Top Eight Beaches for Fossil Hunting

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Fossil Hunting

We absolutely love fossil hunting. It’s great fun, although I must admit most of the time we don’t have a clue what we are actually looking for. We do know the basics of fossil hunting which is enough for us to find some types of fossils like ammonites. 

We know that ammonites can be found just laying on the beach or hidden away inside nodules of rock. If you hit these nodules hard enough with a rock hammer it will crack open revealing the fossils hidden inside them.

You need to look for clues in the rocks though as you would spend all day smashing rocks open and not find anything. The clues that there may be fossils hidden in rocks are cracks or protrusions, sometimes part of the fossil is sticking out of the top and that’s a good indication that there is a fossil hidden inside it.

Although we don’t have much experience finding many different types of fossils, we do have great fun exploring the beaches and even with our limited knowledge, we have also had some great fossil finds. We wanted to share some of our finds and also the locations of where we found them, as beachcombing and fossil hunting can be an extremely secretive hobby.

People do not like to give up the locations of their finds, I can see why, it is because when you find something special you really don’t want to tell the world where you found it. When I first started out I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or where I should go to do it, I really needed to be told where to look and what to look for and that’s why I’m sharing the locations of the beaches we visit.

1 Monk Nash

This beach was the first beach I actually found fossils on, which is why it is number one on the list. Before we visited Monk Nash I had never found a fossil in my life so you can imagine how excited I was to find a huge crystalised one, it was so pretty sparkling away in the sun waiting to be found. Monk Nash is a mostly rocky beach with plenty of rock pools, rock beds and at low tide, there is also sand.

Monk nash appeared in the news recently when the cliff face eroded exposing bones that were said to be over 800 years old. It is not the first time that bones were found here, previous bones that were found here were sent off for testing and were found to be from the 16th century. It is not clear who the bones actually belong to as there is a long history of burials, shipwrecks and even a church at this location so it could also be monks.

Monk Nash is easily accessible but it does require a little bit of walking to get there. To get to the beach itself you need to walk through a nature reserve and over some stiles, the walk through the nature reserve is quite pretty and there are some old ruins that you can explore on the way to the beach.

Precautions 

To get to the beach you need to walk down an uneven muddy path. Great care should be taken when visiting Monk Nash as you can get cut off on this beach. It is also advisable to stay away from the base of the cliffs as they can be very unstable. 

location

Monk Nash is located in Llantwit Major CF71 7QQ. 

Parking

There is parking available nearby in a farmers field and payment for parking is required via an honesty box at the gate. 

On-site facilities  

There are no facilities on site.

2. Aust Cliff

We visited Aust Cliff recently but sadly we didn’t find any fossils, this beach requires a little more knowledge than we have and if you are a keen fossil hunter then this is definitely a beach for you to visit.

We got chatting to a local guy who visits this beach regularly to fossil hunt and he told us he had found some really amazing fossils there, he also said you need to know what you are looking for or it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack! sure enough, that’s exactly what it felt like for us.

Finding ammonites is easy; you just look for irregular patterned rocks with swirls on them, you can’t really miss them, to be honest. I also like to find devil’s toenails. They are quite a unique fossil and you can’t really miss them on the beach either.

Aust Cliff is not much to look at really, it’s not a beach as such. It’s located at the base of the Severn bridge and is surrounded by mudflats, but the cliffs themselves are a beautiful rusty red colour. I’m told If you are lucky you can find teeth, dinosaur bones, reptiles and even fish remains at this site. 

Aust Cliff is a popular fossil hunting destination which means it is heavily collected, that is maybe why we didn’t find anything on the day we went, it is still worth a visit though, especially after stormy weather when there have been fresh cliff falls.

Precautions 

As mentioned above Aust Cliff is surrounded by mudflats, extreme caution should be taken with these mudflats because it is not only slippery but you can also become stuck in the mud quite literally. It is best to stick to the beach area and not be tempted to wander off into the mud. 

It is also very important to know the tide times here if you do make your way around through the mud you can become cut off by the tide, as I said it’s a lot safer if you just stick to the beach area and stay away from the mud. Be aware that Aust Cliff is a protected site so hammering from the rock bed is forbidden.

On-site facilities  

There are no facilities on site.

location

Aust Cliff is located in Gloucestershire at the foot of the Severn Bridge, if you google it you will be taken right to it, be warned the sat nav will try to take you directly to it there is a concrete bridge at the start don’t be tempted to drive over it, stick to parking on the nearby road and walk the rest of the way.  

Parking

There is a small car park but it was closed off so we just parked on the roadside.

3. Penarth 

Penarth is another popular location for fossil hunters. Gastropods, bivalves, brachiopods and ammonites can be found on Penarth beach. The fossils at Penarth are mostly found on the beach so walking and examining rocks for clues will be the best way of finding fossils here

Precautions 

Great care should be taken at Penarth as there are regular cliff falls there, the cliffs themselves are huge so please don’t be tempted to venture too close to the cliffs.

Location

Penarth beach is obviously located in Penarth itself, it’s easy to get to using google maps and even has great public transport links.

Parking

There is plenty of parking nearby, just head for the pier and happy hunting.

On-site facilities  

There are good facilities on site including a cafe and a fish and chip shop.there are also public toilets. 

