Chesil Beach is an 18-mile barrier beach stretching from West Bay to Portland and is one of Dorset's most iconic landmarks. The extensive pebble ridge is considered part of the World Heritage Site. The view of Chesil Beach from the coast road above Abbotsbury has been voted Britain's third best view by UK magazine Country Life.
Unlike the golden sands of Weymouth, Chesil Beach is not a typical British beach with striped sun loungers and pastel beach huts, but wild, rugged and at the mercy of Mother Nature. The author, John Fowles, captures the Chesil landscape beautifully in his famous quote: “It is an elemental place of sea, shingle and sky, where the sound of the waves predominates.” Pebbles on Chesil Beach range in size from potato-sized near Portland to pea-sized at Bridport and consists mainly of flint. It is believed that smugglers who landed on the beach at night could judge their location along the coast simply by picking up a handful of pebbles.
Behind Chesil Beach lies a large salt lake known as Fleet Lagoon, one of the few remaining intact salt lagoons in the world. Fleet provides important natural wildlife habitat for many species and is the best place to see Little Herons, Dusky Brent Geese and Common Greenfinches.
The lagoon is home to Abbotsbury's colony of mute swans, the only place in the world where you can walk through the breeding colony. The lake is considered one of Dorset's most popular tourist attractions. This area is not only a haven for wildlife, but also one of the sites where the bouncing bomb was tested during World War II. Evidence of Chesil Beach's defensive role in the war can still be seen in the form of old anti-tank blocks and the remains of concrete pillboxes.
Chesil Beach is a fishing paradise, and West Bexington is one of the most popular spots. There is a unique stretch of sand just offshore offering fantastic mackerel fishing opportunities. During the summer months, the shore is dotted with fishermen and their families cooking their catch over fires. Nature reigns here, and the dramatic landscape has inspired many writers, most famously Ian McEwan, who wrote On Chesil Beach, and J. Mead Faulkner's Moonfleet.