From the acclaimed fossil hunting-haven of Lyme Regis to the tiny secluded inlet that is Pirates Cove, the Jurassic Coast in Dorset has an abundance of places to go fossil hunting. If you want to know how to find fossils on the beach, then we can help! Here we’ve provided you with the best places to go searching and the tools you’ll need during your endeavours.
Uncover ammonites, bivalves and brachiopods while scouring the coast. Who knows, you might even come across the bones of a brachiosaur. From the tiniest microfossils to the largest skeletal remains of dinosaurs, the Jurassic Coast is world-renowned for the ancient treasures it hides. What will you discover during your trip to the seaside?
Take a look through our guide before beginning your Dorset fossil hunting:
First things first, pick out the perfect beach!
- Lyme Regis
- Worth Matravers
- Cogden Beach
- Pirates Cove
Lyme Regis is famous among fossil aficionados and hobbyists alike for its wealth of ancient treasures. Thousands head here every year to see if they can find a memento to take home, and the town is well kitted out to help anyone new to fossil hunting to get a good start in their search; they have a museum and fossil shops as well as plenty of guided group walks that you can join during a trip here.
Charmouth is another famous fossil site, renowned around the world for its Jurassic finds and is great for novices on the hunt for a fossil to take home. Start at Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre where the wardens will give you advice on where to look and what you might find. The cliffs of Black Venn and Stonebarrow often have rock falls which cause a whole new collection of fossils to be uncovered. You can even hire hammers and chisels from Charmouth Fossils to break open rocks and see what’s inside.
Worth Matravers is home to Keates Quarry, a location where over 140 million years ago brachiosaurs, a long-necked plant-eating dinosaur, gathered at the shore of a shallow lagoon and you can see the tracks they left behind. Over 100 fossilised tracks have been preserved in the flat rock. You aren’t allowed to collect fossils at the trackway site and it’s a working quarry so some areas are off-limits, however, there are many spoil heaps that you are welcome to look into. Just turn over the rocks in the large heaps of spoil to see what you can find or chisel them apart to see if there are any fossils concealed inside.
A popular place for a walk among families and dog walkers, this vast shingle beach is a scenic place to go searching for fossils with bivalves and brachiopods being the most commonly found. Next door you’ll find Hive Beach - an excellent seaside spot with a café and toilets – so you could spend the entire day exploring along this stretch of coastline.
This sheltered cove is a delightful spot for discovering ancient treasures. The cliffs that tower over the shoreline are made of Corallian Limestone and when landslides occur, they provide gastropod, bivalve and echinoid fossils that you can uncover. It’s only a small site but is close to Weymouth and the Isle of Portland, close to other fossil finding sites: a great place to spend a couple of hours on the hunt for ancient treasures.
Discover more insights on the best places to go fossil collecting from UK Fossils Network.
The tools of the trade
- Magnifying glass – some finds are extremely intricate, and you may want to take in all the details that make your item special.
- Book of fossils – identify your discoveries and find out about their history.
- Toothbrush – any brush will do but a toothbrush is a perfect size for cleaning down small fossils.
- Backpack – you may not make any discoveries at all, but equally you may find a few and need somewhere to put them! Any bag will do but a backpack is useful when you need your hands free for picking through rocks.
- Comfortable walking shoes – you’ll be walking and scrambling over rocks so need a comfy pair of shoes.
- Tweezers – these are essential if you are planning to take things one step further and go hunting for microfossils.
- Rock chisel – a hammer and chisel will allow you to get into some of the larger, more promising rocks and in popular fossil-hunting spots such as Charmouth you can hire a set.
You’re most likely to find…
The fossils you are most likely to uncover during your excavation are ammonites and belemnites, both types of molluscs that became extinct at the same time as the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.
Ammonites – the ‘classic’ fossil in the shape of a spiral. The ridged fossil is the shell of the ammonite that is left while the creature also had a fleshy head and tentacles and lived 65 million years ago – going extinct at the same time as the dinosaurs. Ammonites were pros at evolution and evolved so quickly that today scientists use them as an index species to subdivide geological times.
Belemnites – these creatures had a squid-like body with tentacles but, unlike the squid, they also had a hard skeleton, which formed their bullet-shaped tail most commonly found as fossils today.
Dust it off, wash off all the debris and stick it on top of your mantelpiece of course; put it in a 3D frame and hang it on the wall or keep in in a shoe box with all your other holiday treasures.
Whatever you choose to do with this fascinating piece of ancient history, you know you’ll have a fantastic time hunting on the Dorset beaches for these unique mementoes.
Need a place to stay while you trek the unforgettable Jurassic Coast? We have fantastic range of cosy cottages, so you can find the perfect place for your break.
Want to find out more about this remarkable region? Read through this post in which we’ve collated together the most important information about this county. Or take a look at our guide on the best things to do in Dorset to keep yourself entertained on a holiday to the UK’s south coast.