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Arriving by Air: Your Guide to the Dorset Airports

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Wing of an airplane flying above the clouds on sky , look through the window, using air transport to travel. Airports in Dorset guide.

Are there any airports in Dorset – and which is the nearest? We’ll cover EVERYTHING you need to know about flying to Dorset in this handy guide!

There are several great airport options nearby, with flights from both domestic and international destinations. So whether you’re coming from Scotland or Sweden (or anywhere else, really) – getting to Dorset by air couldn’t be simpler.

In the post below, we’ve broken down ALL the nearest airport options for visiting Dorset. We’ve also included onward travel options and public transport tips – so you can figure out how best to reach your final destination from your chosen airport.

If you just need a quick answer – we’ve started with a short summary of the different options. Then we’ll cover each airport and the different onward travel options in more detail. You can use the Contents table below to skip ahead to the relevant section if you need to.

Airports in Dorset: the Quick Version

There is one airport in Dorset: Bournemouth International Airport, which lies near the village of Hurn a few miles northeast of Bournemouth. It’s a small airport with several international connections throughout Europe – although many of these are seasonal.

The closest London Airport to Dorset is Heathrow, closely followed by Gatwick. Heathrow has better public transport connections and a more direct driving route.

There are smaller international airports at Exeter, Southampton, and Bristol which are much closer to Dorset than the two major London airports. Exeter is best for visiting West Dorset, Southampton for central and East Dorset, and Bristol for central and North Dorset.

See below for more details on all the different options – as well as public transport advice for reaching your final destination.

Airports in Dorset: Bournemouth Airport

runway with the tail of a plane and a control tower at bournemouth airport in dorset on a grey day

There is only one airport in Dorset. Bournemouth International Airport is located in the village of Hurn, – just north of Bournemouth and Christchurch and a short distance from Poole.

It’s well placed for those visiting central and east Dorset, including Dorchester, Weymouth, and the Isle of Purbeck. For West Dorset, such as Lyme Regis or Bridport, Exeter Airport in Devon is actually much closer than Bournemouth (see the “Nearest Airports” section later on in this guide).

Several budget airlines operate out of Bournemouth Airport, including TUI, EasyJet, and RyanAir.

Flight routes from Bournemouth currently cover a total of 35 destinations across Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lapland, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey. The routes mainly target popular tourist destinations, such as the Canary and Balearic Islands in Spain, several Greek islands, and Lapland.

There are also direct flights from Bournemouth to Edinburgh in the UK. Click here for the full list of destinations.

Onward Travel from Bournemouth Airport

Car

From Bournemouth Airport, you can drive to Christchurch in 10 minutes, central Bournemouth in under 15 minutes, and Poole in around 30 minutes. Blandford Forum in North Dorset is a 40-minute drive, Dorchester is 50-60 minutes, and Weymouth is just over an hour.

Should you need to rent a car, there is a Hertz car rental office at Bournemouth Airport. It is advisable to pre-book car rental in advance and collect on arrival. Click here to compare prices.

Train

Bournemouth train station is about a 10-minute drive from the airport. A taxi costs £20-25 and you may need to pre-book. Alternatively, there is a designated More Bus Service 737 service operating between Bournemouth Airport and the train station. The bus takes about 45 minutes but the service is fairly infrequent, especially during low season (autumn-winter).

From Bournemouth Station, there are regular South Western Railway trains to Weymouth (calling at Poole, Wareham, Wool, and Dorchester on the way). There are no trains to West or North Dorset – though from Weymouth you can take the X53 Jurassic Coaster bus west along the coast as far as Lyme Regis and Axminster.

Bus

Bournemouth Airport is served by MoreBus, with routes covering Bournemouth Railway Station and the town centre, as well as Winton, Westover Retail Park, Northbourne and Parley Cross.

There are public buses from the town centre to Christchurch and Poole, and Bournemouth Coach Station has connections with Weymouth and Dorchester via National Express.

Alternatively, you can use the MoreBus “Breezer” services to reach Swanage and the Isle of Purbeck – as well as coastal destinations such as Durdle Door and Lulworth. Bear in mind that some of these bus routes are seasonal and may be infrequent or non-existent in winter. Read our Isle of Purbeck guide for some more info about how to get there.

Bike

It is possible to cycle into and out of Bournemouth Airport. So, if you are travelling with your bike, you can get straight on your way as soon as you land. See this information leaflet for a route map and advice to plan your route.

plane wing in the sky with blue sky above and clouds below

Nearest Airport to Dorset

If Bournemouth Airport doesn’t serve your area, there are several other options within one to two hours from the county.

The travel times shown are for the journey from the airport to Dorchester, as that’s the county town near the centre of the county. The actual journey time will vary depending on your final destination.

Southampton, Hampshire (1 hour)

On the far side of the New Forest, Southampton Airport is only an hour from central Dorset. There is a train station at the airport and good public transport links, so Southampton is one of the best regional airports for visiting Dorset.

