Exploring Dinosaur Island

Travel Travel Tips
Fossil, Isle of Wight [ThinkStock - iStock]

Hear the term ‘Dinosaur Island’ and images of the jungle-covered isle from the film The Lost World will probably spring to mind. At any rate, you probably won’t think of the Isle of Wight, although – drumroll, please – this actually is Dinosaur Island.

While this nickname is a relatively recent development, its history does of course go back millions of years – 130 million, to put a rough figure on it – when dinosaurs freely roamed the Isle of Wight. Today, I’m going to be talking all about the local dino heritage, as well as clueing you in to a few of the dinosaur-themed things to do and see while you’re here. Meanwhile, you can get information about places to stay on this website.

The lowdown on the Isle of Wight’s dino days

The Isle of Wight has earned its title of Dinosaur Island thanks to the impressive level of dino-based finds here. Fossils and footprints have fascinated paleontologists and locals alike, not to mention captured the imagination of tourists. It’s down to this heritage that the island has even been named the Dinosaur Capital of the UK on the new Dinosaur Map of Britain (created by a researcher from the Natural History Museum).

Evidence of a host of different species have been uncovered on the island, and it’s this diversity – as well as the volume of finds – that have helped give it its prestigious position.


Since 2013 has been named as the island’s Year of the Dinosaur, this year is a particularly good time to visit. Alongside the island’s year-round attractions, you can take part in specially organised fossil hunts and even dinosaur appearances!

Dinosaur Isle

For anyone coming to the island with an interest in dinosaurs, Dinosaur Isle is an absolute must-visit. This is the first purpose-built dino attraction to open its doors in Britain, and you’ll find it on Culver Parade in Sandown (home to the famous Sandown Beach).

What’s lovely about this museum is that the inside has been decorated to mimic the kind of landscapes the creatures would have walked through on the Isle of Wight all those years ago. And, nestled within this landscape, you’ll spot incredible re-creations of dinosaurs built to scale, including the polacanthus and iguanodon.

Of course, you’ll no doubt be keen to see some real remains, and you’ll be in luck because you can check out authentic dinosaur skeletons. What’s more, you can see both skeletons and fossils arriving at the museum as and when they’re found by the museum’s researchers. Amazing!

Fossil walks

You don’t need to be visiting during the Year of the Dinosaur to go on guided fossil walks, but there are some special ones taking place for those of you travelling before the end of 2013. Whether you are or not, though, there are several companies that offer regular excursions, including Footprint Tours and Dinosaur Fossil Hunts.

The latter, for example, is run by an expert in Cretaceous fossil crustaceans, who offers two-hour long tours. These cost very little, but are an excellent chance to discover fossils for yourself and learn a lot.

Dinosaur Island app

Just to finish off, I’d like to point out that to celebrate the Year of the Dinosaur there’s a special Dinosaur Island app for smartphones and tablets. Definitely download it before you go, because at six coastal locations on the Isle of Wight it’ll activate and give you the chance to snap pictures of your family or friends (or whoever you’re travelling with) in the local landscape as it would have looked 130 million years ago – dinosaurs and all!


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