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How To Go Fossil Hunting On The Jurassic Coast, England


by Violante Pursley



Welcome to the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the southern coast of England. This remarkable stretch of coastline spans 95 miles (153 kilometers) from Swanage in Dorset to Exmouth in East Devon, showcasing millions of years of fascinating geological history. The Jurassic Coast is renowned for its rich fossil deposits, attracting fossil enthusiasts and geology lovers from around the world.


Immerse yourself in the wonders of the Jurassic Coast as you embark on a thrilling fossil hunting adventure. Uncover the secrets of ancient marine life and discover remnants of dinosaurs that once roamed the Earth. Whether you’re a seasoned fossil hunter or a curious beginner, the Jurassic Coast offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with prehistoric treasures.


This article will guide you through the essentials of fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast, providing you with valuable tips and information to make your experience both enjoyable and successful. From understanding the best times to go fossil hunting to knowing the rules and regulations, we’ve got you covered.


So, grab your hammer and chisel, put on your fossil-hunting hat, and prepare for an adventure back in time as we dive into the captivating world of fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast.


Getting to the Jurassic Coast

The Jurassic Coast is easily accessible by various modes of transportation. If you’re traveling by air, the nearest international airports are Bristol Airport and Exeter Airport, both offering connections to major cities in the UK and Europe. From there, you can rent a car or take public transportation to reach the Jurassic Coast.


If you prefer to travel by train, the main rail stations near the Jurassic Coast are located in Exeter, Weymouth, and Poole. Regular train services operate from major cities such as London, Bristol, and Southampton. Once you arrive at the nearest station, you can either rent a car or take a local bus to get to the specific location along the coast where you plan to go fossil hunting.


For those who enjoy road trips, the Jurassic Coast is well-connected by road networks. The A35 and A37 are the main routes that run parallel to the coast, providing easy access to various towns and attractions along the way. Just plug in the coordinates of your desired destination into your GPS, and you’ll be on your way to the Jurassic Coast fossil hunting grounds.


Once you reach the Jurassic Coast, consider staying in one of the charming coastal towns, such as Lyme Regis, Charmouth, or Sidmouth. These towns offer a range of accommodations, including hotels, guesthouses, and self-catering cottages, providing a comfortable and convenient base for your fossil hunting adventures.


Remember to plan your journey in advance and check for any updates or disruptions to transportation services, especially during peak seasons. This will ensure a smooth and hassle-free trip to the Jurassic Coast, allowing you to focus on the excitement of fossil hunting.


What to Bring

When venturing out on a fossil hunting expedition along the Jurassic Coast, it is essential to come prepared with the right gear and supplies. Here are some items to consider bringing:

  1. Sturdy footwear: As you’ll be exploring rocky shores and slippery terrain, it’s crucial to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes or boots with good traction. This will provide stability and protect your feet from sharp objects.
  2. Appropriate clothing: Dress in layers and wear comfortable clothing that allows for ease of movement. Bring a waterproof jacket or windbreaker, as coastal weather can be unpredictable.
  3. Sun protection: Protect your skin from the sun by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with a high SPF. The reflection of sunlight off the water can be deceiving, so it’s important to take precautions even on cloudy days.
  4. Bag or backpack: Carry a sturdy bag or backpack to store your fossil finds, snacks, water, and any other essentials. Look for a bag with compartments or pockets to keep your belongings organized.
  5. Hammer and chisel: To extract fossils from the rocks, you’ll need a geological hammer and a chisel. These tools allow you to carefully and safely chip away at the surrounding rock to expose the fossil.
  6. Field guide or app: A field guide or a fossil identification app can be incredibly helpful in identifying the fossils you discover. It can also provide valuable information about the geological formations and the history of the area.
  7. Snacks and water: Fossil hunting can be an energy-intensive activity, so be sure to pack plenty of snacks and water to keep yourself hydrated and energized throughout the day.
  8. First aid kit: It’s always a good idea to have a basic first aid kit on hand in case of any minor injuries or accidents. Include items such as band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers.
  9. Camera or smartphone: Capture the beauty of the Jurassic Coast and document your fossil finds by bringing a camera or smartphone. This way, you can relive the memories and share your discoveries with others.

