Nothing says summer like a British seaside town. Take it from expert, Jessica Baldwin, who picks 10 of her favourite beachy and easy to reach places to visit with kids right now.
Southwold: a classic British seaside town
With 300 jauntily painted beach huts lining its famous promenade, Southwold remains the jewel in the crown of the Suffolk coast.
Despite it’s setting in an Area of Outstanding National Beauty, this is every inch a thriving market town which just happens to also have sandy beaches, windswept dunes and even an under the pier show. However, if it’s a truly authentic seaside vibe you want, take kids to watch local fishermen at work, or climb the lighthouse for a bird’s eye view of all the action. Then finish off with a local Adnams beer at one of the town’s cosy pubs.
How to get there by train: London Liverpool Street to Southwold, from 3 hours, 3 minutes
Where to stay: The Swan Hotel, Family Suites from £444 per night
West Mersea: an off-beat option for island hoppers
For a desert island mood on home territory, the only way is Essex.
Just minutes from the mainland, you’ll be crabbing along the causeway, cooing over sherbet-hued beach huts and devouring Mersea native oysters in no time. To be sure it might take a little tidal planning, but so well worth it, believe me.
Once you’re island set, go hunt for fossils along the beach or head straight to the water sports centre. Alternatively, if you like sailing visit in August. That’s when West Mersea Town Regatta and Mersea Week come together and throw up the spectacle of 100s of boats racing round the island.
How to get there by train: London Liverpool Street to Mersea Island, from 2 hours, 3 minutes
Where to stay: The Victory At Mersea, Deluxe Family Suites from £120 per night
Tenby, the most colourful seaside town in Wales
Hugged by magnificent medieval walls, colourful Tenby is a heady mix of quaint fishermen’s cottages and handsome Georgian villas, but the working harbour is where the action is at.
Firstly, hit the high seas on a fishing trip, watch seals at Caldey Island or simply cruise round the Pembrokeshire Coast. Then, back on dry land, visit the Tudor Merchant’s House or explore more than a mile of sandy shores. Award-winning Castle Beach offers safe paddling with views of St Catherine’s Island and its Napoleonic fort.
How to get there by train: London Paddington to Tenby, from 4 hours, 53 minutes
Where to stay: Heywood Spa Hotel, Classic Family Rooms from £185 per night
Folkestone: for fabulous Kent coast views and seaside charm
Kent’s coast has become synonymous with quaint British seaside towns, however, Folkestone is definitely the one to watch.
Although already well known for an art vibe and food scene, Folkestone also now delivers some truly unique family experiences. Try the new adventure golf course, Putters! for starters. You’ll find it right on the beach next to Folkestone Harbour Arm. And with 12 challenging and not-so-challenging holes, recycled palm trees, a colourful seaside theme and great views, it has to be one of the most Tik Tok-able mini golf courses yet.
Once you’re done playing, head to The Goods Yard for a mix of places to eat and drink, along with movies and sport at family-friendly Harbour Screen.
Take kids on an epic art hunt round Folkestone
As well as its glorious clifftop promenade and whimsically named beaches, like Sunny Sands and Mermaid Beach, Folkestone is also home to an epic art hunt: over 70 pieces by artists, like Yoko Ono and Tracey Emin, dot the town streets and waterfront.
But don’t miss out on the Battle of Britain Memorial, which is dedicated to the heroic and selfless deeds of the men who won the Battle of Britain in 1940. Although it’s a national Memorial and place of remembrance, forget stuffy museum. In fact, the entire site is thoroughly modern, very engaging and beautifully designed, with plenty of Folkestone’s sweeping coastal views in play. However, inside, it’s even more impressive. If you need proof, see the interactive Scramble Experience which gives kids a pilots’ perspective, right down to firing at enemy aircraft and sitting inside a mock Hurricane!
