IT'S the first weekend of the summer holidays and the sunny weather is set to continue, so your first thought may be to spend all weekend on the beach.

But if you fancy doing something a bit different to sharing the sand with thousands of other people, then there are lots of events, big and small, going on across Dorset and the New Forest over the weekend, starting from tonight. Below you'll find our pick of the best...

If you're wondering what the forecast holds, Saturday will see highs of 26C with sunny spells, while temperatures will reach 22C on Sunday with conditions turning breezier.

1. Join in the party at Swanage Carnival

This Saturday sees the start of the week long Swanage Regatta and Carnival. The two mile carnival parade will be full of dancing, colour and music. There will also be an aerial demonstration from the Aerostars Aerobatic Display Team, treasure hunts, fireworks. With nearly 100 events to enjoy, make sure you don’t miss it! Running from 26th July – 2nd August. Carnival magazines are available to buy online to help you plan your weekend.

Bournemouth Echo: Picture taken with assistance of Bournemouth Helicopters Picture taken with assistance of Bournemouth Helicopters

2. Walk with the bats

Sail over to Brownsea Island and let the ranger take you on an exciting even trip around the island, to walk with all the nocturnal wildlife including its family of bats. Take your own picnic or let them do it for you with one of their picnic hampers available to purchase. All Tickets £10, booking essential on 01202 707744. Ferry leaves Sandbanks at 6:30pm on Saturday.

Bournemouth Echo: Scenes from last year’s Mudeford Arts Festival

3. Be part of a festival

Mudeford Arts Festival returns this Saturday with art exhibitions from the best local artists and craftsmen. There will be craft stalls and a living arts marquee as well as weekend long entertainment, face and T-shirt painting for kids and much more. Entry is free. Saturday11.00am - 6.00pm and Sunday 11.00am - 4.00pm.

Bournemouth Echo: Moscow State Circus: world-famous troupe rolls into town

4. Watch in awe at the circus

Moscow State Circus has returned and will be providing two spectacular performances each day until its run ends on Tuesday. With a backdrop of ‘Park Gorkogo,’ one of the greatest circus acts will see Clown Val Defun take the audience through a fantastic display of flips, flying, jumping and juggling which will blow you away. Branksome Recreation Ground, Friday 3pm & 7:45pm, Saturday 3pm & 6pm, Sunday 2pm & 5pm.

Bournemouth Echo: Poole Quay

5. Come and see some Italian Stallions

In car form that is! Head down to Poole Quay tonight for the Rockley Park Quay for My Car event to see some of the best Italian motors, or show off your own! Friday evening is set to be sunny so make sure you get down and check it out. From 6pm until 9pm.

Bournemouth Echo: OPPORTUNITY: Dorset Beach Sports Festival launch at Weymouth beach

6. Find your sporty side in Weymouth

This weekend the Dorset Beach Sports Festival takes place on Weymouth beach, open for residents and visitors alike. You will be able to get involved with a variety of sport activities including water sports, beach volleyball and beach rugby. One of 2012’s biggest and most successful ambassadors will be on hand each day to give even more information about what is going on. Runs Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm daily.

Bournemouth Echo: V&A to celebrate Shakespeare's 450th birthday

7. Immerse yourself in Shakespeare

The 36th Annual Shakespeare performance by Bournemouth Shakespeare Festivals is presenting its last two shows of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ this weekend, so make sure you enjoy this wonderful play in the sunshine at Priory House Garden in Christchurch. The company is a non-profit organisation and supports local charities. Tonight and Saturday at 7:30pm.

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8. Be a Viking for the day

Take a trip back in time and visit the Viking Longhouse at the Ancient Technology centre in Cranborne. See what it was like to live like a Viking and get kitted up with a wooden sword and shield. See the ancient crafts, real life ancient breed farm animals, and enjoy the food and drink on offer. Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 4pm. Tel: 01725 517618.

Bournemouth Echo: BIG BANG: Friday night fireworks lighting up the sky above Bournemouth Pier last year

9. Don’t forget the fireworks

Every Friday until August 22nd, the Friday Family Fiesta will be held in from 7pm in Bournemouth Gardens, ending with a fabulous firework display at 10pm on the pier. There will be face painters, circus workshops, stilt walkers, fire performances and street performers. 

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10. Get active with a fun cycle rally

The annual CTC New Forest Cycling week starts again this Friday, and celebrates its 40th year running. With around 200 people taking part each year, this informal fun event is for inexperienced cyclers as well as experienced ones. It runs from 12pm today until Saturday, August 2. Join for the whole week or for whichever days are convenient to you. Activities will also take place in the evening including a BBQ on one of the nights. Pre booking is required via

Bournemouth Echo: £97k museum grant will open Poole's history for all

11. Find out more about Poole’s Maritime history 

‘Maritime Archaeology Day’ takes place this Saturday at Poole Museum. Find out a bit more about Poole’s nautical past at the new exhibition, ‘The Swash Channel Wreck: Poole’s mystery ship decoded.’ There will also be activities for children and adults to enjoy. 11am – 3pm.

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12. Listen to some friendly music

Soak up the sunshine in Bournemouth’s beautiful Lower Gardens as you relax and listen to Bisham Concert Band, a friendly community band who are playing on Saturday at 11am and 3pm.

Bournemouth Echo: Bournemouth Pier

13. Watch Bournemouth Regatta

The Westover and Bournemouth Rowing Club are host the Bournemouth Regatta on Saturday, with clubs coming from as Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight to take part in the event. It all takes place on Bournemouth Beach in front of Joseph Steps and there will be racing along the beach front to Bournemouth Pier and back.

Bournemouth Echo: Set for a splashing time with Peppa Pig

14. Visit a traditional summer fayre and meet Peppa Pig

Elizabeth House in Parkstone will be holding their annual summer fayre tomorrow. From 2pm there will be a host of stalls and activities for all the family, including a dog show, majorette performance and a visit from Peppa Pig, as well as a bouncy castle and face painting. All proceeds from the event will go to the Residents’ Amenity Fund.