Fossils can be found right across Europe and the British Isles, but there are very few places where you can fossick along the coastline and actually find one for yourself.
The Isle of Wight is renowned throughout Europe as the best place to find fossils and dinosaur remains, and with miles of sandy beaches overlooked by sweeping chalk cliffs, this amazing little island will appeal to the avid beachcomber and fossicker.
Getting to the Isle
Access to the Isle is easy, with a ferry service running regular crossings from Southampton for visitors and their vehicles. A quick 45-minute crossing, and you’re on the Isle of dinosaurs!
Thankfully living conditions on the Isle are far from primordial, and you can easily find yourself in a lovely hotel room or B&B close to the beach with all the necessary creature comforts to make it a pleasant stay. WiFi is perfect across the entire island, and you can send your emails or spend time on a favourite entertainment website like https://www.spinpalace.com/nz/ in the downtime between expeditions.
Where can fossils be found?
Essentially there are two main beaches on the Isle where fossil remains can be found loose in the sand. Sandown, on the east coast of the Isle, hosts the Yaverland beach area. Less than a mile long and surmounted by some stunning chalk cliffs, this is the smaller of the two sites.
The second fossicking site is a rather peaceful stretch of coastline spanning almost six miles along the southwest coast between Compton and Atherfield.
Fossil remains here date back to the Cretaceous period and are over 120 million miles old. The rugged coastline is often near-deserted, making one feel a million miles from civilisation on a quiet day!
What types of fossils are found here?
Dinosaur life in this region was particularly diverse, and as many as twenty different dinosaur species have been identified amongst the uncovered fossil remains. Large dinosaurs included the Iguanodon, which came in at a mammoth 30 feet in length and weighed some 4,000 kg fully grown. A range of both herbivorous and carnivorous medium to small sized dinosaurs were also to be found here, and small remains and fossils continue to be found to this day.
In recent times, the fossilized bones of a further two dinosaur species were discovered on a local beach, giving an idea of just how plentiful finds are in this area.
Public fossicking tours
For those who might prefer some more expert guidance, organised tours also exist on the island. At a reasonable cost, participants are provided with a good general briefing, and they also benefit from expert identification of fossil remains when they are found.
On the Isle’s east coast beach of Compton Chine, dinosaur footprints are to be found cast into the rock, and an easy beach walk will take you to this interesting display.
For those wanting to add an interesting twist to their beachcombing activities, a trip with the very real possibility of making ancient discoveries may be well worth placing on the bucket list. Beautiful unspoiled scenery and miles of sandy beaches set amongst impressive chalk cliffs make this an appealing adventure.