Remember to pack light and only bring what you need to avoid unnecessary weight and bulk. It’s also important to respect the environment and leave no trace behind, so be sure to take any trash or litter with you and dispose of it properly.


By coming prepared with the right equipment and supplies, you’ll be ready to embark on your fossil hunting journey along the stunning Jurassic Coast.


Safety Precautions

Fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast can be an exhilarating experience, but it’s important to prioritize safety. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

  1. Check the tides: Before heading out, familiarize yourself with the tide times in the area. Be aware of the high tide mark and make sure you have enough time to safely return to shore before the tide comes in.
  2. Be aware of unstable cliffs: The cliffs along the Jurassic Coast can be unstable, with rockfalls and landslides occurring regularly. Avoid standing or walking near the base of cliffs and be cautious of overhanging rocks. Pay attention to any warning signs or guidance provided by local authorities.
  3. Stay vigilant: Keep an eye on your surroundings and be cautious of slippery or uneven terrain. Be careful when walking on rocks and stay away from areas that are prone to erosion.
  4. Wear appropriate safety gear: Protect yourself from potential hazards by wearing a hard hat or a helmet. This will help safeguard you from falling rocks or accidental knocks.
  5. Use tools responsibly: Handle your hammer and chisel with care and use them responsibly. Avoid swinging the hammer haphazardly and be mindful of others nearby. Always wear protective eyewear when using a hammer and chisel to protect your eyes from flying fragments.
  6. Watch out for incoming tides: Stay vigilant and pay attention to the tides to avoid getting stranded on isolated sections of the coast. It’s always best to plan your fossil hunting around low tide, as it reveals more of the beach and allows for easier access to fossil-rich areas.
  7. Be respectful of wildlife and habitats: The Jurassic Coast is not only home to fossils but also a wide variety of plant and animal species. Respect the natural environment by not disturbing or removing any living creatures or plants. Avoid climbing on rock formations that serve as habitats for nesting birds or other wildlife.
  8. Travel with a group or inform others: If possible, it’s recommended to go fossil hunting in a group or to inform someone about your plans and estimated return time. This way, someone will know where you are and can raise the alarm if needed.
  9. Follow local regulations: Respect any rules or guidelines set by local authorities or landowners. Some areas may have restrictions on collecting fossils or require permits, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the regulations beforehand.

By following these safety precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable fossil hunting experience on the Jurassic Coast. Always prioritize your well-being and that of others, while also respecting the natural environment and the unique geological heritage of the area.


Identifying Fossils

One of the most exciting parts of fossil hunting is being able to identify the fossils you find. Here are some tips to help you recognize and understand the fossils you come across:


Research and education: Before setting out on your fossil hunting expedition, take the time to educate yourself about the types of fossils commonly found along the Jurassic Coast. Familiarize yourself with various species of marine life, ammonites, belemnites, and even dinosaur footprints that can be found in the area. Understanding what you’re looking for will greatly increase your chances of successful identification.


Shape and texture: Pay attention to the overall shape and texture of the fossil. Look for characteristic features of particular species, such as the spiral shape of an ammonite or the elongated cone shape of a belemnite. Notice any intricate patterns or surface details, as these can provide clues to the species and help with identification.


Color and preservation: Take note of the color of the fossil and the surrounding rock. Fossils are often different colors from the rock because they have undergone mineral replacement over time. Preservation can vary from pristine specimens to more weathered or eroded fossils. The condition of the fossil can provide additional information about its age and formation.


Size and proportions: Consider the size and proportions of the fossil in relation to its known species. This can help narrow down the possibilities and assist in accurate identification. Keep in mind that some fossils may only be fragments, so try to piece together parts of the fossil to gain a clearer understanding of its original form.


Comparisons and references: Consult field guides, online resources, or even local museums to compare your fossil findings with documented specimens. Look for similarities in shape, texture, and characteristics. Some websites and forums also offer platforms for sharing photos and seeking assistance from experts for identification.


Seeking professional advice: If you’re unsure about the identification of a fossil, don’t hesitate to seek the help of professionals. Local geological societies, museums, and universities may have experts who can assist you in identifying your finds. They may also be able to provide further insights into the geological history and significance of the fossils discovered.


