30 best seaside towns UK

written by Lottie Gross

updated 18.10.2023

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.

1. Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear: Newcastle's nearest seaside

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.

    Where to stay near Tynemouth

  • For stylish stays: Choose The Sea Hotel close to the seaside in South Shields. Smart rooms feature chic, tiled bathrooms and you have the choice of two restaurants and bars.
  • For beach stays: The Little Haven Hotel is a minute's walk from the beach. All rooms have private bathrooms, and if you want to make the most of the sea air, book one with a balcony.
  • For family stays: A choice of spacious family rooms with ensuite bathrooms, makes Dunes Hotel in Whitely Bay perfect for a trip to the seaside with kids.

Find more accommodation options in Tynemouth

Southwold beach huts, best seaside towns uk

Beach huts are a feature of the best UK seaside towns © Adrian Rawlinson/Shutterstock

2. Southwold, Suffolk: one of the best seaside towns UK

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.

    Where to stay in Southwold

  • For luxury stays: Just minutes from the beach, Sutherland House might date back to 1455 but its rooms are contemporary and luxurious, although often with charming period details.
  • For budget stays: Set in a restored Edwardian property, Blyth Hotel is a good value two star. Its restaurant has a pretty outdoor dining terrace and features local produce on its menu.
  • For town centre stays: The Swan Hotel sits right on the town square in the centre of Southwold and is known locally for its excellent restaurant.

Find more accommodation options in Southwold

Porthmadog Marina, Gwynedd, Wales, UK, Europe, best seaside towns uk

Porthmadog © Andrew Davies/Robert Harding Library

3. Porthmadog, Gwynedd: seaside by Snowdonia National Park

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.

    Where to stay in Porthmadog

  • For charming stays: The Golden Fleece Inn offers individually designed rooms laid out across three beautifully restored historic buildings close to the centre of Porthmadog.
  • For luxury stays: Plas Tan-Yr-Allt Historic Country House sits in beautiful grounds just outside Porthmadog. All luxuriously comfortable rooms come with mountain or sea views.
  • For heritage stays: Built in 1925, historic Portmeirion Village & Castell Deudraeth overlooks the tranquil Dywryd Estuary and incorporates a luxury spa and wellness centre.

Find more accommodation options in Porthmadog

whitstable, kent, best seaside towns uk

Whitstable beach © Deaglan McCabe/Shutterstock

4. Whitstable, Kent: a bohemian seaside escape

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.

    Where to stay in Whitstable

  • For traditional stays: Set on Tankerton Cliffs The Marine is every inch a classic seaside hotel. Many bedrooms include charming features like fireplaces and freestanding baths.
  • For beachy stays: Hotel Continental sits minutes from the beach in Whitstable. Fresh, contempory rooms echo the seaside theme and the hotel bistro specialises in oysters and local ales.
  • For family stays: Warehouse Holiday Lets is a terrace of bright, modern family homes, each with a balcony and more than enough room for a family of four.

Find more accommodation options in Whitstable

aberystwyth, wales, best seaside towns uk

Aberystwyth © Billy Stock/Shutterstock

5. Aberystwyth, Ceredigion: the great Victorian seaside

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.

    Where to stay in Aberystwyth

  • For budget stays: Stately Queensbridge Hotel exudes a British seaside holiday vibe and sits at the quieter end of Aberystwyth's Victorian promenade.
  • For beachy stays: The Glengower is a pretty seafront hotel with fantastic views over Cardigan Bay. It also has a cosy bar, extensive sun terrace and Aberystwyth centre is an easy walk away.
  • For family stays: A short drive from the town centre, Aberystwyth Park Lodge Hotel offers a range of bright and modern family rooms all with private bathrooms.

Find more accommodation options in Aberystwyth

shanklin, isle of wight, best seaside towns uk

Shanklin Beach , Isle of Wight, is a great place for a UK holiday by the beach © Dinko G Kyuchukov/Shutterstock

6. Shanklin: the quaint Isle of Wight seaside town

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.

