With waves crashing against rocky cliffs, gradually revealing the fossils they contain, a hunt for prehistoric treasures is a popular pastime in Dorset. A 30-minute drive from The Acorn Inn, the Jurassic Coast is a must-visit during your stay. Winter is when to catch it at its most plentiful, as the stormy weather churns up the beaches, bringing back many previously lost relics. Find yourself nose-to-nose with dinosaurs at Dorset’s museums and scout for your own ancient finds on the beautiful beaches that make up England’s only natural World Heritage Site. Here’s where to go dinosaur-hunting in Dorset.
The Fossil Forest
One of the region’s most famous sites for its fossilised Jurassic forest – the most complete of its kind in the world – the Fossil Forest is where history foragers should start their explorations. Traverse its ancient geographical landscape to see the imprints left behind by prehistoric trees, their trunks and roots some 144 million years old, for a glimpse of the world that dinosaurs inhabited.
Ramblers seeking to collect an extraordinary souvenir on their beach walk should head for Kimmeridge Bay. Due to its crumbling rock face, beautifully formed fossils continually emerge here. To come up close with Jurassic marine life, duck into the nearby Etches Collection Museum. Immaculately preserved sea creatures line the walls, while other fossils are brought to life by giant projections.
Ideal for a family trip, the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre flanks a pretty beach. Not only does the centre house a seriously impressive collection of fossils – including the Charmouth Dinosaur alongside more recent finds – it offers guided fossil hunts. The walk lasts two hours and helps children uncover their own prehistoric treasures to take home.
Children are consistently captivated by the otherworldly displays at The Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester, a 20-minute drive from The Acorn Inn. Dinosaur skulls, teeth, eggs and even faeces comprise the intriguing exhibits here. Step back in time to when dinosaurs roamed Dorset, solve interactive puzzles and dare to dip your hands into feely boxes – strictly reserved for bold adventurers only.
Coastal-hugging Lyme Regis is another must-visit destination for digging up dinosaurs in Dorset. Make a beeline for the Dinosaurland Fossil Museum to discover a striking collection of 200-million-year-old objects of all shapes and sizes, all found locally. Lyme Regis Museum has featured on several TV programmes and its knowledgeable team leads guided fossil walks on the surrounding beaches. Ammonites, belemnites and bones from ichthyosaurs, or ‘fish lizards’, are what you can hope to encounter here.
Travelling forward in time to the days of literary hero Thomas Hardy, The Hardy Bar at The Acorn Inn is the perfect place to kick back following an intrepid day of prehistoric discovery. Sink into a leather armchair beside the fire with a pint of Jurassic Ale – an apt toast to Dorset’s past.
Stay at Red Carnation Hotels’ The Acorn Inn for easy access to Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, beautiful beaches and family-friendly activities.
Image credits: lead image © Dinosaur Museum. Fossils © iStock/purplevine. Kimmeridge Bay © iStock/JoeGough. Megalosaurus © Dinosaurland Fossil Museum. Lyme Regis seafront © iStock/mtreasure.