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Top 10 English seaside towns

by Sharron Livingston
Sun loungers, Brighton

The seaside holiday has always been an intrinsic part of the British culture; a bucket and spade heritage that spans several generations. And so we have compiled a round-up of fabulous English beaches, including a couple you may never have heard of. They are all open to the public and without a shark or jellyfish anywhere.

Yet they all have a distinct personality, from the trendy Brighton vibe, the bright lights of Blackpool, the quiet charm of Aldeburgh and the coastal beauty of the Isle of Wight. Which one will you choose?

Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Aldeburgh Beach, Suffolk

Aldeburgh Beach, Suffolk (c) flickr/David Jones

Aldeburgh is a charming, traditional, unspoilt seaside town with a sand and shingle beach. There is a traditional boating lake for model yachts, local museum, and historic 16th-century moot hall. The fishermen still draw their boats up on to the shore and sell fish from the beach. Some say that the fish and chips here is the best you can get on the East Coast.

This was once a busy port famed for its shipbuilding acumen. This is where Sir Francis Drake’s ships “Pelican” and “Greyhound” were built and local men sailed with Drake on these vessels. Sadly, the industry declined when the river Alde silted up.

Aldeburgh is internationally famous for its association with the Albeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts begun by Benjamin Britten. Look out for his stature along the beach front. The festival is in June each year and has many events in and around Aldeburgh.

There is a good range of accommodation available from good quality bed and breakfast establishments to three star hotels. There is also a wide range of restaurants from cosy cafés to starred restaurants and plenty of querky, independent shops.

Blackpool, Lancashire

Central Pier, Blackpool

Central Pier, Blackpool (c) pixabay/PublicDomainPictures

With miles of gorgeous beaches combined with the Pleasure Beach theme park thrills and spills, Blackpool has it all. It’s a town full of firsts: the only beach in Britain to have three piers along its Golden Mile, faster roller coasters, bigger clubs, even the biggest mirror ball in the world as well as world-class shows, cosmopolitan restaurants, vibrant nightlife, an active sports scene and breathtakingly beautiful scenery on its doorstep.

You can also enjoy quiet moments by strolling through leafy Stanley Park, Blackpool’s horticultural and wildlife treasure. Close by is the resort’s small but perfectly formed Model Village and Gardens.

Hop on a tram and trundle along twelve miles of Promenade. Marvel at the musical high-tide organ which joins the ever-growing range of giant sculptures and eye-catching artworks on New South Promenade.

At the heart of Blackpool’s famous Golden Mile is the Sea Life Centre, home to more than 40 fascinating displays. Nearby is one of Blackpool’s oldest attractions, Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks, inviting you to meet the famous and the infamous in its many galleries.

Down at the Sandcastle they’re having a permanent heat wave! White knuckle water chutes, swirling slides and the giant Typhoon Lagoon wave pool combine to offer a full day of family fun.

Brighton & Hove, Sussex

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton (c) flickr/Jim Linwood

This vibrant city, on the south coast, just 49 minutes from central London, is fashionable, funky and loaded with so much style that you can forgive it’s seaside for its pebble beach. And many do as on a sunny day it’s filled with sun seekers and deck chairs. It’s famous pier is home to a fun fair, sweet shops and quaint tea rooms.

Away from the beach is the magnificent royal palace, elegant Regency architecture, museums and superb shopping.

Don’t miss the Royal Pavilion, home of King George IV, and probably the most exotic, extravagant royal palace in Europe. Stroll along the Victorian Pier and the beachfront, where stylish bars and cafés spill out onto the curved paving, jostling for space with surfer shops, giant sculptures, buskers, fresh fish and artists’ studios. For shopping, try The Lanes, smart and chic, and the bohemian North Laine, both good for antiques and designer clothes.

There are museums and galleries galore, special events throughout the year from car rallies to carnivals, and England’s largest arts festival in May. For nightlife, there’s theatre, music, dance and comedy, lively pubs and bars and around 400 restaurants. And there’s a great choice of places to stay – ritzy 5 star seafront hotels, jazzy places with Moroccan style courtyards, minimalist townhouses and traditional B&Bs.

