Where to Find the Best Rock Pooling in Devon and Dorset
Have you ever taken children rock pooling? It’s great to see their faces when they find a crab or watch an anemone open and close. It really is a fun activity for children of all ages, including big kids like myself. What’s even better is all you need is a cheap bucket or an old ice cream tub and you are on your way.
It just takes a bit of research to find the top spots. So I thought I would share my knowledge about the best places for rock pooling in Devon and Dorset, perfect for locals and visitors to the area.
Rock Pool Rambles – Safety First
Before you set off the most important thing to do is check the tide times. The tide goes in and out twice in 24 hours so you need to find a time when the tide is going out or at its lowest.
Head as far out as you can to start off with and return with the tide. A tide coming back in can return surprisingly quickly. Before you know it all those lovely rock pools will be filled in and a route back to shore may be hard find.
Make sure everyone is wearing sensible shoes (welly boots for kids even in the summer are a good plan) or old trainers. Rocks are often slippery so no flip flops.
If you can join in one of the many organised rock pooling events. The advantage of this is equipment is supplied and your finds will be helpfully identified by a qualified and enthusiastic leader. I’ve added some links in the different areas where rock pool rambles are organised.
Rock Pooling in Dorset
This sheltered bay is good for swimming, snorkeling and windsurfing. It has large ledges that act as natural jetties for wandering along to explore marine wildlife. It is one of the best places in the country to go rock pooling. Dorset Wildlife Trust runs the Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre that contains displays, aquaria and has facilities. The centre also runs rock pool rambles, craft activities and more. There is a road toll of £5 which include parking for the day.
This iconic bay in West Dorset is the classic place for a geography field trip! The geology is fascinating and has created a safe enclosed bay with beautiful blue water. Lulworth Cove Estate is privately owned and well managed. Rock Pool School sessions run during the summer (£5) or just get out by yourselves. There is a large visitor centre and good facilities, parking is pay and display.
If you are feeling energetic the walk over to Durdle Door is lovely and look for fossils. Lulworth Cove is half way between Pool and Weymouth.
For anyone living in West Dorset, Lyme Regis is a great choice for rock pooling as well as fossil hunting on East Cliff Beach. It’s a stunning part of the Jurassic Coast, with views across to Charmouth and Golden Cap. The best place for rock pools is to the East of the town in an area called Broad Ledge, which can be easily accessed from the town via the sea wall walk.
You can join in with organised rock pool rambles and fossil hunts run by the excellent Charmouth Heritage Centre.
Rockpooling in East Devon
From Seaton to Exmouth
The stretch of coastline that is part of the Jurassic Coast has plenty of opportunities for rock pooling.
The far end of Seaton seafront is called Seaton Hole and is little hidden gem. It’s rock pools are sheltered under the cliffs on a shingle and pebble beach. It’s not that well used so you may find you have the place to yourself. To reach it you can walk along the beach from Seaton at low tide or drive via the road to Beer. It’s a steep walk down to the beach via a path and steps so not classed as accessible.
You can read my post covering the walk from Seaton to Beer for details of how to reach Seaton Hole (there’s free parking along Old Beer Road). There is a seasonal cafe (the Cliffside Cabin) with lovely views and public toilets (not always open though!)
For organised events check with Seaton Jurassic who work with Devon Wildlife Trust.
Just to the west of Seaton is a small fishing village named Beer. The village and beach setting is beautifully picturesque. Beer beach is surrounded by jaw-dropping limestone cliffs and has a wealth of rock pools for little ones to explore. The beach is pebbly but there is matting laid out to help with accessibility, a cafe, beech huts and fishing boats to photograph.
For details about rock pooling in Beer take at look at the Beer Village Heritage website.
Sidmouth is a town of two halfs when it comes to the beach. In front of the shops and hotels is a long stretch of pebbles with views of the red cliffs and River Otter estuary. However for the rock pooling head West and search for Jacobs Ladder. Immediately recognisable with it’s white staircase that leads up to Connaught Gardens.The beach itself is pebbled but when the tide goes out there is a long stretch of shallow sand and parts with interesting rock pools. A perfect family beach.
There is a popular café and facilities near the gardens. You can join organised rock pool rambles with Wild East Devon over the summer months (who also organise lots of countryside events as well).
When I asked locally for rock pooling suggestions Maer Rocks in Exmouth was a firm favourite. Exmouth has a fabulous 2 mile long sandy beach which has watersports and facilities for all ages. Head South East on Queens Drive and you will find Maer Nature Reserve and Maer Rocks near to the lifeboat station.
With a sandy beach as well as a lovely section of rock pools you can see why this is popular. See the header picture for Exmouth. There are pay and display car parks a short walk away from the seafront. In the summer Wild East Devon organise rock pool rambles you can book onto.
Explore the Rest of Devon
I am very guilty of having not visited a large part of the county I live in and that so many visitors travel to every year. Researching for this post, studying my Ordnance Survey maps (yes I am a map geek), made me realise there is an amazing section of coast from Dawlish to Plymouth that I really don’t know. So I intend to follow this up with the next section of South Devon which means I have no excuse not to visits some new places. Happy rock pooling.