Fossil collecting: locations

This information sheet is intended to help those who want to go fossil collecting.

Safety

Before you start, be aware of safety issues. Road and rail cuttings are dangerous places and therefore particular care must be taken. Cliffs are often visited by fossil collectors because of the fossil deposits exposed in the cliff face, but tragic accidents and fatalities have occurred due to falls and cliff collapses. Stay clear of unstable cliffs and seek local advice if you are unsure.

Where to go

Here are a few places to start hunting for fossils in Victoria. But first, always be sure you have permission to be on the land you are searching, and to remove fossils if you find them. This includes national parks, state forests, road reserves, and other public land. Many land owners will be happy to allow access as long as they know what you are doing beforehand. Far more problems arise when land owners unexpectedly ‘discover’ a fossil hunter on their land.

Late Cainozoic sites (less than 10 million years old). When partially dried out, the floors of many of the lakes in the Western District of Victoria have produced fossil marsupials, birds and freshwater molluscs. Coastal exposures around Torquay and further east around Lakes Entrance yield large quantities and a variety of fossil marine organisms, such as echinoids, gastropods and bivalves. Some of the better known locales of this age close to Melbourne are coastal cliffs on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay, but collecting in these locations is not advisable as it can be extremely dangerous, and fatalities have occurred due to cliff collapses. Exposures along the Murray River have also yielded a significant number of both animal and plant fossils.

Early Cretaceous (100–120 million years old). Road cuttings in the Otway and Strezlecki Ranges have yielded numerous plant fossils. Dinosaur bones of the same age occur on the shore platforms of those areas but are extremely difficult to find because they are both very rare and their appearance is quite similar to that of the far more abundant bands of coal in the same rocks.

Middle Palaeozoic (300–440 million years). Limestone quarries at Buchan and Lilydale are particularly good sources of marine shells and occasional fish bones. Areas of exposed rock between Woodstock and Wandong are also worth examining. Some of the oldest land plants anywhere on Earth are to be found in grey siltstones around Yea, on the Yarra Track, and Coopers Creek on the Thompson River.

Early Palaeozoic black shales (550–440 million years). Victoria is noted for its graptolite sequence. Graptolites (literally ‘pencil markings on rocks’) look just like what their name implies. They are the remains of colonial organisms, many of which drifted widely in the oceans of the day so that the same species are often found in places as wide apart as western North America, southern South America and Victoria. Places to look are in river gullies around Monegeeta, south of Lancefield, Knowsley East, a wide area east of a line 5 km west of Wedderburn, south through Bealiba and Maryborough to Ballarat East, and around Bendigo. Quarries where black shales and slates are exposed, such as the one at Bullengarook, are worth checking as well.

Further Reading

Macdonald, J. R., Macdonald, M. L., Vickers-Rich, P., Rich, L. S. V. and Rich, T. H. 1997. The Fossil Collector’s Guide. Kangaroo Press, NSW.

Comments (26)

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Elysia 5 March, 2014 10:56
Hi, Im a student at uni and we have been set a task to go an collect 3 different fossils. We are located in the Ballarat area and can't seem to find any locations near us where we can collect and take the fossils. Any advice on where to look???
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Kevin Hooper 22 January, 2013 09:46
Does the Museum sponser a fosil club or do you have one of your own? Regards Kevin
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Discovery Centre 30 January, 2013 16:50
Hi Kevin, sadly Museum Victoria does not have a club like what you are after, you may wish to consider the  Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, as mentioned in the comments above.
Discovery Centre 12 January, 2013 12:47
Hi Helen, the Western Australian Museum should be able to advise you of some places to visit.  Check out this website for details of their collection.
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Helen Martin 10 January, 2013 18:23
Hi, any tips for where I could take my 5 year old near Perth to look for fossils Thanks in advance.
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Caitlyn 1 November, 2012 18:23
Hi, I am currently about to begin my life as a Uni student and I want to know more about fossil collecting and also experience it first hand. Where, in Victoria/Hobart, is a place to go fossil hunting, safely?
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Vicki 5 October, 2012 12:18
Hi, we have recently found a fossil in the Inverloch area is it possible to have it identified?
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Discovery Centre 6 October, 2012 12:41

Hi Vicki

If you would like to have a specimen identified, please provide us with as much information as you can about the specimen, including:

• Where was it found or collected? 
• When was it found or collected? 
• Would you like your specimen to be returned to you?

We cannot do identifications unless we are able to view either a good photograph or the specimen itself.

You can either bring your specimen to the Discovery Centre or mail small specimens and photographs to our postal address - Discovery Centre, GPO Box 666 Melbourne 3001

Or you can submit an on-line form here - you can also upload photos to the on-line form.

If you are taking photographs for identification purposes, please place a ruler or pen in the photograph to give us a sense of scale. It is also helpful to take images from several from different angles

Discovery Centre 24 June, 2012 15:44

Hi Adam - the exact details of specific fossil locations are not generally well promoted for a number of reasons; site accessibility may be limited to authorised excavators, may require permission from private or traditional landholders or government authorities, or may have issues relating to health or safety. For this reason, we have only indicated general regions near known specific fossil sites that could yeild fossils. You are most welcome to visit the regions described above and have a look around, but you should be aware that the legaility of excavating fossils is largely determined by the location of the site.