The newest attraction is the British Airways Eye. A donut like observatory glides gently up to 138 metres making it the world’s tallest observation tower. It was the brainchild of Marks Barfield Architects, creators of the London Eye. You will get  360o views across Brighton, the South Downs and, on the clearest days, all the way to Beachy Head and the Isle of Wight.

Read also: Hotel Review: Drakes, Brighton, England

Cromer, Norfolk

Cromer Pier, Norfolk, England

Cromer Pier, Norfolk, England (c) rodtuk

Cromer with its rock pools and miles of part sand part shingle beach, lies in a key position on the Norfolk coast. When the North Sea rides high, it is Cromer’s Lighthouse that flashes out a guiding beam and its famous lifeboat that is ready to answer any calls of distress. You can combine a visit to the lifeboat with a show by heading to the Pier and Pavilion Theatre.

It has what is undoubtedly a beautiful town. It’s most distinguished landmark has to be its fine 14th-century church, which stands guardian over the town. The enhancement of Cromer has been carefully watched over and has progressed on the right lines so that none of its original beauty has been destroyed.

A town renowned for its history of the sea, fishing and crabs; some of Cromer’s finest accommodation can be found offering splendid early morning views of the fishermen bringing their catches ashore or evening views of the sun slipping into the sea at sunset.

A gentle walk along the cliffs will bring you to the Golf Course and Cromer Lighthouse. Continue further along this path and you will eventually come to the delightful village of Overstrand.

If you wish to see Cromer at its liveliest then a visit during Carnival week is a must. For a whole week there are activities organised around the town and on the cliff top and you can be sure of finding something to suit every member of the family.

Isle of Wight

Children's toys on Shanklin Beach, Isle of Wight

Shanklin Beach, Isle of Wight (c) pixabay/MissEJB

The island, located four miles off the coast of Hampshire, was the seaside venue of choice many eminent Victorians, including Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, J M W Turner, Henry VIII and Queen Victoria.

Perhaps they loved the 60 miles of spectacular coastline, with picturesque coves and beautiful bays of golden sand with safe bathing. You’ll be tempted to explore the countryside at all times of the year, following the many paths and trails that reveal the refreshing greens and golds of spring, the vibrant tints of autumn or the magically frosted pastel hues of a winter’s morning. Aside from being an internationally renowned centre for sailing (click here to book a sailing experience), the island offers countless opportunities to pursue every kind of sport activity. From fishing to golf and windsurfing to flying there is something for everyone.

This diamond-shaped isle is a treasure trove of historic and prehistoric interest. Dinosaurs, ancient tribes, Romans and monarchs throughout the ages have left behind a fascinating trail into the past.

Get there in June for the Isle of Wight music festival. Pitch your tent at Seaclose Park and soak in some sounds.

To get to the Isle of Wight, catch the Red Funnel or Wight Link ferries from Portsmouth and take the car. Or if only on foot, there is the passenger only Hovertravel.

Read also: Isle of Wight – Britain’s own island in the sun

Newquay, Cornwall

Towan Beach, Newquay Cornwall

Towan Beach, Newquay Cornwall (c) Proper Handsome

Families love Newquay. Whether it’s trying one of the many exhilarating watersports, experiencing the breathtaking countryside, relaxing on the seven miles of golden sands and safe sandy beaches or simply enjoying the amazing array of facilities – it’s easy to see why Newquay has become so popular.

It’s focal point is the breathtaking riviera where soaring cliffs alternate with sheltered coves and thundering surf with secluded rock pools, smugglers’ caves and soft, golden sands stretching for seven miles. There is a charm in so much natural beauty and variety which is amplified by Newquay’s sport and leisure facilities.

There’s plenty of accommodation including sea-front hotels with simply wonderful views, comfortable guesthouses, self-catering apartments and camping and holiday parks.

Even when inclement weather makes sunbathing less than ideal, the famed South West Coast Path offers all sorts of walks trails around Newquay from short beachside ambles to more strenuous cliff and coastal path rambles.

One caveat worth noting: dogs are generally welcome but there is seasonal ban every Easter Sunday and September 30 from 7am until 7pm.


Penzance Harbour

Penzance Harbour (c) Kathryn Yengel

Sunny Penzance stands on the sun trap shores of Mount’s Bay at the far western end of Cornwall. At the mid point of the town’s shoreline is the open-air Jubilee Pool, a fine example of the art deco style of the 1930’s. A short distance beyond is Penzance Harbour whose inner dock shelters fishing boats and commercial vessels and where visiting yachts and the occasional tall-masted sailing ship lie against the granite quays.

