ferry to Lymington. You'll be setting a course west, passing through Christchurch to follow the A338 back to Bournemouth on the coast. Don't miss the golden sands of Hengistbury Head, and the city's beautiful Lower Gardens. You can even try to catch a football game at Vitality Stadium, the smallest stadium in the Premier League.

Day Five: Bournemouth - Dorchester - Weymouth (1 hour, 10 mins)

Spend the morning enjoying Bournemouth, walking along the pier or taking a stroll through the Square with its pavement-side cafes and arcades. There's also the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, housed in a splendid Victorian manor.

Get behind the wheel once more and set out along the A35 to Dorchester, a county town with strong ties to Thomas Hardy. Wander through the Dinosaur Museum and visit the Keep before getting a glimpse of the town's Roman origins at the Roman Town House.

En route to your final destination of Weymouth, you'll take a drive through the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the A354. Reunited with the British southern shore, you'll have plenty of time to explore the charm of this seaside town.

Not only the perfect base for exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Jurassic Coast, Weymouth is also a great place to dive into our West Coast road trip, so buckle up and get ready to explore!

Ready to explore the wonderful south coast of England? If you're looking for a hire car from Heathrow Airport, DriveNow is your first stop for finding the best deals without having to hunt around online.


Disclaimer

DriveNow's suggested itineraries are made available to assist travellers create and build personalised journey plans. DriveNow does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of these itineraries and they are provided as is and as advisory only. You acknowledge that any reliance on or use of any itinerary shall be at your sole risk and discretion.

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