Among many of the things that make London so fantastic (okay, we may be a little biased) is the sheer number of seaside getaways accessible in just a few hours. Spend a day, or a few, by the coast before returning to the capital
Just 80 minutes outside of London by train, Whitstable is famed for its rock oysters. You can sample them year-round from restaurants dotted around the town – The Whitstable Oyster Company is particularly popular. Not fond of seafood? There are plenty of other ways to take in the town’s charm. Weave your way through the backstreets and dive into the independent shops, wander down to the harbour and enjoy a pint at the famous beachfront pub, The Old Neptune. Trains operate from London Victoria and Charing Cross.
In the heyday of Victorian bathing holidays, Ramsgate was one of the greats. In fact, it was granted Royal Harbour status by King George IV and remains the only one in the UK. Soak up the atmosphere at one of the waterfront bars, cafés and restaurants, and take in the beautiful architecture and the famous Harbour Arches. From an eclectic mix of boutique shops to the award-winning sandy beaches and shoreline, there’s so much to enjoy. Trains to Ramsgate run from Victoria, Charing Cross and King’s Cross St. Pancras and take around 105-110 minutes.
If you’re looking for the perfect place to build sandcastles, look no further than Sunny Sands. Just to the east of Folkestone, it’s regarded as one of the best sandy beaches in the UK. It was once a favourite of Charles Dickens, too! Look out for the mermaid statue while you’re here. Approximately one hour from St Pancras to Folkestone Central.
This Kentish gem with its imposing white cliffs is not to be confused with Botany Bay, Australia. It remains one of the most photographed beaches in the UK. Explore rock pools or go fossil hunting, searching for creatures great and small from the present day and prehistoric times. Reachable within two hours from Kings Cross St Pancras or Canon Street to Margate.
Under two hours away from London, this quaint seaside town is popular with commuters who’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of the city. Arriving into Deal, you’ll think you’ve taken a step back through the ages. The streets are lined with independent coffee shops, boutiques and even a Michelin-starred restaurant. On a clear day, you can tuck into French food at Frog and Scot and catch a glimpse of the French coast too. Trains run from London Bridge or London Victoria and take around 90-120 minutes.
A visit to Broadstairs isn’t complete without a stop-off at Morelli’s. The popular ice cream parlour was founded in 1932 and offers retro interiors complete with pink leather seats. Even before Morelli’s appeared, Broadstairs tempted the likes of Charles Dickens, and the town celebrates this connection with a Dickens festival every June. Trains run from London Victoria and King’s Cross St. Pancras and take around 105 minutes.
Two miles upriver, so not exactly the seaside, Rye is a beautiful medieval fortress town with nooks and crannies to explore. Along its cobbled streets, you’ll find traditional pubs, art and antique shops, boutique hotels and contemporary restaurants. Mermaid Street (pictured) looks like it’s come straight out of a fairytale. Cameras at the ready! While there are no direct trains to Rye, simply catch a train from St Pancras or Stratford International and change at Ashford International; the journey takes approximately 70 minutes.
Well, it’s a classic, isn’t it? A favourite for Londoners, Brighton is a mere one-hour train journey away. Start at the historic Brighton Palace Pier for thrills and fairground rides. Next, wander through The Lanes for shopping and refreshments at one of the many eclectic restaurants. Before you head back, make sure to visit the exotic Brighton Pavilion. Trains run from London Bridge and Victoria and take around an hour.
Rockpools, a seafront promenade, rivers and a stone’s throw away from the South Downs National Park: Eastbourne has it all. It was another favoured retreat during the Victorian era and the historic pier is an ode to that time. Adventurers will love the picturesque walk to nearby Beachy Head which offers impressive views. Trains to run from Victoria and take around 90 minutes.
In 1994, Bexhill-on-Sea was declared the Birthplace of British Motor Racing. It also has a fascinating musical history, having hosted Bob Marley’s first ever UK gig at the iconic De La Warr Pavilion, and other artists such as Elvis Costello and Patti Smith. The Pavillion remains a major attraction with free exhibitions available all year round. Trains run from Victoria and take around 105-120 minutes.
Famed for its five-mile stretch of golden sand and rolling dunes, Camber Sands is so beautiful, it’s even featured in Hollywood films (The Theory of Everything, the 1958 film Dunkirk and The Monuments Men). Spend the day perfecting your sandcastle skills or take kitesurfing lessons. Take the train from St Pacras to Rye and catch the 102 Wave bus to the beachfront; it’s approximately one hour from London.
Southend is one of the nearest seaside towns to London. It’s home to the longest pleasure pier in the world, measuring a whopping 2.16km, which features its own passenger railway. On the seafront, the Sea Life Adventure Aquarium and Adventure Island amusement park will provide all the family-friendly fun you could possibly need. Trains run from Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street and take just under an hour.
If you’re looking for picture-perfect beach huts, look no further than Mersea Island. Take care when planning your visit as the island is cut off from the mainland when the tide comes in. Boasting its own vineyard, nature reserve and oyster fishery, it’s well worth a day trip out of the capital though. There are no direct trains. Instead, hop on the train to Colchester and change to a bus or drive.
No list about south England’s coastline would be complete without mentioning this multi-award-winning stretch of sand. Bournemouth Beach stretches 11 miles along the Dorset coast – you’ll be hard pushed to find bigger! You can walk, run or cycle along the seafront between Hengistbury Head Nature Reserve in the east and Sandbanks in the west, passing Boscombe Pier and Bournemouth Pier along the way. Trains run direct from London Waterloo to Bournemouth in approximately two hours.
Please like, share and comment below and see if we have anything else to inspire your next visit to London.