England’s Jurassic Coast: Everything You Need to Know

Published:

Modified: August 3, 2021

by Rina Bernardo

View of Durdle Door at the Jurassic Coast

Home of fish and chips and the most historically-rich cities, England is a country suited for all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re an avid football fan, foodie, or a lover of all things royal, there’s a perfect city or destination for you in England. If you’re a traveler who’s into archaeological or geological sites like the Marble Cave or the Grand Canyon, you’ll appreciate England’s Jurassic Coast.

Hailed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, the Jurassic Coast contains more than 180 million years of history. Covering the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, its beaches, cliffs, and arches tell a story no book or documentary could tell. It is simply a sight to behold, which is why 22 million head to the popular site every year.

Curious about this site? Or are you visiting but you’re not sure what to do? Then here’s everything you need to know about this beautiful destination!

 

Where Is the Jurassic Coast?

 

Man o War Bay in Ludworth along Jurassic Coast
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Located in Southern England along the English Channel, the Jurassic Coast stretches 155 kilometers across East Devon through Dorset. The coast starts in Exmouth in East Devon and ends around Old Harry Rocks in Dorset.

How to Go

The best way to visit the coast is by car. Public transportation is available, but access to main areas is limited. You can rent a car through different car rental companies you’ll find in the city. And as long as you have the proper documents, renting will be easy and hassle-free.

On the other hand, if you’ll be taking the train, you can hop in at London’s Waterloo station to Axminster in Devon. Travel time is around two hours and 45 minutes or more. However, there are no available bus routes that go straight to the coast.

Because of its proximity to the capital, the Jurassic Coast makes up for a good weekend getaway from London.

When to Go

The best time to visit the Jurassic Coast is from late spring to mid-summer. May to July are usually the months when the days are long and the school holidays haven’t started. The weather is pleasant and you can get a chance to see wildflowers along the hills and cliffs. September to October are also a good time to visit before winter comes in.

Meanwhile, the end of July to August brings in the best weather and large crowds as well. Make sure to secure your accommodation ahead if you plan on traveling within these months. Start your sightseeing earlier to avoid the surge of tourists and visitors wanting to see the coastline. 

 

Why Is It Called Jurassic Coast?

 

View of the limestone cliffs along Jurassic Coast
Photo by Tom kitto on Unsplash

The UNESCO World Heritage Site got its name from the most popular geological period within it. Although the site also contains remains from the Triassic and Cretaceous Periods, the Jurassic Period is the most recognizable one, hence its name. Although you won’t be able to find dinosaurs unlike in Jurassic Park, the attractions and sites on the coastline give you a glimpse of what life must be like millions of years ago.

 

Where to Stay

Royal Hotel 

 

View of the double room in Royal Hotel
Photo from Royal Hotel Booking.com Page

Address: 90, Bay Royal Hotel, 91 The Esplanade, Weymouth DT4 7AX, United Kingdom
Price per night for two adults: 73 USD

Offering a beautiful seaside view of Weymouth Beach and Weymouth Bay, Royal Hotel is the best budget accommodation in the area. The 19th-century hotel features a stunning red brick Renaissance exterior with comfortable lounges. The hotel has 71 bedrooms with plush beddings, a TV, and private baths. What makes the Royal Hotel a favorite is that it’s within a walking distance from the beaches, shops, and other seaside attractions. From the hotel, the famous Lulworth Cove is only 30 minutes away.

 

No. 98 Boutique Hotel 

 

View of the Superior King Room in No. 98 Boutique Hotel
Photo from No. 98 Boutique Hotel Booking.com Page

Address: 98 Brunswick Terrace, Weymouth DT4 7AT, United Kingdom
Price per night for two adults: 168 USD

No. 98 Boutique Hotel is one of the newer accommodations in Weymouth. This boutique hotel also offers seaside views of Weymouth Bay and is a three-minute drive from Weymouth Ferry Terminal. No. 98 Boutique Hotel used to be a Georgian townhouse and was refurbished into a cozy boutique hotel. With only nine rooms, the boutique hotel features clean and crisp Mediterranean interiors, with some of them having seaside views and the other facing the charming garden. 

 

Bedford Hotel

 

Sample room in Bedford Hotel
Photo from Bedford Hotel Booking.com Page

Address: The Esplanade, Sidmouth EX10 8NR, United Kingdom
Price per night for two adults: 194 USD

Sidmouth’s Bedford Hotel is a small, family-run hotel overlooking the town seafront. It used to be one of the first Regency houses built on the seafront and was a former marine library. Its 40 rooms have individual styles with modern and traditional elements. The rooms are also complete with hairdryers and tea or coffee-making equipment. Depending on which room you get, you can enjoy panoramic sea views from your balcony. Enjoy fresh and homemade food made with sourced produce from the Devon area, and on Sundays, feast on roast dinners. 

