When it comes to charming places to visit in Dorset, one of our favourite under-the-radar gems is the riverside market town of Wimborne Minster.
Wimborne Minster is best known for its stunning church of the same name, but we discovered a variety of fun and interesting things to explore here beyond just this iconic attraction.
In this post, we’ll be sharing our top picks for places to visit in Wimborne Minster, including great spots for shopping or eating and the best areas for getting out in nature.
We hope you enjoy learning about this underrated town and be sure to let us know in the comments which Wimborne Minster must-sees we should add to our list!
1. Wimborne Model Town & Gardens
For one of the most whimsical places to visit in Wimborne, you can’t miss the Wimborne Model Town & Gardens.
Built based on a 1950s version of the town, this neat little Wimborne attraction is a time capsule of sorts, showcasing a 1/100th model of the town’s most famous streets and landmarks, from the iconic Wimborne Minster (complete with its own tiny wedding) to over 100 miniature storefronts.
The attention to detail here is delightful, from mini books and produce in shop windows to tiny recreations of candlelit dinners when you peek through house windows.
There’s also crazy golf on site, along with a model railway and various displays featuring nostalgic items like vintage toys, dollhouses and the Wareham Bears.
As of 2022 (the 70th anniversary of the Model Town) there is even a 1/10th model of the model town, within the model town. Yes. The attention to detail truly is immaculate.
2. Wimborne Minster
Of course, no list of things to see in Wimborne would be complete without mentioning the iconic Wimborne Minster Church, which is officially named The Minster Church of St Cuthburga.
The word minster means a large or important church and the only real difference between a minster and a cathedral is that a cathedral is a church containing the throne of an Archbishop. While Wimborne Minster (like other minsters) is administered by a priest, the church building itself is both very beautiful and historic.
Wimborne Minster was originally a Benedictine Abbey, founded around the year 705. The abbey was partly destroyed by the Danes in 1013, but much of the building that remains to this day is more than 1300 years old! With elements of Norman and Gothic architecture, Wimborne Minster is definitely impressive to marvel at.
It also houses the second-largest chained library in the country, a famous astronomical clock and the tomb of King Ethelred, the older brother of Alfred the Great.
3. The Square
The main square of Wimborne is surrounded on all four sides by a street also called The Square, and is a great spot to enjoy some shopping or refreshment.
Many buildings in Wimborne Minster are not allowed to be altered due to their historic significance, which means even going shopping or visiting a café will see you surrounded by beautiful stone or even half-timbered architecture.
The Square has been the main market square in Wimborne since the medieval period and is still the location of a farmer’s market on the 3rd Saturday of every month between 9am – 1pm.
The Wimborne Minster Folk Festival is also held on The Square. This folk festival runs every year in June, offering up demonstrations of morris dancing, Appalachian dancing, concerts, workshops and children’s activities.
4. Church St
From the Square, one of the prettiest ways to walk over to Wimborne Minster is via Church Street, a picturesque little path lined with pubs and cafes.
Like The Square, there are a number of great spots to stop off for something yummy here, especially at the Oddfellows Arms, a pretty light blue historic pub which claims to be the smallest, quirkiest and friendliest in town! This pub is dog-friendly and regularly hosts live music as well.
Other notable businesses squashed in amongst the crooked Georgian buildings on Church Street include Levantine Wimborne, an excellent coffee shop with yummy mezze, flatbreads and shakshuka, along with the trendy Ten Bottles wine bar if you fancy a tipple.
5. Museum of East Dorset
Also known as Priest’s House Museum, this local museum is one of the best Wimborne Minster destinations for learning about the history of the region.
Located on the High Street directly opposite the Minster Church, this museum is housed in a building dating back to the 1500s that has been used for a number of different businesses over the years. Some of the most notable displays include recreations of some of these historic businesses, including Mr Low’s Victorian stationery shop and the Coles’ Ironmongers.
Since it was also used as housing for ministers of the minster there are also sections about its religious history, while the 18th-century parlour and Victorian kitchen are both quite impressive. There’s a charming walled garden behind the museum which includes a tea room where visitors can enjoy refreshments while looking out over the River Allen.
PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The Museum of East Dorset is open Monday to Saturday from 10am until 4.30pm between April and October, and until 4pm between November and March. Tickets cost 5.50 GBP for adults and 3.30 GBP for children.
