The very best seaside towns in the UK have it all. From beach huts and lidos to long piers jutting out into the ocean, seaside towns offer everything from traditional fun to tongue-in-cheek kitsch. Days out at the seaside, bucket and spade in hand, are a great British tradition – and best of all, there's always another coastal town to discover!
Whether you want nice beaches in England, pebble bays in Wales or coastal artist hotspots in Scotland, the UK certainly doesn't disappoint when it comes to these seaside towns. Wondering where you should go on the coast in the UK? Continue reading our pick of the 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.
Seaside Tynemouth is also a dog-friendly beach destination; Ryhope East Beach, Ryhope South Beach and Whitley Bay welcome our four-legged friends year-round. Check the rules for other beaches, where restrictions for dogs are generally in place during the main summer season.
Best for wonderful views: Tynemouth Grand Hotel
Best for visiting the beach: The Little Haven Hotel
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. Plenty of excellent eating and accommodation options range from the smart Swan Hotel, situated on the picturesque market square, to a nearby campsite – all a pebble’s throw from the sea.
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 here every year.
Best for luxury: Sutherland House
Best for budget: Blyth Hotel
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 Snowdonia’s mountains. 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 – no black sand in sight, despite the name – and is a haven for nature and marine life. While you can drive on the beach, steer clear of North Bank with its soft sands and the sand dunes.
Best for a little luxury: The Golden Fleece Inn
Best for fantastic views: Plas Tan-Yr-Allt Historic Country House
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. One 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.
There's a defiantly bohemian atmosphere in Whitstable, with a vibrant High Street and Insta-worthy colourful beach huts. Find out more about Whitstable and the North Kent coast with our dedicated travel guide.
Best for great seafood: The Marine Whitstable
Best for great views of the coastline: Hotel Continental
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 seaside towns to live in (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 the best beachside spots to visit in the UK. You can enjoy the two long, gentle bays curving around between rocky heads, as well as plenty of other things to do here.
Best on a budget: Queensbridge Hotel
Best for views of Cardigan Bay: The Glengower
Possibly the Isle of Wight’s most idyllic seaside resort, 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 nicest beaches in England.
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. Afterwards, take afternoon tea at the award-winning Rylestone Gardens and watch the nature dart around ahead of you. In need of more beach fun? Continue down to Sandown beach with its amusement-filled pier.
Want to take a British Break to the Isle of Wight? Buy the guidebook here.
Best for a little luxury: Somerton Lodge Hotel
Best for views and outdoor swimming: Luccombe Manor Country House Hotel
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 UK's largest land-launched fishing fleet, which means there's ultra-fresh seafood on offer just behind the working beach, and a host of small restaurants that serve the delicious catch of the day.
There are curios and antiques galore on the Old Town's George Street, and some funny old funiculars 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 new lease of life.
Best for luxury: The Old Rectory
Best on a budget: The Lansdowne
The secret’s out. Pittenweem in Fife is one of Scotland's best seaside destinations. 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 in early August, with dozens of locals turning their houses into temporary galleries for the week. Don’t miss the unusual Kellie Castle, three miles north, with its under-manicured gardens and twin sixteenth-century towers.
Best for views and location: Puffins' Neuk
Best for families: Craw's Nest Cottage
Despite its name, Robin Hood's Bay has no connection to the eponymous folk hero – this isolated village was instead known as the Yorkshire coast's busiest smuggling community back in the eighteenth 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; this dramatic coastline is perfect for exploring. 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. On your way back, the route is slightly more inland and takes you past the old Scarborough-Whitby rail line.
Best for spectacular views: Victoria Hotel
Best for bed and breakfast: Clarence Dene
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 a 3km stretch of 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, and it's 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.
Best views of the coastline: Aberley House
Best for visiting Antony Gormley's art installation 'Another Place': The Royal Hotel
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.
Understandably, Gardenstown is a pretty quiet seaside town in the UK, but its neighbouring villages along the Moray coast – Pennan, Portsoy and Cullen – are just as pleasantly charming, too. Read more about Aberdeenshire and Moray with our handy travel guide.
Best for sea views: The Blue Hoose
Best for a holiday home: Puffins Nest
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.
Could it be the place for the best seaside holidays in the UK? 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 at at the end of a long day – we're ready when you are.
Best for views of Tenby: 13 Waters Edge
Best on a budget: Clarence House Hotel
One of the busier fishing harbours in 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 (well, oversized village) is also acquiring a foodie reputation – Michelin-starred The Albannach and Chez Roux are two of the Highlands’ fine dining stalwarts, while Lochinver Larder in the village serves impeccable pies, and the neighbouring Caberfeidh pub dishes up traditional Scottish fare.
Best for a little luxury: Inver Lodge
Best for views: Suil na Mara
Wondering where to go on the UK coast? For years a shabby seaside town, Folkestone has reinvented itself in recent times. Today, there's a designated Creative Quarter: 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 all over – on street corners, community centres and the beaches themselves.
Best for a little luxury: Rocksalt Rooms
Best on a budget: The Grand Burstin Hotel
For photography fans, New Brighton is a place of pilgrimage. Magnum member 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 forty 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.
The town 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.
Best for good value: The New Brighton Hotel
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. Bournemouth is 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; it's proved itself as 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. Find out more about this beachside favourite.