Keep in mind that fossil identification can sometimes be challenging, and it may take time and experience to develop a keen eye for detail. Enjoy the process of discovering and learning about the fossils you find, and remember that every discovery contributes to our understanding of the ancient world.


Where to Go Fossil Hunting

The Jurassic Coast offers an abundance of locations where you can go fossil hunting. Here are some popular spots along the coast known for their fossil-rich areas:

  1. Lyme Regis: This charming town in Dorset is a hotspot for fossil hunting. The cliffs and beaches in and around Lyme Regis are famous for their abundant ammonites and other marine fossils. Head to Monmouth Beach, Charmouth Beach, or Church Cliff Beach for the best chances of finding fossils.
  2. Charmouth: Just a short distance from Lyme Regis lies the village of Charmouth, which boasts one of the best-kept secrets of the Jurassic Coast. The cliffs and foreshore at Charmouth beach are home to a wide variety of fossils, including ammonites, belemnites, and even the occasional dinosaur bone.
  3. Kimmeridge Bay: Located in Dorset, Kimmeridge Bay offers access to an ancient coral reef known as Kimmeridge Clay. The rocks here are rich in ammonites, belemnites, and various marine species. Take a walk along the foreshore at low tide to discover a treasure trove of fossils.
  4. Budleigh Salterton: On the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast, Budleigh Salterton in East Devon provides opportunities for fossil hunting. The cliffs and beaches here are known for their fossilized wood and plant remains, as well as the occasional ammonite.
  5. Seatown: Situated near Bridport in Dorset, Seatown offers access to the famous Golden Cap, the highest sea cliff on the south coast of England. Fossil hunters can explore the beaches and cliffs, which are abundant in ammonites, brachiopods, and crinoid fossils.

It’s important to note that fossil collecting is not allowed in certain protected areas or nature reserves along the Jurassic Coast. Always be mindful of any restrictions or guidelines in place to preserve the natural beauty and geological heritage of the area. Look for designated fossil collecting areas or seek permission from landowners before collecting fossils.


Remember to check the tide times before heading out and plan your fossil hunting adventures around low tide. This will expose more of the beach and allow easier access to fossil-rich areas. As always, respect the environment and be mindful of your safety when exploring cliffs and rocky shorelines.


With its diverse and fossil-rich landscapes, the Jurassic Coast presents endless opportunities for thrilling fossil hunting experiences. Embark on your exploration and uncover the prehistoric treasures that lie within this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Best Times to Go Fossil Hunting

Choosing the right time to go fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast can greatly enhance your chances of finding remarkable specimens. Here are some factors to consider when planning your fossil hunting expedition:


Low tide: Fossil hunting is most productive during low tide. This is when more of the beach and foreshore are exposed, unveiling a larger area for exploration. Check the local tide times and plan your visit accordingly to maximize your time on the fossil-rich sections of the coast.


Off-peak seasons: While fossil hunting can be enjoyed throughout the year, visiting during off-peak seasons can offer distinct advantages. The summer months attract larger crowds, so consider visiting during spring or autumn when the beaches are less crowded and you have more space to search for fossils.


Weather conditions: The weather plays a crucial role in the accessibility and safety of fossil hunting. Clear and calm days are ideal for exploring the coast, as it allows for better visibility and safer navigation on rocky shores. Avoid venturing out during stormy weather or heavy rain, as it can make the terrain treacherous.


Seasonal erosion: Keep in mind that the coast’s geological formations are subject to erosion and changes over time. Winter storms and strong tides can result in fresh exposures of fossils along the beach. Consider visiting after periods of significant erosion to increase your chances of finding newly revealed fossils.


Guided tours and events: Joining a guided fossil hunting tour or participating in organized events can provide valuable insights and guidance from experts. Local guides are knowledgeable about the area’s geological history and can help you identify fossils. Additionally, events such as fossil festivals and workshops offer opportunities to learn from professionals and connect with fellow enthusiasts.


Personal preference: Ultimately, the best time to go fossil hunting is when it suits your schedule and personal preferences. Choose a time that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience and enjoy the beauty of the Jurassic Coast.


Remember, regardless of the time you choose to go fossil hunting, always be respectful of the environment and follow local guidelines and regulations. Take only photographs and memories, ensuring that the fossils you discover will continue to inspire and educate future fossil enthusiasts.