Southampton Airport has direct flights to Spain, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal, and Switzerland. These mainly cover popular holiday destinations rather than large cities, and many flights are seasonal. There are also connections to the USA via Dublin – and direct flights to the following UK destinations:

  • Alderney
  • Belfast
  • Edinburgh
  • Guernsey
  • Glasgow
  • Jersey
  • Newcastle
view from a planre window of a grassy headland on guernsey surrounded by sea
Fly to and from the Channel Islands from Southampton

Getting from Southampton Aiport to Dorset

Car: Driving from Southampton Airport to Bournemouth takes around 40 minutes, while to Dorchester it’s about 1h 15 minutes. It’s a straightforward drive following the M27 and A31. Alternatively, there’s a slower, more scenic route through the New Forest.

Train: Direct trains run from Southampton Airport Parkway to Weymouth (1hr 50mins). The service is provided by South Western Railway. Stops on the way include Bournemouth, Poole, Wareham, and Dorchester.

Bus: You can take a bus into central Southampton (40 minutes), then a National Express coach from Southampton Coach Station to Bournemouth Station (50 minutes). From Bournemouth, buses can connect you with other towns in Dorset.

Exeter, Devon (1 hour)

view from a plane window of the engine as the plane heads towards land with the sun setting over the horizon. Doret airports guide.

On the edge of Devon, Exeter Airport is ideally located for reaching the west of Dorset, particularly places like Lyme Regis, Charmouth, and Bridport. With multiple domestic flight routes, it’s also a great option for Brits travelling to Dorset from the rest of the UK and Ireland.

Public transport links aren’t great, unfortunately, so it’s best to rent a car if possible. However, there are options (see below) – so if you don’t want to drive, it can still be done.

Exeter Airport has direct flights to over 30 destinations, including a range of European cities and islands (mostly popular tourist destinations). There are also connections to the USA via Dublin – and direct flights to the following UK destinations:

  • Belfast
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Guernsey
  • Isles of Scilly
  • Jersey
  • Newcastle

Getting from Exeter Aiport to Dorset

Car: Driving from Exeter Airport to Lyme Regis takes around 35 minutes, to Bridport it’s 45 minutes, and to Dorchester around 1 hour and 15 minutes. You’ll take the A30 from the airport to Honiton, then the A35 cuts right the way across Dorset as far as Bournemouth, so it’s a very easy drive.

Train: A South Western Railway train service operates between Exeter St Davids in the city centre and Axminster, on the Devon/Dorset border. You’ll need to take a bus (or taxi) from Exeter Airport to Pinhoe Station (15 minutes) to pick up the service to Axminster. From there, the X53 and X51 bus services can connect you with Lyme Regis, Bridport, and nearby towns.

Alternatively, you can take the train from Exeter to Yeovil (about 1 hour), then change for a train to Dorchester (30 minutes) and Weymouth (45 minutes).

Bus: At Exeter Inn, a 20-minute walk or 5-minute taxi ride from the airport, you can pick up the 44A bus service towards Axminster (1 hour 11 minutes). From Axminster, the X53 and X51 bus services can take you on to the likes of Lyme Regis (25 minutes), Bridport (55 minutes), and Weymouth (2 hours).

Bristol, Somerset (2 hours)

yellow hard suitcase on the pavement outside a revolving door labelled departures in the glass exterior wall of bristol airport

Bristol Airport is further away from most parts of Dorset than the two mentioned above. But as the South West’s largest airport and the second-fastest-growing in the UK, it offers a wide range of flight options covering a huge selection of destinations.

There’s a quick and easy bus service from the airport to the city centre train station, so onward travel by public transport is pretty straightforward.

Many airlines operate out of Bristol. There are low-cost European airlines like easyJet, Ryanair, and the popular package holiday company Jet2 – as well as global airlines like Aer Lingus (with great connections to the USA through Dublin), KLM (for connections to the rest of the world via Amsterdam) and Lufthansa (for more than 200 connections via Frankfurt).

Bristol Airport has direct flights to nearly 150 destinations, including many major European cities and tourist hubs – and direct flights to the following UK destinations:

  • Aberdeen
  • Belfast
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Guernsey
  • Inverness
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • Newcastle

Getting from Bristol Aiport to Dorset

Car: Driving from Bristol Airport to Dorchester takes about 1.5 hours, to Bridport it’s 1 hour 40 minutes, and to Bournemouth it’s just over 2 hours. The route crosses the Mendip Hills and is very scenic in places – but also involves some winding country roads and narrow B-roads.

Train: The Bristol Airport Flyer bus service connects the airport with the train station in central Bristol (25 minutes). From here, there is a direct Great Western Railway train service to Weymouth (2.5 hours) via Yeovil, Dorchester, and several stations in between. You can change in Dorchester for services to Wool and Wareham (and then on to the Isle of Purbeck via bus).

To get to the Bournemouth area from Bristol Airport, the more direct route is to take a train to Southampton Central train station (1hr 40), then change for a train to Bournemouth (30 minutes) or Poole (50 minutes).

