Fossil hunting holidays are on the up and so we’ve collected the best places for newbie paleontologists to visit. **
The steps down to Durdle Door arch
The Jurassic Coast is 95 miles of coastline that stretches from East Devon to Dorset, and fossils are kind of a big deal here. Such a big deal in fact that it was made England’s first World Heritage Site in 2001. These limestones cliffs (including the Durdle Door arch) are made up of layers of sedimentary rock and they’re brimming with fossils. Amateur paleontologists are free to collect the loose fossils that would otherwise be destroyed by the sea, although it is prohibited to chisel them out of the rocks.
Charmouth is considered to be the best and safest place for fossil hunting, and guests checking into Hensleigh House will find themselves only 4-minutes’ walk from the beach.
Fossilised shark teeth
One of the longest Miocene exposures in the world (over 24 miles), The Calvert Cliffs are peppered with loose fossils and young families will love looking out for fossilised shark teeth at the nearby Chesapeake Bay.
The Laurel Dinosaur Park is known for its abundance of dinosaur eggs and fossils. Every fossil found is sent off to the Smithsonian Institution for verification and if it’s deemed to be an authentic fossil, the name of the person who found it goes on display in the museum. To get an early start on your excavations (before the midday sun becomes too much) stay at the nearby Hampton Inn.
Find one of your own
Ohio is known for its Ordovician fossils and the North-West of the state – near Sylvania – has extensive Devonian exposures, including a fossil park. Here you’ll find over five acres of carefully-monitored rock quarry where paleontologists of all ages and expertise can enjoy fossil hunting.
Once you’ve spent a few nights in Sylvania, head over to Caesar State Park in Waynesville and check out their collection of Trilobites, Brachiopods, and Gastropods. Visitors hoping to cut down on travel time (leaving more time for recreating Chris Pratt’s velociraptors training scene) can stay at the Holiday Inn Franklin.
The Irwin River riverbed
The coal mines of Nangetty were once credited with saving the struggling region’s economy and today they’ve been repurposed for a different kind of conservation. The Coalseam Conservation Park works to preserve the regions naturally-preserved marine fossils.
Riverbend has the highest density of fossils in the area but it’s also worth checking out the local limestone cliffs — dating back to the Permian era — and spending an afternoon in the scenic Fossil Picnic Area on the East bank of the Irwin River. Visitors hoping to combine fossil hunting with a few days on the beach can check into the coastal Bentwood Olive Grove Accommodation.
Watch an open-air excavation in Zigong
As Zigong has the largest number of dinosaur fossils in the world and over seven million visitors per year, it’s no wonder that this relatively small Chinese city leads the world when it comes to paleontology tourism. The Zigong Dinosaur Museum, based in the Dashanpu fossil site, mainly contains exhibits from the Jurassic and Mesozoic eras, including a fully reconstructed archaeopteryx.
There are plenty of activities for younger children, such as film screenings and rides, and the chance to see an open-air excavation. The closest and most popular place to stay is the Citadines in South Chengdu.
The chalk cliffs at Mons Klint
The island of Mon in Southern Denmark is home to Mons Klint, one of Europe’s most fossil-rich beaches. In order to reach this remote stretch of coastline visitors travel through dense forest, full of rare orchids and unusual pale green beech trees (permanently-dyed by the local chalk cliffs). Perched on the cliffs is the GeoCentre Mons Klint, a geological museum and information point.
The remote, ethereal nature of this Mons Klint makes it unique among fossil sites, although it also means that visitors are only able to access it via car and/or a long hike, so start your day right and check into the Købmandsgaardens Bed and Breakfast.
Langebaan Lagoon, home for Eve's footprint
Western Cape, South Africa
Amateur paleontologists will relish the opportunity to watch excavations at The West Coast Fossil Park, based in the Western Cape and home to fossilised fauna dating back 5.2 million years. Over 200 different fossilised animals have been found here, including a sabre-tooth cat. Visitors aren't allowed to collect their own fossils but you can watch the professionals at work.
Book into The Farmhouse Hotel and you’ll be in a prime position to discover the fossilised footprints — also known as ‘Eve’s footprint’ — at the Langebaan Lagoon.
** Remember. Always check with the local authorities as to whether you are allowed to take the fossils from a particular site. Or if you should just admire them and then leave them for others to enjoy.