Nothing beats a traditional bucket-and-spade holiday in the UK, especially for families who don't want the hassle of travelling abroad with young children. When the sun is out there is nothing better than building sandcastles on a golden sandy beach, eating fish and chips, crabbing, going on rides on the pier, playing in arcades and rock pooling. Here we list some of the places in the UK where you can still have a traditional seaside holiday in the resorts which have yet to be claimed by wealthy Londoners looking for glossy restaurants and expensive shops.
A traditional British seaside holiday conjures up images of sandcastles, Punch and Judy shows, donkey rides, ice cream, 'sand in the sandwiches and wasps in the tea'. Once the staple holiday for all British people until the post-war advent of affordable flights, the seaside holiday went into a decline for many years, being snubbed for the constant sun of the Mediterranean.
Some resorts such as Brighton and Whitstable managed to reinvent themselves as chic, urban towns where you could buy designer gear and eat at 5 star restaurants but others soldiered on, growing a little shabbier around the edges but managing to resist the urge to attract the well-heeled but demanding types who want to change all that is best about these places.
The pandemic and the rise of sustainable, flight-free holidays means the time is ripe for visitors to return to these wonderful resorts. No need for passports, quarantine, vaccines, flights or any of the other risks or damages that come with a foreign holiday. Holidaying on the British coastline means you can stay in a quirky, independently owned B&B, eat locally sourced food and enjoy the Best of British.
Here we list the best places to take the family for a fun, traditional British holiday by the sea.
Swanage is my favourite place ever for a traditional seaside holiday, and is one I go to year after year, even if it just for a long weekend. Nearby Studland has miles of golden sandy beaches and dunes with beautiful views over the blue sea, cafes, sea sports such as kayaking, boating, surfing. Swanage itself has a beach and a harbour, with lots of boats offering fishing trips.
There is an arcade, a funfair, a promenade, some excellent fish and chip shops (The Fish Plaice is our favourite) and some wonderful walks including to Old Harry Rocks and Durlston Country Park. There are Punch and Judy shows in the summer, a jazz festival, a reggae festival, a 60s seafront cinema and a seafront museum. There are plenty of historical sites in the area such as Corfe Castle and assorted World War II defences, as well as the nearby abandoned village of Tyneham, which is a wonderful place to visit. Holiday accommodation is cheap, there are plenty of shops and there is rarely a hipster in sight. You don't get better than that.
Bournemouth has always been about the traditional seaside holiday. Once it was just barren heathland frequented by fishermen and smugglers, it is now one of the largest towns on the south coast, forming a conurbation with nearby Poole. Much of the town is elegant Victorian buildings, but modernity has caught up and taken over, and it is now very densely populated.
It is a thriving town and not only does it have miles of golden sandy beaches, there is a huge amount of things for the holidaymaker to do. The piers and promenade are packed with rides, funfairs and arcades, there is an oceanarium, a concert venue, parks and gardens, hop-on-hop-off bus tours, a pier zip wire, fishing trips, surfing, beautiful Victorian gardens filled with palm trees, a cliff lift, land trains, a big wheel, museums, art galleries and so much more.
On the south coast of England, Weymouth is one of the most popular places for the English to go for a traditional holiday. There is a sandy beach, arcades, a lovely harbour, a SeaLife Centre, a Victorian fort, cliffs and rockpools, a revolving viewing tower, the epic Chesil Beach, the beaches of Portland, endless countryside with beautiful villages and plenty of fish and chip shops and entertainments.
Events include an International Beach Kite Festival, a Carnival Day, as well as volleyball and sailing championships. The wider Jurassic Coast is filled with more beautiful beaches and fossils. The town is geared towards visitors with plenty of caravan parks and campsites, there are plenty of places to eat and a huge variety of places within a short distance for some excellent day trips.
4. Westward Ho!
Westward Ho! the only place in the UK with an exclamation mark in its name, is on the north cost of Devon, and was deliberately created as a seaside resort for the more sedate town of Northam. A mixture of sandy beaches and a huge pebble beach behind the famous tall pebble ridge, Westward Ho! has everything you would expect from a seaside resort, and there is nowhere better for rock pooling. There are arcades, rides, go-karting, mini golf, fish and chips, windsurfing, surfing, and a Victorian Rock Sea Pool for safe sea swimming.
Nearby is the theme park The Big Sheep (more fun than it sounds, we really enjoyed a day there) and the Milky Way Adventure Park which is truly excellent for kids who will demand to go back again and again. There are some beautiful villages along the coastline (try Clovelly) and so many soft play centres and rainy day activities to do.
Aldeburgh is a traditional town on the east coast of Suffolk on what is known as the Suffolk Heritage Coast as there is so much on offer in the area. There is a huge beach with all of the usual fish and chip shops, ice cream stalls and fishing trips. Aldeburgh is more understated than other seaside towns, with less of the noise and bling, but more heritage and culture. Aldeburgh beach is considered the best in the area, fronted by colourful Victorian buildings.
There is plenty to do for all ages, with the incredible Sutton Hoo just a short drive away, the home of Benjamin Britten who put the town on the map, a world famous music festival, a boating pond, an Art Deco cinema, lots of shops, crabbing at nearby Walberswick and some wonderful restaurants. You could even stay in an original 1920s vintage house for the ultimate traditional experience.
Tenby is a resort in southwest Wales with long stretches of sandy beaches and a lovely historic town centre with plenty of interesting sites within its 13th century walls. There are all the usual seaside activities you would expect, with fishing, boating, sea sports, fish and chip shops and some beautiful countryside in the area. The beaches are the main draw here, with miles of golden sand which hasn't been over commercialised.
There is plenty to do in the wider area, with a wildlife park, an adventure park, Wales' biggest theme park, Pembroke Castle, holiday parks and boat trips to Caldey Island. It is a great place to take children for a simple, old-fashioned holiday.