The Jurassic Coast is a stretch that runs between Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, it was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2001, it is considered ar England’s only natural World Heritage Site. The Jurassic Coast spans around 155 km of undeveloped coast, which shows off the geology of approximately 185 million years of the Earth’s history. It has been a place of great importance for scientific investigations and has been used for over 200 years, it is considered as one of the most important places for Earth science research and teaching in the world.
Throughout the years the Jurassic Coast has experienced tremendous transitions, from desert to shallow tropical sea to marshland. This evolution can be traced by looking at the fossilized remains that have been preserved in the layers of rocks that outline this stretch of coast. The Jurassic Coast does not only hold geological wonders and there are a number of interesting attractions for you to dive into when roaming around this area.
What is the Jurassic Coast?
The Jurassic Coast is a stretch of 95 miles that run along the seafront, it displays over 250 million years of the Earth’s history dating back through the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and even the Triassic eras. 252 million years ago, there was an era known as the Triassic era, at this time, the earth crust was stretching and sinking, as it sank, layers of sediment piled up on top of each other to form rocks and created deserts. Then in the Jurassic period (201 to 145 million years go) the sea level began to rise and changed the deserts into a tropical sea.
At the end of the Jurassic era, sea levels began to fall and forests started to gown but then died and were buried beneath the sediments of lagoons, swamps, and rivers. This was known as the start of the Cretaceous period which lasted from 150 to 66 million years ago. The sea levels began to rise again, during the rest of the Cretaceous period, sandstone and Chalk were laid down across the region, burying all of the older rock.
Since then, erosion has started to carve into the rocks and have turned them into the Jurassic Coast as we know it today. This has given researchers a unique look into the formation of the rocks across a timespan of millions of years. Fossils of long-extinct creatures have been found here and it gives a unique insight into how the coastline was created.
This county town that is found right in the heart of Dorset is a Roman jewel that has a very rich heritage which can be seen in its ancient remains such as the Neolithic Henge and the Roman Villa. Inside this town’s Country Museum, you can see some of Dorset’s most remarkable archeological treasures, such as gold artifacts dated back to the Bronze Age and a 2-meter-long skull of a Jurassic Pilosaur. If Dinosaurs and geology are not really your idea of fun, this town has a lovely shopping street and it is a wonderful place to stroll alongside the water meadows. Once in Dorchester, you can reach a number of different locations as it serves as a hub for several bus routes that operate throughout the whole of England, including the Jurassic Coaster bus service.
The Golden Cap
The Golden Cap is the highest point on the English south coast, and needless to say, the view of the Jurassic Coast from here is stunning. This point stands at 190 meters above the sea level and to get there it can be quite a challenge, but the view is very rewarding as you will experience panoramic views from Portland to Dartmoor.
Portland is located at the southern end of the Jurassic Coast and it is attached to the mainland by a thin strip of sediment at the end of the arch of Chesil Beach. This location is ideal for anyone looking to explore the landscape as well as a wide variety of flora and fauna that thrive in this area. The best way to explore Portland is undoubtedly on foot, you can stroll along the South West Coast Path that will take you all the way around the island which gives you excellent access to a wide variety of features.
This quiet village holds within its old brick walls over 6,000 years of history. One of the most striking buildings that you can see here is the 14th Century Chapel dedicated to St. Catherine, which is a place of pilgrimage and retreat for the monks of the Abbotsbury Abbey. From the hill where the chapel stands, one can see scenic views of Chesil Beach and the typical thatched cottages that date back to the 16th Century.
The seaside village of Charmouth is found right in the heart of the Jurassic Coast. This village houses a long, shingle beach that is littered with fossils thousands of years old. If you’re not an experienced fossil hunter, the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre organizes regular fossil hunting walks which are extremely interesting and very popular amongst locals and tourists alike. If you’re not very interested in fossils, this village is still a wonderful place to visit especially if you enjoy walking in the countryside.
If you are planning on visiting the Jusassic Coast, a photo with Durdle door is compulsory. This arched stone structure is one of the most iconic features of the coast. The natural arch, which was formed by a hard layer of limestone is quite a sight to see, especially at sunset.
World Heritage Site
The Jurassic Coast is one of the Englands UNESCO World Heritage sites, there are eight sections of the coast which are stated within the documentation:
- from Orcombe Rocks to Chit Rocks, Sidmouth
- from River Sid, Sidmouth to Seaton Hole
- from River Axe, Axmouth to The Cobb, Lyme Regis
- from Lyme Regis to West Bay
- Chesil Beach, the Fleet Lagoon and the Isle of Portland Coast
- Portland Harbour Shore
- from Bowleaze Cove to Peveril Point
- from New Swanage to Studland Bay
The site was added as a World Heritage Site in 2001 and is the first wholly natural World Heritage Site in the United Kingdom.
How to get to the Jurassic Coast
Due to the Jurassic Coast being so long, it is easy to get to it in a number of different ways.
