Home | News | Ultimate Guide to Visiting Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

Stretching for nearly 100 miles along the southern coast of England, the Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and rich geological history. From towering cliffs and secluded coves to picturesque villages and historic landmarks, this stretch of coastline offers something for everyone to discover and explore, and we’re very proud to call it home.

In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the highlights of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, from geological wonders and areas rich in wildlife to beautiful beaches and historic monuments. Whether you’re a nature lover, history enthusiast, or simply seeking a relaxing seaside getaway, you’ll find plenty to captivate your imagination along this extraordinary coastline.

So pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure along one of England’s most iconic coastlines. The Jurassic Coast awaits, and we’re here to help you make the most of every moment.

The Geology of the Jurassic Coast

The unique arch-like layers of rock at Stair Hole, Lulworth Cove.
The unique arch-like layers of rock at Stair Hole, Lulworth Cove.

The immense character of the Jurassic Coast is undoubtedly due, at least in part, to the unique geology underpinning it. The area’s most famous, unmissable sights have been formed not by man but by nature over millions of years.

The Jurassic Coast runs for 95 miles along the south coast of England from Exmouth in East Devon over to Studland Bay in Dorset. As I’m sure you’ve deciphered from the name, the majority of the rocks exposed along this dramatic coastline were formed during the Jurassic Period, which ended about 145 million years ago.

Hikers making their way up the chalk cliffs of Durdle Door.
Image: Alex Totaro
Hikers making their way up the chalk cliffs of Durdle Door.

The coastline features a variety of geological formations, with almost all of the Jurassic Coast’s rocks being sedimentary, such as limestone, shale, and sandstone. These rocks were laid down over millions of years, deposited on the seabed as sand and sediment by the ferocious waves before forming layers of rock known as the Jurassic strata. These layers provide a detailed record of ancient ecosystems and environmental changes – they contain the remains of the creatures that lived in them, as fossils.

The Jurassic Coast is renowned for its abundance of fossils. Fossilised remains of marine creatures such as ammonites, belemnites, ichthyosaurs, and even dinosaurs have been found along the coast, offering valuable insights into past life forms and ecosystems. The recent discovery at Kimmeridge Bay of a Pliosaur skull is on display at the Etches Museum – well worth visiting if you’re in the area. You can also join a guided fossil walk in the area, or simply head out to one of the many fossil-rich beaches and bays including Kimmeridge, Ringstead and Charmouth and get looking!

There are many geological landmarks scattered across the Jurassic Coast, all of which provide an incredible insight into what once was. Whether it’s a sunny summer’s day or a foggy February weekend, the sights are truly something to behold. Here are some of our favourites:

The Jurassic Coast is constantly shaped by natural processes such as erosion, weathering, and sea-level changes. While erosion exposes new rock layers and fossils, it also poses challenges for coastal management and conservation efforts. Various organisations work to protect the unique geological features and biodiversity of the area while balancing the needs of tourism, recreation, and local communities.

The Jurassic Coast offers a fascinating glimpse into the ancient history of the Earth, showcasing millions of years of geological processes and the evolution of life on our planet – but that’s not all…

Wildlife on the Jurassic Coast

There are no cities down here, and the larger towns are few and far between. And if you’ve ever tried to hop on a motorway to visit the Jurassic Coast before, you’ll have found yourself stuck at Exeter or on the other side of the New Forest in Southampton. In short, the area is largely untouched by the huge developments of buildings and infrastructure that tend to displace much of this country’s native wildlife.

We feel very lucky to share our home on the Jurassic Coast with so many incredible animals from dolphins and seals to falcons and razorbills. And whilst you can certainly spot some of them when you’re out and about – I saw a huge buzzard as I drove past Owermoigne last week – you’ll have a much better chance if you head to one of the Jurassic Coast’s many nature reserves. Here’s a quick guide to some of the best:

ns for 95 miles along the south coast of England from Exmouth in East Devon over to Studland Bay in Dorset. As I’m sure you’ve deciphered from the name, the majority of the rocks exposed along this dramatic coastline were formed during the Jurassic Period, which ended about 145 million years ago.

Durlston Country Park - Located just south of Swanage, this reserve sits atop the cliffs of southern Purbeck. See over 250 species of bird, plus migrating birds, nationally rare butterflies, Guillemots, and five species of reptiles
Durlston Country Park – Located just south of Swanage, this reserve sits atop the cliffs of southern Purbeck. See over 250 species of bird, plus migrating birds, nationally rare butterflies, Guillemots, and five species of reptiles
RSPB Weymouth Wetlands - This area is home to two reserves. RSPB Radipole Lake is in the heart of Weymouth, an unlikely urban home for some incredible wildlife. Lodmoor is more quiet, attracting a huge range of birds to its reedbed, saltmarsh and wet grassland
RSPB Weymouth Wetlands – This area is home to two reserves. RSPB Radipole Lake is in the heart of Weymouth, an unlikely urban home for some incredible wildlife. Lodmoor is more quiet, attracting a huge range of birds to its reedbed, saltmarsh and wet grassland
West Bexington Nature Reserve - This small reserve on the northwestern part of Chesil Beach is another important resting place for migrant birds, as well as a permanent home to wetland and scrub species including reptiles
West Bexington Nature Reserve – This small reserve on the northwestern part of Chesil Beach is another important resting place for migrant birds, as well as a permanent home to wetland and scrub species including reptiles
Image: Martin Hesp
Fleet Lagoon SSSI - Separated from the English Channel by Chesil Beach, this unique, shallow lagoon is an important habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, fish, and marine invertebrates. The lagoon stretches for 8 miles to Abbotsbury in the north, where you’ll find a swannery - home to the world’s only managed colony of 600 mute swans
Fleet Lagoon SSSI – Separated from the English Channel by Chesil Beach, this unique, shallow lagoon is an important habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, fish, and marine invertebrates. The lagoon stretches for 8 miles to Abbotsbury in the north, where you’ll find a swannery – home to the world’s only managed colony of 600 mute swans

Spotting Dolphins & Seals on the Jurassic Coast

As well as the incredible wildlife listed above, we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to spot a range of species of marine mammals, such as dolphins and seals, along the Jurassic Coast.