How to get there by train: London Victoria to Folkestone, from 1 hour, 15 minutes
Where to stay: The Breakers Sea Shell Apartment, Sandgate from £1,500 per week
Wells-next-the-Sea: Norfolk’s very own beach hut beauty
Located in an Area of Outstanding National Beauty this Norfolk classic comes with a bustling harbour, charming town centre and one of the county’s best sandy beaches.
A buggy-friendly walk from town, Wells Beach is backed by windswept dunes and dense woods, although it’s best known for a bevy of quirky beach huts – some of which you can hire for the day! Crab off the quay here or take a boat tour of the peaceful marshes, then have fish and chips on the waterfront, of course.
How to get there by train: London to Wells-next-the-Sea, from 4 hours, 54 minutes
Where to stay: The Globe Inn, Family Suites from £205 per night
Deal: another of Kent’s great British seaside towns
This former garrison town on coast of Kent has an award-winning high street packed with independent shops, restaurants and bars.
This is another great family all-rounder from its pretty pebble beach and Tudor castle to a long pier with plenty of seats for kids. As well as exploring the town museums and the castle’s tunnels, you can watch fishermen at work on your way down the pier. A walk that’s highly recommended if only for splendid Deal Pier Kitchen: keep your eyes peeled and you may even see France on a clear day!
How to get there by train: London Victoria to Deal, from 1 hour, 44 minutes
Where to stay: The Royal Hotel, Family Rooms from £220 per night
Looe: sitting pretty on Cornwall’s South West Coast Path
If Looe’s jolly fishing harbour looks familiar, you may recognise it from the BBC drama, Beyond Paradise.
Sitting pretty on the South West Coast Path, it’s a weary hiker’s dream from cobbled streets and quaint shops selling Cornish fudge to a delightful sandy beach: perfect for a picnic. Families can also try their hand at crabbing on Banjo Pier, join a ‘rockpool ramble’ or book a glass bottom boat trip for some dolphin spotting.
How to get there by train: London Paddington to Looe, from 4 hours, 27 minutes
Where to stay: Portbyhan Hotel, Garden Rooms from £210 per night
St. Ives: the most inspiring seaside town in Cornwall
Jutting out from the rugged Cornish coastline free-spirited St. Ives is filled with indie shops, iconic art galleries and outstanding restaurants.
It’s also fringed by some of the UK’s best beaches, so once you’ve explored its dreamy warren of backstreets, wait for low tide and find your perfect cove. Family-favourite, Porthminster is perfect for paddling and has fantastic views of Godrevy Lighthouse. Alternatively, hire a beach hut at Porthgwidden to explore its rockpools.
How to get there by train: London Paddington to St. Ives, from 5 hours, 46 minutes
Where to stay: St. Ives Harbour Hotel & Spa, Family Sea View Rooms from £324 per night
Conwy: the ultimate seaside town for history buffs
Nestled within Europe’s best preserved medieval walls, Conwy is the ultimate seaside town for history buffs.
Start with a walk along the UNESCO listed castle battlements for views of Snowdonia and the oyster-filled estuary. Then head under to the town’s ancient streets, tightly-packed with shops and restaurants, and concealing gems like Plas Mawr: the finest Edwardian townhouse in the UK.
Down on the quay, children will love Britain’s Smallest House: it’s painted bright pillar-box red so you don’t miss it!
How to get there by train: London Euston to Conwy, from 4 hours, 16 minutes
Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia, Lagoon View Rooms from £202 per night
Shanklin: another reason to sail to Isle of Wight
Peaceful gardens and a magnificent gorge link Shanklin’s lofty Old Village – crammed with traditional tea rooms and cute sweet shops – with the award-winning Blue Flag beach, 45m below.
Seasonal lifeguards, a lively promenade and pub lunches on the beach makes it a family favourite: a handy cliff lift takes you from village to sands. However, don’t miss Shanklin Chine, where winding paths lead to a lush gorge and the spectacle of a double waterfall.
How to get there: Wightlink Ferries Portsmouth to Ryde, from 22 minutes
Where to stay: Luccombe Hall Hotel, Family Rooms from £260 per night
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