Putting in at Portland will give you access to a long stretch of flat water, as long as you stay close to shore and Chesil Beach. If you venture further away from land, and out into the middle of Portland Harbour, then it does get choppier if there’s any breeze blowing.
Heading out into open water; it’s possible to navigate round to the main beach at Weymouth and further along towards Overcombe which nestles in the eastern corner of Weymouth Bay. Heading the other way will take you along the Isle of Portland’s coast. It’s worth bearing in mind that tides and currents along this stretch can be particularly strong. If there’s any swell running then it might not be a good idea to get too close to the rocks. During calmer periods exploring is fine – although be aware that even on glassy days, swell could still be pumping up the Channel.
For those with confidence, completing the journey around the southern tip of Portland and back along Chesil Beach can be rewarding. The shingle bank is extremely steep with a sudden drop off into deep water, even at low tide. When coming ashore it’s worth noting there can be a hefty shore break – great for surfing back up the beach but sketchy for those without relevant experience.
Weymouth Beach is a sheltered spot that boasts a quintessential Brits-by-the-sea personality. The golden sands and thronging crowds through summer only solidify the town’s reputation. Tranquil kayaking excursions up and down the seafront or tackling some mellow waves are the types of perfect conditions suitable for beginners and intermediates alike. Paddlers will need to be cautious around the harbour area as ferries come and go whilst general boating traffic frequents Weymouth all through high season.
Compared to Portland, there are plenty of amenities. It’s literally just a short hop from the water’s edge to any number of refreshment outlets. Public toilets and parking options are also good, although it’s still a bit of a trek carrying your gear. The car parks behind buildings flanking the promenade are roughly five minutes away.
For those searching for wave action; Overcombe, to the east, is where a decent swell kicks up when conditions are right. Unlike Weymouth and Portland Overcombe is more exposed to the incoming conditions and as such is noted for its wave potential. There’s a decent amount of parking right next to the beach, although be aware, it does get full if conditions look good.
If you’re after yet more variety in your paddling there’s a plethora of different put in locations all along this stretch of coast and don’t forget you also have the River Wey.
This area of Dorset is great for the outdoors enthusiast with plenty of walks and cycle routes available for none H2O antics. If you’re a sailor or windsurfer then Portland Harbour boasts fantastic conditions.
If you’re a fan of countryside then heading inland and exploring some of the villages and hamlets dotted about can offer pleasant respite from paddling shenanigans.
How to get there:
There’s really only one road in and one road out of Weymouth. For those heading to this part of Dorset aiming for Dorchester is the best option before travelling along the A354. Portland, Weymouth and Overcombe are all sign posted.
The Portland launch is next to a car park and has toilet facilities across the road. For anything else, you’ll need to drive into town where you’ll find numerous eating and drinking establishments plus all the trappings of a seaside town. Overcombe has less going on than Weymouth but there’s a water sports shop close by, a relatively big car park and toilets available.
Tides are your biggest problem with this area and cause significant currents, especially around the edges on the Isle of Portland and Portland Bill. Boating traffic and other water users need to avoided – particularly the ferries coming and going from Weymouth. Overcombe can get a hefty a shore break which is best avoided.
Ins and Outs:
All launch points offer easy access; drag you boat to the water’s edge and off you toddle.
Weymouth, Portland and Overcombe are all sand bottomed launches that feature distinctive paddling conditions. Portland is flat next to Chesil Beach; Weymouth is a sheltered bay that gets swell on its day while Overcombe sees the most surf and chop. All areas are tidal; Overcombe gets a big shore break at high tide if surf (or wind) is pumping while Weymouth and Portland are generally shore break free – unless it’s been blowing easterly.
The natural barrier like formations of Chesil Beach and the Isle of Portland are what gives this part of Dorset its reputation. All watersports junkies will love the Weymouth area – not just kayakers. Blocking the, sometimes, sizeable English Channel swell; Portland Harbour offers a flat water paradise for those with saltwater leanings.
Weymouth town is just across the way (or a short car journey or taxi ride) and the venue for 2012’s Olympic sailing fleets attracts large numbers of enthusiasts right through the year.
The Isle of Portland is sleepy for the most part, except Portland Bill which attracts many visitors – particularly through high summer. Weymouth town, in contrast, is a bustling traditional seaside resort with plenty of bars, nightclubs, pubs, restaurants, hotels and B&Bs available for visiting paddle nuts.
Even with its ‘kiss-me-quick’ personality, Weymouth is still a pleasant place to while away the hours. The sandy beachfront is perfect for dropping your boat in. Weymouth and Portland make up part of the Jurassic Coast – a designated World Heritage Site and as such, offers great paddling opportunities.
During the run up to London 2012 the transport infrastructure around Weymouth and Portland was greatly improved and now access is much easier. Situated halfway along the Jurassic Coast route; this part of Dorset relies heavily on tourism now the fishing industry has declined.