The South Devon Coast is a great place to go fossil hunting, so why not stay in a self-catering holiday cottage close to one of the beaches in our guide? Fossil hunting is a serious business for palaeontologists as we’re still learning new facts about dinosaurs with each big new find. Dinosaurs and other ancient creatures leave traces in fossilised sediment, which becomes petrified, and over millions of years slowly transform into rock. This is how we get to see footprints and impressions of shells and bones in the rocks. For children, the story of the dinosaurs is a fascinating one. It’s a mind-boggling conundrum for them to wrap their minds around that millions of gigantic reptiles used to stomp, swim and fly here on Earth. It’s the stuff of fantasy made fact!
The Jurassic Coast
South Devon is home to the western end of England’s Jurassic Coast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this protected area of British coastline is an important place for humans and animals. Stretching far to the east into Dorset, the Jurassic Coast is 96.5 miles long and it boasts prime conditions for fossil hunting. Jurassic ammonites, brachiopods, and prehistoric fish are found at the eastern end of the site. Even further westwards you may encounter Triassic fossils. The most common kind of fossils found on the Devon coast are corals and crinoids.
Beer is a lovely beach with high chalk cliffs. At Beer, you could be lucky enough to find some excellently preserved fossils. Visitors have been known to find a diversity of echinoid species; the location is also known for its ammonites, brachiopods, and bivalves.
Stay at Beachside, Seaton (1 mile away)
Budleigh Salterton is characterised by its rich red sandstone cliffs. Visiting fossil enthusiasts know the location because of its pebble beds. The pebbles split open when they are cast against the rocks to reveal shell fossils. You cannot remove any fossils from the beach as it is an SSSI with a bylaw making it illegal but there’s nothing to say you cannot take some cool photos to document your finds though.
Stay at Lew at Linhayes Farm in Lympstone (6.5 miles away)
Seaton’s beach is a superb spot for a day out whether you fancy a spot of swimming, paddling, sunbathing or more importantly a bit of fossil rustling. Shake out traces of ammonites, echinoids, brachiopods, and bivalves here. Seaton’s geology makes it a highly fossiliferous destination for collectors and palaeontologists.
Stay at Woodmans Stoup, Seaton
Fossils of unusual fish, reptiles, and amphibians can be found on Sidmouth’s beach and in the cliffs. Sidmouth is an important site for finds from the Triassic period. Most specimens have been recovered from newly fallen boulders from the cliffs. Documented discoveries have included species from Mastodonsaurus lavisi, Fodonyx spenceri, labyrinthodont and a rhynchosaur.
Pinhay Bay is just west of Lyme Regis (over the border into Dorset) and a few miles east of Seaton. The beach and its cliffs are of geological interest because of the types of fossils that can be found from the Jurassic period lias (rocks with marine origins). They include prehistoric fish, ammonites, shells, and belemnite. Also, in the Cretaceous chalk, the fossilised remains of shells, sea urchin spines and echinoids can be found.
Fossil hunting with kids
Kids probably know a lot more about dinosaurs than your average man or woman on the street. This is because they crop up in cool kids' books, TV shows and films all the time. So it shouldn't be surprising that your kids are probably well up for a trip to the beach to collect fossils. Find out where you can by some fossil hunting kit here, so you can learn some of the basics alongside the children.
The song ‘Walk the Dinosaur’ by Was (Not Was) is an oldie but goodie and thanks to the popular Ice Age films, your kids probably know it as well as you do nowadays. So, while you’re on the road to Devon to hunt for fossils, why not seek this tune out to put you in the mood. It’s probably the fossil hunters’ theme tune! You can sing it when you are looking for your own specimens!
For more inspiration for places to go in South Devon, visit our superb guide.
Stay in one of our cosy and comfortable self-catering cottages in South Devon. Stay close to the coast where you will find all of the best fossil hunting beaches. We have romantic boltholes, apartments with views across the English Channel, large farmhouses for extended family breaks and gorgeous seaside home-from-homes for growing families. Where will you stay during your break to the dinosaur coast? Visit our collection of South Devon cottages today.