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Charmouth beach is the ideal family beach with a mix of sand and pebbles, fossils, clean sea, safe swimming, occasionally good surf (see the latest surf forecast) and nearby parking. The beach is divided into two by the mouth of the River Char which is often dammed by the beach forming a lagoon suitable for boating or watching the many ducks and swans. To get to the beach simply find the centre of the village and follow Lower Sea Lane. There are ample car parks (no coaches) close to the beach but if they are full there is also a car park half way down Lower Sea Lane.
Fossil hunting and rockpooling
The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre should be your first stop if you want to go fossil hunting. The Centre has lots of displays that can help you discover how to find your very own fossils to take home. They also run Guided Fossil Walks throughout the year.
Dogs are not allowed on Charmouth's West Beach between 1st May and 30th Sept, at any time. Dogs are not allowed on East Beach between 1st July and 31st Aug 10am to 6pm.
In Lyme Regis dogs are allowed on Back Beach, Church Beach and Monmouth Beach all year round. Dogs are only allowed on Town Beach from November to March inclusive. Dogs must be kept on the lead at all times when using Town Beach, Marine Parade and the Cart Road.
Local beaches where dogs are not banned also include: Abbotsbury, Cogden, Eype, Ringstead and within restricted areas of West Bexington Beach.
The beach to the east is usually the preferred choice of families and sun bathers because the pebbles are smaller and there's more dry sand. Access to the beach is either over a foot bridge or by wading through the river at low tide but watch out for the current which can be strong.
There is a beach café above the high tide line selling hot and cold drinks, snacks and useful things for the beach. During the summer season there is often a bouncy castle close to the café. There is also a level grassed area, with two picnic tables adjoining the beach.
At low tide the wet sand stretches for several hundred metres providing an easy, level surface for strolling and admiring the towering cliffs at the base of Stonebarrow Hill and the impressive mass of Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast, about a mile away.
At high tide most of the east beach is impassable as recent mud slips often bar the way. Although they may look dry, avoid clambering over the slips as the 'crust' can be very thin and the slips are virtually liquid inside. Many people have got stuck in the mud, requiring the assistance of the coastguards.
The East beach is a good place to find small ammonite and belemnite fossils loose amongst the pebbles. You don't need to break rocks, the fossils are among the loose pebbles. The best place to start looking is about 200 metres from the river mouth, but keep your distance from the cliffs as landslides can happen at anytime.
It is important to remember that the soft cliffs are always on the move, not just in wet weather. You are strongly advised to keep a safe distance away because there are frequent falls from the cliff top, often involving tonnes of debris. Hammering at the cliff is NOT permitted because the beach is part of the Jurassic Coast which is England's only Natural World Heritage Site.
West beach stretches about a mile and a half from the mouth of the river Char to Lyme Regis along the base of Black Ven, one of the largest and most active landslides in Europe. The pebbles are larger along this stretch of the beach and it is a haven for fossiler hunters, especially about 200 metres from the river mouth. Most fossils are found on the foreshore and hammering at the cliff is NOT permitted.
At low tide there is a large expanse of wet sand, broken up by rocky 'ledges' with pools. It is possible to walk all the way to Lyme Regis along the beach but only when the tide is low enough. About half way between Charmouth and Lyme, the landslide has covered the beach with large boulders so there is a certain amount of rock-hopping to do. You are advised to check at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre if the tides are suitable to walk to Lyme before setting off.
You can check the tide times along our stretch of coast on the UK Government's Admiralty 'EasyTide' website.