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Tomorrow is bound to be a scorching one, so book a last-minute day off work, dust off that deck chair, ditch that bucket hat, and make a way to the beach closest to you.
Not sure where to go? Allow us to introduce you to your guide to a micro-vacation by the sea. Sipping crunchy pints in the sun and chilling in the freezing cold waters – there’s nothing like a seaside break in Blighty.
From Margate’s lesser-known seaside sisterhood to the secret London beach, just 60 minutes by tube, here are the best beaches near the capital. Don’t all flock there together. Actually, do. The best part about the beach is that you don’t need to book.
Jo Bromley makes the most of a hot day in Brighton
, Joe Bromley
time from london: 58 minutes by train, 90 minutes by car
USP: The fun-loving, good-looking crowd; a huge pebble beach; and eats after the great dip
coastal rush: Londoners looking for a quick getaway, human-made Brighteners, and some children from the University of Sussex. Watch out for celebrity residents including Nick Cave and Fatboy Slim. Cate Blanchett has also been spotted here.
beach bite: After a cider in the sun, the gaggle of beach bars is totally delicious for a sit-down and breakfast. For a more substantial meal, the Salt Room on the Strip is known for fresh fish, while Petit Pois is a charming French restaurant that meets your escargot needs. No trip is complete without a cocktail of Twisted Lemon – a citrus martini, please – before making your way back to Victoria Station.
Brighton! The land of rainbow flags, vegetarian bagels and hot wine on a rocky beach. Does it get much better? Step out of the station and experience a carefree vacation right away. Money starts to evaporate (drinks aren’t cheap, somehow it seems fine at the time) and the sea is vast and wide. Brighton gets busy when it’s hot, but it’s all made up of in a heavy spirit of British summertime comradeship.
Rosie Fitzmaurice and her mom enjoy a gorgeous day at the beach in Margate
, Rosie Fitzmaurice
time from london: 90 minutes by train, 110 minutes by car
USP: Charming beaches with culture on Tapo
coastal rush: a mixed bag of former claptonites, hardcore wild swimmers and the quintessential British holidaymakers
beach bite: Head to Po’ Boy Buns at Margate’s New Orleans staple, the Po’ Boy Creole Fish Hut, deep-fried king prawns in panko breadcrumbs and topped with garlic aioli and gherkins with Cajun spices. Seaweed dipped in fresh mango and lime mayo is best served with saltine chips.
We all know it as Hackney-on-Sea, but despite its hipster crowd – and the inevitable microbreweries and their accompanying imported coffee roastery – Margate, and its sprawling gold-sand beaches, still retain their old-school seaside charm. retain. Start the day with a piece of culture at the Turner Contemporary by the Sea, where British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong is showing his first major solo exhibition until June 19. If ice creams and sand castles aren’t your thing, take a stroll above Cliftonville and plunge into the icy Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, the UK’s largest saltwater lido and four acres in size.
In need of some TLC? Head to Haeckels House for a thalassotherapy spa treatment, or just grab some expensive but seriously scented soap. Party-goers and thrill-seekers will have to wait until May 29 for the reopening of Dreamland, Margate’s retro amusement park, with vintage Helter Skelter, Funny Mirrors and a roster of cool gigs and live events this summer.
West Wittering, West Sussex
Beachgoers gather at West Wittering Beach during warm weather on the first day of the summer school holidays
, Getty Images
time from london: 120 minutes by train and taxi, 110 minutes by car
USP: Eye candy, be it dogs, surfers or one of the Witterings’ £6m beachside mansions. Tatler once called the area England’s answer to the Hamptons.
coastal rush: The Bransons, Kate Winslet, middle-class dog-walkers and sailing types down from London
beach bites: Have a coffee at the Drift-In Surf Café in East Wittering, a short stroll along the beach (and a chance to visit millionaire houses on your way)
I’m biased because I grew up there, but any local on West Wittering’s A-list, from Kate Winslet to Keith Richards, will tell you the same thing: it’s Britain’s most beautiful beach and no one should tell you about it. Don’t let me tell you. The 2.8-mile-long peninsula of world-class white sand sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty just outside of Chichester – and a relatively short drive from London, depending on how early you get up to dodge the crowds on the winding roads at the end (If you want to dodge the queues and avoid the parking fee, take the Saltern Way cycle route from Itanor).
Katie Strick and friends bike to West Wittering Beach
, Katie Strick
No matter how bad the traffic is, though, it’s worth it: even the car park is Insta-worthy, with day-trippers tossing cricket balls, picnicking and playing in the rain on the grass behind the dunes. Huh. On the other side of the £50,000 beach huts (Winslet inherited from her mother-in-law, Eve Branson), this is paradise: miles of Blue Flag beaches overlooking the Solent and the Isle of Wight.
Whisper it, but real veting regulars know that the best part of the beach is the northern tip, the East Head’s National Trust hotspot. It’s a long walk from the car park, but quieter, more sheltered and there’s more to see, with a view of the South Downs and sailing boats in Chichester Harbor. You didn’t hear it from me.
time from london: 100 minutes by train, 130 minutes by car
USP: live music in all the pubs—and Charles Dickens lived here
coastal rush: Angela Renner’s doppelganger Sharon Stone was spotted on the side of the High Street a few summers and Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O’Laughlin is often around, but it’s more common to see a mix of families and those in sound after a few pinches. Old rockers who knocked out Dire Straits drown
beach bites: Magnet Micropub changes its beers (weighted towards local breweries) daily; Morelli deservesly queues itself up for its top drawer, Italian-style gelato; And pick up oysters from Wyatt & Jones to slurp down on the beach.
