Studland Bay is probably one of the most visited beaches in the country. Located in the middle of the UK’s south coast, it is ideally situated for daytrippers from London and the east and is also fairly well accessible for visitors from the west and north.
As you would expect, during high season in July and August, the 4 mile stretch of golden sand gets very busy very quickly and due to its slightly awkward access points on either side, traffic can be an issue. Coupled together with the area being a natural headland and designated nature reserve with important habitats to preserve, parking the car isn’t exactly the easiest of things to achieve.
The A351 and B3351 Swanage Road that brings in those coming from the west and from the north via the M5 are not major roads by any stretch of the imagination. And if you are traveling from the east you will encounter traffic jams as you get to Sandbanks and near the chain ferry – the shortcut route over the harbour entrance. The chain ferry avoids a 25 mile detour around the harbour, but as you can imagine, is very popular.
If you have arrived at Studland via the chain ferry, there is a car park almost immediately on your left as you pass the toll boothes. Named Shell Bay car park after the northern end of Studland, it is managed by the National Trust. It isn’t a big car park and fills quickly. You will need to check the closing time as it varies throughout the year and unless you are a National Trust member, you will have to pay. National Trust advise on their website that overnight parking in any of their car parks is not prohibited.
If this car park is full you will be continuing along Ferry Road which takes you through the heathland running parallel to the beach on your left. You’ll notice that the grass verges on either side are also full of parked cars. While this may not be technically prohibited, it is causing the environment some damage. However, it is free and convenient and you can see why so many people do it. Look out for FRP6 – Fire Point 6 – and park near here. This is the path that takes you down and into the very centre of the naturist beach at Studland.
Assuming you cannot or do not want to park on the side of Ferry Road, you will eventually come to the other end of Studland Bay, the southern end near to the village of Studland itself. It is here where you will find larger car parks, more amenities and as you will have guessed, more people.
The first car park you will come across is down the left-turn of Hardys Road – Knoll Beach Car Park. Like all others around Studland, it is managed by the National Trust and chargeable to those who are not members. There is no overnight parking and you should check the closing time before you leave your car.
Heading a bit further south and into the actual village of Studland, Middle Beach car park is next, accessed by taking the left hairpin and onto Beach Road and following it down to almost the end. There is another car park accessible by taking the first right off Beach Road onto Rectory Lane, and then right again at the end onto Manor Road. This car park is called South Beach.
The alternative to fighting for a parking space is to use public transport, and because of the popularity of the area the links are actually not too bad. Trains run from the east to Bournemouth, from where you can get a Purbeck Breezer bus that will meander its way down to Sandbanks and over the ferry. Although the buses are subject to the same traffic, they are given right-of-way at certain pinch-points and generally it will take an hour from Bournemouth Station to Studland on a busy day.