Durdle Door offers shoal draft vessels an exposed lunch stop anchorage in offshore and settled conditions. In any southerly component conditions, or in the event of any swell from that direction, the bay is entirely untenable. Careful eyeball navigation is required to approach and anchor.
Keyfacts for Durdle Door
SummaryAn exposed location with careful navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position50° 37.290' N, 002° 16.637' W
This is immediately north of Durdle Door.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
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Durdle Door is located 6½ miles eastward of Weymouth and 1¼ miles westward of Lulworth Cove. It is a small coastal bay that is somewhat protected by a ledge, made up of a line of small rocky islets, that extends ¾ of a mile westward from the iconic sea arch. Inside the ledge there is a deep water pool that is ½ a mile long and about from 120 to 180 metres wide. Depths in excess of 6 metres can be found between the ledge and the steeply shelving beach with 5 metres in the approach.
The chalky cliff face of White Nothe, 1¾ miles west of Durdle Door, where the coastal cliffs change from clay to chalk serves to help identify the general location. Between White Nothe and Worbarrow Tout, 4 miles eastward, the coast will be seen to be generally bold and Durdle Door is situated in the middle of this sweep.
The initial fix is set close south of the approach path. The bay is entered between the Durdle Door arch and the eastern end of the ledge. This line of eroded limestone outcrops should be clearly identified before any approach is made. They are called, from east to west, The Bull drying to 2 metres, The Blind Cow often covered or awash, The Cow that dries to 0.3 metres and The Calf, at its furthest end, that dries to 1 metre.
The final approach is made between Durdle Door and its outcropping rock, called The Frenchman located about 25 metres westward of the arch with about a metre of water over it, and the 2 metre high Bull Rock which is the easternmost of the ledge located about 200 metres westward.
Steer a middle course between Durdle Door and the Bull Rock, tending slightly towards The Bull to avoid The Frenchman, where 5 metres CD can be expected.
Anchor according to conditions. The bay steeply shelves to the beach. Thoroughly check the anchor as the holding ground is said to be poor and there is little or no room to drag.
Why visit here?Durdle Door was first recorded as Dirdale Door in 1811. It’s name Durdle is derived from an Old English word duru meaning ‘door opening’ combined with thirl, or thyrlod as in ‘nostril’, meaning to pierce or drill, thereby meaning ‘pierced or drilled door opening’.
Also spelled as ‘Durdle Dor’, the iconic limestone arch was naturally formed by the erosive power of the sea on the soft Purbeck Limestone resting on top of the harder Portland Freestone. Over time the sea punched through its softer layers to create its twenty-metre high arch. Eventually, it will collapse to leave a sea stack.
Durdle Door stands today as one of the Jurassic Coast’s most striking features and its most photographed landmark. It is perhaps one of the most famous rock formations in England and, along with its neighbour Lulworth Cove and the white cliffs of Dover, is synonymous with all that is England. Each year more than 200,000 walkers use the footpath from Lulworth Cove to hike across to Durdle Door, making it one of the busiest beaches in the southwest. As such the coastal cruising yachtsmen will have to contend with the hordes and especially so when the schools are out in the summer.
From a boating perspective, this is a lunch stop for small shallow-draft craft on a settled summer’s day. Those carrying deeper drafts can alternatively anchor in neighbouring Lulworth Cove. From there the half mile hike over the over Hamburg Tout can be taken with a final descent via steps down into the bay. Either way, those who come here will find a beautiful place to catch some rays, swim in fresh clear water whilst admiring the natural beauty of one of England’s most memorable icons.
Likewise Man O'War Bay, also known as St. Oswald's Bay, immediately opposite on the eastern side of Durdle Door also offers another beautiful bay to visit with a shingle beach to explore.
What facilities are available?The beach has no facilities, although there are public toilets at Durdle Door Holiday Park about a ¼ of a mile away. A mobile kiosk can that sells ice creams and other refreshments can be found on the trail between Lulworth Cove.
With thanks to:With thanks to Michael Harpur SY Whistler. Photography with thanks to Kyle Taylor, Paul Tomlin, Bradley Hunt, Grace Kelly, Chris Parker and Saffron Blaze.
Aerial views of Durdle Door and its adjacent coastline
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