You may wish to contact the Field Naturalists Club as mentioned in our previous replies to see if they can assist you in your interest - and happy hunting!

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Adam 3 June, 2012 16:55
Hi, My girlfriend and I are hoping to go fossil hunting in Victoria and we're wondering whether there are any sites where you can hunt for fossils without specialist equipment (preferably somewhere that is safe and where we can remove fossils from the site)? We've looked over the list above but it's hard to figure out: 1.) Which of those are likely to be accessible to an amateur; and 2.) Where exactly we might expect to find fossils (for example, it's hard to know where "south of Lancefield" actually refers to). Thanks! Adam
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Mark 1 April, 2012 13:53
I live in Warrnambool, Western Vic. and would like to know of any potential fossil deposits to explore in the region? Are any of the volcanic sites known for fossils, or are they more often found on our rocky beaches and coastline?
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Discovery Centre 12 April, 2012 10:29

Hi Mark - much of the coastline near Warrnambool could potentially yeild fossil material of some sort; the limestone cliffs are essentially composed of fossil material of a sort (fossilised skeletons of corals and bryozoans), and occasionally amongst the limestone can be found fossilised marine invertebrates (such as echinoids), as well as shark teeth and the like. In some locations, the marine limestones have thin bands of overlying terrestrial sediments (like the beds of ancient streams during times of lower sea level), and amongst these can (very occasionally) be found the remains of land animals such as marsupial teeth, etc. These terrestrial sites are not common, but the constantly eroding nature of the limestone coast can occasionally reveal these.

The important thing to consider would be finding out if you are allowed to look for fossils in the various locations along the coast - in all cases you need permission from the owner/cusatodian of the locality (be they private land owners or parks), and the laws vary depending on who is responsible for the location. And of course, we would be interested in seeing any material you might find; it's always useful to have a camera with you when you are looking for fossils, and if you find something interesting, take a photograph and make a note of the location. We are always happy to suggest an identification if you send us an image, you can do this using our Ask the Experts part of this website.

Good luck! 

mitch 10 February, 2012 20:07
hi i found a fosil and was wondering what it was can i take it to the musium and get someone to tell me what it is
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Discovery Centre 11 February, 2012 09:14

Hello Mitch

If you would like to have a specimen identified, please provide us with as much information as you can about the specimen, including:

• Where was it found or collected?
• When was it found or collected?
• Would you like your specimen to be returned to you?

We cannot do identifications unless we are able to view either a good photograph or the specimen itself.

You can either bring your specimen to the Discovery Centre or mail small specimens and photographs to our postal address - Discovery Centre, GPO Box 666 Melbourne 3001

Or you can submit an on-line form here - you can also upload photos to the on-line form.

If you are taking photographs for identification purposes, please place a ruler or pen in the photograph to give us a sense of scale. It is also helpful to take images from several from different angles.

sim 17 January, 2012 16:10
has eney one had a look a wondong vic ? theres tryerbites there
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Discovery Centre 19 March, 2011 13:37

Hi Tarek, there are details above for areas to visit.  You might want to consider joining a group such as the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria to go fossil hunting!

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Tarik Zepcan 18 March, 2011 16:13
Hi I am wondering were i can find any sort of fossils in Victoris that dont require dangerouse actions etc , just the location . Also if the specific beach could be available please that would be greatly appreiciated aswell
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Ashleigh 23 February, 2011 22:49
Thanks for your reply much appreciated
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Discovery Centre 23 February, 2011 15:16
Hi Ashleigh - good question! While some very significant fossils have been found quite nearby Lorne, we don't know of any from Lorne itself. Fossil plants are well known from sites from both the east and west of Lorne, showing vastly different habitats from different geological time periods (fossil plants from closer to Apollo Bay are from the Cretaceous; dinosaur -age plants from tall, polar forests, and plant fossils from Anglesea are younger and show a lush tropical rainforest environment). If you would like to bring your specimen to us at the Discovery Centre on your next visit, we would be happy to have a look and suggest an identification.
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Ashleigh 21 February, 2011 16:10
Are there many fossils too be found in Lorne Victoria..itself? I have found a small fossil of a fern like plant in Lorne Victoria......but the rest has been less quality of the same plant Are any animal bones too be found here?
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Ken Readwin 31 August, 2010 18:16
I am looking for a fossil collection site within/around 50km of Ararat for a University of the Third Age (U3A)excursion ?Graptolites, what ever. KenR
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Discovery Centre 20 August, 2010 14:23

Hi there, please see our Valuations infosheet for the answer to your question

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Alex 17 August, 2010 17:53
i have some Paleozoic fossils i am looking at getting valued and wanna no were to go?
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Discovery Centre 28 April, 2010 09:41

Hi Mark, you may find that a local branch of the Field Naturalist Club of Victoria can help you out with details of fossil hunting in your area.  As a beginner, you may find that a group excursion will be both safer and more beneficial for both yourself and your daughter.  You can find details of the Field Naturalist Club of Victoria here: http://www.fncv.org.au/

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Mark 25 April, 2010 10:13
Hello, I have a 6 year old girl who has a facination with fossils. i have tried to explain and show her as much information as possible I was hoping someone could advise me on an area in melbourne you can take a 6yr old to try a find a fossil for herself.
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noah luthi 20 June, 2009 22:01
interested in fossil collecting with my 7 year old son who likes fossils and archeology
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