Known as Bridport Harbour until 1884, it was renamed "West Bay" by the Great Western Railway company in an apparent effort to develop it into a seaside destination. The railway closed in 1975 but the station has recently been restored and converted into a cafe.
Modern-day West Bay is a "Gateway Town" to the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the cliffs and sea-bed exposing the Middle Jurassic era to the west and the Lower Jurassic era to the east.
East Beach also marks the western end of Chesil Beach, the longest tombolo in the UK. The pebble shingle that makes up this 18 mile long beach is worn down as it washes its way along the coast from Portland and the stones are at their smallest by the time they reach West Bay.
The Bay is not just popular with geologists and historians though, sunshine draws locals and grockles (tourists) alike to both beaches and the harbourside, piers and promenade make for an excellent short stroll in all but the stormiest weather.
The nearest train stations are in Maiden Newton (14 miles), Crewkerne (14 miles), Axminster (15 miles), Dorchester (17 miles), Weymouth (18 miles). Connecting bus services are available but infrequent.
First Western provide two bus services that stop in West Bay:
- 47 - from Yeovil via Crewkerne.
- X53 - the Jurassic Coast Bus Service, either eastwards from Exeter (via Axminster) or westwards from Poole (via Weymouth).
A (slightly) greater range of bus services are available from nearby Bridport.
The primary road into West Bay is West Bay Road which runs between Bridport and West Bay. It begins at the Crown Roundabout, where the B3157 crosses the A35; it's the southwestern exit between The Crown Inn and Groves Nurseries.
If travelling westwards along the B3157 coastal road from Burton Bradstock towards Briport, turn left into Station Road at the bottom of the hill 585 metres after the exit for Freshwater Caravan Park and 185 meters after the exit for the Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club.
The harbour has 115 drying moorings with the majority let for private use. There are 15 commercial moorings for either fishing vessels or passenger vessels carrying fewer than 12 people. Visiting fishing boats and commercial vessels can berth by the East Pier. Visiting leisure craft can berth against pontoons. There is a chart of the harbour on Admiralty chart SC3315.
All visitors wishing to visit West Bay by boat should contact the harbour staff when planning their passage to confirm depth available and mooring arrangements.
The simplest way to move around West Bay is on foot but there are car parks close to most points in the village if walking isn't feasible.
- RNLI Raft Race - a race down the River Brit on home-made rafts, in fancy-dress. Annual in July.
- Torchlight Procession - closing Bridport Carnival week. From Bridport to West Bay. Annual in August.
- Melplash Agricultural Show. Originated as a ploughing competition in Melplash, the show has since grown into a much wider celebration of rural industry and culture. Annual on the last Saturday in August.
- RNLI West Bay Fun Day - includes a search and rescue display given by the Weymouth Lifeboat, Lyme Regis Lifeboat and HM Coastguard's Portland Helicopter Rescue Team (weather and emergencies permitting). Annual in August.
- West Bay Wallow - take a plunge into the harbour on Boxing Day.
- Filming locations of the television drama series Broadchurch.
- Crabbing off the pier
- Angling, off the pier or beach
- Walk along the coast path
- Boat trip
- Children's playground - near the Spar shop on West Bay Road.
- Fish and chips - from one of the many local kiosks
- Riverside Restaurant. Sitting in a loop of the River Brit, reached via a footbridge beside The George.
- Watch House Cafe. Behind the Methodist Chapel, on East Beach.
- Hot tea from one of the local kiosks.
- The Tea Station - the railway station that gave this settlement its modern-day name is now a cafe
- The George.
- In The winter months, the sandstone cliffs can be prone to collapse.