Fossil and Dinosaur Hunting
Welcome to our Isle of Wight fossil hunting guide
The Isle of Wight can be a dream come true for fossil collectors due to its international reputation for dinosaur finds. Often known as Dinosaur Island, the environment on the Isle of Wight over 120 million years ago supported a rich diversity of life from the large meat-eating dinosaurs at the top of the food chain like Baryonyx and Neovenator to the tiniest bacteria and insects living in ferns, cycads and large conifers. So perfect was the biodiversity that more dinosaur remains have been found on the Isle of Wight than anywhere else in Europe.
For fossil hunters, it's possible to uncover evidence of around 15 different dinosaur species. The 11 mile stretch of coastline between Compton and Sandown, known as the Wealdon Outcrop is one of the richest sources of dinosaur fossils and bones.
We have detailed below the best fossil hunting sites on the Isle of Wight but please read the safety section before heading out.
Bembridge | * | ^^
Eocene period. A range of different brachiopods and bivalves can be found along the Bembridge foreshore and in the low cliffs - try splitting a few boulders. Click for Map
Bembridge Quarry | * | ^^^
Cretaceous period. Bembridge quarry on the B3395 has relinquished fish remains and sponges, particularly where the rock face or scree is fresh and clean. Click for Map
Blackgang Chine | * | ^^
Cretaceous period. Rare dinosaur bones have been found at Blackgang Chine but trace fossils are a more common, particularly after landslips - the cliffs can be dangerous so beware. Click for Map
Brighstone Bay | ** | ^^^
Cretaceous period. Brighstone Bay is good for dinosaur and reptile remains, the famous Sauropod skeleton was found in Brighstone Bay. Fossils can be found on the foreshore or cliff face, particularly after winter storms. Click for Map
Brook Bay | ** | ^^^^
Cretaceous period. The shingle foreshore at Brook Bay is a good place to find dinosaur fragments but larger bones and reptile remains have been uncovered in the cliff walls, particularly after severe storms. Click for Map
Culver Cliff | * | ^^^
Cretaceous period. Sponges, fish remains and large echinoids have occasionally been found at Culver Cliff along the foreshore and cliff face. The cliff face can be dangerous so take extreme care. Click for Map
Gurnard Bay | *** | ^^^^
Eocene & Oligocene periods. The Bembridge Marls at the base of the cliff at Gurnard Bay is a great place to find fossilised insects as well as turtle, molluscs and crocodile remains. The Bembridge limestone bed has also revealed bird feathers. Click for Map
Hamstead | *** | ^^^
Oligocene period. The Hamstead beds contain many fossils which are well preserved and of good quality. Molluscs, plants and seeds can be found along the foreshore as well as mammal, crocodile, turtle, crustaceans and fish remains. Click for Map
Rocken End | ** | ^^^
Cretaceous period. Rocken End is off the beaten track but some good ammonite and mollosc fossils have been found in the small inland quarry, cliff face and along the foreshore. Click for Map
Shepherds Chine | ** | ^^^
Cretaceous period. Excellent fish remains, lobsters, ammonites, brachiopods, bivalves and occasional reptile and dinosaur bones have been found along the foreshore or cliff face at Shepherds Chine, particularly after winter storms. Click for Map
Thorness Bay | *** | ^^^
Ologoscene & Eocene periods. Gurnard Bay to Thorness Bay is geologically diverse. The Palaeogene deposits at the centre of the Bay are non-fossiliferious but the fossil rich Bembridge Insect Bed (over 200 species have been found) is exposed below beach level during scouring conditions and the Hamstead Beds (crocodile & turtle remains) are exposed at the southern and northern ends of the Bay. Click for Map
Whitecliff Bay | *** | ^^^^
Eocene & Cretaceous periods. Fossils can be found along the foreshore, particularly after winter storms but also in the Upper Chalk after landslips. Also try scouring the other beds at Whitecliff Bay - London Clay, Reading Clay, Bagshot Beds, Bracklesham Beds, Barton Clay and Fishbourne member, Cliff End Member, Totland Bay Member etc. Click for Map
Yarmouth | *** | ^
Oligocene period. The beds at Yarmouth contain many excellently preserved fossils. Molluscs, plants and seeds can be found along the foreshore as well as mammal, crocodile, turtle, crustaceans and fish remains. Click for Map
Yaverland | ** | ^^^^
Cretaceous period. Yaverland is a popular location to search for dinosaur bones, fish and reptile remains on the foreshore or cliff face. Sponges from the Chalk, varieties of shells, fossil wood and dinosaur poo are also fairly common finds. The best time to visit is after the winter or spring tides. Click for Map
Key to symbols
Chance of finding fossils
* Low chance of finding fossils
** Moderate chance of finding fossils
*** Good chance of finding fossils
Access to location
^ Very difficult to access
^^ Poor accessibility
^^^ Good accessibility
^^^^ Very easy to access
History of fossils on the Isle of Wight
To book a guided fossil walk contact...
Guided fossil hunting trips throughout the year. Call 01983 740493 or emailFossil Man website
To join a walk you must book and pay in advance - please call 01983 404344Dinosaur Isle website
The Dinosaur Isle museum in Sandown organise guided Fossil Walks in Yaverland, Shanklin and Brook Bay throughout the year. They last up to two hours and are suitable for all ages. Dates, locations and times can be found on the Dinosaur Isle website. See location details below.
The Cretaceous rocks here formed 124 million years ago from sediment deposited along coastlines and river floodplains as well as lakes and seas. Over the years there have been some great finds on the foreshore including pterosaurs, crocodiles, dinosaurs and fish remains.
The meeting place for these walks is Dinosaur Isle, Culver Parade, Sandown, PO36 8QA.
The rocks at Shanklin were deposited in shallow warm seas about 113 million years ago. Large fossilized oysters, shell nests and wood from nearby land show that it was formerly coastline. Orchids were once collected from near this site and sent to Charles Darwin to aid his research into evolution. At the end of the walk there are fantastic views of Sandown Bay and Luccombe Bay.
The meeting place for walks is Lazy Waves Cafe, Esplanade, Shanklin PO37 6BN.
Brook Bay is the site of the oldest Cretaceous rocks and fossils exposed on the Isle of Wight. The purple, blue and pink sediments of the cliffs and foreshore were deposited on an ancient river floodplain around 126 million years ago. Dinosaurs like the giant Iguanodon, armoured Polacanthus and the rare meat-eaters walked this ancient landscape and left behind evidence in the form of footcasts and tracks.
Meet at Brook Chine car park (the National Trust gravel car park), Military Road (A3055), Brook.
Walking with Dinosaurs on the Isle of Wight
This summer you will be able to walk with Dinosaurs on the Isle of Wight as part of the Island's exciting partnership with the new 3D film Walking with Dinosaurs which premiers in December 2013. Register below for details.
Safety tips for fossil hunters
- When visiting the coast, always consult the tide tables and the weather forecast. It is recommended that you only explore a coastal section on a falling tide and in calm weather.
- Let somebody know where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Take appropriate clothing, a mobile phone, sun cream, first aid kit, refreshments and a rucksack to carry home your fossils.
- If walking below beach level, be careful when walking on soft sand or mud flats, as it's easy to get stuck.
- Take extreme care when walking along cliff bases, as they can be very unstable. A safety hat is strongly recommended but will not protect against large rock falls.
- Avoid walking on previous rock falls and keep clear of mudflows. They can be treacherous during or after wet weather.
- If you are going to use a hammer, protect your eyes with safety goggles.