The very best seaside towns in the UK offer everything from traditional fun to tongue-in-cheek kitsch. Days out on the beach with bucket and spade in hand continue to be a great British tradition, and best of all, there's always another coastal town in the UK waiting to be discovered! The following information is taken from The Rough Guide to England, Scotland and Wales, your best travel guides for visiting the United Kingdom.
Whether you want nice beaches in England, pebble bays in Wales or coastal artists' retreats in Scotland, the UK certainly doesn't disappoint when it comes to seaside towns. Wondering where you should go? Read our guide to the top 30 best seaside towns in the UK.
A 25-minute drive or Metro hop from central Newcastle, Tynemouth lies exactly where its name suggests – at the mouth of the river Tyne.
Of its beaches, surf-hub Longsands gets most of the accolades. But clamber down the stairs from the clifftop to King Edward's Bay, and you’re in for a real treat. This is where Geordie foodies flock, in fine weather or otherwise, to enjoy superb seafood and real ales at Riley’s Fish Shack, a simple hut-kitchen that is the beach’s lone structure.
Tynemouth also has a ruined priory and castle to enjoy, plus a Sunday flea market. For dog-friendly local beaches head to East Beach, Ryhope South Beach and Whitely Bay year-round. Check the rules for other beaches, where restrictions for dogs are generally in place during the main summer season.
Perched on the east coast of England, the small town of Southwold is one of the best coastal towns in the UK. Southwold offers typical seaside merriment with its sandy beach, traditional pier and candy-coloured beach huts. A working lighthouse (open to visitors) stands sentinel, surveying the bay, while the Adnams Brewery, which still operates on the same site after 670 years, wafts early morning hops into the sea air.
Once a bustling fishing port, today Southwold is a delightful seaside resort that makes up one of the best parts of northern Norfolk. Southwold has managed to retain a genteel feel to it, with numerous nearby walks to enjoy. Still, there's no denying the electric buzz that surrounds the popular Latitude Festival which is held in the area every year.
Plenty of excellent eating and accommodation options range from smart hotels on the picturesque market square to nearby campsites – all a pebble’s throw from the sea. If you're keen to know what else is going on locally, start with our 15 reasons to visit Norfolk.
If Porthmadog is handsome, it owes at least a portion of its good looks to the magnificent views all around. From town, you can gaze up the Vale of Ffestiniog and across the estuary of the Glaslyn River to the mountains of Snowdonia.
Indeed, there's no finer base for trips into Snowdonia National Park, and Porthmadog is also the terminus of a fabulous narrow-gauge rail line. The 22km-long Ffestiniog Railway is the finest of its kind in Wales, and runs from Porthmadog harbour to the slate-mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.
A mile south of Porthmadog, Borth-y-Gest is little more than a semi-circle of low, brightly painted Victorian houses lining the beach – and utterly charming in its simplicity.
In terms of beach-side spots, Snowdonia's Black Rock Sands is a long, wide stretch of beach. Despite its name, there is no black sand in sight, but it is a haven for nature and marine life. You can drive on the beach, however, steer clear of North Bank with its soft sands and sand dunes.
Whitstable, on the north Kent coast, is a popular seaside town near London. As much as it's a much-needed escape route for many city-dwelling Londoners, don't let that put you off. There's a defiantly bohemian atmosphere in Whitstable, with a vibrant High Street and colourful, Instagram-worthy beach huts.
Another of the major attractions here are the local oysters, which the town has been famous for since Roman times. The annual highlight is the Oyster festival (last two weeks of July), when you can expect oyster-eating competitions, parades and performances. At any time of year, however, this is a great place to come for fresh seafood and windswept coastal walks.
Two sweeping pebble bays, soft-hued Georgian houses lining the promenade, the nineteenth-century Royal Pier, Aberystwyth has all the hallmarks of a traditional British seaside resort. Yet this mid-Wales hub offers more than just bucket-and-spade amusements.
Aberystwyth is a blast of fresh salty air with a lively student population, plentiful pubs, booming café culture, and a strong sense of national pride. Combine this with a thriving art scene and superlative live Welsh music, and what do you get? One of the best coastal towns UK (in Wales, at least).
Without a doubt, Aberystwyth is the liveliest seaside resort in Wales, and its enviable location makes it a clear winner when it comes to sussing out great beaches. You can enjoy the two long, gentle bays curving around between rocky heads, as well as plenty of other things to do here.
Possibly the most idyllic seaside resort on Isle of Wight, Shanklin has a delightfully quaint Old Village with thatched pubs, sweet shops and traditional tearooms. At the bottom of the steep cliffs is a family-friendly beach, where you can hire kayaks and the like in front of a row of whitewashed guesthouses, cafés and restaurants. Simply put, Shanklin is one of the best beaches in the UK.
