The Jurassic Coast consists of Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous cliffs, documenting 185 million years of geological history. At different times, this area has been desert, shallow tropical sea and marsh, and the fossilized remains of the various creatures that lived here have been preserved in the rocks.
Jurassic Coast from the eyes of a regular visitor
Hi, I am Luke Paines, guest contributor to The Art of Travel. The Jurassic Coast is one of the UK’s seaside treasures. I am a regular visitor to Jurassic Coast and in this destination guide, I’ll help you explore this ancient coast like a local.
There was this euphoric travel moment that has always stuck with me throughout my life. It was this moment as a kid, when my dad would signal right off the dual carriageway, weave the car around some pretty crazy bends then up and down a steep hill making my stomach flip with a mix of pure excitement and joy that we were nearly at our destination.
Upon the last little stretch, there were woods either side that would reveal the white static caravans through little cracks that made up our temporary holiday home for the next week.
And it was that moment, that annual family trip that makes me still go back there every year without fail.
Things To See in Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic coast is a 95 mile stretch of Southern English coastline along the Counties of Dorset and East Devon.
Now before you ask, no, it isn’t the setting of the next Jurassic Park movie (imagine the retirees’ reaction to that news)? No, but it does have some strong links with dinosaurs.
The layers of sedimentary rock along the Jurassic Coast reveal the history of the Earth across 185 million years ago and form a near complete record of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (a nice little bit of history for you there).
Natural features seen on this stretch of coast include arches, pinnacles and stack rocks. In some places the sea has broken through resistant rocks to produce coves with restricted entrances, and in one place, the Isle of Portland is connected to the land by a narrow spit.
In some parts of the coast, landslides are common. These have exposed a wide range of fossils, the different rock types each having its own typical fauna and flora, thus providing evidence of how animals and plants evolved in this region.
The area around Lulworth Cove contains a fossil forest. You can also see the various rock strata as formed over millions of years
Durdle Door is a natural limestone sea arch near Lulworth in Dorset on the Jurassic Coast.
Stair Hole is a cove located just west of Lulworth on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.
Weymouth is a bigger town that lie along the Jurassic coast. Weymouth is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Britain due to its sheltered and shallow waters of its golden sandy beach which are ideal for bathing.
Furthermore, Weymouth enjoys more sunshine than anywhere else in England, even in winter.
Stunning Lyme Regis
One place in particular, which I like to call my UK hotspot, is Lyme Regis. Lyme is a small coastal town embedded in the heart of the Jurassic coast.
Lyme, with its historic Cobb and harbor is packed with museums and shops linked with the Dinosaur theme.
One fossil shop in particular has a huge T-Rex head in the window which makes every dad in the world turn into some sort of Alan Grant character from the movie as they suddenly out of nowhere cough up their hidden pre-historic knowledge for their kid.
I’ve never heard so much rubbish in all my life but the kids don’t know any different – especially when they’re laughing at their dads dancing around and making fake dino claws it always makes me chuckle at how geeky this place can be.
To be fair though, that’s just why I love this little town so much, I mean what’s not to like here? Stunning cliff tops, boutique jewelry shops, dinosaur museums, the best fish and chips, classic British pubs selling local ales, the sound of seagulls, classic old antique stores and old school arcades make this town a kind of upmarket classic British seaside destination.
British Summer Fun for Families
It’s a family friendly place alright, the summers here get pretty packed with the annual carnival and lifeboat week’s – the promenade at the front littered with smiley old people with bright white hair, kids with ice cream all over their clothes, seagulls pretty much everywhere there’s food in sight, and sand literally everywhere.
If you’ve been on the beach that day, you better believe there will be sand in your sandwich, sand in your sunglasses, sand in your beer and sand in your shoe – which you never realized until you get back to your caravan and spray all over the carpet.
But it’s great – people down here, families, couples, youngsters and elderly folk just, sort of, well don’t have a care in the world really. They’re just chilled, enjoying the British sunshine, sitting on the beach, walking along the hilly walk to the little mini golf course at the top, watching the fishing boats go in and out the harbor and generally relaxing.