 

The Belmont Hotel

 

Room with sea view at The Belmont Hotel
Photo from The Belmont Hotel Booking.com Page

Address: The Esplanade, Sidmouth EX10 8RX, United Kingdom
Price per night for two adults: 212 USD

The Belmont Hotel is one of the more popular four-star hotels in Sidmouth. Its façade reminds you of a castle or a luxurious summer residence in the countryside. The 50 bedrooms include minibars and tea and coffee making equipment as well as comfy chairs and sofas. A walking distance from the town center, it offers private gardens and terraces where you can enjoy a warm cup of tea or catch the best sunset views. Its restaurants, Belmont Restaurant, has a contemporary English menu while Horizon Restaurant has a more casual dining experience.

 

Knoll House

 

Receiving area at Knoll House
Photo from Knoll House Booking.com Page

Address: Ferry Rd, Studland, Swanage BH19 3AH, United Kingdom
Price per night for two adults: 311 USD

With its traditional Dorset charm, Knoll House is the best luxury accommodation near the Jurassic Coast. The family-friendly hotel gives you the best views of Studland Beach and the Isle of Wight. Aside from its spacious rooms, the hotel boasts a tennis court and a seasonal outdoor swimming pool. After a day of exploring, relax at the steam room, sauna, or hot tubs (depending on the room selected).

 

Things to Do Along the Jurassic Coast

1. Hunt for Fossils

 

Person holding a fossil
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Armed with a geological hammer, safety goggles, a sharp pair of eyes, and an immense amount of patience, go on an exciting fossil hunt on the beach. Charmouth and Lyme Regis are the top spots for fossil hunting. This is also where the first Ichthyosaur was unearthed. The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre and Lyme Regis Museum organize fossil-hunting walks where you can go on the hunt for these priceless artifacts. If you plan on going on your own, make sure to adhere to the Fossil Collecting Code of Conduct and avoid staying under the cliffs because the erosion can cause landslides. This is also a must-do activity especially if you’re traveling with kids!

 

2. Go Beach-hopping

 

Pink sands of the beach near Durdle Door
Photo by 8bit_era on Pixabay

With 155 kilometers of scenic coastlines, discovering hidden beaches is one of the best things to do on the Jurassic Coast. On the eastern coast of the Isle of Portland, find Church Ope Cove, once a landing place for Vikings and even smugglers. Near Lulworth Cove, Mupe Bay is a quiet yet breathtaking spot to relax. Additionally, Ringstead Bay is another quiet and relatively untouched beach where you can swim. However, the surface is pebbled and you’ll need water shoes. Although there are plenty of must-visit beaches along the coast, nothing beats the tranquility and small victory of finding secluded areas where you can fully appreciate the beauty of nature.

 

3. See the Cerne Giant

 

Outline of the Cerne Abbas Giant
Photo by Hardo Müller on Flickr

If sites like the Easter Island heads in Chile and the Skara Brae in Scotland interest you, the Cerne Giant is something you shouldn’t miss! The origin and age of the hill figure aren’t clear, but the earliest mention of the site dates back to the 17th century. The 55-meter figure depicts a well-endowed man holding a giant club in his hands. Folklore associates the Cerne Giant with fertility, while others argue that it originated as a political satire. You can also see the giant in different advertisements, movies, and even publicity stunts. No one really knows what it means, but the Cerne Giant is definitely an attraction worth visiting.

 

4. Walk Around Lyme Regis

 

Broad Street in Lyme Regis
Photo by Roman Hobler on Flickr

Filled with pastel-hued houses and quaint shops, Lyme Regis is one of the best cities to stay within the heart of Jurassic Coast. The historic city has a charming beachfront lined with fishing boats and huts on the harbor. You can learn more about its history at the Lyme Regis Museum where you can also go fossil-hunting. Its harbor wall, The Cobb, is a staple in English literature, most notably in Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Around town, have a drink at the taproom or opt for a cup of coffee at one of the many roasters.

 

5. Try the Local Seafood

 

Fresh seafood sold at a market
Photo by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay

When visiting a coastal destination, don’t miss out on sampling their main dishes: seafood! There are about 50 types of fish and shellfish available off the Jurassic Coast, so you can just imagine the kind of meals you’ll eat here. From oysters and mussels to sea bass, mackerel, and crab, In some restaurants, the menu changes daily since it depends on what the fishermen bring in. This guarantees that you only get the best and freshest ingredients on your plate. Add in the stunning seaside views and you get dinner or lunch to remember. Also, don’t miss the annual Dorset Seafood Festival where you can sample the best seafood along with other local specialties!

