Fossil Hunting

Fossil collecting
Ammonite fossil on Charmouth beach

Want to find a piece of Earth’s ancient history? Well on the Jurassic Coast you can… if you know where to look.

Fossils are eroded from the cliffs of the World Heritage Site and tumble onto the beaches where we can find them. But not every beach is safe, and not all fossils should be collected.

If you want to give fossil hunting a go on the Jurassic Coast it is important you follow two simple rules:

  1. Help us protect the Site by being a responsible fossil collector
  2. Help yourself by staying safe while you are out on the coast

Being a responsible collector means only collecting loose fossils and never hammering or digging into the cliff face or rocky ledges. This helps protect the scientific value of the rock exposures. In some places collecting is not allowed. Check out the advice on where to go fossil hunting below.

Staying safe means going out during a low tide, staying away from the cliff face, rockfalls, mudflows, and landslides, and always wearing goggles when you use a hammer. Be aware of other beach users too, they may not want you wielding a rock hammer near them! Find out more about staying safe on the Jurassic Coast.

Fossil collecting – good or bad?

Kids children fossil collecting
Children fossil collecting

Generally there is no problem with responsible fossil collecting along the Jurassic Coast for a very simple reason – if they are not collected they will be destroyed by the sea. It is much better that they are rescued; whether it’s a broken belemnite or a near complete dinosaur skeleton. Even small and common fossils can inspire people if they are allowed to discover them for themselves and the many dedicated and professional fossil collectors that search the coast help to maximise the chances that the most amazing specimens are found and recovered.

Is it the same for all fossil sites in England? …NO! Some sites are very sensitive, which is why you should always check local information wherever you go searching for fossils.

Where can I find fossils on the Jurassic Coast?

There are fossils right the way along the Jurassic Coast. In some places they are extremely rare and difficult to find, like Sidmouth. Some locations are dangerous like Durlston Bay and others are more sensitive to damage like Kimmeridge Bay. We’d rather people didn’t try to collect fossil in those places.

Fossil hunting at Charmouth
Fossil hunting at Charmouth

The best and safest place on the Jurassic Coast to try fossil collecting is Charmouth. Fossils can be plentiful there, but it still takes practice and luck to find a nice specimen. Our advice is to join a guided fossil walk from the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre or Lyme Regis Museum. We’d also recommend going in the middle of winter… the rough weather helps expose more fossils.

Local museums display some of the most important and spectacular fossils from the Jurassic Coast. You can find out more about Jurassic Coast Museums here.

Click here to find out more about fossils.