    Where to stay in Shanklin

  • For luxury stays: Somerton Lodge Hotel is an elegant Victorian house transformed into a luxurious hotel. The gardens are lovely and there's an excellent hotel restaurant.
  • For country house stays: Luccombe Manor Hotel sits on the cliff top overlooking Shanklin Beach. The views are wonderful and the hotel also has an outdoor spa pool and hot tub.
  • For village stays: Right in the heart of Shanklin village, The Grange is a lovely four-star B&B which offers spa treatments as well as massage therapy and a guest sauna.

Find more accommodation options in Shanklin

hastings, kent,  best seaside towns uk

Hastings Old Town as seen from East Hill © Christophe Cappelli/Shutterstock

7. Hastings, East Sussex: the refreshed seaside town

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.

    Where to stay in Hastings

  • For boutique stays: An elegant 18th century villa set in lovely grounds minutes from the sea, The Old Rectory is one of the finest boutique hotels in Hastings.
  • For budget stays: The Lansdowne is an affordable small hotel only a minute from the beach and a short walk from the town centre and Hastings train station.
  • For active stays: The Old Town B&B in the centre of Hastings invites guests to play tennis and billiards on site. Alternatively, the beach is just a few minutes' walk away.
pittenweem, scotland, best seaside towns uk

Pittenweem © Stefano_Valeri/Shutterstock

8. Pittenweem, Fife: East Neuk seaside favourite

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.

    Where to stay in Pittenweem

  • For romantic stays: The Hayloft apartment is completely self-contained and minutes from Pittenweem harbour.
  • For family stays: Set in a traditional 18th century Pittenweem house, The Crow's Nest holiday home is a short walk from the beach.
  • For harbourside stays: Four-star Pittenweem Harbour Location sits seafront in the village, so the views from this cosy apartment are incredible.

Find more accommodation options in Pittenweem

robin hood's bay, yorkshire, best seaside towns uk

Robin Hood’s Bay © Michael J. Eves/Shutterstock

9. Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire Coast

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 to stay

  • For beachy stays: Minutes from the beach and only a short drive to Whitby, Victoria Hotel is a traditional British seaside hotel right down to its stunning seaside views.
  • For active stays: Set on the edge of the North York Moors National Park yet close to the beach, Grosvenor Hotel is ideal for outdoorsy breaks.
  • For family stays: The Manor of the Bay family holiday home comes with fabulous sea views, plenty of space and a private terrace with hot tub.

Find more accommodation options in Robin Hood's Bay

Sunset, Crosby Beach, Merseyside, England, United Kingdom, Europe

Crosby Beach © Chris Hepburn/Robert Harding Library

10. Crosby, Merseyside: seaside home to 100 iron men

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.

    Where to stay in Crosby

  • For seaside stays: Traditional Aberley House hotel is just a few minutes walk to the beach and a short drive from Liverpool city centre.
  • For arty stays: Overlooking the Mersey Estuary, The Royal Hotel is a good choice for visiting Antony Gormley's art installation 'Another Place'.
  • For family stays: The Beach House holiday home in Crosby offers 8 spacious bedrooms as well as a private garden and terrace.

Find more accommodation options in Crosby

Algae-covered rocks at low tide and houses in the Seatown area of Gardenstown, Banffshire, Scotland, United Kingdom, Europe

Gardenstown, a quaint and calm UK coastal town © Olaf Schubert/Shutterstock

11. Gardenstown, Aberdeenshire

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.

As seaside towns go, Gardenstown is pretty quiet, but its neighbouring villages along the Moray coast – Pennan, Portsoy and Cullen – are just as pleasantly charming, too.

    Where to stay in Gardenstown

  • For beachfront stays: A charming, two bedroom holiday home in Gardenstown, The Blue Hoose sits right on the waterfront for great sea views.
  • For family stays: With two spacious bedrooms, private terrace and patio with open sea views, Sunnyside House is ideal for family breaks in Gardenstown.
  • For romantic stays: Cute Ellie-Jo Cottage is one of the original village houses and sits right above the seawall in Gardenstown.