While you're in Shanklin, don’t miss Shanklin Chine, a mossy gorge with a waterfall at the top, a twisting nature trail and fascinating World War II military connections.
After your walk, take afternoon tea at the award-winning Rylestone Gardens and watch nature dart around in front of you. In need of more beach fun? Continue down to Sandown beach with its amusement-filled pier.
Once seen as a tired and tacky seaside resort, Hastings in East Sussex doesn't get the love it deserves. We'd argue that it's one of the best seaside resorts in the UK! After all, the town has the country's largest land-launched fishing fleet, which means ultra-fresh seafood on offer just behind the working beach.
A host of small restaurants also serve the delicious catch of the day. There are curios and antiques galore on the Old Town's George Street, and even a funicular to take you up the cliffs for a great view over the town.
But it's not all about the old in Hastings. The town's new pier opened in 2016, after the previous one was ravaged by fire, and gave the town a fresh lease of life.
The secret’s out. Pittenweem in Fife is one of the favourite seaside destinations in Central Scotland. This pretty village thrives on its steady tourist trade, but it also remains a functioning fishing town and has become something of an artists’ colony in recent years.
An annual arts festival takes place here in early August and dozens of locals turn their homes into temporary galleries for a week - one of the reasons Pittenweem is in our 10 great post-corona summer holidays within the UK guide. And don’t miss the unusual Kellie Castle, three miles north, with its under-manicured gardens and twin 16th-century towers.
Despite its name, Robin Hood's Bay has no connection to the eponymous folk hero. Instead, this isolated village was the busiest smuggling community on the North Yorkshire Coast back in the 18th century.
Walking down the hill into the village feels like a descent through the centuries, with old, higgledy-piggledy houses crammed in around you, and a steep cobbled road leading slowly down to the sea.
At low tide you can walk out quite far along the bottom of the cliffs, so this dramatic coastline is perfect for adventuring. Be sure to make it back for fish and chips, regarded by many to be among Yorkshire's best.
To continue exploring this fascinating coastal town, you can take an easy 2.5-mile circular walk to Boggle Hole. The return route is slightly more inland and takes you past the old Scarborough to the Whitby rail line.
Where the River Mersey becomes the Irish Sea, and industrial Liverpool softens to leafy, suburban Merseyside, there’s a town called Crosby, home to some 50,000 people – and one hundred iron men.
Artist Antony Gormley’s cast-iron replicas of his own form stud the 3km stretch of Crosby Beach from Waterloo north to Burbo Bank in an installation entitled Another Place. With each identical statue facing the horizon, they’re a moving sight, if a little unsettling, when the tide begins to submerge them.
Carry on up the coast to the bleak beach at Hightown, with its prehistoric submerged forest, and Formby’s National Trust coastal reserve, which is home to red squirrels and some Neolithic footprints preserved, against the odds, in the sand.
Scotland’s northeast coast has a bleak, rugged quality, with a series of small fishing villages dotted along the miles of lonely beaches. The prettiest of the lot is Gardenstown, with stone cottages huddled around a wave-gnawed bay, and newer buildings clinging to the nearby cliffs.
There’s little to do here beyond soaking up the solitude, taking a windswept stroll along the waterfront, and dropping into the small gallery and teashop down by the harbour. Pure bliss.
Tenby – or to give it its Welsh name, Dinbych-y-Pysgod, which means Little Fortress of the Fish – is perhaps Wales' most charming seaside resort.
This Pembrokeshire town, a cluster of quaint houses in bright colours, is encircled by medieval stone walls, and the three beautiful Blue Flag beaches on its doorstep are the starting point for numerous coastal walks.
Does it warrant a place on our 21 most beautiful beaches in Wales list? Well, not only is it home to the impressive, 186 mile-long Pembrokeshire Coast Path, but there's a smattering of cliffside hotels that you can rest up in at the end of a long day.
One of the busier fishing harbours in the Highlands of Scotland, Lochinver has a pleasingly down-to-earth atmosphere. It’s also the natural base from which to explore the Assynt region, with extraordinary peaks like Suilven within easy reach.
The harbour town (really an oversized village) is on the North Coast 500, one of our brilliant bike routes in the UK. More surprisingly, it's also known for unusually good restaurants, like Inver Lodge, and Lochinver Larder which serve impeccable pies.
Wondering where to go on the UK coast? For years a shabby seaside town, Folkestone has reinvented itself in recent times. Now it has a designated Creative Quarter as well as a hub of artists' workshops, independent galleries and shops.
There are good beaches too. As the name suggests, Sunny Sands is a golden stretch that gets busy in summer. At the bottom of the Zig Zag steps which run through the lush Lower Leas Coastal Park is the pleasant pebble Mermaid Beach.
The Folkestone Triennial sees public areas transformed into exhibition spaces. Usually held in September, this annual art exhibition features impressive contemporary installations on street corners, community centres and the beaches themselves.