Bus: There is a bus service from Bristol Airport to Taunton in Somerset (1hr), operated by Megabus. From here it is possible to take a number 30 bus to Axminster (1hr 15), where you can take the Jurassic Coaster bus to various stops along the coast as far as Weymouth.

There are bus routes to central Dorset (eg Dorchester) as well as the area around Bournemouth and Poole. However, these involve 3 or 4 changes and take several hours, so it is much easier and faster to take the train.

Best London Airports for Visiting Dorset

London Heathrow (2.5 hours)

line of luggage trolleys in front of a doorway beneath a large sign Terminal 3 sign at Heathrow airport

London Heathrow is the UK’s largest airport – with direct flights to over 200 destinations worldwide. It’s also the closest major airport to Dorset, around a 2-3 hour drive from the centre of the county.

There are several car rental companies available at the airport, and public transport links are also good. And with so many direct flights to choose from, Heathrow is often the most cost-effective airport to fly into for the south of England.

Getting to Dorset from Heathrow Airport

Car: Driving from Heathrow Airport takes at least 1.5-2 hours to Bournemouth, 2-3 hours to Dorchester, 2-3 hours to the Isle of Purbeck, and 2.5-3 hours to Bridport. Most of the time, you’ll take the M25 (London’s ring-road motorway) a short distance as far as Junction 12, then the M3 towards Southampton where you’ll join the M27. This motorway becomes the A31 in the New Forest and can take you all the way to Dorchester. The entire route is almost a single straight line and very easy to follow.

There are other driving routes which may be quicker if there are traffic jams on any of the motorways – so always check the latest traffic info before setting off.

Train: For onward travel by rail, the most direct route is to take the RailAir RA2 bus from Heathrow to Woking train station (1 hour). From here, you can pick up the direct South Western Railway service to Weymouth (2hrs 15) – via Bournemouth (1hr 20), Poole (1.5 hours), Dorchester (2hrs), and others.

Alternatively, you can head into Central London by underground, the Heathrow Express train service, or the new Elizabeth Line. There are rail services to Dorset from London Waterloo and Clapham Junction.

Bus: There is a bus station between Terminals 2 and 3, and another at Terminal 5. From here, National Express run a direct coach service to Bournemouth (1hr 50), where you can easily take a train or bus on to Poole, Wareham, the Isle of Purbeck, or further afield in Dorset.

British Airways plane at an airport with a metal gangway connected and a sunset sky behind
The UK’s national airline, BA, operates out of both Gatwick and Heathrow

London Gatwick (3 hours)

Although Gatwick and Heathrow are about the same distance from Dorset as the crow flies, the lack of motorways and public transport connections means it can take much longer to get from Gatwick to Dorset.

However, as Heathrow’s main competitor, Gatwick can often be the cheaper airport to fly into. So if you’re on a budget it’s a good idea to check both.

Again, there’s a huge array of domestic and international flight destinations served by Gatwick.

Getting to Dorset from Gatwick Airport

Car: Driving from Gatwick Airport takes 2-3 hours to Bournemouth, 2.5-3.5 hours to Dorchester, 2.5-4 hours to the Isle of Purbeck, and 2hrs 40 – 3hrs 50 to Bridport.

Most of the time, you’ll head up the M23 to join the M25 (London’s ring road motorway) as far as Junction 12, then the M3 towards Southampton where you’ll join the M27. This motorway becomes the A31 in the New Forest and can take you all the way to Dorchester. It’s a very easy route to follow – and surprisingly it’s quicker than driving down and along the coast (which looks more direct on the map).

There are other driving routes which may be quicker if there are traffic jams on any of the motorways – so always check the latest traffic info before setting off.

Train: For onward travel by rail, the most direct route is to take the Southern train to Clapham Junction (26 minutes) in the south of London. From here there is a direct stopping-service South Western Railway train to Weymouth (2hr 50) – via Bournemouth (1hr 50), Poole (2 hours), Dorchester (2.5hrs), and others.

Bus: National Express runs a coach service to Bournemouth from Gatwick Airport which takes 4hrs 15 (or 3.5 hours if you change at Heathrow). At Bournemouth, you can easily take a train or bus on to Poole, Wareham, the Isle of Purbeck, or further afield in Dorset.

Quicklist of All Airports in Dorset

  • Bournemouth Airport: actually in Dorset, very close for driving, good public transport links to the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch area.
  • Southampton Airport: only an hour from central Dorset with very good public transport links thanks to a train station at the airport.
  • Exeter Airport: ideally located for West Dorset and the likes of Lyme Regis and Bournemouth, but public transport links are not great.
  • Bristol Airport: Southwest England’s largest airport with flight routes for many destinations. Good bus connections with the city centre train station for onward travel by public transport.
  • London Heathrow: the largest of the UK airports with flights to hundreds of destinations – and only 2.5 hours from Dorset.
  • London Gatwick: another major airport serving hundreds of destinations. A longer driving distance to Dorset and slower public transport options.

There are many other airports around London and throughout the UK – but these 6 are the nearest and most convenient for visiting Dorset.

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