Man holding an ammonite that he found when searching for Whitby fossils

Great tips for finding Whitby fossils

What better souvenir to take away from your trip than a collection of Whitby fossils you found yourself on our beaches?

You might have heard Yorkshire’s cliffs and beaches being referred to as the Dinosaur Coast thanks to the vast amounts of prehistoric samples that have been found here.

The layers of rock in the cliffs are full of information about the country’s past, stretching back over 185 million years. That makes the beaches below them perfect for finding fossils.

Where to look for Whitby fossils

Most of the fossils you’ll find will be loose on the shingle or by the cliffs. Fossil hunting trips will walk you around Whitby Abbey before taking you down into the neighbouring Saltwick Bay. You’ll then walk your way along the coastline and finish back in Whitby.

You’ll find fossils all along the beach and near the cliff face – but be careful as parts of the cliff can come loose and fall and you definitely don’t want to be anywhere near if they do. Experienced fossil hunters will be able to guide you to the safest spots to find Whitby fossils.

Beach and cliffs to go when hunting Whitby fossils

Know the tide

The tides a Whitby are very powerful and people who aren’t careful can very easily get trapped by them. If you’re setting out in search of Whitby fossils, you need to make sure you know exactly what time to be on the beaches, and when you need to leave by to avoid the returning sea.

Only ever set out on a fossil hunting walk when the tide is going out. Not only will it give you the best chance of finding something, it’s also the safest time.

What to look for

There are lots of different kinds of finds you can make on the Dinosaur coast, including fossils, amber and jet. But how will you know if you’ve found something?

Fossils tend to be a slightly different colour to the surrounding rock. Depending on the type of fossil, they could be slightly darker or lighter, so keep your eye out for things that don’t match.

You should also keep you eye out for reoccurring patterns in the rocks, as they’re key indicators there’s something exciting hidden inside.

The texture will be different than the surrounding rock too. Look for reoccurring patterns in the surface and see if it feels more spongy than solid.

If you’re looking for jet or amber too check under and around patches of seaweed as they often get tangled up in them. The tideline is also a good place to discover little pieces of them too.

What tools you’ll need

One of the most important tools you’ll need – apart from knowing the tide times – is a good pair of shoes. The beaches and cliffs are often covered in standing water and the routes are uneven. Walking boots and wellies are required – we don’t recommend setting out on a fossil hunt in trainers.

You’ll also need to be able to get into any fossils you find. You’ll need a chisel and a geological hammer to hit it with for striking open the rock. These will be provided for you if you set out on a guided fossil hunting trip. Safety goggles are best worn when cracking into fossils.

It’s also a good idea to bring along a bag and something to wrap up any of your finds in to keep them safe throughout the rest of your trip. A notebook and pen can be handy for recording your finds too.

Image of Whitby fossils set into rock

Whitby fossil hunting trips

If you want to go in search of fossils, it’s an excellent idea to head out with a professional. You’ll get a detailed lesson in what to look for and how to break into the stones to reveal the fossils inside. Plus, these experts know the tides inside and out and will make sure you get back to dry land before the sea comes rushing back inland.

Byron Blessed runs a great trip along the Whitby coast which you can find more about here.

Hidden Horizons also run great fossil hunting trips along the Whitby coastline. Check them out here.

Finders keepers

Whitby is a great place for finding fossils, and you’re allowed to keep whatever you find.

As part of our Dinosaur coast code, you’ll need to report anything really exciting and scientifically important, but you’ll get to keep it, even if scientists are asking you if they can borrow it for study!

Stay safe

If you’re going to set out in search of Whitby fossils, please make sure you do it safely. We recommend heading out with a fossil hunting tour group and draw on the expertise of experts. Loose rocks, unsteady surfaces and the tide can all be dangerous if not properly prepared for.

Happy hunting!

Have you found any great Whitby fossils? Let us know.

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