The South Devon Coast is a great place to go fossil hunting. Fossil hunting is a serious business for palaeontologists and history buffs as we’re still learning new facts about dinosaurs with each big new find.
Not only that, but it's a great activity for families too as the story of the dinosaurs is a fascinating one. It’s a mind-boggling conundrum for children 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!
Read on to find out about some of the best fossil-hunting spots along the South Devon coast or click the button below to find a charming cottage escape to act as your base between days out.
Fossil hunting on 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 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 discover a diversity of echinoid species; the location is also known for its ammonites, brachiopods, and bivalves.
Facilities: Toilets and cafe above beach, pubs and shops in village
Dog-friendly?: Yes, but dogs are banned from the west end of the beach during the summer months
Where to stay: Admirals View, Beer | sleeps 6 + 1 dog
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 - there’s nothing to say you cannot take some cool photos to document your finds though.
Facilities: Car park, play area, toilets by the beach, and shops and cafes in town
Dog-friendly?: Yes, but dogs are banned from the centre portion of the beach during the summer months
Where to stay: Pebble Cottage, Sidmouth | sleeps 4 + 1 dog
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.
Facilities: Toilets, car park and cafe
Dog-friendly?: Yes, but banned from the east section of beach during the summer - the far west has a section where dogs are welcome all year
Where to stay: Windy Ridge, Colyton | sleeps 6 + 1 dog
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.
Facilities: Car parks, toilets, cafes, restaurants, and shops all in town, a couple of hundred metres from the beach
Dog-friendly?: Yes, but banned from the main section of the beach during the summer - the east end of the beach welcomes dogs all year
Where to stay: Little Hollies, Sidmouth | sleeps 2 + 1 dog
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 belemnites. Also, in the Cretaceous chalk, the fossilised remains of shells, sea urchin spines and echinoids can be found.
Facilities: A secluded beach that's 1.5 miles from the shops, pubs and cafes of Lyme Regis
Dog-friendly?: Yes! Dogs are welcome all year, however, like much of this coast, the cliffs are prone to landslides so keep an eye on your dog while here
Where to stay: Knowles, Colyton | sleeps 13 + 3 dogs
Fossil hunting with kids
Children 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.
You can find out more about fossil hunting kit here, and the whole family can learn about fossils together.
Tip for a dinosaur day out with the kids: 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!
South Devon cottage breaks
This coastline boasts so much to explore including beauty spots, exciting attractions and seaside resorts too. Stay in one of our cosy and comfortable self-catering cottages in South Devon, 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 escapes for growing families. Visit our collection of South Devon cottages today.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.