From the rolling white cliffs of Dover to the quaint fishing villages along the Jurassic coast, England offers a myriad of seaside towns worth visiting. While they might lack the tropical qualities of equatorial destinations, they make up for in charm.
Strolling the pier and playing penny arcades. Dodging the seagulls trying to share the fish and chips. Feeling the pebbles between your toes. There is much to love about the English seaside, and it evokes many memories from childhood.
So, grab your sandals and sunglasses as we explore these fantastic British seaside destinations.
The town of Hastings is one of the best destinations to visit in Sussex. It gets its name from the famous battle that took place in 1066. Later, with the introduction of the railroad, the town blossomed into a popular Victorian seaside resort. Today, Hastings oozes history, which blends with the new and contemporary.
Yet, much of the Victoria era remains in its pubs, inns, and quirky shops that straddle the cobblestone streets. Like Brighton, it boasts an ancient pier built in 1872.
Hastings may outshine Brighton in one area, its beautiful beach. At low tide, visitors can enjoy large expanses of sandy shores at Pelham Beach. So much better than pebbles, wouldn’t you agree?
Hastings’ attractions are plentiful and somewhat quirky. Due to its steep cliffs, Hastings offers two funiculars to ascend the mounds.
The East Hill funicular, which transports riders from the Old Town to Hastings Country Park, is the steepest railway in the UK. It also offers the best seaside views.
For an interactive and family-friendly outing, the Smuggler’s Adventure delivers. The unique exhibit documents the history of smuggling and bootlegging.
Almost like a year-round Halloween attraction, visitors wander through a series of dark caverns, greeted by smuggler characters and pirates.
If you prefer something a little less touristy, head over to Hastings Castle or the Shipwreck Museum. Both offer great insight into a turbulent castle and the ships that have sunk in the English Channel.
Hastings House is a fantastic choice for a hotel if you want to be steps from the beach. With modern rooms and a yummy breakfast, guests rave about this Victorian lodging.
Scarborough is your classic British seaside town. Located on the North Yorkshire coast, Scarborough is bursting with the traditional seaside delights of sandy beaches, donkey rides, fish and chip shops, and penny arcades.
A trip to Scarborough serves a healthy dose of nostalgia alongside the modern comforts you would expect.
This coastal town has attracted visitors for centuries. Thanks to Scarborough’s sweeping bays and dramatic cliff-top views, it is easy to see why the town steals the hearts of its visitors. On sunny summer days, there is nowhere better!
As well as the traditional seaside sights, Scarborough has many attractions that are well worth a visit. One of the most popular things to do in Scarborough is to visit the Central Tramway Company. This historic cliff railway was established in 1881 and has treated visitors to spectacular views across the bay ever since.
Another highlight of a visit to Scarborough is the Scarborough Fair Collection. Take a stroll down memory lane as you admire this unique collection of vintage fairground rides, mechanical organs, plus vintage cars and steam engines.
The collection is located a short drive from the town center, and when you visit, make sure you don’t miss the hidden gem, Cayton Bay. This secluded beach is often overlooked and can be a peaceful retreat from the bustling town!
The four-star Crown Spa Hotel is an excellent choice if you want to indulge in a luxury stay without blowing the budget. It is the oldest purpose-built hotel in Scarborough and is complete with a restaurant, spa, and gym.
This slice of luxury comes at a reasonable cost, especially when compared to other hotels in the town.
Contributed by Hannah from Get Lost Travel Blog
With its Royal Pavilion, iconic pier, and hippie atmosphere, what’s not to love about Brighton, East Sussex? Brighton makes a great outing from London by train.
It offers boutique shopping in “The Lanes,” 360-degree views from the British Airways i360 observation tower, and a stroll down memory lane on the Brighton Palace Pier. The Lanes are a great place to get some iconic English souvenirs or do some window shopping.
While Brighton Beach is pebbled, it doesn’t detract from its attraction as an English seaside town. But Brighton offers more than a trip to the ocean; it’s a history book waiting to be read.
At the Sea Life Centre, the aquatic creatures might be secondary to the building’s architecture. The magnificent Gothic arches dating from 1872 are not what you’d expect to find at an aquarium.
