The Jurassic Coast – Dorset and East Devon Coast

The Jurassic Coast in Dorset and East Devon was the first site inscribed as a ‘natural’ World Heritage Site. It spans 153 km (95 miles) of dramatic coastline from East Devon to Dorset, and finds includes a range of world-renowned fossils.

This coast is unique because its cliff exposures provide an almost continuous geological ‘walk through time’ spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods – it’s like a time capsule holding 185 million years of the Earth’s history. The area’s important fossil sites and classic coastal geomorphologic features have contributed to the study of earth sciences for over 300 years.

You’ll find picturesque seaside ‘Gateway’ towns and villages along the coast, which have lots of accommodation, places to eat and local attractions and events. Designated Gateway towns offer a range of services directly related to the conservation of the Jurassic coast and are all destinations in themselves.

Seaside Jurassic Coast gateway towns and villages

We will take you from the east to the west through our choice of main seaside gateway towns and villages:

Wareham over 2,000 years ago, King Alfred the Great built massive earthen walls around Wareham to defend the town against the Vikings. You can still see their remains, and visiting here will transport you back to Saxon times.

Swanage is popular with families, with an award-winning beach, safe bathing, lots of leisure activities and all-weather attractions, family entertainment and fabulous views across to the Needles on the Isle of Wight.

Weymouth is where you’ll find everything from rich historic buildings and a Georgian seafront to a modern town centre, traditional pubs and contemporary bars and restaurants. Weymouth also has the best sunshine record in England, even in winter.

Portland is a fascinating island that can only be explored on foot. An excellent network of coastal and cross-island pathways gives you access to the island and some stunning views.

West Bay is a busy harbour village between the spectacular cliffs to the east and the west. The characteristic 19th-century seafront led West Bay to be chosen as the shoot location for the popular British TV drama Harbour Lights.

Charmouth is one of the main gateways to the Jurassic Coast and one of England’s oldest resorts. It features 2 miles of golden-sandy beaches and all the seaside favourites like swimming, crazy golf, playgrounds, sailing, water skiing and more.

Charmouth Beach
Photo of Charmouth beach by grassrootsgroundswell

Lyme Regis is a cute seaside town set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, where Dorset meets Devon. Explore its narrow tangle of streets and shops that find their way to the famous 13th-century Cobb harbour.

Seaton is a beach town is tucked away in the southeastern corner of Devon in the unspoilt Axe Valley. It is excellent for all water sports and has a unique tramway running along the estuary and inland.

Beer was once famous for smuggling. The harbour is a natural cove, a sheltered suntrap with a shingle beach nestling below the white chalk cliffs. Village history revolves around the Quarry caves, which have been used since Roman times, and you can now explore them.

Sidmouth retains its old-world charm with beautiful gardens, picturesque walks, Regency history and immaculate beaches. Visit in the summer for the world-famous International Folk Festival.

Sidmouth Beach
Photo of Sidmouth beach by Reading Tom

Budleigh Salterton is a lazy seaside town with picturesque cottages nestled on the edge of a pebble beach beneath spectacular red cliffs.

Budleigh Salterton Beach
Photo of beach huts at Budleigh Salterton by Reading Tom

Exmouth is the best place on the coast to go hunting for fossils. The large shingle beach and the Heritage Coast Centre on the seafront are great if you’re interested in fossils and local natural history.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be interested in our guide to the best beaches in Devon and Dorset.

What are your favourite spots on the Jurassic Coast? We would be delighted to hear your comments.

Picture credits:

Feature photo by Angel Ganev