Etiquette and Rules

When engaging in fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast, it’s important to adhere to a set of etiquette and rules to ensure the preservation of this unique and environmentally sensitive area. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Collect responsibly: Only collect a reasonable number of fossils for personal use or educational purposes. Avoid excavating or removing large quantities of fossils, as they are part of the geological heritage of the area.
  2. Respect nature: While fossil hunting, be mindful of the fragile ecosystems and habitats along the coast. Avoid trampling on vegetation, disturbing wildlife, or damaging rock formations.
  3. Leave no trace: Take any litter or trash with you and dispose of it properly in designated waste bins. Leave the beach and surrounding areas as pristine as you found them, so future fossil hunters can enjoy the experience too.
  4. Do not dig into cliffs: It is strictly prohibited to dig into or damage the cliffs during fossil hunting. This can cause instability and erosion, compromising the safety of both yourself and others.
  5. Respect private property: Be aware of land ownership and obtain permission before fossil hunting on private property. Stick to public access areas and respect any restrictions or guidelines set by landowners.
  6. Report significant finds: If you make any significant fossil discoveries, such as rare or scientifically important specimens, consider reporting them to local geological societies or museums. This helps contribute to scientific research and the understanding of the geological history of the Jurassic Coast.
  7. Observe safety signs and warnings: Pay attention to any signage or warnings along the coast. These signs are in place to protect visitors and preserve the natural beauty and geological formations of the area.
  8. Be considerate of others: Fossil hunting is a shared experience, so be mindful of other enthusiasts and beachgoers. Maintain proper distances and respect each other’s space while searching for fossils. Share knowledge and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow fossil hunters.
  9. Follow local regulations: Familiarize yourself with any specific regulations or guidelines set by local authorities or organizations. Some areas may have limitations on collecting fossils or require permits, so it’s important to be informed and comply with these regulations.

By following these etiquette and rules, you can help preserve the Jurassic Coast and its remarkable fossil heritage for generations to come. Enjoy the experience of fossil hunting while also being a responsible steward of the environment.


Fossil Hunting Tools

When embarking on a fossil hunting adventure on the Jurassic Coast, having the right tools can greatly enhance your success. Here are some essential tools to consider bringing:

  1. Geological hammer: A geological hammer is a versatile tool used to break open rocks and extract fossils. Look for a hammer with a pick on one end and a flat chisel or pointed tip on the other. This allows you to chip away at the surrounding rock to reveal the fossil.
  2. Chisel: A chisel is a hand tool that pairs well with a geological hammer. It is used to carefully chip away at the rock and separate fossil specimens from their surrounding matrix. Opt for a sturdy chisel with a sharp, durable edge. Consider having chisels of varying sizes to accommodate different fossils and rocks.
  3. Safety goggles: Protect your eyes from flying fragments and debris by wearing safety goggles. When using a hammer and chisel, tiny fragments can chip off and potentially cause eye injuries. Choose goggles that provide proper coverage and fit securely.
  4. Field notebook: Keep a field notebook or a waterproof notepad to record observations, sketch fossils, and note important details, such as the location and geological context of your finds. This will help you document the fossils for future reference and contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the area.
  5. Brushes: Soft-bristled brushes or paintbrushes are handy tools for gently removing loose debris and sediment from freshly exposed fossils. Use brushes to carefully clean the fossil surfaces without causing damage.
  6. Magnifying glass: A magnifying glass or a hand lens can be useful for examining fossils up close and identifying intricate details. It helps you spot delicate structures and provides a closer look at fossilized remains.
  7. Container or bag: Bring a container or a sturdy bag to safely store your fossil finds. Look for a container that is durable and has enough space to accommodate various-sized fossils. Additionally, sealable plastic bags can be useful for protecting smaller or delicate specimens.
  8. Camera or smartphone: Capture the beauty and details of your discovered fossils by bringing a camera or smartphone. Take clear photographs of the fossils, documenting their appearance and any distinguishing features. These photos can serve as references for further research and identification.

Remember to use your tools responsibly and handle them with care. Be mindful of others around you and ensure the safety of both yourself and the fossils you encounter. It’s also essential to follow any rules or regulations regarding the use of tools and collecting fossils in the area.