Brighton is home to the world’s oldest electric-operating railroad, Volks Electric Railway. Welcoming passengers since 1883, the narrow-gauge railway transports riders from the Sea Life Centre to Black Rock. While the track is only one mile long, riders can choose a return journey or a one-way trip.
But, the jewel of Brighton is the Royal Pavilion, a must-see tourist attraction. Construction began in the late 1700s, making it the ultimate seaside retreat. Its Indian exterior and lavishly decorated Chinese interior make it a must-see in Brighton.
The palatial Pavilion is beautifully restored, and its eclectic style is inspiring. Check out the ceiling details, chandeliers, and ornamental pillars during your visit.
The 1890s Hilton Brighton Metropole Hotel is a grand dame along the waterfront. With its iron railing balconies and classic Victorian architecture, its elegance blends seamlessly with the eclectic neighborhood.
If you choose to stay here, ask for a room at the front so you can savor the seaside views.
Cromer may be best known for its crabs, but this Victorian seaside resort has so much more to offer visitors.
It has a beautiful blue flag beach (the gold standard of beaches), a historic pier, and plenty of family-friendly attractions. Keep in mind that some activities are seasonal and may be unavailable during the winter months.
When you are in Cromer, you can try your hand at crabbing from the pier. With a bit of luck, patience, and the right bait, you should be able to catch at least one. You need to return any crabs you catch, but you can try Cromer crab at the Crab Pot Cafe.
When the tide is out, you will want to spend some time on the beach. You could hire a beach hut or even go on a search for fossils. It’s also a popular area for surfing. When you get hungry, grab some fish & chips from Galton Blackiston’s No 1 Cromer.
There are also many things to do in Cromer away from the water. Cromer’s Parish Church, called the Church of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, has the tallest bell tower in Norfolk and is home to a pair of peregrine falcons. It’s free to go inside and see the impressive organ, beautiful stained glass, and intricate ceiling.
Also, check out the Henry Blogg Museum, which tells the story of one of the most decorated lifeboatmen in history. It’s free to visit and has interactive exhibits that the kids will love.
Alternatively, if you want to do something fun, check out the arcade, the mini-golf course, or one of the local pubs like The Wellington or Red Lion. Don’t miss the last surviving end of the pier show in Europe in the summer months.
With all that Cromer offers, you’ll want to spend more than just a day here. If you are looking for an upmarket place to stay, check out the Cliftonville Hotel.
Contributed by Anisa from Two Traveling Texans
Burnham-on-Sea is a small seaside town in southwest England. It is located just off the M5 and is about 30 miles south of Bristol. Visiting Burnham-on-Sea will allow you to explore the seaside without the busy attractions of other towns.
The town is small and compact, and its high street has several small shops and restaurants. All the small side roads lead to the seafront and the sandy beach.
On the seafront is a small arcade and then the pier. This pier is the shortest in England and is more like a small building on stilts than the large and fancy piers in other seaside towns.
To the north of the town is the unique Burnham Low Lighthouse. The lighthouse has nine legs and stands on the sandy beach. Water surrounds it at high tide, but you can explore around the lighthouse legs at low tide.
The beach at Burnham-on-Sea is golden sand close to the sea wall, but when the current goes out, there are mud flats. The tide moves quickly here, so don’t be tempted to go and find the sea at low tide.
Burnham-on-Sea makes an excellent base for exploring the Mendip Hills with Cheddar Gorge, Wookey Hole Caves, and Glastonbury, all within 30 minutes drive from the town.
If you visit around Bonfire Night, make sure you stay to see the beautifully illuminated carnival, where carts lit with thousands of bulbs form a procession around the town.
Contributed by Suzanne from Meandering Wild
Karen Bleakley from Smart Steps to Australia is originally from South Yorkshire and shares her love of Whitby, where she honeymooned before emigrating to Australia.
Whitby is a quaint fishing port on the northern coast of England in the county of North Yorkshire.
No visit to Whitby is complete without climbing the iconic 199 steps to the Church of Saint Mary. If you get out of breath, you can stop periodically to check out the incredible view.