4. Charmouth

Charmouth beach is located on what’s known as the Jurassic coast and is a hugely popular fossil hunting destination. Fossils here can be found just laying on the beach or in nodules of rock, you may also find some fossil castings in the clay.  Charmouth is also a great location for the kids to go fossil hunting too, as it’s easily accessible and doesn’t have the dangers that some other fossils sites do.  

Precautions 

Tide times again are something you will need to be aware of not so much at Charmouth but if you walk across the beach the access points are not great and you can become cut off. Cliff falls are known at this location so try not to go near the cliff face. Charmouth is also a protected site so again hammering at the rock bed is forbidden.

Location

Charmouth beach is located in Charmouth itself and can be found quite easily using google maps.

Parking

There are two car parks one by the beach itself and one a little bit further up, you will pass it on the way to the beach. Both car parks are pay and display, one is £2 all day and the beach one is £5 all-day. be warned the Charmouth beach car park is coins only so make sure you have plenty of change. However, there is a shop nearby if you do forget to take change or you can park in the overflow car park which takes cards.

On-site facilities  

There are good facilities on site including a cafe that sells food and drink. We visited recently and the cafe was closed. There are also public toilets at the carpark up the road from the beach and there is the heritage centre too. 

5.Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis also part of the Jurassic coast is my favourite beach to visit, not just because of the fossils but because it also has an old victorian rubbish dump there too. This site actually gives you a whole host of things to find, you can do a bit of dump digging, fossil hunting, seaglass and also pottery collecting, it’s great! You can stay there all day, in fact, I’m always having to be torn away from there because the finds are always so interesting.

Fossil collecting has been going on here for hundreds of years, in fact, the first ichthyosaur was found here by a little girl called Mary and her brother Joseph, Mary went on to make a good living from the fossils she found at Lyme Regis. She would also go on to make huge scientific breakthroughs from her discoveries (even though it was frowned upon for women to carry out such work) she even opened a shop nearby selling the fossils she found. When you get onto the beach look up at the cliff, you will see there is a huge ammonite sticking out of the cliff.   

Precautions 

Again caution should be taken at the cliff face and this is also a protected site so no hammering is permitted on the rock bed or the cliffs. Tide times need to be adhered to at this beach because you can become cut off from the access points when the tide comes in.

Parking

Parking is a little tricky here, there is Charmouth Road car park it’s not great for spaces and it fills up quickly it also has a lot of steps down to the beach, great if you are fit and healthy but if you have any kind of disability or mobility issues then this isn’t the place to park. If you do take the steps down from Charmouth Road car park turn left at the bottom and go down the next set of steps onto the beach. You can’t miss the dump which is further up the beach because that part of the beach is littered with seaglass and pottery. 

There is a local park and ride with plenty of space and the bus drops you to the town centre you can then walk around the path to Lyme. The park and ride is seasonal and there is a charge to park which you pay on the bus and it is included in the bus journey. Pick up for the park and ride is on the opposite side of the road just up the hill a bit and they run at particular times of the day, the driver reaches the stop and waits a while too which is handy if you are running late. There is also a cut off time when the last bus runs so check what time that is.

There are other car parks dotted around in the town centre too so you can park there and walk around to Lyme, obviously, these fill up quickly during the summer months. There is also a short stay car park on the beachfront.

Location

Lyme Regis beach is located in Dorset and is easily found using google maps, as stated above there are plenty of spaces to park.

On-site facilities  

There are good facilities near Lyme Regis including shops and cafes that sell food and drink. There are also public toilets but these are a bit of a walk. The Charmouth Road car park also has public toilets.

6. Llantwit Major

Llantwit Major is another hugely popular fossil site and you can find a wide range of fossils here but mostly echinoids, sponges, gryphaea and gastropods, ammonites are less common at Llantwit Major.

Precautions 

Cliff falls happen quite often here at Llantwit so it is best to stay clear of them, stick to searching the beach, you will have to do some work on this beach though as it is so big.

Location

Llantwit Major is easily located using google maps.

Parking

There is plenty of parking here and it is also free to park.

On-site facilities  

There are good facilities on site including a shop that sells food and drink. there are also public toilets 

7. Lavernock

Again Lavernock is another destination that is hugely popular for fossil hunters, I haven’t actually visited this beach myself yet so I can’t really advise what you can or can’t find there however I’ve been told that you can find ammonites, brachiopods and bivalves so it is definitely on my list of places to go fossil hunting.

Precautions 

Again like most sites cliff falls can happen here so stay safe and don’t get too close to the cliff face. It’s also important to know the tide times as this is also a beach where you can get cut off when the tide comes in. Lavernock is also a protected site so hammering the rock bed is forbidden.

Location 

Again Lavernock can easily be found using google maps

Parking

Parking is not great, there is a small parking space for about 4 cars so it may be better to park at another beach and walk to lavernock. 

On-site facilities  

There are no facilities on site.

8. Southerndown

Everyone has been to Southerndown at least once in their lives but you may not have known that it is also another popular fossil hunting destination. There is also a small ruin on-site that you can go and explore too.

Precautions 

Like all the other beaches in this guide, Southerndown is also known to have cliff slides so we advise you to stay clear of the cliff base. Is it also advisable to know the tide times as you can also become cut off on this beach.

Location

Southerndown is located in Bridgend and can easily be found using google maps.

Parking

There is plenty of parking here and there is a small charge. I believe in 2019 it was £5 to park all day.

On-site facilities  

There are good facilities on site including a shop that sells food and drink. there are also public toilets

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