There is honestly no other place in the world that makes me feel this peaceful – unless I’m on the mini golf course that is – then my competitiveness side rears its ugly head. No one wants to see me on a mini golf course, I own that patch of land!
Take the kids crabbing
When we were younger, me and my brother would use our holiday spending money to buy a bit of mackerel bait from the local fresh fish shop, buy a cheap line and hook set and walk over to the other side of the beach to do some crabbing.
This basically involves walking and balancing over rock pools that have formed when the tide goes right out, leaving you to dip your line and bait in and out, in and out until you catch a massive crab and poke him in the eye for no other reason than the fact that you’re just a horrible kid!
You then realize you’ve been doing it for three solid hours but watching my mum try and walk out to catch us was worth it too, her yelling out to us ‘get back here now’ hardly did anything to stop us.
And even now, all grown up I still really enjoy it here. The winter is just as good, when the long pebble beach becomes completely deserted, wrapping up in a big coat and braving the cold is well worth a decent walk along.
Most shops remain open, apart from a few summer shacks, but there are many little souvenir shops and scenery to make it a worthwhile trip. The iconic arcade on the front promenade is still a favourite of mine; as a 30 year old I can still admit that going on a 2p machine to win a plastic egg that contains a key-ring, is still worth me shelling £15 out my pocket for.
The antique shop on the front is a bit like an old lady hoarders basement, but look past the idea that it’s all junk because it’s not, there’s something for everyone in there – old football programmes from years ago, old furniture and jewellery as well as cutlery. The old folks love it to be fair so just leave your kids outside.
And although it has always kept its old charm, the town has seen significant changes over the last few years. It now boasts modern coffee shops, more convenience stores so you can stock your fridge up for the week, cool surf-type designer clothes shops and also more classy restaurants with Chinese, Italian and Indian cuisine to name a few.
Of course I am always going to be bias towards Lyme Regis, it is after all home from home, but there are plenty of other big seaside towns along this coastline that are well worth a visit too.
Beer isn’t just a drink here
The little village of Beer, approx a 15 minute drive from Lyme is a beautiful little place, the lane going down to it seems a bit narrow but brave it because at the bottom is a stunning little place, with breathtaking walks above white cliffs, cute shops in the center and a generally really laid back place.
There is also a little shack restaurant that sits on top of the pebble beach at the bottom of the high street, where you can sit and enjoy the sea breeze with a cup of English cream tea and a scone.
Sidmouth is another place my parents used to take me regularly, and again probably a 20 minute drive from Lyme, it’s well worth a visit too. Sidmouth is a picturesque seaside town nestled beneath majestic Triassic red cliffs and the green hills of the glorious Sid valley.
It has a great walk down some big wooden steps called Jacob’s ladder which leads from some stunning gardens at the top down to the sandy front. It also boasts another great mini golf course and is also a reasonable sized town where you could easily spend the day with some nice pubs restaurants and ice-cream parlours to spoil you for choice.
Exmouth is a bigger town and also a popular destination for a variety of watersports including kite surfing, kayaking and windsurfing. The nearby Exe Estuary is one of the most beautiful in Britain, and is a haven for birdlife.
Other coastal towns
There are also a variety of other towns that are worth exploring too like Charmouth, Abbotsbury, Branscombe, Bridport & West Bay, Budleigh Salterton, Kimmeridge, Portland, Seaton, Swanage and West Lulworth. All have their own unique charm and different viewpoints of the stunning cliffs along the Jurassic coast.
Who Should Visit?
Everyone. Whether you are a party-goer and nightlife lover or a nature lover, this place will leave you in awe.
This place is like a little slice of British relaxation, where people go to chill and take their families. If you are from Britain you’ll know exactly the sort of place this is, but if you aren’t then here might give you a great insight into the real British seaside culture.
Cornwall and North Wales get many of the headlines for overseas visitors but I highly recommend trying this area of the UK, just ensure you go to Lyme Regis as it will always be my favorite place in the world. (P.S. I don’t work for their tourism board I promise).
Enjoy and welcome to United Kingdom.
May 13, 2018 8:32 pm