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On one of our Dorset cruises, you’ll disembark in the Isle of Portland, which is situated on the southern coast of England. The tiny island is the perfect jumping-off point for excursions to Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located just 90 minutes outside of the city.
During your day in port, you can also wander through the charming town, where you’ll find picturesque lighthouses, miles of beaches, and an intriguing maritime history. Or head out to the English countryside and tour crumbling castles, see the Roman Baths, or sample local sparkling wine.
Journey to the southern end of the Isle of Portland to get up close to the picturesque Portland Bill Lighthouse on Branscombe Hill. Marvel at the contrast of the vibrant red and white stripes of the lighthouse against the craggy backdrop of the coast. Climb the 153 steps for panoramic views from the top, and pop into the visitor centre to learn about its history.
During one of our Dorset cruises, visit the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park and Nature Reserve, an old quarry that’s been transformed into a sculpture park. Wander the grounds of the park and see how many sculptures you can find while admiring the view of the harbor below.
St. George’s Church is a well-preserved church built in the mid-18th century. Marvel at the exterior’s impressive stone facade and lofty bell tower, then peek inside to see its twin pulpits. On the church’s grounds, you’ll find dozens of leaning headstones that mark local residents’ final resting spots.
Portland Castle dates all the way back to the reign of King Henry XIII, who commissioned the castle to be built to protect the southern shores of England from invasion. Built in the mid-1500s, the castle is an interesting place to walk around and learn how soldiers lived at the fort centuries ago.
During your Dorset cruise, see the famous ring of stones at Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back around 5,000 years. You’ll be amazed at the sheer height and size of the massive stones at this enigmatic site, where scientists and archaeologists are still uncovering its mysteries.
At the northern end of the Isle of Portland, experience World War II history like never before at Castletown D-Day Centre. This museum is a recreation of the historic dockyard where American troops launched a D-Day attack in France against the Nazis in 1944. Military machines, weaponry, and vehicles are all on display, and most of the items in the museum can be touched and climbed on for an interactive experience.
Church Ope Cove is a picturesque beach located on the eastern side of the Isle of Portland, where you’ll find a secluded haven of sand, sea, and cliffs upon which the remains of Rufus Castle sit. The cove is a popular place for swimming and fishing.
For such a tiny island, there are many places where you can get a bite to eat or a pint on the Isle of Portland. You’ll find most of the eateries on the northwest part of the island in the village of Fortuneswell, just before you reach Chesil Beach. Head to one of the fish-and-chips shops to enjoy a traditional British lunch, and wash it down with a pint of bitter.
For incredible water views and a seafood feast right by the famous Portland Bill Lighthouse, head to the family-owned Lobster Pot. Experience local pub culture in a seafaring ambience at The Little Ship, or grab a drink at the outdoor terrace of The Cove House Inn and enjoy the view of Chesil Beach.
The Isle of Portland is only four miles long and under two miles wide, but for such a tiny landmass, it has a rich and varied history. Both war and stone have played a large part in the history of Portland. It served as the embarkation port for allied troops during World War II on D-Day; they left Portland and arrived on the shores of Normandy in Nazi-occupied France for a bloody battle that would help the Allied forces win the war.
The earth that makes up the Isle of Portland has also played a part in its economic history. Limestone has been quarried over the decades and used for some of the most important buildings in the United Kingdom and beyond, including St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The culture here is very much focused on the outdoors. Rock climbing, scuba diving, sailing, and kite-surfing are all popular pastimes for the adventurous. It has also served as the host for both Olympic and Paralympic sailing events.
Cruise ships visiting Portland, Dorset dock right alongside the Isle of Portland, about five miles from Weymouth, a Victorian town located just across the causeway connecting the Isle of Portland to the mainland. Shuttles are typically provided between the port and Weymouth. You won’t find much in terms of other transportation at the port, but in Weymouth, there are taxis, buses, and a train station.
When visiting the Isle of Portland during Dorset cruises, you’ll find that shuttles that go up to Weymouth from port. The 1 bus route from Weymouth goes to the village of Southwell in Portland, which is within walking distance to most of the area’s attractions. Due to the island’s small size, a taxi is also a good way to get around—just make sure to have your taxi driver wait for you if you go into any attractions since it may be hard to find one again once you come out. Shore excursions come with transportation included, along with a guarantee that you’ll make it back to the ship in time.
Close to the port, you’ll find boutiques and souvenir shops in Fortuneswell. The mid-island village of Easton also has some shops, including a Tesco Superstore.
During your Dorset cruise, you’ll use the British pound, which you can get from ATMs or via cash exchange. There are a few ATMs on the island, including one in the Tesco Superstore and one along the main street of Fortuneswell. Many businesses take credit cards, but double-check with the establishment before dining or shopping there. Tipping is similar to the rest of the United Kingdom: no tip is expected in pubs and bars, while 10% is the norm for dining or taking a taxi.