Rock pooling - Ian Boyd's definitive Guide

One of the most exciting summer pastimes with small children is rockpooling at low tide, when all the creatures that live in the shallows are uncovered by the sea. Hiding in the small pools of water left when the tide recedes is a world of sea life to be discovered by you and your family, and this is something you can do at all four corners of the Isle of Wight.

All you need is a net with a fine mesh – although some creatures can be picked up without the need for one – and a bucket full of seawater to put your finds in. We asked our expert blogger Ian Boyd to give us the lowdown on the best rock pools, and what to look out for when you’re rockpooling on the Island.


Best time to go – 1 hour before low tide (check tide tables).

Wear shoes with good grip – wellies are best.

Take care! Rocks will be slippery especially those covered in seaweed.


Return all creatures when you leave. They cannot survive in your pocket. Take photos instead.

Don’t forget to turn any rock back over after investigating underneath, otherwise creatures may dry out in the sun.

Don’t leave any litter behind.


Bembridge – the best place to go for exploring rock pools

Limestone ledge with shallow pools. An excellent variety of marine life especially crabs - Shore Crabs (most common green or black), Edible Crab - pinkish orange with black -tipped claws - look like Cornish pasties), Hairy Crab (hairy!!), Spider Crabs (long legged), Hermit Crab (soft-bodied crab living in the discarded shell of a mollusc), and Velvet Swimming Crab (stripy legged, red-eyed crab – pretty fierce too).

Small fish mainly Shanny (slimy skin, no scales can survive out of water tucked under a rock until the tide comes back in).

Sea anemones – Red Beadlet anemones and green and purple tentacled Snakelocks anemone.

Prawns and shrimps

Lots of sea snails- periwinkles, dog whelks, limpets, topshells and soft-bodied, often frilly, sea slugs.

There won’t be any starfish but look out for their tiny relative Brittle Stars - tiny and pink (will fit on the top of your little fingertip) found on the under surface of rocks.

Sponges and sea squirts.

Superb diversity of seaweed.


Ventnor rockpooling

Steps down from La Falaise car park in Ventnor, but also accessible pools from the south end of the beach.

Boulder strewn shore - not easily accessible for younger children.

General rock pool fauna, especially crabs (shore and edible), prawns, shanny, Beadlet anemone and sea snails.

Along the same stretch of coastline there are rock pooling areas in Steephill Cove and Monks Bay.


St. Helens rockpooling

Sandy shore with boulders - quite good for sponges in particular. Good general site. Good accessibility. Similar fauna to above.


Fort Victoria near Yarmouth

Gravely shore-not rockpools as such, more dents and hollows in the clay and amongst the shingle. Find creatures by exploring rock pools and turning rocks. Can be good for hermit crabs. Also great for fossils, especially fossil shells and bits of turtle shell.


Compton rock pools

Clay and sandstone ledges – can be very slippery. Best rock pools for animals which bore into rock e.g. the fabulously named Boring Piddock! Also good for general rock pool fauna. Has lots of the beautiful Peacocks Tail seaweed. Also good for dinosaur footprints, sometimes these are the rockpools in fact!


Freshwater Bay

Shingle beach with rocky area.  Several different species of limpet (yes there is more than one).


Ryde Sands

Excellent sandy pools that go on for miles.  Brilliant for snail shells of all sorts and chasing fish fry and prawns. Shore covered in worm holes.

Red Funnel Ferry Blog

13 June 2018

By Red Funnel in Articles