Jurassic Coast stretches 96 miles from East Devon to Dorset along the sea in Southern England. The coastline is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its density in fossils, some of which date back 185 million years! Jurassic Coast is also named as one of the natural wonders of the world. The entire coastline offers phenomenal views of dramatic landscape and rock formations such as arches and coves.
Highlights in Jurassic Coast
Durdle Door is a famous natural limestone arch along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. It receives around half a million visitors each year. Access is free, although the car park charges a fee (£4 for 2 hours, £5 for 2 – 4 hours, £7.50 for 4-6 hours and £9 for 6+ hours). On the bright side, the ticket can be used at Lulworth Cove and Lulworth Castle too.
From Durdle Door car park, it’s a 15 minute walk downhill to the arch and Man O’War beach. Visitors can also reach Durdle Door from Lulworth Cove by foot in about 30 minutes.
Lulworth Cove is a beautiful horseshoe-shaped rock formation with a white pebble beach and cloudy bright blue water. The cove formed 10,000 years ago by the force of the sea and erosion continues to change its shape.
Again, it receives well over 500,000 visitors each year from all over the world. This part of the coast makes for a great place to kayak or take a motorboat to Durdle Door during summer.
The Fossil Forest
A short but steep walk from Lulworth Cove leads to the Fossil Forest. 145 million years ago, a forest grew along the coast. It flooded and left behind a collection of fossilised algal burrs still visible today.
The 17th century Lulworth castle and park are just a 10 minute drive from Lulworth cove. Entry to the park is free but there is a £6 charge for the castle.
Potentially my top favourite sight is Golden Cap. It’s the highest point along the Southern England coast at 191m. On a good day, it offers spectacular views of Seatown and the glistening horizon towards the North of France. It’s extremely peaceful and far less touristy than Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.
Different trails lead up to Golden Cap such as Charmouth, Morcombelake, Chideock, Seatown, Eype and Lyme Regis. There are two nearby car parks, either Langdon Hill or Stonebarrow Hill.
Tip: If you type Golden Cap into Google Maps, it will take you to Langdon Hill car park.
Seatown is not actually a town at all, but rather a tiny hamlet along the Southern Coast beside Golden Cap. Years ago, it was the smuggling point for goods such as alcohol which came from France. Today, it provides a long secluded beach and more hidden fossils!
Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon
The famous Chesil beach is a 29km stretch of smooth pebbles. From a satellite view, the fleet appears as a long spit which juts out from the coastline yet remains connected to the land.
Tip: Don’t go barefoot or wear flip-flops on the shingle beach. They sink into the ground and stones get stuck underneath your feet. I’m saving you unnecessary pain!
Lyme Regis is a beautiful town with fossil shops and museums as well as guided tours to help visitors find fossils. There are spots along Lyme Regis such as Monmouth Beach, Pinhay Bay and Lyme Regis Fossil Beach which are great for fossil hunting. In fact, most people find their fossils here during their trip.
Charmouth beach was nominated as one of the UK’s five best beaches in 2017. Beach huts, picnic areas, cafes, rockpools and bathing-friendly water. Charmouth is another famous spot for fossils. Guided fossil hunting walks are available at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre.
Walk through nature to witness the world’s only managed colony of nesting mute swans. May is the hatching season, after which is possible to see baby swans. An entry ticket costs £12.50 for adults and £9.50 for kids.
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens
Take a woodland walk through the subtropical gardens which have many exotic and rare plants. Again, entry costs £12.50 for adults and £9.50 for children. The car park closes at 5pm. For location reference, the gardens are close to the entrance of Chesil beach.
Old Harry Rocks
East of Studland, three chalk formations stand at the Eastern starting point of Jurassic Coast, to form Old Harry Rocks. The area offers a scenic walk for incredible views.
Weymouth is smack bang in the middle of the Jurassic Coast. Flocks of tourists come here each year to enjoy a long sandy beach for surfing and sunbathing and a harbour perfect for sailing. The town centre is one of the most vibrant along the coast, with an abundance of English pubs and restaurants. Visit Nothe Gardens and Nothe Fort to learn about the history of the area.
Isle of Portland
Wild during winter and like the Mediterranean during summer. Dotted in stone cottages, quarries and lighthouses. This limestone island is five miles south of Weymouth, well known for having the best building material in the world – yes the entire world – the Portland stone. Top attractions include the Portland Bill Lighthouse, Pulpit Rock, Church Ope Cove, Portland Castle and Rufus Castle.
East Devon Way
Get lost within the 100 square miles of untouched English countryside known as East Devon Area of Outstanding Beauty. In this protected area, there is an inland walking path called the East Devon Way which stretches from Exmouth to Charmouth. Either challenge yourself to walk the whole route or take it easy on one of the circular paths along the East Devon Way.
Burton Bradstock, West Bay and Bridport
These three places were my favourite to visit for a local evening meal or a simple drive through.
Burton Bradstock is a small village at the West end of Chesil beach. It looks like a rolling tapestry of Old style English cottages and lanes, where the 21st century hasn’t quite managed to corrupt yet. Quiet and petite and incredibly innocent to modernity. There are only a couple of restaurants which are usually fully booked at weekends. Reserve in advance if possible.
West Bay is a harbour town with rolling hills and steep cliffs on either side. The coastline is rugged with powerful waves and a dramatic stoney beach. It’s perfect for eating out as not all of the restaurants are fully booked. Also, most are vegetarian friendly and are happy to adjust to dietary requirements!
Bridport is a lively market town, inland from West Bay. It has fantastic restaurants for foodies, but also art festivals and theatre productions for the creative souls.
Ladram Bay is a beautiful cove-like pebbly beach. The surrounding red sandstone cliffs give it a magical secluded feel.
Chill out at the tranquil shingle beach at Ringstead Bay. Swim in the clean water or walk along the coastal path for refreshing views of Weymouth and the Isle of Portland as well as unspoiled countryside. Feeling adventurous? Walk 20 minutes east of the main beach to find a nudist beach.
Tip: There is a National Trust car park at the top of the road, or a private toll road goes down to the bay which costs around £5.
Beer Quarry Caves
The word beer probably entices a lot of old men who are disappointed when they find out it’s referring to beer stone. Beer Quarry Caves are underground tunnels made out of limestone, where beer stone was extracted until 1920. Guided tours are available for a dive into history. Entry costs £8 for adults and £6 for children.
Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliff National Nature Reserve
The south west coastal path gives access to witness the undercliff. The trek is over harsh terrain, so it’s not an easy walk, but still well worth the sweat. Guided walks are available for £7.
Durlston Country Park
Visiting the nature reserve makes for a great day with a Victorian castle, various wildlife and clifftops. The coastal country park looks out onto Durlston Bay and Isle of Wight. Some visitors have even spotted pods of dolphins. The car park cost £5 for the day, or £4 for 4 hours, £2.50 for 2 hours and £2 for 1 hour.
The Jurassic Coast proves that England can match the beauty of other natural wonders of the world. The 96 mile stretch of fossilised coast doesn’t just have an abundance of well-preserved history, but also ancient woodlands, bustling wildlife, old stone villages, windy lanes, dramatic hills and cliffs, spectacular sunsets and breathtaking views until the sky meets the glistening ocean.
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