7 Reasons to visit southern England's Jurassic Coast

Mar 2, 2014 at 2:16 p.m. ET

Southern England's Jurassic Coast has a rich and exciting history that makes it a perfect choice for adventurous holidays.

dorset coast

Dorset's Jurassic Coast was named for the rocks recording 185 million years of history and is Britain's first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I may be slightly biased as I live on the Jurassic Coast, but every day I am grateful for being in such an inspiring and beautiful place. If you are a lover of nature and fabulous scenery, then this is the destination for you. This part of England is blessed with warm and (usually) dry weather from May until October.

Here are some of my suggestions for making the most of this unique part of England.

1. Spectacular coastline

From sweeping beaches to high cliffs, the Jurassic Coast has some of the most memorable scenery on England's south coast. It was formed more than 185 million years ago and is a time capsule for the era. One of the most unusual parts of the coast is the long, sweeping Chesil Beach with its smooth pebbles, ranging from the size of a baked potato at the Portland end to smooth shingles at the opposite end. Folklore says if local smugglers were washed up on the beach at night they could tell exactly where they were just by feeling the size of the stones.

2. Fossil hunting

kids fossil hunting

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The first complete Ichthyosaur fossil was found on the Jurassic Coast, in Lyme Regis by Mary Anning. Many exciting fossils can be seen in the little museum in Lyme Regis along with lots of other fossils that are similar to ones that you can pick up yourself on the beaches. Fossil hunting is a great activity for the kids (and the grown-ups), but just be mindful of loose rocks on the cliffs. The best place for fossil hunting is the fossil-rich beach at Charmouth.

3. Shopping locally

The image of the English village shop is alive and thriving in Dorset, and gone are the days of a shop stocking only tourist trinkets. Dorset village shops have all the essentials for daily life; ask any self-respecting shop owner where their produce or merchandise is from and they will be able to tell you the name of the farmer who produced it or the artist who created it.

4. Rich (and exciting) history

We don't do things by halves in Dorset. It might be the long history of smuggling or the dramatic ruined castles such as Corfe Castle above. This has been left the same as it was when it was destroyed in 1646 by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Although, many of the stones from the castle were "borrowed" by local residents to build the village that surrounds the castle. Really make the most of a day trip to Corfe Castle by taking the little historic Swanage Railway from Norden to Swanage on the coast, with a stop at Corfe Castle for a scamper around the ruins. You don't have to be a "trainiac" to enjoy a ride in a steam train.

5. Sailing, watersport and diving

mature couple sailing

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In 2012, the Olympic sailing events were held in Dorset, just off the Isle of Portland. But long before that, the area has been hosting the world's top sailing events, and still does. If you are a fan of kite surfing, this is the destination for you; with sweeping beaches and a brisk breeze, you will surely get some speed and height. If your preference is for something more sedate, there are plenty of more leisurely boat trips leaving from Weymouth Harbour several times a day for taking in the amazing coastline from a unique perspective.

6. Honesty boxes

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Originally an idea from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, honesty boxes were a way for people for display and sell their excess produce at their gateways. Now the whole country seems to have adopted the idea, and you can get anything from a bag of homegrown tomatoes to a beautiful Dorset apple cake or a bunch of freshly picked flowers. Just take your chosen item, and leave the money in the "honesty box."

7. Markets

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Bridport on the Dorset coast was voted one of Britain's best towns for markets. This small town has a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays (Saturday being the bigger and more varied market). It is a weekly ritual for many local residents, and one can find local cheeses and freshly baked bread, beautiful artisan products and a fascinating flea market along the pretty little High Street. After a morning of shopping, take a trip to the adjacent West Bay (home of the British TV crime drama Broadchurch) and soak up the view of the south coast's highest point, Golden Cap, while enjoying some of the area's best seafood from the small kiosks around the harbor.

Just close your eyes for a moment; smell the sea air and feel the gentle breeze, and hear the sound of the gulls overhead. You are almost here...

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