The Jurassic Coast Bus will take you along the Jurassic Coast, there are two different companies running these busses from Poole to Axminster and Axminster to various East Devon locations. They stop at a number of different towns and villages along the coast including Axminster and Weymouth.
There are also National Express busses running from all over the country that will take you down to places along or nearby to he coast including Weymouth, Swanage, Poole and more.
There are three main lines that connect the Jurassic Coast with the rest of the United Kingdom. South Western Railway has two lines, the first run from Weymouth to London Waterloo, passing through Dorchester South, Wareham and Poole. The second line runs from Exeter to London Waterloo and passes through Axminster. The final line is run by Great Western Railay, this line runs from Weymouth and goes through Dorchester West on its way up to Bristol.
It is best to use a route planner to get you to a destination that you want, do not just input Jurassic Coast or you will end up halfway down with no access to the beach. There are no motorways that will get you to the Jurassic coast apart from the M25 which will go into Exeter. The A35 runs west from Poole o Dorchester, Bridport, and Charmouth where it connects with the A3052 which runs through East Devon to Exeter. Just west of Poole the A3 connects to the A3051 which runs through Wareham and gives access to the Isle of Purbeck. From Poole, it is also possible to take the chain ferry across Poole Harbour from Sandbanks to Studland which gives easy access to Old Harry Rocks, Swanage and the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast. Queues for the chain ferry at peak times can be quite long.
What to do at the Jurassic Coast
There is plenty of offer when you decide to visit the Jurassic coast, from walking, cycling, fossil hunting, water sports and more, you will certainly find something exciting and fascinating waiting for you.
Established in 215, Lulworth OPutdors can offer you some exciting adventures such as archery, mountain biking, orienteering, and bushcraft. Exclusive rights to offer activities on the Lulworth Estate were granted to Lulworth Outdoors.
Beer Quarry Caves:
Explore the fascinating Beer Quarry Caves that were used from the Roman time sup until the 1920s, learn more about what the quarrymen experienced, it is also of international importance due to its Greater and Lesser Horseshoe Bat population.
Perfect for a family day out, learn about the species living along the Jurassic Coast and dig up some fossils, adventure into a giant rock pool and dress up like you favourite sea creatures. There is also a cafe available and plenty of additional activities such as walks, bug hints, falconry displays, storytelling, educational presentation and face painting.
Plenty of activities to get your teeth into including coasteering, climbing and abseiling, kayaking, bush crafts, mountain biking, orienteering, and raft building. Perfect for those looking for an adventure or for corporate team building events.
The Donkey Sanctuary:
Positions right along the coast of East Devon, the Donkey Sanctuary is an active and working farm that is home to Donkeys, Mules and Hinnies, both large and small. Learn all there is to know about Donkeys, feed them, pet them and then experience some Donkey talks and scenic walks through the surrounding areas, you can even get yourself lost in a maze.
See the history of Portland and the world-renowned building stone that has been used for many well-known buildings around the world. There are also fossils discovered by quarrymen on display including huge reptiles that used to be around during the Jurassic years.
City Cruise Poole:
A wide range of coastal cruises are available that will take you down the Jurassic Coast to view the landmarks and history from the sea. Get commentary from the Jurassic Coast team to ensure you don’t miss a thing.
Red Rock Leisure:
A Windsurfing and paddleboat school that can teach you to windsurf, available for adults and children, beginners adn experts.
Lyme Bay RIB Charter:
Take a ride on a rigid inflatable boat, a trip includes a 15-minute high-speed trip, a half-hour cruise along the Jurassic coast, a 1 hour extended cruise in the morning and evenings, you can be picked up by water taxi water skiing and wakeboarding lessons, and a special tour commentary from the Jurassic Coast Team.
Pecorama overlooks the stunning coastal views of Lyme Bay, it s home o the Peco Model Railway and the award-winning Beer Heights Light Railway. A fantastic day out for those who love trains.
There are plenty of other exciting things to see and activities to do along the Jurassic Coast.
Where to stay at the Jurassic Coast
If you are feeling adventurous,m then the best way to experience the Jurassic Coast is to camp, there are a number of different campsites positioned along the coast including the Exmouth County Lodge and Prattshayes Campsite which offers fantastic access to Exmouth the most westerly point of the Jurassic Coast. The Andrewshayes Holiday Park is a family run business lust of the A35 past Axminster, perfect for exploring East Devon’s Jurassic Coast. Swanage Coast Park is the most easterly camping location, which is a fantastic base for exploring Swanage, Purbeck and it is the ending point for a number of coastal walks. There are plenty of other locations available along the Jurassic Coast.
If you are looking for more of a traditional place to stay, there are hundreds of hotels positioned along the coast in its various towns and villages, once you know where you are heading, it will never be a problem to find somewhere beautiful to stay.
Contact the Jurassic Coast team:
If you need to get in contact with the Jurassic Coast team, you can do so in a number of ways.
Phone: 01308 807000 (+44 from overseas).
Address: Jurassic Coast Trust HQ, Mountfield, Bridport, Dorset, Jurassic Coast, DT6 3JP