For photography fans, New Brighton is a place of pilgrimage, as Magnum photographer, Martin Parr, the greatest living documenter of everyday life in the UK, shot his seminal series The Last Resort here in 1983–85.
With these 40 photographs Parr depicted the sort of scene that befalls a declining seaside town when the great, sun-deprived British public descend on it, ice creams in hand and dogs in tow.
New Brighton has undergone a £60 million refurbishment in recent times, with new restaurants and bars, and the coast on the other side of the Wirral peninsula (a 25-minute drive) is a pretty day-trip. While you're there, try West Kirby, cute Thurstaston beach and eerie Parkgate.
With wide stretches of golden sand, fish and chips available on the seafront and the obligatory arcade on the pier, Bournemouth is a relic of the Victorian beach break.
It's also undoubtedly one of the best coastal towns in southern England and boasts one of the cleanest beaches in the country. But it has more to offer than its traditional, somewhat outdated roots suggest.
The chic Hilton is an accommodation game-changer and proves itself a welcome break from the town's many resorts left over from the 1960s. Meanwhile, the nearby area of Boscombe has a refreshing carefree vibe with great beachfront cafés and an artificial surf school.
Margate isn't a chocolate-box seaside resort, and nor is it twee. In fact, this seaside town is pretty darn cool. The Old Town is the focus of recent regeneration, with a main square and narrow lanes packed with independent businesses.
The Turner Contemporary glints proudly on the seafront, a beacon for the town's arty vibe, and Dreamland amusement park has reopened its doors for traditional fairground fun.
Thanks to its high-speed train connection, Margate is another popular London day-trip destination. It's ideal for those seeking the seaside with a hipster edge, but there's just as much traditional beachside fun to get nostalgic over – jellied eels or oysters, anyone?
Not so much a functioning town as a semi-fictional village, Portmeirion is unlike anywhere else in Britain.
A swish, Mediterranean resort plonked in wildest North Wales, it is the brainchild of eccentric architect Clough Williams-Ellis, who built this Italianate village with a piazza, grand porticoes and terracotta-roofed houses, all in bright pastel colours.
This Italianate haven has often been described as a "dream village". But if the architecture on this rocky peninsula isn't enough, the seascape it backs onto is just as picturesque.
This quaint little Edwardian seaside town in North Yorkshire has homely pubs, quirky shops and a weekly farmers' market.
Scramble up the hillside by the beach for a great view over the huge orange-sand bay, and follow up with some top-notch fish and chips from one of the stalls on the popular beachside slipway, Coble Landing.
At low tide, head out to the peninsula of Filey Brigg – a fossiliferous, rocky promontory that's popular with fishermen and naturalists alike.
Filey is one of two main resorts on the East Yorkshire coast, which curves south in an arc from Flamborough Head to Spurn Head. Between the two points are a number of tranquil villages and windswept dunes, in which Filey and Bridlington are located.
St Ives in Cornwall has long been associated with a vibrant local art scene. There are more galleries, exhibitions and culture than you can shake a stick at, including the town's branch of the Tate and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The Penwith landscape, with its stunning azure seascapes and white sand beaches, is the backdrop to a charming higgledy-piggledy town of narrow cobbled streets and fishermen’s houses.
Porthmeor Beach dominates the northern side of St Ives, where the surfer crowds head to. The broader Porthminster Beach, south of the station, is usually less busy.
A third town beach, the small and sheltered Porthgwidden, lies between Porthmeor and Porthminster, while east of town a string of magnificent golden beaches lines St Ives Bay on either side of the Hayle estuary.
Salcombe is undoubtedly one of the most genteel seaside towns in Devon. Pastel-coloured houses stagger up the hill and the winding streets are crammed full of little shops, old pubs and surprisingly contemporary cafés.
Visit after the school holidays, as in high summer you'll struggle to negotiate the thronging crowds. While you're there, take the ferry out onto the estuary to seek out quiet little soft-sand coves and beaches so scenic you'll forget you're in the UK.
The selection of restaurants are top-rated, too. Expect to dine on catch-of-the-day menus while you're seated between amateur yachties and other well-heeled clientele.
Just a short drive from Salcombe lies Hope Cove, a secluded spot home to two sandy beaches, Mouthwell Sands and the Harbour beach.
With its picture-postcard cottages curved behind a tiny harbour and views across Lochcarron to the Northwest Highlands mountains, Plockton is one of the most handsome seaside settlements on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands.
The town is packed in high season with tourists squelching across the seabed at low tide. The brilliance of the light has also made it something of an artists’ hangout. Plockton may look familiar to first-time visitors as its flower and palm-filled seafront feature in the cult film, The Wicker Man.
This delightful village is a refreshing alternative to its neighbour, Kyle of Lochalsh, with cottages grouped around a yacht-filled bay and Highland cattle wandering the streets.