Find more accommodation options in Gardenstown

tenby, wales, best seaside towns uk

Tenby © Billy Stock/Shutterstock

12. Tenby, Pembrokeshire

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.

    Where to stay in Tenby

  • For seafront stays: No 1. The Esplanade is a traditional seaside B&B known for cosy rooms with private bathrooms and great views.
  • For budget stays: Clarence House Hotel sits close to Tenby's beaches and offers wide open views of Caldey Island from its sunny outdoor terrace.
  • For boutique stays: Charming Trefloyne Manor is in the heart of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and a few minutes' drive from Tenby.

Find more accommodation options in Tenby

lochinver, scotland, best seaside towns uk

Assynt © Paul A Carpenter/Shutterstock

13. Lochinver, Sutherland: Scotland's seaside foodie

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.

    Where to stay in Lochinver

  • For luxury stays: Inver Lodge matches its excellent restaurant with spacious rooms and a stunning setting just outside Lochinver.
  • For romantic stays: Custom-built Suil na Mara Pod is the cosiest cabin for couples, overlooking the sea on the edge of Lochinver village.
  • For country stays: The Albannach guest house features individually designed rooms in a traditional country house setting just outside Lochinver.

Find more accommodation options in Lochinver

folkestone, kent, best seaside towns uk

Folkestone © Flyby Photography/Shutterstock

14. Folkestone, Kent: best seaside towns UK for festivals

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.

    Where to stay in Folkestone

  • For boutique stays: Three minutes from the beach, Rocksalt Rooms features individually designed bedrooms with antique beds and ultra-modern bathrooms.
  • For budget stays: The Grand Burstin Hotel sits beachfront and offers cosy rooms, some with private balconies. The hotel also has an indoor pool and leisure centre.
  • For luxury stays: Five-star guest house, The Relish, is a short walk from the sea and offers elegant rooms with views over Augusta Gardens.

Find more accommodation options in Folkestone

Sunset in New Brighton, Merseyside, England

New Brighton © Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

15. New Brighton, Merseyside

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.

    Where to Stay in New Brighton

  • For good value stays: The New Brighton Hotel is a minute from the beach and offers a range of reasonably priced accommodation, including spacious family rooms.
  • For independent stays: Holland House features a choice of independent units, each with their own kitchen and several with private balconies.
  • For family stays: With four ensuite bedrooms, a private patio and beachfront location, Entire Seaside Home is ideas for families.

Find more accommodation options in New Brighton


Bournemouth © allouphoto/Shutterstock

16. Bournemouth, Dorset

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.

    Where to stay

  • For luxury stays: Five minutes' walk from Bournemouth's famous promenade, Hilton Bournemouth is one of the most stylish seaside stays in town.
  • For budget stays: For good value, spacious rooms and a friendly atmosphere choose Hotel Celebrity, just a short stroll from the beach.
  • For seafront stays: As this name suggests, four-star Bournemouth Highcliff Marriott enjoys a dramatic setting overlooking the beach.

Find more accommodation options in Bournemouth


The seafront at cool Margate in Kent

17. Margate: seaside cool in Kent

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?

    Where to stay in Margate

  • For central stays: The Sherwood Hotel has a friendly, traditional B&B atmosphere close to the centre of Margate and within walking distance of the beach.
  • For budget stays: Cosy and welcoming Rosslyn Court is a charming little guesthouse with a pretty terrace close to the seafront in Margate.
  • For romantic stays: One bedroom Fort Crescent apartment is bright and colourfully decorated, perfect for couples and only a short walk to the beach.

Find more accommodation options in Margate


Portmeirion © EddieCloud/Shutterstock

18. Portmeirion, Gwynedd, North Wales

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.

    Where to stay in Portmeirion

  • For luxury stays: Portmeirion Village & Castell Deudraeth sits right on the Dywryd Estuary. As well a charming rooms, it offers a spa and award winning restaurant.
  • For boutique stays: The Golden Fleece Inn is quaint and historic but individually designed bedrooms and a pretty courtyard garden elevate it from b&b to boutique guesthouse.
  • For traditional stays: The Royal Sportsman is the only hotel in Porthmadog, very welcoming and a good base for breaks in nearby Snowdonia National Park.

