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McConks’ stand up paddle boarding bitesize travel guides: Highcliffe, Christchurch, Dorset.


Highcliffe, Christchurch, Dorset 

Spot type:

Open water, tidal venue exposed to the elements but a spot that picks up the lion’s share of swell in the area when it pulses along the English Channel. You’ll adore the cliff top view upon arriving but loathe the trudge back up post-SUP session.


Highcliffe, being a south coast spot, can have its fair share of flat days but also deliver SUP surfers idyllic wave conditions when Momma Nature’s feeling in the right mood. Picking up the most amount of swell in the area Highcliffe can serve up decent peaks depending on the shape of the sand banks. Rock groynes and wooden sea defences can alter these, in tandem with weather, often. Watching and learning before getting wet therefore pays dividends.


Sea defences can get in the way sometimes and Highcliffe can also suffer badly from rips when the surf’s significant. High tide pushes water levels up against the cliff base as you head east. And the cliffs themselves can suffer subsidence so best to keep clear as tumbling debris happens often. There’s a tight knit local crew of surfers that call this spot home so be courteous and adhere to surfing rules of the road.


Getting to Highcliffe is simple with ample room in the car park perched above the put in. It can get busy but usually there’s a space to be found. Often the amount of cars parked doesn’t transfer to numbers of bods in the water, which is good. The tarmacked slope down to the sand is quite steep but easy enough to navigate. It’s a bummer, having spent hours in the brine to then have to walk back up!

Popularity (1-10):

5. The slope down to the sea tends to keep numbers at bay. 


There’s a café/restaurant next to the car park, with toilet facilities also close to hand. The inevitable ice cream van parks up in summer whilst more shops, restaurants and bars can be found back into the village just a short walk away.  


Highcliffe can be an outstanding beach break wave on its day for the south coast. With good banks and a pumping swell, groomed by offshore winds, it’s not unusual to have steep A-frame peaks walling up left and right. Fast slides are possible with the odd cover up on offer for those with skills. Most surfers tend to jump in at the first groyne next to pathway slope. Head further along, however, and chances are you’ll be the only one(s) riding. Rips can be strong with pulsing surf so watch out for those. Highcliffe can be much bigger than it looks from the car park. Lifeguards don’t patrol here so make sure you’re up to it.

When the waves recede this part of Christchurch is good for some SUP touring action. Paddle west and eventually you come to Avon, whereas further east brings you to Hengistbury Head. Be extra vigilant if you head this way as the current can be ferocious – you’re entering the mouth of The Solent which is extremely tidal.

If there’s any adverse weather, such as onshore wind in the mix, then we’d suggest picking somewhere else. Highcliffe is quite exposed and breezy, choppy waters won’t do you any favours. During other, calmer periods, Highcliffe is a mellow place to just chill out and enjoy the seaside vibes – whether paddling or not.

Be sure to check out our other McConks bitesize travel guide via the following link –

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