 

6. Enjoy Different Water Activities

 

Windsurfers on Kimmeridge Bay
Photo by diego_torres on Pixabay

From swimming, kayaking, and even sailing, you can participate in different water sports and activities. Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbor are some of the best places to learn how to sail as these are the locations of the sailing events during the 2012 Olympics. Meanwhile, if you’d like to just lounge by the beach, head to Weymouth Beach or Chesil Beach although the former is more pebbled. In Dorset, get your underwater cameras ready and discover a fascinating underwater world when you go scuba diving. Take advantage of the coastal atmosphere and go kitesurfing, jet skiing, and go surfing.

 

Must-Visit Sites Along the Jurassic Coast

1. Durdle Door

 

One of the most iconic sights along the Jurassic Coast, Durdle Door
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Durdle Door is perhaps the most photographed site along the coast. This natural limestone arch has been a staple when visiting the coast. Forged by waves eroding most of the limestone, it then created a stunning natural arch jutting out into the sea. Take a walk from the car park and enjoy the short trek before reaching the arch. To get a closer look at the Durdle Door, rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard and float your way underneath the arch. Otherwise, you can simply lounge by the beach and soak up the tranquil atmosphere. Admission to the Durdle Door is free, but there is a parking fee.

 

2. Lulworth Cove

 

View of Lulworth Cove's famous coastline
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

With steep cliffs bordering its perfect circular cove, Lulworth Cave is another must-visit site in Jurassic Coast. During high tide, the cove turns into a beautiful beach and during low tide, it reveals various rock pools. This is a perfect destination if you plan on visiting Dorset since there are plenty of things you can do here. A car park, visitor’s center, and restaurants are available, perfect for visiting families. Lulworth Cove is also an ideal jump-off point if you want to take a short walk to Durdle Door. Since this is a popular site, make sure to avoid visiting during weekends. 

 

3. Kimmeridge Bay

 

Kimmeridge Bay from the cliff top
Photo by diego_torres on Pixabay

From Lulworth Cave, take a 20-minute drive to Kimmeridge Bay, one of the most important geological sites worldwide. Its ledges contain 155 million years worth of history and are famous for their fossils, displayed at a museum in the village. Kimmeridge Bay is popular with windsurfers and surfers alike as the rock ledges under the waves create the perfect conditions for the activity. Additionally, the shallow and warm water is good for snorkeling. From Kimmeridge Bay, climb up to Clavell Tower. Although the trip up is steep, seeing the horizon and expansive views of the sea is the best reward.

 

4. West Bay

 

Chesil Beach overlooking West Bay
Photo by Harry Green on Adobe Stock

Fans of the popular TV series Broadchurch will recognize West Bay’s iconic feature: its golden sandstone cliffs. There are different ways to see West Bay. You can go for a relaxing stroll along Chesil Beach or take a hike to the top and get a bird’s eye view of the cliff. On the other hand, you can rent a rowboat and admire the view of this geological site. For the best views of West Bay, visit during the early morning or late afternoon to see the crashing waves hit the cliffs.

 

5. Portland Bill Lighthouse

 

Portland Bill Lighthouse on the end of the cliff
Photo by diego_torres on Pixabay

Portland Bill Lighthouse stands at the southern end of the Isle of Portland. It started operating in 1906 and has been a waymark for ships that pass by the English Channel. At the visitor’s center, learn more about the history of the picturesque lighthouse. The visitor’s center also tells you about the other lighthouses that came before as well as stories about the island. Whether it’s a sunny or stormy day, the views from the lighthouse are beautiful and dramatic. Make the most out of your trip to the lighthouse and climb 153 steps up and catch breathtaking views of the English Channel.

 

6. Old Harry Rocks

 

View of Old Harry Rocks from the clifftops
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Old Harry Rocks are some of the best and most beautiful coastlines in England. Located on the eastern point of the Jurassic Coast, these formations were originally part of a long stretch of chalk, but eventually, three monoliths came as a result of erosion. Follow the path from the Bankes Arms to the top of the cliffs or hire a boat and see the rocks from a different perspective. Lastly, you can rent a paddleboat or kayak to see the formations up close. But be prepared for the cold weather. 

Get a Glimpse Into the Earth’s History

Aside from vibrant cities and historical castles in England, one should also take time and explore the country’s natural wonders. The Jurassic Coast, in particular, gives you an overview of the origins of the world deep in its ledges and formations. Because of its geological importance, it earned the prestigious World Heritage Site distinction in 2001. It joined the likes of the city of Bath, Stonehenge, and Westminster Abbey as the most beautiful places in the country. Rent a car or take a train to the Jurassic Coast and discover the beauty of the countryside!