There are 14 species of dolphins, porpoises, and whales to spot here, plus 2 species of seal. Species of marine mammals you can spot in Dorset include:

One of the best times of year to spot these marine mammals found in the south west is in early autumn. The best places on the Jurassic Coast to spot cetaceans include Durlston Head, Old Harry Rocks, Kimmeridge Cliffs and Portland Bill. You can also spot seals over in the bays of Swanage and Studland.

It’s very important to follow the advice provided in the Marine and Coastal wildlife code to ensure you don’t cause any disturbance or harm to these incredible animals, especially if you’re venturing onto the water to look for them, as opposed to setting up at a vantage point atop the cliffs.

Should you be lucky enough to spot one of these marine mammals, visit the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s website to find out how to report a sighting!

The Best Beaches on the Jurassic Coast

A gorgeous Pointer gazes out to the equally-gorgeous beach at Durdle Door.
A gorgeous Pointer gazes out to the equally-gorgeous beach at Durdle Door.

The Best Beaches on the JurassIt’s no secret that the Jurassic Coast is home to some spectacular beaches. We’ve already told you all about the best places to spot wildlife or see some geological wonders, but what about when it comes to sunbathing, a relaxing beach walk, or even water sports?

The Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area of Dorset is famous for its beautiful beaches. But there’s far more to this county than the east’s golden sands, so here are some of our favourite beaches on the Jurassic Coast!

There’s a fantastic range of beaches on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, tucked away in coves and bays and each hiding their own secrets. Some beaches are more family-friendly, with sands perfect for a day spent sunbathing, playing, and swimming. Others are ideal for the more adventurous – people who love to spend their time exploring hidden coves, wading through rock pools, wildlife-spotting or fossil-hunting.

Historical sites on the Jurassic Coast

There is a long history of settlement on the Jurassic Coast, with the first-known settlers living out their lives along the coast in the Isle of Purbeck and Weymouth as early as 8000 BC. These mesolithic hunters are thought to have returned to Britain when it was still connected to mainland Europe via a land bridge, and used stone tools and fire to clear the native oak forests to look for prey.

The medieval period along the Jurassic Coast was characterised by the growth of towns, trade, and agriculture. Norman castles like Corfe Castle were built by William the Conqueror. Landmarks like Sandsfoot Castle and Portland Castle were constructed in the Tudor era as coastal defences, and the area was further shaped by the industrial revolution when Weymouth and Portland grew as important ports.

Now, Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is home to the remnants of those who came before us – and you can dive into our history at these fascinating landmarks:

As we conclude our Ultimate Guide to Visiting Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, we hope you’re feeling inspired to embark on your own adventure along this extraordinary stretch of coastline. From the dramatic cliffs of Lulworth Cove to the ancient fossils of Charmouth Beach, Dorset’s Jurassic Coast offers a wealth of experiences waiting to be discovered.

Whether you’re drawn to the area’s geological wonders, its rich history and heritage, or simply its stunning natural beauty, there’s something here for everyone to enjoy. Every moment spent on the Jurassic Coast is sure to be filled with wonder and excitement.

We encourage you to approach your journey with curiosity, openness, and a spirit of adventure, whether you’re discovering the secrets of ancient fossils, marvelling at the breathtaking views from cliff-top paths, or simply savouring the tranquillity of coastal villages.

Thank you for joining us on this exploration of one of England’s most iconic coastlines. We wish you safe travels and unforgettable experiences as you set out to discover the wonders of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Until next time, happy exploring!


Holidays on the Jurassic Coast with Quay Holidays

Interested in visiting Dorset’s Jurassic Coast on your next family holiday? We know you’ll love it just as much as we do, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.

Our range of self-catering holiday properties in Poole and Bournemouth are each beautifully unique – whatever you’re looking for, we’re passionate about finding the perfect holiday property for you. From quaint cottages for small families to spacious, modern five-bedroom houses, we’re proud to offer a true home-from-home experience on Dorset’s stunning Jurassic Coast.

Many of our lovely holiday properties in Dorset are close to the seafront and within walking distance of some fantastic sights and restaurants. This means that after a busy day exploring the Jurassic Coast, you can enjoy a quiet, relaxing evening at one of our fantastic local seafood restaurants in Poole!

Based in Poole’s historic Old Town, we provide a comprehensive full-management service to ensure your holiday is as perfect as can be.

Browse our range of self-catering properties or get in touch with us to get started!

© 2024 Quay Holidays | Privacy policy
Web design by Creatomatic
This site uses cookies.
Configure
 
Read our privacy policy

This site uses cookies for marketing, personalisation, and analysis purposes. You can opt out of this at any time or view our full privacy policy for more information.