Which UK locations offer the best fossil-hunting expeditions for families?

11 June 2024

If your family's idea of a great outing involves discovery and exploration, a fossil hunting expedition might be the perfect fit. The UK, with its storied geology and history, offers an abundance of locales for these educational adventures. From bone fragments of dinosaurs to preserved plants and marine creatures, the possibilities of fascinating finds are countless. This guide provides an overview of some of the UK's best locations for fossil hunting. Plunge into the exciting world of prehistoric life and let's see where your explorations could take you.

Charmouth, Dorset

Charmouth, located along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, is one of the most popular spots for fossil hunting in the UK. This UNESCO world heritage site offers an abundance of fossils from the Jurassic period, around 200 million years ago.

Known for its abundance of ammonites, Charmouth's rich beaches and cliffs reveal the secrets of millions of years of geological history. The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre offers guided fossil hunts to help families explore the area safely and responsibly while learning about the Jurassic period. These tours provide an unparalleled opportunity for hands-on learning about geology, palaeontology and the unique nature of fossil preservation.

Whitby, North Yorkshire

Moving up to the North, Whitby offers a different, but equally fascinating, fossil hunting experience. Famous for its jet (a black gemstone formed from fossilised wood), Whitby also boasts a rich trove of Jurassic fossils including ammonites and belemnites – extinct marine animals resembling squid.

The cliffs and beaches around Whitby provide a vast area for exploration. Guided tours are available, and the Rotunda Museum’s Geology Gallery offers a great introduction to the region's geological history. The museum itself is an interesting site, being one of the oldest purpose-built museums in the world, and a visit here can enrich your fossil hunting experience in Whitby.

Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight, located off the southern coast of England, is a treasure trove for dinosaur enthusiasts. Renowned as one of the top locations in Europe for dinosaur remains, the island's southern beaches are particularly rich in fossils from the Cretaceous period.

By exploring beaches like Compton Bay and Yaverland, you might find dinosaur footprints and bones, as well as marine fossils. The Dinosaur Expeditions, Conservation and Palaeoart Centre offers guided tours, allowing families to hunt for fossils under expert supervision. The centre also houses the Dinosaur Isle Museum, which displays an incredible collection of fossils found on the island.

Orkney Islands, Scotland

For those willing to venture farther afield, the Orkney Islands in Scotland offer a truly unique fossil hunting experience. The Old Red Sandstone of the region, dating back 385 million years, is rich in fish fossils.

The Orkney Islands are characterized by their stark beauty and remote tranquillity. While guided tours are not as common here, the Stromness Museum provides extensive information on the geology of the area, helping families to plan their own expeditions. One of the key highlights of the Orkneys is the Achanarras Quarry, known for its well-preserved fish fossils.

Lavernock Point, South Wales

Lavernock Point in South Wales is a lesser-known spot that deserves a place on this list. The cliffs here are from the Jurassic and Triassic periods, making them a rich source of marine fossils.

With a bit of patience, you can uncover a variety of fossils, including ammonites, bellamnites, and occasionally, ichthyosaur bones. Tools are not allowed at Lavernock Point, making it a safe location for children. The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust offers resources and tips for fossil hunting in the area, ensuring a fun and educational experience.

Whether you choose the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, the dinosaur-rich Isle of Wight, the fish fossils of Orkney Islands, the diverse offerings of Whitby or the quiet charm of Lavernock Point, you are sure to have a memorable adventure. Fossil hunting is more than an expedition; it's a journey back in time, a tangible connection to our planet's fantastic and immeasurable past. Why not start planning your trip today?

Lyme Regis, Dorset

Another gem on the Jurassic Coast is Lyme Regis. Known as the 'Pearl of Dorset', this picturesque coastal town is a mecca for fossil hunters. Its foreshore and cliffs, rich in fossils from the Jurassic period, promise a fascinating exploration for families.

The town's history is intrinsically linked to fossil collecting, with Mary Anning, a legendary figure in paleontology, making significant fossil discoveries in the area during the early 19th century. Her findings, which included complete skeletons of ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, revolutionised scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. The Lyme Regis Museum, standing on the site of Anning's birthplace, offers guided fossil walks along the very same Jurassic shoreline that she explored.

Fossil hunting in Lyme Regis is a thrilling experience for both beginners and seasoned collectors. The stretch of beach between Lyme Regis and Charmouth is especially productive after storms or heavy rain, when the cliffs crumble and reveal hidden treasure. Remember, safety is paramount. Always check tide times and never go too close to the cliffs or dig into them.

Norfolk, England

For those in search of something a little different, the Norfolk coast offers an interesting twist on the traditional fossil hunting expedition. While less well-known than the Jurassic Coast, the beaches of Norfolk offer an abundance of fascinating finds, including echinoids (sea urchin fossils), belemnites (ancient squid-like creatures) and even mammoth teeth.

The cliffs of West Runton are a particularly rewarding site, with fossils from the Ice Age frequently found in the eroding cliffs. The West Runton Elephant, the most complete skeleton of a Steppe Mammoth ever found in the UK, was discovered here in 1990. The Norfolk coastline is also well-known for its shark teeth fossils, especially from the Miocene epoch, making it an exciting destination for any aspiring fossil hunter.

Do bear in mind that the Norfolk coast is not known for its dinosaur fossils like the Jurassic Coast. However, its rich Ice Age history and variety of marine fossils make it a worthy contender in the list of top UK fossil hunting locations.


The UK is a rich tapestry of geological wonders, making it one of the best places for a family fossil hunting expedition. From the world heritage site of the Jurassic Coast to the dinosaur mecca of Isle of Wight, the ancient fish remains in the Orkney Islands, the jet gemstone and marine fossils in Whitby, to the Jurassic and Triassic cliffs of Lavernock Point, and the Ice Age fossils of Norfolk – there's a site to satisfy every budding palaeontologist.

Whether you're interested in the marine life of the ancient seas, the majestic dinosaurs that once roamed the Earth, or the ice age mammals that followed in their footsteps, the UK's diverse geological history promises a unique and memorable adventure. So, why not pack your kit, grab some train tickets, and start your family's own fossil hunting adventure today? Witness the joy and excitement in your children's eyes as they find fossils on the foreshore, the thrill of discovery, and the wonder of connecting with Earth's deep past. It's not just about finding a chunk of ancient life encased in stone; it's about developing a deep appreciation for our planet's incredible history and our place within it. Happy hunting!

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