Most visitors to Devon will be surprised to discover that the county actually has a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the 95 mile stretch of stunning coastline which runs eastwards from Orcombe Point in Exmouth to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset. The only way to appreciate the 185 million-year-old rocks and fossils from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods is on a Jurassic Coast Cruise.
Jurassic Coast Cruises along the East Devon coastline
These 2-3 hour trips only run occasionally, but in April there is a special cruise scheduled for Tuesday 15 April 2014. For up-to-date information, check out the Jurassic Coast Cruises website to confirm dates, times and booking availability.
I found the booking office in Exmouth easily by following the signs to the seafront and heading east to the end where there is a large pay and display car park. Run by Stuart Line Cruises, the boats are clean and comfortable. We went on the larger Pride of Exmouth which has a top open deck for viewing and a lower deck with a café, plenty of seats and big viewing windows. The boat was very stable although I have to say the sea was calm on the day of my trip.
Stuart Line Cruise Boats are modern and comfortable
The indoor lounge area is good for sitting out of the wind if you don't want to be on the open deck all the time. However, it was more fun to experience the panoramic views from the upper deck in the open air, so wrap up warm and enjoy the experience. The lower deck is suitable for disabled passengers, wheelchair users and children in pushchairs, as it is flat and enclosed. There was a very easy walkway for getting on and off the boat.
You can wander around the boat and get some great photo opportunities of the coastline with its weird blood-red cliffs. If you're luckier than I was, you may see dolphins and basking sharks in the deeper water. There are various species of gulls and a Kittiwake Colony along the way. Other sights to look out for are bird and animal sanctuaries, ancient castles, beautiful gardens, heritage railways and historic buildings on the clifftops.
The local skipper certainly appeared very knowledgeable from his many years sailing along this stretch of the Devon coast. The commentary about the cliff lines was extremely informative and the crew were helpful and happy to answer all our questions.
What to see on a Jurassic Coast Cruise
As well as enjoying the trip merely as a boat ride, it had some very interesting sights and impressive coastal scenery. It was fascinating to see how the cliffs gradually changed colour, height and formation as we witnessed millions of years of earth's history. The trip from Exmouth focused on the Triassic section of the coastline and it was very informative, especially for budding geologists.
We learnt that the older rocks are to the west, in Devon, and the younger rocks are further east in neighbouring Dorset. As we sailed, the commentator explained how the rock erosion showed the changes in the earth from ancient desert to tropical sea ‐ hard to imagine, but the exposed red rocks and sandstone cliffs are certainly very beautiful and unique.
There were good on-board facilities including hot tea and coffee, cold drinks, beer and the usual type of snacks from the café. Prices were reasonable and there was certainly no chance of being bored as we enjoyed looking out to sea, listening to the history of the area and some local anecdotes.
I would definitely recommend this trip to families, birdwatchers, amateur geologists and anyone wanting to experience great views of the impressive Jurassic cliffs and coastline from the water.