But the best view is from the churchyard at the top. Here, you’ll enjoy a breathtaking sight of the busy harbor and town below. After all of that exercise in the fresh air, you will be ready to eat. Whitby is the best place to enjoy freshly-caught fish and chips in the UK.
You might like to visit the world-famous black and white Magpie Café (you’ll need to get in line early and be prepared to wait as it gets busy). Alternatively, you can choose one of the other many other fish and chips shops to enjoy this classic English dish.
After lunch, browse some unique shops on Whitby’s cobbled streets to pick up some local Whitby jet jewelry as a memento from your trip.
Brave souls might like to check out the fun Dracula Experience for some frights as Whitby is famous for being an atmospheric location in Bram Stoker’s famous vampire novel.
For a romantic, cozy weekend break where you can walk to all of the town’s attractions, stay at the White Horse and Griffin.
7. Runswick Bay
Runswick Bay on the rugged North Yorkshire coastline is a popular seaside destination. Due to its rural surroundings, Runswick is best reached by car and is approximately a 1 ½ hour drive from the City of York.
The main attraction in Runswick Bay is the curved, golden sand beach which is backed by low dunes and hills. The beach is idyllic, sheltered, and clean, and the sea is perfect for swimming. Spend time relaxing on the beach, looking for seals or passing whales, and hunting for fossils.
More active visitors can hike the scenic coastal path (part of the Cleveland Way National Trail) to neighboring Whitby. Visitors to Runswick Bay are not surprised to learn that the beach was named Best Beach in Britain by the Sunday Times newspaper in 2020.
Allocate time to explore the winding lanes of Runswick Bay itself, which is lined with white-washed, red-roof cottages. Visit the Coastguards station to discover the history of the area or the early 19th-century stone chapel that local people built.
Stay at the Runswick Bay Hotel, a traditional village pub on the hill at the top of the village. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes to Runswick Bay, as unless you are staying near the beach, visitors must park at the top of the bay and walk down to the beach. It will be a steep walk uphill at the end of your visit.
Contributed by Sinead from York With Kids
With its relaxing atmosphere and Victorian charm, Weston-Super-Mare is a beautiful seaside town in northern Somerset. Located on the Bristol Channel, its Grand Pier and long expanse of sandy beach have attracted vacationers for decades.
Like most seaside piers, the Grand Pier contains the usual arcade games, bumper cars, and other children’s rides. The abundance of beach sand hosts the annual Weston-Super-Mare Sand Castle Festival.
The crowd-pleasing event has become so popular that it has earned the title of the UK’s “Sand Sculpting Capital.”
Its other pier, Birnbeck Pier, has grown too dilapidated and stands abandoned. Aside from its beach, Weston-Super-Mare features three museums; the Weston, Scooter (Lambretta), and Helicopter Museum, all with unique exhibits.
In fact, the Helicopter Museum houses the largest collection of rotorcrafts in the world.
For families, the tradition of donkey beach rides still remains. Near Marine Lake, the Water Adventure Play Park is a welcome activity on a hot summer’s day.
Near this seaside town, travelers can see one of England’s best cathedrals. Wells Cathedral’s Gothic architecture is a must-see and can easily be reached by driving through the Mendip Hills.
The Mendips limestone hills run from Weston-Super-Mare to Frome Valley. The hills are known for their outstanding cave system; none are finer than Wookey Hole and Cheddar Gorge.
Located on the south coast of Cornwall, the town of Falmouth is surrounded by the scenic Fal River Estuary and Roseland Peninsula. Falmouth has a long seafaring history and is the home of the annual International Sea Shanty Festival, where singers from around the country and beyond flock to the town each June.
You can find out about Falmouth’s history at the National Maritime Museum in the harbor, with 15 galleries covering everything from pirates to sea creatures. There are also the ruins of Pendennis Castle to visit, a circular fortress built by Henry VIII to protect the estuary. It offers spectacular views along the coast.
Falmouth provides a great weekend getaway, with a string of sandy coves stretching along the coast. Closest to town is Gyllyngvase Beach, which has a Blue Flag Award for its clear waters and a beach café to stop at for lunch or ice cream.
