If you are visiting the Jurassic Coast on holiday or for a weekend staycation and want to get up close with Jurassic Coast fossils and understand the geology of the area there are a wealth of world-class natural history attractions to visit and exhibits to experience.
Before visiting please be sure to visit the museum or visitor centre’s website and social media and check for opening times, ticket prices, concessions, accessibility and COVID-19 requirements to avoid disappointment as these may change throughout the year.
Each of these museums and visitor centres provide an array of curated exhibits and immersive and interactive experiences built upon both a unique insight and expertise of the Jurassic Coast.
Bridport Museum, 25 South Street, Bridport, Dorset, DT6 3NR | 01308 458703
Among their collections is “Bridport rocks!” explain the life, fossils and rocks around Bridport and the Jurassic Coast. An excellent place to discover 180 million years of rocks and fossils including ammonites and a large plesiosaur skeleton, 2000 years of people and 800 years of ropemaking.
Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre
Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, Lower Sea Lane, Charmouth, Dorset. DT6 6LL | 01297 560772
The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre provides information on the safe and sustainable collecting of fossils, fossil hunting and the local coastal and marine wildlife. The Centre itself is an excellent resource for primary and secondary schools with interactive displays, marine aquarium tanks, a fossil touch table and the Jurassic Theatre. The Centre is renowned for its display of an ichthyosaur discovered by local collector Chris Moore and was featured in the BBC documentary ‘Attenborough and the Sea Dragon’. The centre organises both public and private Fossil Walks with experienced and knowledgeable Wardens on Charmouth Beach.
Dorset Museum, High West Street, Dorchester DT1 1XA | 01305 262735
The Dorset Museum claims to looks after an incredible four million objects of which some exhibits cover 250 million years of Dorset’s history. Within its Geology Collection is the largest single assembly representative of the Jurassic Coast. The Dorset Museum has an impressive number of twenty holotype fossils or one specimen of a species that is used as the standard or benchmark to which other fossils, thought to represent the same species, are compared. This includes the “Swanage Bay Snapper” a species of crocodile called Goniopholis dating back 135 million years and an ancient ancestor to the salt water crocodiles found today in places like India, Asia and Australia. Another is the skull of the Weymouth Bay pliosaur dated at 155 million years old the largest marine long-neck reptile and oceanic predator that ever lived. The skull is a staggering 2.4 metres long and is believed to have weighed up to 12 tonnes. This fossil was named Pliosaurus kevani after the amateur fossil collector, Kevan Sheehan who found it in 2003.
The Etches Collection: Museum of Jurassic Marine Life
The Etches Collection, Kimmeridge, Dorset BH20 5PE | 01929 270000
The Etches Collection Museum of Jurassic Marine Life situated in the village of Kimmeridge. This museum known as the “The Etches Collection” holds an outstanding collection of Late Jurassic age fossils dated between 152-157 million years ago all found by just one man, Dr Steve Etches MBE from the world-famous oil rich Kimmeridge Clay, within 2 miles of where the Museum is located. The exhibits portray the once warm seas with ancient fish, squid, coiled ammonites, sea urchins and turtles to long necked reptiles like the Plesiosaur and Pliosaur. On land the exhibits include vertebrates like the Pterosaurs and first birds.
Budleigh Salterton Arts Centre and Museum (Fairlynch) Fairlynch Museum, 27 Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon EX9 6NP | 01395 442666
The Fairlynch Museum is located in a Grade II Listed Georgian thatched cottage once known as Primrose Cottage built in 1810 by local ship owner Matthew Lee Yates sitting beside the sea in Budleigh Salterton. In 1967 it was purchased an Arts Centre and Museum for the town. The Museum has exhibits of Orthis budleighensis a small brachiopod, only a few millimetres across evident in the quartzite pebbles from the Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds date to the Ordovician Period, around 445 million years old. Other exhibits include a model of rhynchosaur, a therapsid reptile found in the Otter Sandstone that sits unconformably on top of the Budleigh Salterton Pebble Beds. This area was once a wet sedimentary basin indicated by desert minerals like gypsum and the damper conditions allowed habitats to develop and animals to colonise the river systems.
Allhallows Museum of Lace and Local Antiquities
Honiton Museum, High Street, Honiton, Devon EX14 1PG | 01404 44966
This museum opened in November 1946 and run entirely by volunteers. The building is the oldest in the town and originally a chapel dating back to 1327. Today the museum works towards preserving the heritage of the people of Honiton and its surrounding area. The fossil exhibits on display were found during the construction of the Honiton by-pass in the 1960’s. Among the collection are large deer, oxen, elephant and a hippopotamus dating back over 140,000 years.
Main Road, Lulworth Cove, Wareham, BH20 5RQ | 01929 400587
Part of the Lulworth Estate, The Lulworth Cove Visitor Centre tells the iconic geological story of the sedimentary rocks or Lulworth Cove and the tilted Purbeck Beds of Durdle Door from 150 million years ago.
Lyme Regis Museum, Bridge Street, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3QA | 01297 443370
Described as “A remarkable museum, a gem” by Sir David Attenborough this museum is built on the site of Mary Anning’s actual home in Lyme Regis. Among its collections is the Earth Science Collection which shows excellent fossil exhibits that have been discovered from the ‘Lias’ rock of Lyme Regis since the early 19th century. Among the fossil collection are ammonites, Dapedium an armoured scaled fish, the bones of ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, sea urchins and coprolites or the fossilised faeces of animals. This is an excellent location to book a guided fossil walk.
217 Wakeham, Easton, Portland, Dorset DT5 1HS | 01305 821804
Marie Stopes first founded and curated this museum in the 1930’s on the Isle of Portland. Portland Museum is today an independent registered Charitable Trust run almost entirely by volunteers. Portland Museum houses a collection of Jurassic Portland fossils including a Megalosaurus footprint, Portland turtle fossil, large ammonites and the remains of reptiles.
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter (RAMM)
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Queen St, Exeter EX4 3RX | 01392 265858
Located in the centre of the City of Exeter the RAMM’s Natural Sciences Geology Collection includes over 40,000 fossils, rocks and minerals spanning 490 million years of Devon history. This collection holds Devonian plants and Triassic reptiles, Jurassic fish and Cretaceous Sea urchins, Tertiary leaves and Ice Age Mammal remains of cave bear, hyaena, elephant, bison and hippo from Kent’s Cavern in Torquay and Honiton’s by-pass. Other fossils exhibited include fossilised fresh water fish, reptiles and plants from the Otter Sandstone an internationally important source of Triassic fossils starting in Budleigh Salterton.
Hope Cottage, Church St, Sidmouth EX10 8LY | 01395 516139
2020 marked the 70th anniversary of Sidmouth Museum. It has a collection covering Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Fossils.
Town Hall, East St, Wareham BH20 4NS
The museum has two prominent fossilised remains of dinosaurs including a fossilised footprint of an Iguanodon dated at 125 million years from the Cretaceous period. This was found locally in a limestone quarry in Acton near Wareham. There is a model of a Juratyrant dated at 150 million years and is an ancient relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Fossilised bones were found in coastal rocks around Kimmeridge near Wareham. The remains are the only known find of this species which is believed to have lived about 150 million years ago.
Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre
The Square, Swanage, Dorset BH19 2LJ | 01929 421427
The museum’s collection called the Jurassic Coast Gateway explains the both the geology of Purbeck and the Purbeck Dinosaurs including the Iguanadon, Sauropods and Purbeck’s own therapod dinosaur is known as Metricanthosaurus, or “long-spined reptile”.