Penzance has a wealth of good shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. Its main thoroughfare is Market Jew Street, a busy shopping street that connects with the harbour area through the Wharfside Shopping Centre. Take time to explore pedestrianised Causewayhead and the delightful Chapel Street, an ancient thoroughfare that winds down to the seafront between handsome buildings and specialist shops.

Subtropical Morrab Gardens flourish in Penzance’s sunny aspect and mild climate. Each June the Golowan Festival celebrates the Celtic traditions of West Cornwall in spectacular style. On the outskirts of town are Treriefe and Trengwainton (NT) gardens from where gentle slopes rise steadily to the heather moorland homes of Neolithic Bronze Age man.

Penzance is the stepping off point for flights or ferries to the Isles of Scilly.

Southport, Merseyside, North West England

Southport beach in low tide

Southport beach in low tide (c) Berit

The Classic resort of Southport is the perfect destination for a seaside day trip, mid-week or weekend short break. With beautiful beaches, great attractions, superb shopping, a mouth-watering array of restaurants and lots, lots more, Southport has something for everyone.

There’s also one of the best event programmes in the country – which includes the Southport Flower Show, Southport Air Show, Summer Classics – Music in the Park, British Musical Fireworks Championships, The Southport International Jazz Festival and many more.

Southport is also England’s Golfing Capital with six championship courses including Royal Birkdale, which hosts The Open in 2008. The town is at the centre of England’s Golf Coast and no less than nineteen courses including the 3 Royals can be reached in under an hour.

Add to this a vibrant and exciting night-life, the Victorian splendour of Lord Street with its unique range of shops, some of the most scenic parks and gardens you’re ever likely to visit, and you’ll appreciate why Southport appeals to all ages and interests.

Weymouth & Portland, Dorset

Chesil Beach, Weymouth, Dorset

Chesil Beach, Weymouth, Dorset (c) Jim

As the waves crash against the rocks along the dramatic coastline of the ‘Isle’ of Portland, you can see why this forms part of the Jurassic Coast. Yet just across the bay, Weymouth is home to a safe, clean, sheltered family beach.

Weymouth & Portland, located at the heart of the 95 mile stretch of the World Heritage Coast, has so much to offer. Weymouth varies from a rich heritage heartland with historical buildings and Georgian Seafront, to a bustling modern town centre complemented by quaint side streets with traditional pubs and contemporary bars, cafés and restaurants, all of which is connected by over three miles of level promenade, making access between the areas easy for all. Weymouth’s picturesque leisure harbour boasts fishing boats, yachts, catamarans and the high-speed Condor Ferries making day trips to the Channel Islands and St Malo in France.

Close to Weymouth’s town centre, you’ll find the Swannery and RSPB Nature Reserve and a host of indoor and outdoor attractions open all year. With the variety of places to visit and over 200 year-round events, there really is something to suit everyone.

Frequented over 200 years ago by King George III, the Golden Sands of Weymouth’s Central Beach is a consistent winner of the national “Tidy Britain” Seaside Awards and one of the Elite 8 beaches in the UK.

The Dorset countryside and the ‘Isle’ of Portland are areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and are home to spectacular and unique wildlife, flora and fauna, with some stunning viewing points across the Jurassic Coastline and beyond!

Whitby, Yorkshire

Whitby seaside

Whitby seaside (c) George Hodan

With its quaint cobbled streets and picturesque houses standing on the steep slopes of the River Esk, Whitby is dominated by its cliff top Abbey.

Situated along one of Britain’s finest stretches of coastline, with cliffs, lovely bays, safe sandy beaches and attractive villages, Whitby has been a port for more than 1,000 years and is still a seafarers’ town today.

The narrow streets and alleys climbing down to the quayside still bustle as they have done for centuries and as folklore and tradition are very much part of the Whitby scene, visitors soon find themselves involved. From these centuries-old streets, 199 steps lead up to the parish church of St Mary, whose churchyard inspired Bram Stoker to write his world-famous novel, Dracula.

As well as attracting many famous visitors, Whitby has produced its own famous sons, not least Captain James Cook, and also the outstanding father and son whaling masters of the Scoresby family.


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