Jurassic Coast Fossil Hunting Tips
The only natural UNESCO World Heritage site in England, the Jurassic Coast is truly spectacular, 100 miles of dramatic cliffs, postcard-perfect beaches and spectacular rock formations, backed by panoramic Ocean vistas.
Named after the ancient geological period that many of its rocks date back to, the coastline is considered one of the finest fossil hunting locations on the planet thanks to its magnificent array of fossils which date back millions of years!
Why is the Jurassic coast so good for finding fossils?
Some 200 million years ago, England’s southern coastline was located considerably closer to the equator than is today. At the time, the Jurassic Coast sat below the surface of a tropical ocean, home to all manner of marine life, from marine molluscs to giant reptiles!
Gradually, over aeons, the sea receded and the tectonic plate on which England is located drifted North, though the sedimentary rocks and clay that formed the ancient seabed remained whole.
Over time, storms, and high tides eroded the rocks, shaping the dramatic coastal cliffs that we see today, which are studded with the fossilized remains of the fascinating creatures that once swam in the warm coastal waters!
The best places to find fossils on the Jurassic Coast
Nicknamed "Pearl of Dorset", the picturesque seaside town of Lyme Regis is one of the Jurassic Coast’s finest fossil hunting locations. The birthplace of legendary fossil hunter and palaeontologist Mary Anning, the town is home to the Dinosaurland Museum, which boasts a spectacular selection of marine fossils from the local area. Plus, immediately east, the beautiful Church Cliffs, boast some excellent examples of calcified ammonites.
The coastal village of Charmouth enjoys legendary status amongst fossil hunters across the globe, thanks to its location, sandwiched between the highly fossiliferous cliffs of Black Ven and Stonebarrow.
Composed of sticky mudstones and clays, the cliffs are home to a myriad of fascinating fossils, likewise, the foreshore, which boasts reptiles, fish, ammonites and belemnites, that are regularly replenished by the coastal tides!
A favourite among fossil hunters, every few years the cliffs at Burton Bradstock 'fall', leaving behind an incredible selection of ammonites, echinoids, shark fins, bivalves and brachiopods, which can be collected from the foreshore.
Famed for its picturesque beauty and unique geology, this secluded semi-circular bay, features all manner of unique rock-forms, from caves to blow-holes, arches, stacks and stumps, coated in a litany of unique patterns and dotted with a wonderful array of molluscs.
What’s more, just east of the cove, Fossil Forest is the remains of a once submerged ancient forest dating back to the Jurassic period, comprised of calcareous tufa, ripple marks of an ancient seafloor, fossilized micro bacteria and the amazing layered limestone breccia, known as ‘broken beds’.
Do I need a guide to find fossils on the Jurassic Coast?
No, but it does help as fossils can be really difficult to spot!
Our 5 day Jurassic Coast walk, is led by an experienced guide, and is the perfect way to discover the incredible beauty and fascinating history and geology of this majestic shoreline!
What equipment do I need to find Jurassic Coast Fossils?
Thankfully, you don’t need any fancy equipment to find fossils on the Jurassic Coast (or have a PHD!). Some of the most important discoveries in the area have been made by amateur hunters, such as Archie Faiers who in 2018, discovered a giant ammonite thought to be an incredible 190-million-years old!
All you really need is a keen pair of eyes, though a pocket-sized fossil guidebook, a magnifying glass, and an old toothbrush for removing sand, mud and debris will make useful additions.
What fossils can I find on the Jurassic Coast?
You can find a number of different types of fossils on the Jurassic Coast. The most common are Ammonites and Belemnites, which are both extinct types of mollusc. However, you can also find partial or complete skeletons of large marine reptiles like the Plesiosaurus which can be up to 15 metres long!
Can I take my Jurassic Coast fossils home with me?
Yes, if you find a fossil on the beach you can take it home. However please note, digging or excavating for fossils on the beach or cliffs is not permitted.