Find more accommodation options in Portmeirion

Hunmanby Gap, North Yorkshire, best seaside towns uk

Filey © northallertonman/Shutterstock

19. Filey, North Yorkshire

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.

    Where to stay in Filey

  • For view-rich stays: The White Lodge Hotel has offers panoramic views over Filey Bay from many of its comfortable rooms thanks to an exceptional clifftop location.
  • For romantic stays: Adults-only White Rose Guesthouse offers stylishly decorated bedrooms, a pretty garden and great breakfasts.
  • For budget stays: Friendly and welcoming Athol House bed and breakfast sits close to the beach, choose a room with a view if you can.

Find more accommodation options in Filey

st ives, cornwall, best seaside towns uk

St Ives © ian woolcock/Shutterstock

20. St Ives, Cornwall: seaside with an art scene

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.

    Where to stay in St. Ives

  • For stately stays: Tregenna Castle Resort sits in over 70 acres of private grounds overlooking the coast. As well as a good choice of apartments, the resort also has an indoor and outdoor pool and 18-hole golf course.
  • For beachy stays: Elegant Pedn-Olva sits just above the beach in the heart of St. Ives. All rooms are bright and stylish, and the hotel restaurant is excellent.
  • For budget stays: The Western sits in St. Ives town, close to beaches and galleries. Rooms are comfortable and the hotel bar features live music most evenings.

Find more accommodation options in St. Ives

salcombe, devon, best seaside towns uk

Salcombe © ian woolcock/Shutterstock

21. Salcombe: Devon's genteel seaside town

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.

    Where to stay in Salcombe

  • For spa stays: Salcombe Harbour Hotel sits right on the waterfront and features a luxurious spa as well as spacious, modern rooms and spectacular views.
  • For family stays: With two bedrooms, two bathrooms The Booty apartment is ideal for families and only a short walk from the beach.
  • For charming stays: Hope Thatch is a sweet little terrace cottage with a thatched roof and beautifully renovated interior just a few minutes from Salcombe.

Find more accommodation options in Salcombe

Plockton Bay © Christine Dodd/Shutterstock

Plockton © Christine Dodd/Shutterstock

22. Plockton, Ross and Cromarty

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.

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.

    Where to stay in Plockton

  • For family stays: Smartly designed with great views, The Haven Guest House features spacious family rooms with private bathrooms.
  • For cottage stays: The pretty Holiday Home Tigh na Dalach is every inch the traditional Highland cottage right down to its cosy bedrooms, woodburning stove and sweet garden.
  • For off-beat stays: The Duirinish Pods cleverly conceal a surprising amount of space in their cute design, they even include their own private hot tubs.

Find more accommodation options in Plockton

Brighton pier, best seaside towns uk

Brighton Pier © Hert Niks/Shutterstock

23. Brighton: best of the best seaside towns UK

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.

    Where to stay in Brighton

  • For designer stays: Unique and exciting My Brighton features designer rooms, a vibrant atmosphere and its very own Indian restaurant.
  • For luxury stays: The Grand Brighton is a sumptiously decorated, vintage seaside hotel minutes from the beach in the heart of Brighton.
  • For good value stays: OTTO Craven Hotel & Spa has a great location close to the centre of Brighton and walking distance to the seafront.

Find more accommodation options in Brighton & Hove

stromness, orkney, scotland, best seaside towns uk

Stromness © johnbraid/Shutterstock

24. Stromness, Orkney

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.

    Where to stay in Stromness

  • For budget stays: Right in the centre of Stromness, overlooking the harbour, Stromness Hotel is a good base for exploring the local area
  • For family stays: Set in large gardens with great views, Standing Stones Hotel offers spacious bedrooms and a range of family rooms with private bathrooms.
  • For cosy stays: The award-winning Ferry Inn features a friendly bar, comfortable bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and an excellent pub menu showcasing local produce.

Find more accommodation options in Stromness

llandudno, wales, best seaside towns uk

Llandudno © S-F/Shutterstock

25. Llandudno, Conwy County Borough

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.

