Although living in Bucks/Oxon you basically couldn’t get further away from the coast, a one-day jaunt to the seaside is still doable if you get an early start. All of the suggestions below are 2-3 hours in the car, depending of course which part of the county you live in. So grab the wind-breaker and soggy sandwiches and let’s go!
Mudeford Quay, Dorset
This is our family favourite, with its pristine white sands, enclosed by rocks and backed by candy-coloured beach huts. There’s a fantastic cafe doing takeaway called The Beach House across the sandspit (you can get a little ferry there) and a Noddy train to keep little ones amused.
Mersea Island, Essex
Pastel beach huts, delectable oysters and rolling countryside views – who knew this hidden gem island was just outside of Colchester? Just seven miles across, Mersea Island is just under a three-hour drive away (depending on where you are in the county), but the beautiful wild beaches and fresh seafood are worth the trip. Stop by The Gilt Rooms and pick up a picnic hamper to scoff on the beach if you don’t fancy packing your own sarnies.
Fun fact to whip out if you get stuck in traffic: Coldplay’s famous one-take video for Yellow, where Chris Martin walks/sings along a beach was filmed at Studland. There are four miles of divine sandy beaches here – I like Middle Beach which is an easy stroll from boutique hotel/restaurant The Pig, aka the perfect spot for a chichi G&T at the end of a hard day’s sunbathing. Alternatively there’s plenty of watersports on offer at Knoll Beach, plus a 1km stretch for naturists, should you fancy letting it all hang out.
West Wittering, West Sussex
With its wide, gently shelving golden sands, Blue Flag rating and ample parking, West Wittering is perfect for a family day out – even Kevin the Teenager couldn’t find fault with this one. Bring a picnic or BBQ, and loll on the grassy area behind the beach to take in views across to Chichester harbour. Just be sure to book your car parking in advance, as spots quickly sell out on hot weeks.
Brighton, East Sussex
You probably don’t need me to tell you about Brighton but don’t dismiss it as too far for a day trip – I can make it in two hours if I hammer it round the M25. It’s a pebbly beach of course but I don’t mind that when there’s so much else to do. All the cool kids live in Hove now, so head west for a slightly quieter beach and amazing pizza at Fatto A Mano on Church Street.
Barton-on-Sea, New Forest, Hampshire
I get so distracted by the gorgeous greenery and cute ponies in the New Forest, I forget it does beaches too. It can be windy in Barton – it’s a prime para-gliding spot – so don’t forget to pack your kite. Above the safe, sandy beach, you can stroll along the clifftops and stop off at The Beachcomber Cafe (its grassy garden is open, serving a limited menu).
An obvious choice, but you can’t beat Bournemouth. Miles of golden sands, a massive Harry Ramsden’s with views out across the water, tacky arcades to wow the kids (and must admit I myself have a long-term obsessions with 2p slot machines) and a little train that runs around the tropical gardens and up to Boscombe beach. Boom!
ALSO WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION…
Lyme Regis Town Beach for the pretty crescent beach in front of the Cobb, right in the heart of the town; Sandbanks beach in Poole – huge swathes of golden sand, plus the fab Sandbanks Beach Cafe, a BBQ facility on the beach and watersports facilities.
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