Best for a little luxury: Hilton Bournemouth
Best on a budget: Hotel Celebrity
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?
Best for luxury and great views: Sherwood Hotel
Best on a budget:Rosslyn Court
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" – if the architecture on this rocky peninsula wasn't enough, the seascape it backs onto is just as picturesque. Find out more about Portmeirion here.
Best for architecture: Portmeirion Village & Castell Deudraeth
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. Find out more about Yorkshire with our handy travel guide.
Best for great views: The White Lodge Hotel
Best for cosy guest house: All Seasons Guesthouse
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.
Best castle experience: Tregenna Castle Resort
Best for views and food: Pedn-Olva
Salcombe is undoubtedly one of Devon's most genteel seaside towns. 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. And just a short drive from Salcombe lies Hope Cove, a secluded spot home to two sandy beaches, Mouthwell Sands and the Harbour beach.
Best for views over the estuary: Salcombe Harbour Hotel
Best for being on the beach:The Booty
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 of the Scottish Highlands' west coast. 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 – its flower and palm-filled seafront feature in cult thriller 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. In fact, this "jewel of the highlands" is a great place to visit as part of a larger Highland road trip through the Isle of Skye, Loch Ness and Edinburgh.
Best for modernity: The Haven Guest House
Best for a classic setting: Holiday Home Tigh na Dalach
Brighton isn’t short of famous landmarks. The exuberant Royal Pavilion, the migraine-inducing Brighton Pier and the labyrinthine Lanes have long been on the tourist trail. Not only is it Britain’s LGBTQ capital, 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. Check out what other southeast England hotspots you should visit.
Best for new design: My Brighton
Best for a little luxury: The Grand Brighton
Stromness is one of Orkney's two chief settlements. This attractive old fishing town 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 still 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.
Best for bed and breakfast: Burnside Farm Bed and Breakfast
Best on a budget: Stromness Hotel
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 its 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 and countless trails along which to enjoy 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, and you can explore the area via the tramway.
Best for a little luxury: St George's Hotel
Best on a budget: The Post House
This little town 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.
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Best for great views: Wildercombe House
Best on a budget: Royal Britannia Hotel
Located on the edge of the New Forest, Barton-on-Sea offers stunning coastal walks and a fascinating glimpse into prehistoric marine life. Barton Clay has particularly rich pickings. Some fossils date 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.
Considering which UK seaside resort to visit next? Dive into our Rough Guide to Dorset, Hampshire & the Isle of Wight.
Best for views of the coastline: The Barn
Best for a little luxury: Chewton Glen Hotel
When the sun shines there are few happier places to be than the former royal resort of Weymouth. George III was a big fan – he pretty much followed the British craze of sea bathing. 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 July 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. There's an eighteen-mile bank of pebbles known as Chesil Beach, running northwest towards the fishing port of West Bay, and is another top seaside spot.
Best for boutique hotel: The Roundhouse
Best on a budget: The Redcliff
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.
Best for bed and breakfast: Treweens
Best for a little luxury: The Old Custom House
A metropolis by Skye’s sleepy 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 highly acclaimed Scorrybreac – serving up the catch of the day. Portree is now also host to the Skye Live festival, which annually hosts a vibrant line-up of local and international bands and DJs.
Best for boutique hotel: Bosville Hotel
Best on a budget: Portree Pod
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Header image: Southwold Beach Huts © Adrian Rawlinson/Shutterstock. Image credits top to bottom (left–right): King Edward's Bay, Tynemouth © Stuart's Photography/Shutterstock; Southwold © Diana Jarvis; Porthmadog © Andrew Davies/Robert Harding Library; Whitstable beach © Deaglan McCabe/Shutterstock; Aberystwyth © Billy Stock/Shutterstock; Shanklin Beach, Isle of Wight © Dinko G Kyuchukov/Shutterstock; Hastings Old Town as seen from East Hill © Christophe Cappelli/Shutterstock; Pittenweem © Stefano_Valeri/Shutterstock; Robin Hood’s Bay © Michael J. Eves/Shutterstock; Crosby Beach © Chris Hepburn/Robert Harding Library; Gardenstown © Olaf Schubert/Shutterstock; Gardenstown © belfastlough/Shutterstock; Tenby © Billy Stock/Shutterstock; Assynt © Paul A Carpenter/Shutterstock; Folkestone © Flyby Photography/Shutterstock; New Brighton © Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images; Bournemouth © allouphoto/Shutterstock; Portmeirion © EddieCloud/Shutterstock; Filey © northallertonman/Shutterstock; St Ives © ian woolcock/Shutterstock; St Ives © skyearth/Shutterstock; St Ives © Michelle Lovegrove/Shutterstock; Salcombe © ian woolcock/Shutterstock; Plockton © Christine Dodd/Shutterstock; Brighton Pier © Hert Niks/Shutterstock; Brighton Royal Pavilion © Michaelasbest/Shutterstock; Stromness © johnbraid/Shutterstock; Llandudno © S-F/Shutterstock; Ilfracombe © Alexey Lobanov/Shutterstock; Barton-on-Sea © Loretta Damska/Shutterstock; Weymouth © ian woolcock/Shutterstock; Padstow © PJ photography/Shutterstock; Portree © Nataliya Hora/Shutterstock.