    Where to stay in Llandudno

  • For luxury stays: The grand St George's Hotel sits right on the waterfront at Llandudno and minutes from the impressive bulk of Great Orme.
  • For budget stays: The Post House has plenty of charm as well as good size rooms and a great central location minutes from Llandudno promenade and beaches.
  • For beachy stays: Belmont Llandudno sits almost right on the beach, several rooms have small balconies and the views are spectacular.

Find more accommodation options in Llandudno

ilfracombe, devon, best seaside towns uk

Ilfracombe © Alexey Lobanov/Shutterstock

26. Ilfracombe, North Devon

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.

    Where to stay in Ilfracombe

  • For comfortable stays: Wildercombe House is a traditional seaside bed and breakfast with comfortable rooms and great views along the coast.
  • For budget stays: Minutes from the beach and close to Ilfracombe Harbour, Royal Britannia Hotel is a great value choice for exploring the local area.
  • For family stays: St. James By The Quay two bedroom apartment has a good central location for family breaks in Ilfracombe.

Find more accommodation options in Ilfracombe

barton, best seaside towns uk

Barton-on-Sea © Loretta Damska/Shutterstock

27. Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire

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.

    Where to stay in Barton-on-Sea

  • For beachfront stays: Cliff Top Studio lies just one minute away from the beach in Barton-on-Sea. The one bedroom apartment also has a private patio and barbecue.
  • For luxury stays: Five-star Chewton Glen Hotel sits in gorgeous grounds at the edge of the New Forest and a short drive from the coast at Barton-on-Sea.
  • For coastal stays: The Barn not only offers individually decorated bedrooms with private bathrooms it has a good restaurant, friendly bar and pretty terrace with views.

Find more accommodation options in Barton-on-Sea

weymouth, best seaside towns uk

Weymouth © ian woolcock/Shutterstock;

28. Weymouth, Dorset

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.

    Where to stay in Weymouth

  • For boutique stays: Only a minute's walk from the sea, The Roundhouse guest house sits at the end of the Esplanade between Weymouth Beach and the historic harbour.
  • For budget stays: The Redcliff bed and breakfast sits close to the beach and offers views across Weymouth Bay from its cosy dining room.
  • For family stays: The Royal Hotel Weymouth is a good choice for families and for a small fee even makes pets welcome in its traditional seaside setting.

Find more accommodation options in Weymouth

padstow, cornwall, best seaside towns uk

Padstow © PJ photography/Shutterstock

29. Padstow, Cornwall

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.

    Where to stay in Padstow

  • For seafront stays: With a beautiful location overlooking the Camel Estuary, Lellizzick offers cosy, rural bed and breakfast accommodation just outside Padstow.
  • For luxury stays: The Old Custom House offers light, elegant bedrooms with luxurious bathrooms and views over Padstow’s medieval harbour.
  • For designer stays: Padstow Harbour Hotel sits a few minutes walk from the beach and features a popular restaurant as well as bright, individually styled rooms.

Find more accommodation options in Padstow

portree, scotland, best seaside towns uk

Portree © Nataliya Hora/Shutterstock

30. Portree, Skye, Inner Hebrides

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.

    Where to stay in Portree

  • For boutique stays: Contemporary Bosville Hotel overlooks Portree’s quaint harbour and serves fresh produce from Skye and the surrounding Scottish Highlands in its restaurant, Dulse & Brose.
  • For budget stays: Portree Pod is a one bedroom, one bathroom chalet/cabin with a private patio and sea views from the garden.
  • For seaside stays: The Beach House bed & breakfast is only a minute's walk from the beach in Portree and as well a lovely bedrooms, offers a shared lounge and garden.

Find more accommodation options in Portree

Ready for a trip to England? Check out the Rough Guide to England. If you travel further in England read more about the best time to go and the best places to visit. For inspiration speak to our local experts. A bit more hands-on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

We may earn a commission when you click on links in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Lottie Gross

written by Lottie Gross

updated 18.10.2023

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