A huge draw for people visiting Dorset and East Devon is the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Here the rocks record 185 million years of the Earth’s history across 95 miles of coastline which make up the Site.
With so many miles waiting to be explored it can be tricky to know the best places to head to especially if you only have a limited time visiting the area. Here we showcase 10 of best places to visit, all of which will provide you with breath taking views of the beaches and cliffs. We’ll also let you know the best places to go fossil hunting in this geologically special part of the world.
The closest highlight on this list to our campsite is the giant chalk stacks at Handfast Point which is known as Old Harry Rocks. These mark the eastern edge of the Jurassic Coast. If you have the strength and experience you can hire a kayak from Middle Beaches in Studland and paddle out to get a fish-eye’s view at the fantastic chalk stacks which appear to rise skyward from the sea.
If you want to get closer look at the marine life which lives off the shores of Dorset then Kimmeridge Bay is a great place to go. Sections of limestone extend from the bay which offer superb rock pooling opportunities. If you fancy getting in the water for a dip, take a mask and snorkel as the clear waters here can reveal a whole host of marine life.
There are also plenty of signs of life from the past here. Look carefully in the shoreline rocks and you can spot fossilised ammonites and belemnites. In fact the area is so rich in fossils that one man has collected enough in his lifetime to be housed in its own museum. The Etches Collection is a small but fascinating museum in Kimmeridge village which displays some of the awesome marine reptile fossils which Steve Etches has found in the area.
The location of many a school field trip, the coastline around Lulworth Cove displays some of the best examples of rock folds, faults, erosion and cove formation not only on the Jurassic Coast but in the whole world.The area is very picturesque as well as being full of geological beauty. A short trek along around the beach will take you to the Fossil Forest which has fossilised tree stumps in the rocks. To the western side of the cove is Stair Hole which has some great folding rocks next to cliffs which have had holes punctured into them by the force of rough seas.
The best known feature of the whole Jurassic Coast is the iconic Durdle Door; a giant limestone arch. It has been formed over time and now attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the area each year. The beach can be accessed by some steep steps which meander down from the cliff tops above. For a less strenuous view of the arch, visitors can take a sightseeing boat trip from Weymouth.
Portland is the most southerly point of the Jurassic Coast. Jutting out into the English Channel, the Isle of Portland is connected to the mainland by a thin strip of land which marks the start of Chesil Beach on one side of the road and Weymouth Bay on the other.
Portland stone has been quarried for centuries here and has been used on some of the most well known buildings such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. Head out to Portland Bill on a windy day and you will witness the force of the weather as the waves crash over rocks.
Stretching 18 miles from Portland to West Bay, this long arching stretch of coastline can be accessed by many less used locations. Head towards villages such as Abbotbury, West Bexington and Burton Bradstock and you can avoid (most of) the madding crowds in the summer. The coast road which runs parallel with the beach is also a treat to travel on as it offers stunning coastal views. On a clear day you can see all the way to Lyme Regis in the west and Portland in the east.
The traditional fishing village of West Bay can be found to the south of the market town of Bridport. The coast path here runs right along the seafront where you can view the boats rising and falling on the tide inside the harbour walls. At East Cliff beach the towering golden cliffs are a fantastic sight and are an even bigger highlight of the Jurassic Coast after being featured on the hit ITV drama Broadchurch.
If you want to go fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast, Charmouth is the place to head. There are lots of organised trips which start at the visitors centre where you can learn the best tips and techniques for finding fossils whilst staying safe near the cliffs. The best time to go searching is just after a big storm as cliffs are naturally eroded so fresh fossils are exposed.
Experience a bucket and spade seaside town with a more relaxed pace. Lyme Regis is a pretty coastal town with a fascinating history stretching back to the 8th century. The town is famous as the birthplace of Mary Anning, one of history’s most important fossil collectors and palaeontologists. The Lyme Regis Fossil Festival is a popular annual event that runs every May Day Bank Holiday weekend. It draws fossil enthusiasts from all over the country and offers a mix of walks, talks, music, theatre, exhibits and lots of hands-on science for all ages.
Near to the western edge of the Jurassic Coast Site in East Devon is Ladram Bay. It is a secluded bay located between Burleigh Salterton and Sidmouth. Like Old Harry Rocks, there are impressive sea stacks here but these are a very different colour and rock type. The sandstone rocks have a bright red colour is caused by iron oxide indicates that the layers were formed in a desert.
We booked for two nights in our Motorhome and ended up staying six nights. Staff very friendly and accommodating. Shower blocks were kept clean and water was lovely and hot. Bus stop directly outside site going to Poole and Swanage on the he number 40 bus route. Worth getting a return ticket to save money Mo, Oct 2021
We had a simply fabulous time at South Lytchett Manor last month. We were not sure about camping in October but the site is well insulated, the playground kept our kids well entertained and the facilities were super clean and comfortable. We loved having a shop onsite and there are water taps and electricity points in abundance.. we have stayed at a number of sites and couldn’t recommend this Beth, Nov 2020
Great campsite, really friendly and polite staff. Very clean facilities and felt ‘safe’ with all the hand sanitizer and clear signage, highly recommend - we’ll probably book one of the huts next time.... Richard , Oct 2020