Author: Guy Kerr

old harry rocks from sea

Old Harry Rocks. ©

Picking a holiday which the whole family will enjoy can sometimes seem like a bit of a nightmare – keeping everyone happy isn’t easy. A trip to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and East Devon could well be the solution for you: a UNESCO World Heritage Site steeped in geological history, literary heritage, and an all-round traditional British seaside holiday vibe.

Along the Jurassic Coast, beautiful coastal walks are complemented with quirky independent shops and bakeries, or you can try expanding your mind with thought-provoking museums and heritage centres. Best of all, though, and something which is guaranteed to be fun for the whole family: you can go fossil hunting.

A dapedium, an ancient fish found fossilised on the Jurassic Coast.

What is the Jurassic Coast?

The beautiful Jurassic Coast gets its name from the geological periods when the rocks which form the coastline were laid down – they span 185 million years of history from when famous dinosaurs such as velociraptors, T-Rexes, and triceratops roamed the earth. The Jurassic Coast has its own iconic species of ancient beasts which have been found fossilised in its rocks – ammonites, pliosaurs, pterosaurs and many more. Because the rocks here erode easily from the action of the sea, fossilised remains of these amazing creatures are relatively easy to find and are a really special souvenir of your holiday.

Finding your very own fossils

The beaches at Charmouth and Lyme Regis are the best places to look, as the fossils here are fairly abundant, and can be safely accessed. If you’re new to fossil hunting you can book on a trip with a knowledgeable guide who will help fill you in on the best fossil hunting techniques and the significance of any specimens you’ve uncovered. Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre and Lyme Regis Museum both run regular expert-led fossil walks.

Get Fossilling on the Jurassic Coast! Come and join in with local geologists Paddy or Chris on their famous Fossil Walks along Lyme Regis

Fossil Hunting with Paddy Howe from Lyme Regis Museum

Safety first

Whether you go on a guided tour or just as your family, always make sure to go prepared and stay safe: wear closed toed shoes, stay away from unstable cliffs, make sure you know what the tide is doing, and wear eye protection if using a hammer. It’s also important to be a responsible fossil collector, so don’t dig or damage cliff faces, especially those which have scientific value such as at Durlston Bay and Kimmeridge Bay. And remember that whilst a small geological hammer can be a good investment, your best fossil hunting tools are your eyes!

Lyme Regis Museum

Further afield: other activities

If the weather isn’t kind, then there’s still plenty of indoor activities which can keep you busy. Museums such as Sidmouth Museum and The Etches Collection in Kimmeridge house fantastic fossil collections, and also have information about the development of palaeontology and geology as scientific disciplines.

If you’re ready for something a little less prehistoric, Lyme Regis is full of independent shops, maritime heritage, and artistic endeavours – and is also famous as the setting for Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Try some tasty local cuisine at one of the many cafes or pubs – fish and chips is also a delicious way to round off the day.

Where to next?

Elsewhere on the Jurassic Coast, a cliff-top walk between the natural limestone arch of Durdle Door and the picturesque Lulworth Cove is definitely worth a trip, or you can indulge in some adrenaline pumping water-sports in Weymouth or Poole Harbour.

To the other end of the World Heritage Site, the coastal villages of Beer and Branscombe in East Devon make for a lovely day out, as well as the recently opened Seaton Jurassic visitor centre. All in all, the Jurassic Coast has so much to offer!

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