There’s also Swanpool Beach, a short walk away with its colorful beach huts, and you can carry on along the coast path to nearby Maenporth.
Falmouth’s high street has a mix of surf shops and independent stores selling homewares, art, and antiques. It’s also home to the quirky bookshop meets bar, Beerwolf Books.
Don’t miss fish and chips from Harbour Lights restaurant on Custom House Quay, best eaten on the waterfront as you watch the boats. And the Star and Garter is a gastropub overlooking the harbor, which has three stylish serviced apartments above the restaurant with sea views.
Contributed by Lucy from On The Luce
One of the best seaside towns to visit in West Sussex is Littlehampton. It is less than a 2-hour drive from London or 40 minutes from Portsmouth and Brighton. This small town in England with a population below 60,000 offers many unique attractions for locals and visitors.
One of the best places to visit in this town is Littlehampton Beach, also known as Coastguard Station Beach. Located next to Littlehampton Harbour, it’s a great place to bring a dog, especially when the tide is out.
Flourishing beach huts add a ray of sunshine, and nearby, the longest bench in the UK can seat over 300 people. The East Beach Cafe, a relatively new addition, attracts travelers not for its menu but for its distinctive silhouette.
Kids will enjoy Harbour Park Amusements, Sharkville Adventure Golf, and the Littlehampton Miniature Railway, which has been running for over 80 years. Oyster Pond rents pedalo boats for a bit of fun on the water.
However, adults can share in the fun, too. Littlehampton Golf Club and Norfolk Gardens Pitch and Putt provide entertainment on land. For ocean-going options, try mastering your balancing skills on a stand-up paddleboard.
To extend your stay in this seaside town, the East Beach Guest House offers a fantastic location and reasonably priced rooms just a few minutes walk from Littlehampton beach. Guests enjoy free parking and a complimentary breakfast with gluten-free choices.
Contributed by Paulina from UK Everyday
Whitstable is one of England’s prettiest seaside destinations, close to London. Reaching Whitstable from London takes less than two hours, and there are plenty of frequent trains between the two destinations.
Whitstable is a lovely fishing town that has a working harbor where you can see the fishermen bringing their daily catch to the shore. The harbor also features a few restaurants where you can sample freshly cooked fish and the famous Whitstable oysters.
Whitstable is famous for its oysters, which are said to be some of the best in the country. You can taste the native oysters during the oyster season, between September and April each year.
Another great thing to do in Whitstable is to enjoy the beach. Whitstable has a large beach covered with pebbles. The further away you walk from the town center, the emptier the beach will be, as most tourists prefer to remain close to the center.
Whitstable is a pretty bohemian town where you will find plenty of boutique shops and art galleries. You can find here some excellent handmade souvenirs to take back home.
If you spend more than one day in Whistable, consider staying overnight in one of the old fishermen’s huts, which have been converted into touristic accommodation.
Contributed by Joanna from The World In My Pocket
The lively seaside town of Wells-next-the-Sea is situated in North Norfolk’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is one of North Norfolk’s top coastal towns and is known simply as Wells. Staying there makes a perfect base for a Norfolk holiday or day out.
Wells is a wonderful family destination, with plenty to keep everyone busy. Wells has to be one of the best seaside towns in England, from the award-winning long sandy beach backed with colorful wooden beach huts to the bustling harbor and town.
Adventurous families will enjoy the local hiking, and paddle boarding through the local creeks at high tide is great fun. If you prefer something more sedate, take a local boat trip to see the distinctive granary and marshes.
Alternatively, ride on the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway, which steams between Wells-next-the-Sea and the historic Saxon village of Walsingham. Once there, visit the famous pilgrimage site of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Kids will love crabbing from the quay, a real Norfolk holiday activity, before picking up ice cream in the town and walking out to the RNLI lifeboat station along the sea wall.
This route also takes you to the vast stretch of sandy beach, ideal for sandcastle building, flying a kite, or playing beach games.