By equipping yourself with the appropriate tools, you’ll be well-prepared to uncover the hidden treasures of the Jurassic Coast and enhance your fossil hunting experience.


Tips for Successful Fossil Hunting

Fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast can be a thrilling and rewarding experience, but it requires patience, observation, and a keen eye. Here are some tips to maximize your chances of successful fossil hunting:

  1. Do your research: Before heading out, educate yourself about the geological formations and the types of fossils commonly found on the Jurassic Coast. Understanding the area’s history and the specific fossils you’re likely to encounter will help you narrow down your search.
  2. Explore diverse locations: The Jurassic Coast offers a variety of landscapes and fossil-rich areas. Explore different beaches, cliffs, and rock formations to increase your chances of finding unique fossils. Be open to exploring lesser-known locations that may have fewer crowds but still hold great potential for discoveries.
  3. Observe the surroundings: Take your time to scan the beach or cliff face before starting your search. Look for clues such as exposed layers of rock or areas with visible fossils. Pay attention to the texture and color of the rocks, as fossils may be slightly different in appearance from their surrounding matrix.
  4. Visit during low tide: The best time to search for fossils is during low tide when more of the beach and foreshore are exposed. This provides greater access to fossil-rich areas and increases the chances of making unique discoveries.
  5. Be patient and persistent: Fossil hunting requires patience and persistence. Keep in mind that finding fossils is not guaranteed, and it may take some time and effort to spot them. Stay focused, scan the ground carefully, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t find anything right away.
  6. Look for common fossils: Start by searching for common fossils such as ammonites, belemnites, or brachiopods. These fossils are often more abundant and easier to find, providing a good foundation for your collection. As you gain more experience, you can delve into the search for rarer or more specialized fossils.
  7. Pay attention to patterns: Look for patterns or shapes that differ from the surrounding rock. Ancient shells or imprints can be subtle, so be observant and train your eyes to spot these variations. Keep in mind that some fossils may be partially exposed, so careful examination may be necessary.
  8. Ask for guidance: If you’re unsure about a particular fossil or need assistance with identification, don’t hesitate to ask for guidance from experienced fossil hunters or local experts. They can provide valuable insights and help you learn more about the fossils you find.
  9. Respect the fossils: Treat fossils with care and avoid unnecessary handling or rough extraction. Some fossils may be fragile or brittle, and mishandling can cause damage. Use proper tools and techniques to extract fossils from the surrounding rock without harming the specimen.
  10. Record your findings: Keep a record of the fossils you find, including their location, date, and any identifying features. This information can be valuable for personal reference or for contributing to scientific research.

Remember, fossil hunting is not just about the discoveries but also about the experience and connection to the ancient past. Enjoy the journey, appreciate the natural beauty of the Jurassic Coast, and have fun uncovering the fascinating fossils that provide insights into our planet’s history.



Exploring the Jurassic Coast and going fossil hunting is an exciting and immersive experience that allows you to travel back in time and uncover the remnants of prehistoric life. With its rich geological history and diverse fossil deposits, the Jurassic Coast offers a unique opportunity to connect with the ancient past and learn about Earth’s fascinating evolution.


By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this article, you can make the most of your fossil hunting adventures along the Jurassic Coast. From understanding the best times to go fossil hunting and knowing the essential tools to bring, to practicing safety precautions and respecting the environment, incorporating these practices will enhance your chances of finding remarkable fossils while ensuring preservation and responsible fossil collecting.


Remember to approach fossil hunting with curiosity, patience, and respect. Appreciate the beauty of the landscapes, the thrill of the hunt, and the wonder of discovering fossils that have endured through millions of years. Take the time to learn about the fossils you find, share your knowledge with others, and contribute to the ongoing understanding of the Jurassic Coast’s geological heritage.


So, get ready to don your fossil-hunting gear, delve into the ancient layers of rock, and let the Jurassic Coast unveil its hidden treasures. Whether you uncover ammonites, belemnites, or even traces of dinosaurs, each fossil discovery is a window into the past, offering us a glimpse into the incredible history of life on Earth.


Enjoy your fossil hunting journey and create memories that will last a lifetime!