Fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast

Beaches, Coastal, Family

Posted by Clare Willcocks + Ed Roberts on 23rd October 2020

Ammonite fossil

The incredible Jurassic Coast stretches from Old Harry Rocks in Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck, tracing a winding path all the way down to Orcombe Point in Devon. Encompassing a variety of equally impressive landscapes it is a treasure trove of natural history, designated a World Heritage Site in recognition of its significant scientific value, but it's especially famous for its Jurassic Coast fossils.  If you're wondering where and how to find fossils on the Jurassic Coast, read on.

What type of fossils could you find on the Jurassic Coast?

The possibilities are endless, you could unearth a yet-to-be-discovered species of dinosaur along the Dorset Coast. As the cliffs erode over time, new areas of cliff and beach are revealed. The most common sort of fossil are ammonites (as pictured above) and belemnites. They are an extinct species of mollusc related to today's mussels, snails, slugs, cuttlefish, octopus and clams. The rock beds in which they are most commonly discovered span the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. You could find many different types of fossils all along the Dorset Coast, are you ready for some Jurassic Coast fossil hunting? Read on to find where to find fossils on the Jurassic Coast.

Old Harry Rocks chalk stacks in Isle of Purbeck, Dorset
Old Harry Rocks

You don’t have to dig deep to discover a world of intriguing natural history. The rock formations themselves read like a book and allow a rare glimpse into the making of the Earth as it is today. Built-up in layers, the rocks have tilted due to movement of the Earth’s surface, exposing the oldest strata in the West to the youngest in the East.

The remains of animals and plants trapped within the layers are now found as fossils along the cliffs and beaches of the Jurassic Coast – and you don’t have to be a scientist to make your own compelling discovery. Plan your fossil hunting holiday on the Jurassic Coast today.

The best Dorset beaches for fossil hunting

Charmouth

Cliffs at Charmouth Beach in Dorset

One of the best places to find fossils on the Jurassic Coast is Charmouth, where there’s a visitor centre and guided fossil hunting walks. Thousands of visitors come hunting for fossils here every year and yet the beach continues to yield a treasure trove of fossils to find. The beach at Charmouth also is perfect for families - with easy access and broad expanses of sand and rock pools, there’s plenty to keep little hands and minds busy!

Charmouth cottages


Seatown

Cliffs at Seatown beach in Dorset's Jurassic Coast

The scouring tides that come and go at Seatown mean that a whole collection of ammonites can simply be picked up just from walking along the foreshore. Fossils, microfossils and minerals can all be found on the Jurassic Coast and at Seatown all year-round, which has a superb pub perfect for stopping for refreshments.

Seatown cottages


Burton Bradstock

Burton Bradstock beach - Jurassic Coast, Dorset

Cliff falls occur at Burton Bradstock once every two to three years, and when they do, there are tons of fossils to bring home from the cliffs' rich ammonite beds. Both the scree slopes and the rocks on the foreshore offer a variety of fossils, which include not only ammonites but also shark fins, brachiopods and more.

Burton Bradstock cottages


The Fossil Forest, Lulworth

Just east of Lulworth Cove is the curious Fossil Forest, offering another glimpse into the Earth’s past. The doughnut like rock shapes are the preserved remains of a cypress forest, which grew there in a swamp almost 140 million years ago.

Fossil Forest in Dorset's Jurassic Coast

During this period, conifers and tree ferns grew here. Later swamped by a lagoon, the trees died, and became encased in limestone by sticky mats of algae. These have created fossils known as 'algal burrs' - some of the most unusual fossils you'll find on the entire Jurassic Coast. To help preserve the forest, visitors are not permitted to collect fossils from the Fossil Forest, but these ancient remains are still fascinating to see up close.

Lulworth cottages


Lyme Regis - the Jurassic Coast's fossil town

Lyme Regis in Dorset is perhaps the Jurassic Coast town most famous for its fossils. It plays a role in the history of palaeontology and earth sciences, as the first complete ichthyosaur was discovered here in 1811, starting a craze for unearthing prehistoric remains.

Fossil beach in Lyme Regis, Jurassic Coast, Dorset

Be sure to visit the surrounding beaches for a spot of fossil hunting, where there is a variety waiting to be found. The winter season is the best time to go when there are both gales and high tides. Many are extremely large, meaning they have been left on the beach for others to enjoy - you may spot some of these during your adventure.

Elsewhere in the town you can also learn about all things fossil-related. Lyme Regis boasts its own museum, largely dedicated to fossils, and there are also walking tours of the town revealing its natural history. If you've been unsuccessful in your quest to find a beautiful fossil, you can even buy one to take home from the many fossil shops in the town centre. look at the lamp-posts and you'll see even they are fossil-themed! Plan a fun day-trip to go embark on some Lyme Regis fossil hunting. It's a unmissable Dorset pursuit.

Lyme Regis cottages


Ammonite lamp posts in Lyme Regis, jurassic Coast, Dorset

Fossil museums on the Jurassic Coast

If you’re interested in finding out more about the geology and natural history of this extraordinary area, there are many museums and heritage centres dotted along the coast. The Lyme Regis Museum, Lulworth Cove Heritage Centre and Sidmouth Museum all exhibit fascinating fossils and bones collected locally, and the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre boasts the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in the UK. The Lyme Regis Museum also runs guided fossil walks to help you learn more about the natural treasures to be discovered on the beach. You can also book Jurassic Coast fossil tours so keep an eye out at each of the above venues. On these tours, you can learn how to find Jurassic Coast fossils and where to find them too.

Start on your own fossil hunting adventure

Stay nearby so you can embark on a voyage of discovery to Jurassic Coast and dive headfirst into a world of fascinating natural history. Browse our beautiful Jurassic Coast cottages to find the perfect place to stay while on your fossil hunting holiday, with the scenic coastline of Dorset and Devon on your doorstep. 

Jurassic Coast cottages


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.