Nearby is the fantastic Pensthorpe Natural Park, where there are interactive trails, bird hides, and boardwalks that weave through the reserve’s wilderness.
Hands-on activities allow kids to get closer to nature and visit wildlife. They can enjoy an outdoor eco-play area with towers to climb, zip wires, underground tunnels to explore, and worm-like slides next to a perfect paddling stream!
Contributed by Isobel from Norfolk Travel Guide
Dartmouth is one of the prettiest seaside towns in England. It is a lovely little harbor town situated at the mouth of the River Dart in Devon.
It is the ideal location for a getaway at any time of year. In winter, you can warm up by the fire in the town’s oldest pub, The Cherub. In summer, the riverside promenade will surely draw you in, and you can watch the world go by from the Platform 1 champagne bar.
The River Dart runs through the heart of the town, where you can watch fishermen, ferries, and tourist boats going up and down, all with the beautiful backdrop of Kingswear across the river.
There are lots to keep you busy in this beautiful historic town. A walk to the castle that stands proud at the mouth of the river is an excellent way to spend an afternoon. You can enjoy a nice cup of tea or ice cream at the tea rooms before taking the steps down to the tiny beach at Castle Cove.
Other things to do in Dartmouth include riding a steam train, wandering around the boutique shops and art galleries, or taking to the water for a boat trip out to sea or up the river to Totnes.
If it is beaches that you are after, you are spoiled for choice. The nearest beach is Blackpool Sands which is incredibly beautiful. Other options include Bantham Beach or Slapton Sands; both are well worth your time.
Contributed by Chris from More Life In Your Days
14. St Ives
The far west of England’s most southerly county might seem like the edge of the world, but the cosmopolitan St Ives is something of a wonder when it comes to seaside towns. Home to glorious beaches and some amazing places to stay, this is one chilled-out beach town.
There’s art with the stunning Tate St Ives, incredible seafood, and a great local food scene. The St Ives Thursday Farmer’s Market is the best place to find all the real local producers.
Add to that a bottle of really great Cornish wine – Polgoon Valley has some fabulous sparkling rose that goes with almost everything.
St Ives offers many wonderful activities, and you can’t beat the great outdoors. It’s easy to get to the South West Coast Path and knock off a few sections of this 630-mile National Trail. Along the route, there are some great pubs for a bit of refreshment after a hard day walking.
One of those, the Gurnard’s Head, is a superb option, especially with its fabulous garden. It’s also a bed and breakfast hotel with some rooms offering sea views.
Contributed by Sarah from Cornwalls Best
Bournemouth is the largest town in Dorset and became a popular seaside town in the early 1800s. While it has all the usual seaside attractions such as its pier, big wheel, and Bournemouth Oceanarium, the seven miles of sandy beach attracts visitors.
With so many beaches, you can walk or cycle for hours, soaking up the salty sea air.
Alternatively, the Bournemouth Land Train ferries guests to Alum Chine in the west and Boscombe Pier in the opposite direction, with optional stops along the way. Further east, Camber Sands has the only sand dunes in East Sussex.
The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum was built by Merton Russell-Cotes, as a gift to his wife. They filled their Art Nouveau home with artifacts and paintings from their overseas travels. After donating their stately home to Bournemouth, visitors can tour and admire its extensive collection of global artworks.
Bournemouth has some superb gardens, with the Lower Gardens only a five-minute walk from the beach. It’s a treat for the senses, with its colorful and textural flora displays. Boscombe Chine Gardens and Central and Upper Gardens are also great options for the horticultural lover.
The 202-foot spire of St Peter’s Church dominates the town center. Its Victorian interior architecture is quite stunning. Outside, to the church’s right, you’ll discover the grave of the famous author Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein.
There are numerous seaside villages in England, all promising the anticipated great British holiday. They feature more than 50 piers and vary in size from the largest, Greater Bournemouth, to the smallest, St Ives and Swanage.
While the majority are found on the southern coast, there is a handful to choose from in the northeast of England.
If you’ve grown up making trips to the seaside, you can relive those childhood memories by visiting one of these places and enjoying a Walls ice cream in the salty air.
Happy travels ~ Karen