With the upcoming summer break, many of us will want to get away from busy and polluted London and relax on the beach. I can’t count the times I was tempted to buy a plane ticket to Spain or Greece for a weekend just to treat myself to some sun and sea. However, flight costs can skyrocket to over £200 one way in summer, even with budget airlines like Ryanair. Ain’t paying that! Luckily, the south coast of England boasts lovely beach towns, some of which can easily rival the popular Mediterranean resorts. Plus, they can be a convenient last-minute choice for a day trip on those rare occasions when the temperatures in London reach the unbelievable 30oC.
This lovely town was a pleasant surprise to me. The beaches in the region are sandy, although it’s on the same coastline as Brighton which I visited a few years back and where I couldn’t walk barefoot on the sharp pebbles (which felt more like shards!). But Bournemouth is totally different: the warm golden sand was a pleasure to both walk on and look at. The tall cliffs with fancy villas on top, separating the seashore from the streets, offer breath-taking views of the beaches from above and are perfect spots to slow down, relax, and enjoy the moment.
I didn’t get to explore the town much since I opted for the whole day on the beach, enjoying the sun, warm water, and a refreshing sea breeze that was much needed on such a hot day. I walked along the coast towards Poole (to the west of Bournemouth) and was not disappointed by the mesmerising views of the sea on one side and the cliffs on the other. To this day, Bournemouth is my #1 recommendation for a beach trip in England
Broadstairs is another seaside town with sand beaches, located in the South-East, less than two hours away from London by train. It prides itself on being home to the Viking Bay, where Charles Dickens used to spend his holidays back in the day. Despite being a small town, it’s a popular destination on hot summer weekends, especially for families with small children, so the beach might get a bit crowded and loud. Not to worry though – you can still find somewhat quieter and emptier places by the sea (walking a bit further away from the main beach will do the trick). Also, the place boasts amazing white cliffs, characteristic of South-East England, that are a treat not only for your eyes but also for your Instagram feed (hey, no judgement, we all do it!).
Situated around a two and a half hour drive from London, Hastings offers a range of leisure activities besides sunbathing and swimming. The beach itself is pebbly, so may not be as nice as the sandy ones mentioned before. But I visited the place on a rather cool and windy summer day, when swimming wasn’t much of an option anyway, so instead we hiked up the hills via a trail that was officially closed (#thuglife) and savoured the beautiful panorama of the city and the beach from above.
We also visited the ruins of Hastings castle and spent some quality time sitting and chatting on the beach, with the calming sound of waves in the background.
Probably one of the closest beach destinations to London, Southend-on-Sea is not nearly as appealing as others. Both the sand and the water are rather dirty, and the beach is full of broken glass and other rubbish. However, it has the longest pier in the world and is probably the most convenient place to go to by public transport. But in my opinion, it’s worth travelling a bit further from London for a more fulfilling beach experience.
Most of the southern and south-eastern destinations are around two hours away from London and can be conveniently reached by direct trains or buses. You might even be able to score some affordable train tickets, especially to places like Broadstairs. And when you go there, don’t forget to get some fish and chips, an integral part of your British seaside experience! But beware of seagulls – if you have food on the beach, they will definitely try to snatch it from you, even if you’re holding it in your hands (been there one too many times: getting my Tesco meal-deal sandwich stolen was one of the saddest moments of my life).