Brighton isn’t short of famous landmarks. Its exuberant Royal Pavilion, migraine-inducing Brighton Pier and labyrinthine Lanes have long been on the tourist trail.
Not only is it Britain’s LGBTQ capital and home to the largest annual Pride celebrations in the country, but its beach is pretty enviable, too. Brighton Beach is a pebble beach but at low tide the sand stretches out – so sandcastle-building sticks to a strict timeframe!
Meanwhile, the fish and chips and ice cream trade continues to boom ad infinitum. Just as interesting though, is an exploration of Brighton’s car-free Lanes. This maze of narrow alleys marks the old town, and afterwards you can meander through the quaint, more bohemian streets of North Laine.
Stromness is one of Orkney's two chief settlements, an attractive old fishing town, it lies on the far southwestern shore.
An enchanting arrival point, Stromness has a picturesque waterfront with a procession of tiny sandstone jetties and slate roofs nestling below the green hill of Brinkies Brae.
Unlike Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney, Stromness still hugs the shoreline. Its one and only street is a narrow, winding affair paved with great flagstones and fed by a tight network of alleyways. Come in May for the barnstorming four-day Orkney Folk Festival.
Once you've finished up in Stromness, take the passenger ferry across to Hoy. Orkney’s second-largest island has a dramatic landscape made up of great glacial valleys and mountainous moorland. This moorland rises to more than 1500ft and drops into the sea off the red sandstone cliffs of St John’s Head.
Llandudno ticks all the boxes of a great British seaside destination. There are long sandy beaches, grand Victorian facades, a two-mile stretch of promenade, and more than a fair share of chic hotels and good restaurants.
Yet arguably the town’s top attraction is not the shoreline but the slice of wilderness on its doorstep in the form of the great limestone lump of Great Orme. Old-style trams and cable cars climb up to the 680ft summit. From here there are stunning views of the Snowdonia mountain range as well as countless trails for bracing walks.
Not only is Llandudno a fun seaside resort, but you can explore its ancient history at the Great Orme Ancient Mines, a Bronze Age settlement developed around what are now the Great Orme Copper Mines.
The little town of Ilfracombe on the North Devon coast is synonymous with its picturesque working harbour.
Verity, a striking 66ft bronze-clad sculpture by Damian Hirst, stands guard on the quayside. Beyond the Lantern Hill headland the iconic twin chimneys of the Landmark Theatre are another sign of change in the sea air of Ilfracombe.
That said, there are plenty of traditional pubs that can still be found on historic Fore Street and Broad Street.
Located on the edge of the New Forest, Barton-on-Sea offers stunning coastal walks and a fascinating glimpse into prehistoric marine life.
In terms of fossils, it has particularly rich pickings with some finds dating as far back as 40 million years and budding palaeontologists can search for preserved shark teeth, fish bones and gastropod shells.
When you’ve had your geological fill, enjoy breathtaking views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. On a clear day, the iconic chalk Needles and St Catherine's Lighthouse can just be seen in the distance.
When the sun shines there are few happier places to be than the former royal resort of Weymouth. George III was a big fan and he pretty much invented the British craze of sea bathing here.
It's worth a visit for the fine sandy beach alone, but Weymouth's biggest joy is its Old Harbour. Here you can while away hours watching the boats from one of the quayside pubs. Come in September for the Dorset Seafood Festival when the quays are lined with dozens of stalls selling all manner of fishy delights.
Just south of the town lies Portland Harbour, and a long causeway links Weymouth to the Isle of Portland. The 18-mile bank of pebbles known as Chesil Beach, runs northwest towards the fishing port of West Bay, and is another top local seaside spot.
Often nicknamed 'Padstein' for its association with celebrity chef Rick Stein, Padstow is North Cornwall's principal fishing town. With this comes some of the country's best seafood restaurants (four of which are owned by Stein) and a jam-packed harbour full of boats.
It's all about simple pleasures here. Spend your morning on one of the many pretty beaches nearby, and after lunch try your hand at crabbing. Crabbing lines can be bought from a number of shops around the harbour. Just don't forget to return the little creatures to the water afterwards!
The bustling harbour is filled with launches and boats offering cruises in the bay, while a regular ferry carries people across the river to ROCK, close to the isolated church of St Enodoc (John Betjeman’s burial place).
But the beach fun doesn't end here; the tours continues on to the good beaches around Polzeath.
A metropolis by Skye standards, Portree is one of the most attractive ports in northwest Scotland.
Its deep, cliff-edged harbour is filled with fishing boats and circled by multicoloured houses, with the few excellent restaurants in town, including the Michelin-starred Scorrybreac, serving up the catch of the day.
Portree is now also home to the Skye Live Festival in mid-May, which hosts a vibrant line-up of local and international bands and DJs.
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