The Jurassic Coast Explore this famous World Heritage Site

The world renowned Jurassic Coast should definitely be one of the places to visit during your visit to Dorset.

It stretches for 95 miles between Old Harry Rocks at Studland Bay in Dorset to Exmouth in East Devon, and is a fantastic place to explore the geological features of this dramatic coastline - England’s first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The South West Coast Path walking trail runs along the length of the Jurassic Coast and is a great way to see the amazing landmarks and far reaching coastal views of this part of Dorset. Be sure to visit the pretty seaside towns of Swanage, Lyme Regis or West Bay for something to eat or a chance to rest your feet.

Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster

A new BBC documentary called Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster follows Dr. Steve Etches MBE and his team as they excavate the huge fossilised skull of a Pliosaur from the cliffs near Kimmeridge Bay on the Jurassic Coast. World famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough joins the team to see the skull up close and hear about its discovery.

The snout of the Pliosaur was first discovered by Philip Jacobs in April 2022. With the help of Steve Etches and others, the rest of the skull was located in the cliffs above, over 10 metres above ground level. A plan was made and permissions granted to extract the rest of the skull from the cliffs, which revealed a skull measuring over 6 feet in length.

As dinosaurs roamed the land, marine reptiles such as Pliosaurs swam in the oceans. With the huge size of some Pliosaurs, they were an apex predator of their day. The skull of this Pliosaur dates to around 150 million years old when sea levels were much higher than they are today and much of Dorset was covered by warm tropical seas. It is one of the most intact Pliosaur skulls ever to be found and is a very important discovery for scientists along the Jurassic Coast as well as all over the world as it might be a new species.

'Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster' airs on BBC One on 1st January 2024 (airing on PBS on 14th February 2024) and will be available on BBC iPlayer afterwards.

The fossilised skull will be available to view from 2nd January 2024 at The Etches Collection Museum of Jurassic Marine Life in Kimmeridge.

Millions of years of history

The Jurassic Coast was granted UNESCO status for its outstanding geology and reveals 185 million years of Earth's history along its 95 mile stretch of coastline. It is well known for being one of the richest heritage sites for prehistoric remains.

The rocks and fossils found along the Dorset stretch of the Jurassic Coast are from the Jurassic and Cretaceous time periods - between 65 and 200 million years ago. For this reason it is a hot bed for fossil hunting, with hundreds of specimens having been discovered.

The Jurassic Coast sits on a world map of other natural World Heritage Sites including the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef and Galapagos Islands.

At Kimmeridge, the Museum of Jurassic Marine Life is home to a collection of fossils all found and preserved by one man - Dr. Steve Etches MBE. He even discovered a new species! See the fossils, learn about how they were collected and if you're lucky you'll even see them being cleaned and conserved in the museum lab and workshop.

Dorset – the real ‘Jurassic Park’

You’ve seen the films, now visit Dorset for a Jurassic themed holiday!

There are many opportunities to take part in fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast - you might even find your very own piece of history! Many guided walks are based around the beaches at Lyme Regis and Charmouth, which was the stomping ground of Mary Anning, one of the world's most famous fossil collectors. You can take part in a supervised fossil hunting guided walk and learn the skills that Mary developed over 200 years ago.

For families, the Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester will excite any young dinosaur fan with life sized replicas and lots of interactive fun! We can guarantee you’ll have a T-Rexiffic time!

Mary Anning - fossil hunter extraordinaire

Mary Anning was born in 1799 at Lyme Regis. Her father was an amateur fossil collector and by the age of 5 or 6, Mary would go out fossil collecting with him.

At the age of 12, Mary, along with her brother, discovered the first complete Ichthyosaur skeleton and another 12 years later was the first to discover a complete Plesiosaur. Her fossils were some of the most significant geological finds of the time and her Ichthyosaur, Plesiosaur and Pterosaur are showcased at London's Natural History Museum.

There's a statue of Mary Anning on Gun Cliff Walk at Lyme Regis which celebrates her life and the amazing discoveries she made. It makes for a great selfie with Mary and her dog Tray.

You can find out more about Mary at the Lyme Regis Museum which is built on the site of her home and fossil shop.

Looking to plan a visit to the Jurassic Coast?

If you think the Jurassic Coast is all about fossils, think again! With stunning sea views, gorgeous sandy beaches and miles of coastal walks, why not make a holiday of it?

There are lots of things to doevents to see, and towns and villages to visit. The area has some of the best beachesgardens and golf courses in the UK. Plus you'll find an amazing array of places to eat and drink such as restaurantscafes and gastro pubs, many with fantastic views of the coast.

If you are searching for places to stay, you are in luck as the Jurassic Coast has accommodation perfect for any taste or budget. Whether you are looking for luxury hotels, quirky bed and breakfasts, exclusive holiday cottages or family friendly campsites, caravan parks and holiday parks - you will not be disappointed!

Important Information

It is vital you keep yourself and others safe while visiting the coast, please take a moment to read the information below.

  • The risk of landslides and rock falls increase following severe weather and sea conditions. Residents and visitors to the county are encouraged to follow safety advice along the coastline as landslides and rock falls can occur quickly and without warning. Tides have also re-shaped and stripped beaches around the coast meaning it is easier to be cut off by the incoming tides. More information about landslides and rock falls can be found on the Jurassic Coast website.
  • Walking along coastal paths may be muddy and slippery in places - be sure to stay on official routes and follow warning signs at all times.
  • You can find more information on World Heritage Sites in South West England, including the Jurassic Coast, the City of Bath, Cornish Mining and Stonehenge and Avebury, as well as the North Devon Biosphere and English Riviera GeoPark UNESCO sites, by visiting the Visit England website.
  • Why not view our stunning video footage of the Dorset Coastline, truly amazing! 
  • Explore the Jurassic Coast by bus! The hop-on hop-off Jurassic Coaster bus is a perfect way to visit one of the Jurassic Coast attractions, walk a section of the South West Coast Path or just sit back and marvel at the views from the top deck.

Discover Dorset'sJurassic Coast

Fossil Hunting

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