It was the attraction of finding fossils, especially those of dinosaurs, which drew us to our first Isle of Wight holiday cottage. The geological structure of the island makes it ideal for fossil hunting because the rocks on the island are like slices through geological time, going all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs.
The Isle of Wight is one of the best places in Europe for discovering dinosaur remains. There are over 15 types known, with a new species being discovered on average every 3 years. All Isle of Wight dinosaurs are from the earliest part of the Cretaceous period (145 – 65 million years ago). Other fossils you can find include fossilised wood, fir cones, ammonites, lepidotus fish (lots of scales and teeth to be found), sharks teeth, crocodiles, turtles, reptiles and even 115 million year old lobsters.
Anyone can find fossils on the beach – all you need is patience and knowledge of what can be found and where to look! Our Isle of Wight holiday cottage guests can find out more by visiting Dinosaur Expeditions (Military Road, Brighstone), The Fossil Man (Island Gems, Godshill) or Dinosaur Isle (Sandown) who all have good local fossils on display and run guided fossil trips on the beach. Wight Coast Fossils are a new local business offering fossil trips including private trips to north coast sites. Red Funnel have a new downloadable “Guide to Dinosaurs & Fossil Hunting on the Isle of Wight“.
There is an element of luck and patience to finding fossils. There are no ‘Hot spots’ littered with bones! Whale Chine area can be good for very large ammonites (but it is usually best after a cliff fall and can now only be accessed from the beach – keep an eye on the tides). Atherfield point area has yielded several significant dinosaur finds and is also the location of the lobster beds. Some of our beaches may be difficult to access in the winter due to adverse weather and soil erosion so please check with us on any footpath closures.
Hanover point near Compton is probably the best location to find small parts of dinosaur and other prehistoric creatures – worn bones, vertebrae, and teeth etc. It is best to look amongst the shingle on the beach and in rock pools at low tide. At low tide it is also possible to see the three toed footprints of Iguanodon on the exposed flat rock strata (probably best to be shown the first time – they can be hard to spot).
Also at the base of the cliffs around Hanover are numerous ‘Foot casts’ – these are the solidified material which once filled the deep foot prints left by these massive creatures. Bone fragments near Hanover are generally black on outer surfaces with obvious speckled ‘honeycomb / aero chocolate bar’ internal cell structure. Other good locations are Hamstead, Yarmouth and Whitecliff Bay.