Whilst every woman might want to look like Gwyneth Paltrow, every beach aspires to look like the Gold Coast of Barbados. And here in Britain, you might not believe it until you see it, but we have some sands that wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean. And we also have some great, slightly quirkier seasides too. Here’s my run down of Britain’s best family beaches.
Swanage Beach, Dorset
This is the quintessential British seaside resort of yesteryear. Bordered by cute beach huts where locals keep their dinghys and deckchairs, the powdery golden sands slope gently down to the sea. This isn’t a shoreline to escape too, however. It’s a busy beach.
One of the Britain’s last remaining Punch and Judy shows performs daily throughout the summer season delighting its young audience just as it’s done for the last 100 years. There are pedalos and kayaks for hire and it’s a popular diving destination too. Book your lunch or dinner at this beach side restaurant before you go.
This is about as close as Britain gets to Malibu and even that is stretching a metaphor a very long way. Sandbanks is famous for being one of Britain’s most expensive stretches of coastline. Beautiful beachside houses that command prices as awesome as the views they look out on to has led Sandbanks to be labelled as the seaside playground for the super-rich, but beyond this veneer, you’ll find an unspoilt glorious sandy beach where children fish for crabs in the rock pools and wade out to greet the ice-cream boat that coasts the shore in the summer months.
Brighton Beach, East Sussex
Being just an hour’s train journey from the Capital, Brighton is where Londoner’s head to as soon as the sun comes out. You’ll struggle to build a sandcastle here, but children have just as much fun with pebbles, especially if a pebble beach is a novelty. Stone-wall building, dam-making and pebble skimming are just some of the games children have been playing here for centuries.
Once you’re ready to leave your deckchair and extract little people’s toes from the sea, you can explore the Victorian pier or take a wander around The Lanes, a maze of traffic free alleyways lined with historic boutiques, many of which sell the wares produced by the town’s burgeoning artist community.
Holkham Beach, Norfolk
Forming part of one of Britain’s largest expanses of nature reserve, this vast stretch of sand bordered by salt marshes and Pine woods is a beach that is wonderful to be on in all weathers. And British weather is wickedly unpredictable. We can get driving wind in August and blinding sunlight in December and everything in between.
This is raw unspoilt nature at its best, a fantastic place for kite flying and shell collecting. Finish up with a traditional pub meal at The Victoria, you can stay the night here too.
Saunton Sands, Devon
You could easily mistake a picture postcard of the three and a half miles of these golden icing sugar fine sands for St Lucia or Tobago. You’ll want to kick your shoes off and sink your toes into it as soon as you hit the dunes that edge it. It’s perfect for sandcastle building, paddling and surfing.
When the tide is out the beach seems to double in size. Hire a pedal cart for a fun way to explore it. You’ll want to stay more than a day and Art Deco Saunton Sands Hotel overlooking the beach is a welcoming traditional British seaside resort hotel.
Polzeath Beach, Cornwall
Dolphins and seals can choose to swim anywhere, but they are often seen swimming alongside the surfers off the coast at Polzeath beach, once you’ve visited you’ll see why they love it so much. The scene hasn’t changed drastically in hundreds of years, and people flock here all year around to enjoy the feel of the sand underfoot, the wind in their hair and the smell of the sea. It also tends to be generally warmer down here in Cornwall than the rest of the British Isles.
Blackpool beach, Lancashire
Blackpool is deliciously tacky to the extreme and the fun is centred around the seafront, which has been turned into one big theme park – Blackpool pleasure beach. Once you’ve tired of the thrills of the rides, come back down to earth on the golden sands that have drawn the crowds here long before the rollercoasters arrived. Blackpool is also one of the few beaches left to offer, what was once part of every British seaside scene, donkey rides.
Sandown Beach, the Isle of Wright
This tiny little island, a short ferry ride from Southampton off England’s south coast, is ringed by lovely sandy beaches. Sandown, with it’s gently sloping sandy beach and calm waters is ideal for families with young children. And there’s a pier to explore and a crazy golf course and pedalos to try out when you’re done with sandcastle building and paddling. The resort itself is very quaint too, full of teashops and traditional English pubs.
Rhossili Bay, Wales
Despite being a little country, Wales has a lot of coastline and hidden within it are some beautiful unspoilt beaches. Rhossili Bay, which has made it into the top of the list of several polls of the world’s best beaches, is one not to be missed. It’s a steep walk down from the top of the cliffs, so tricky with a pushchair. But the climb down and up is part of the adventure and the views are awesome.
Take a picnic and stay until sunset if you can. There are over three miles of golden sands to wander over and when the tide is out you can walk across to Worms Head, a promontory jutting out to sea, just be sure not to get stranded there when the tide comes back in!
Achnahaird Beach, Scotland
People don’t tend to visit Scotland for it’s beaches, which is a shame in one way, because they are missing out, but great in other ways, because those that do visit them can find a beautiful little piece of coastline all to themselves. The crescent of sand hugging the sea at Achnahaird on the west coast is widely considered one of Scotland’s most stunning beaches and yet you’ll still likely to get the place to yourself.
Fish in the rock pools whilst Golden Eagles soar overhead, build your own Scottish castle or swim in the cool, generally gentle, waters.
All photos courtesy of Visit Britain
Ciao Bambino recommended family hotels in London
Ciao Bambino recommended family hotels in England