Neighboring Margate may get all the attention, but the truth among Kent Coast insiders is that Broadstairs is known as the “jewel in Thanet’s crown” for good reason. Beneath the joy-filled houses, the beautiful harbor winds its arm around the beach as brightly colored fishing boats – from the moment it awoke – to families, retirees and everyone in between digging castles and paying attention to the times. Fills between not giving.
Pubs fill up quickly, music is everywhere and what was in shambles only five or six years ago has been smart and brushy, with the seaside sacks mostly washed away. The restaurant has promise too.
Frensham Great Pond, Surrey
time from london: 120 minutes by train and bus, 70 minutes by car
USP: wild swimming without the waves
coastal rushFor: keen swimmers, bird watchers and families who want their little ones to paddle without the waves or tidal currents
beach bite: The National Trust Cafe on the north shore of Frensham Little Pond serves hot and cold drinks, ice creams, and freshly baked cakes, from chocolate brownies to orange and fruit rock casks.
But isn’t Surrey landlocked? I hear you ask. Yes, your geography skills aren’t deceiving you, but Frensham Great Pond is proof that you really don’t need the ocean for a gorgeous day at the beach. The inland man-made beach is located on the Hampshire border, at the heart of the National Trust’s 1,000 acres of land marked as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It is formed by the sandy soil of the Green Flag award-winning site that is Frensham Common and has two 13th-century swimming lakes, marked by white buoys, with water quality rated “Excellent” by the Environment Agency. Given, so it’s perfect for shelter. Swimming. Regulars take tents, umbrellas, and bucket-and-spades for the day at the white sandy beach, but get there early: the car park usually fills up by 10 a.m.
time from london: 80 minutes by train, 120 minutes by car
USPA desi foodie scene with some of the best seafood in the country
coastal rush: Chances are you hit half a London and you’ve got a good chance of seeing a local boy, Orlando Bloom, in the woods.
beach bite: Grab a pint to visit from Sea Farmers’ Dive Tap Room, Beachside Pub. The Neptune Sunset is ready for sunset and make a must-see path to The Lobster Shack for the perfect fish and chips. For oysters, check out The Delightfully Say-What-You-Whatstable Oyster Company.
Known for its Oyster Festival – which packs seashells every August with hungry DFLs (down from London) snacking on crustaceans the size of their faces – the Kentish seaside town adds to the frenetic pace of the city. is a tonic.
The main section can get packed during (rare) sunny weather, so sneak up on nearby Tankerton Beach where the calm Millpond waters are begging to be interrupted by some amateur paddleboarding. Or, rent a bike from the High Street, pack a seafood picnic from Wheelers (the old pastel-fronted oyster bar you’ve seen in the ‘Village), some organic wine from Offi and cycle to Herne Bay.
Ruislip Lido, London
time from london: 60 minutes by tube from central London
USP: Zone 6. Inside Palm Trees and Sand Castles
coastal rush: families without a car, pedestrians and Londoners (avoid if you want to take a dip – swimming is currently prohibited)
beach bites: Mr. Whippy from a stall of ice cream by the lake. The Waters’ Edge, Miller & Carter and The Woodman’s Pub are all within a 15-minute walk if you fancy something savory
This is an unusual, feeling of sand between your toes at the Piccadilly line. But the spirit of that vacation is precisely the beauty of Ruslip Lido, a “secret” sandy beach in north-west London at the end of the Metropolitan and Piccadilly Lines. The man-made oasis sits on the southern shore of a beautiful 60-acre lake in the middle of Ruislip Woods, a 283-hectare nature reserve of pristine woodland that is twice the size of Hyde Park. The jewel in its crown (aside from the short train ride around the edge of the lake)? A golden sandy beach, complete with a charming children’s playground for kids with a giant wooden pirate chip.
Swimming in the Lido is sadly prohibited due to algae and hygiene reasons, but you can still sunbathe along your favorite beach, explore the nature trails and build sand castles with the kids. Take the Uxbridge branch of the Metropolitan or Piccadilly Line to West Ruislip. It’s just a 15-minute walk and a five-minute bus trip to the other end (on the H13).
time from london: 80 minutes by train, 90 minutes by car
USP: Gorgeous Georgian architecture and quaint fishermen’s cottages
coastal rush: A slightly older, more established arty set. Artist Tim Noble turns Shoreditch for the deal in 2013
beach bite: The best fish and chips can be found at Middle Street Fish Bar, a simple old-fashioned chipotle where everything is freshly fried to order.
Less edgy than Margate up the coast, this former garrison town is arguably the prettiest seaside spot in the South. Stroll from Valmer to Zetland Arms for a sunset pint on the beach and a classic ice cream sundae from Deal Beach Parlor, a sixties gem. If it rains while your day is away in independent shop-packed back streets: Smugglers Records is crate digger-heaven with a bar, and the Rose Hotel is a London boutique option for dining or staying the night.
News From Evening Standard