Rock pooling for beginners – My Top 5 Tips

Rock pooling is fun for all ages – everyone can give it a go. Beach shoes and bucket at the ready? Here’s how to get the most from your adventures.

A tiny young turbot swims into my hand.
A tiny young turbot swims into my hand.

1.   Join an organised event. 

There are lots of events organised by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and other local organisations throughout the year, especially during the summer holidays. With experts to help and lots of eyes looking, you’re bound to find more.

2017 was my first year of leading events for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust's junior branch. I used to love the events as a kid and introducing a new generation and their families to jellyfish, starfish and other rockpool creatures is so much fun! I can't wait for my 2018 Wildlife Watch events and the Looe Marine Conservation Group rockpool rambles where I also volunteer.
Sharing starfish and jellyfish with a Wildlife Watch group for Cornwall Wildlife Trust at Treyarnon Bay.

Can’t make it to an event? No problem – just use the tips below and the information on this site to help you have a fantastic experience.

2.   Check the weather and the tides.

You’ll find much more and be safer if you visit the beach at low tide. Aim to start an hour or two before low tide so that you can get out further and not risk being cut off. Choose a calm day so that you can see into the water easily.

Watching fish at Kynance Cove with Junior (photo by Other Half)
Watching fish at Kynance Cove

 3.   Dress the part

You don’t need much equipment to go rock pooling – a bucket, identification guide and magnifying glass are useful, but nets can harm the soft-bodied creatures so are best left at home. Beaches are exposed to the elements, so wrap up warm or slap on the sun cream as appropriate. Above all, choose footwear that you can get wet in and that will protect your feet from sharp rocks and pincers – wellies or beach shoes are ideal.

Junior and Other-Half exploring Hannafore in the rain
Exploring Hannafore in the rain

 4.   Head for the Lower Shore

Beaches slope downwards, so the further towards the sea you go, the deeper the underwater habitat you’ll be exploring. Start your rockpooling as far down the beach as you can to find some amazing creatures. You can work back up the beach as the tide comes in. Watch out for slippery seaweed and stay away from cliffs.

A common starfish.

 5.   Look under rocks and overhangs

Sea creatures like to stay cool and damp. Look deep into pools, crevices and holes in the rock and gently lift stones and seaweed. Take time to look for any movement and for shapes or colours that stand out. Listen for crabs clicking and fish flicking the water with their tails. Find out what species you’ve found by looking at my wildlife pages. Make sure you replace stones and seaweed exactly as they were and leave the creatures where you found them.

Montagu's blenny at Kynance cove
Montagu’s blenny at Kynance cove

I would love to hear from you about your rock pool finds.

If you’re taking kids to the beach, be sure to pick up a copy of my new book, Beach Explorer. It’s packed with facts ideas for hands-on activities to help you discover how beaches work, the secret lives of marine animals and how you can help to look after your beach. My books are available from your local bookshop and online.

This website is a labour of much love and the content is available for free to everyone. My wonderful readers often ask if there is a way to support my work. You can now ‘buy me a coffee’ through my page. (Just click donate and you can set the amount to pay by PayPal). Thank you!

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For everyone who loves Cornwall's rock pools. Information about great beaches, marine wildlife and conservation.

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