6. The Rising Sun (Beer Garden)
If you’re looking for places to visit in Wimborne Minster for a drink or bite, then you’re definitely spoiled for choice… although our vote on a sunny day would have to go to the Rising Sun.
The star of the show here is their beer garden, built along the River Allen, offering a truly idyllic place to grab beers and bites in the sun. Even if you visit during the colder months you can also expect to find roaring fires and fairy lights inside, along with a delicious Sunday lunch menu.
NOTE: If they’re full here, another nice beer garden can be found at the Butcher’s Dog just up the road, where they have an amazing selection of craft beers.
7. Tivoli Theatre
One of the major Wimborne attractions is the beautiful art deco-style Tivoli Theatre.
Originally constructed in the 1930s, this gorgeous theatre was threatened with demolition and fell into disrepair in the 80s. Luckily a campaign to restore and reopen it took place in the early 90s so it has been available to enjoy again since 1993.
Continuing with its original use, the Tivoli shows both films and live stage shows, as well as hosting live music, making it one of the most popular entertainment venues in the town. There’s both a bar and coffee shop on the premises, so you can have drinks or a light meal before or after going to see something in the beautiful theatre hall.
8. Lady Wimborne Bridge
Truly a hidden gem tucked away from the centre of town, the Lady Wimborne Bridge is one of the more unusual places to visit in Wimborne Minster, especially when bundled with a longer walk.
This former railway bridge was originally constructed in 1853 after the railway came to Wimborne and is now a Grade II-listed structure.
Of course, there haven’t been trains running across the bridge since 1979 but there is a walking path that goes under the bridge and towards the Canford Suspension Bridge, or you can climb up on top and follow a path that leads down to the River Stour and then follows the river all the way along until meeting up with the other path.
If you want to enjoy this walk (which is lovely, especially in summer) there’s a signpost for it off the Oakley Hill/B3037 Road just after it crosses the river when travelling south out of Wimborne town.
9. Canford Suspension Bridge
Another beautiful hidden gem in Wimborne is the century-old Canford Suspension Bridge, located just outside Canford School.
This narrow bridge crosses over the River Stour making a nice addition to any Wimborne walk if you’re looking for a pretty photo spot and view. You can do a loop to it via the Lady Wimborne Bridge or just drive and park near the entrance to the Canford School for a much shorter walk onto the bridge.
Keep an eye out for locals (or visitors) sailing under on kayaks and canoes, or trying to duck while on stand-up paddleboards…as the bridge is quite low to the water!
10. Along the River Stour
As you might have realised if you do go to the Canford Suspension Bridge, the River Stour is also one of the best places to visit in Wimborne to enjoy some paddle boarding or kayaking.
There are a number of canoe and kayaking clubs located here, plus you can bring your own or hire a boat at Dreamboats Wimborne if you want to get out on the water. Since Wimborne is located where the River Allen meets the larger River Stour, there is plenty of pretty scenery to explore from a different angle.
You can sail all the way along the River Stour to the Eye Bridge, or paddle straight up the middle of town on the River Allen and wave to the people having a pint at the riverside pubs. These days the rivers are both quite quiet and ideal for a relaxed spot of pleasure boating.
11. Kingston Lacy
While it’s technically located a bit out of town, Kingston Lacy is still one of the most popular Wimborne Minster tourist attractions.
This country house and estate has a rather fascinating history, having been passed down by the Bankes family with many modifications and additions over the years. Heading inside the Kingston Lacy House is a must-do while visiting, in order to see the opulent furnishings and beautiful paintings throughout.
The estate surrounding the manor house is a glorious spot to explore or have a picnic in good weather. Make sure to visit the Japanese Gardens, where you can enjoy cherry blossoms in the spring and Japanese maples in autumn. There’s also an authentic Japanese tea house if you don’t feel like taking a picnic.
There are acres of parkland surrounding the main gardens, as well as one of the largest remaining areas of heathland in Dorset encircling that. Head to the remains of an Iron Age fort known as the Badbury Rings for impressive free views over the heaths and estate.
PRACTICAL INFO FOR VISITING: The different parts of Kingston Lacy have differing opening times throughout the year, so your best bet is to check the website close to when you are planning to visit. Standard entrance tickets cost 18 GBP for adults and 9 GBP for children.
Did we miss any of your favourite places to visit in Wimborne Minster?
Let us know in the comments so we can add more recommendations to the list!