Disclaimer: Hi! this post may contain affiliate links which will take you to online retailers that sell products and services. If you click on one and buy something, I may earn a commission, see my Affiliate Disclosure for more details.
When the sun shines Londoners seek out a place to cool down! With a little planning, the beer gardens and picnics can be replaced with the seaside!
Dr Richard Russell wrote a dissertation in Latin in 1750 that was to change English seaside towns forever. The dissertation was republished in English in 1752 and gave health attributes to drinking and bathing in seawater.
People began to flock to the seaside believing that bathing in and drinking the water would cure many ailments. Now you don’t want to be drinking seawater for obvious reasons but we know today that there is some truth in the claim.
Individuals reported significantly better health when they lived nearer the coast. And… the effects were present for both general and mental health.
Pack your swimwear, towel, sunscreen and all the beach essential you can think of! Then jump on the next train out of London to one of the wonderful seaside towns near London.
Best Seaside Towns within an Hour of London
Built around a Princes Playground
From 53 minutes by train from London Victoria.
For History Lovers:
As far as we know Brighton started out as a small Saxon village in the Kingdom of Sussex in the 5th Century. Jump forward quite a few hundred years and the good doctor mentioned above based his findings on a visit to Brighthelmstone from his home in nearby Lewes. The success of the study enabled him to buy a bigger house in Brighthelmstone on the seafront.
In 1783 the Prince of Wales visited Brighthelmstone, staying with some friends in a small house overlooking the promenade. The prince was advised that the climate in the area and submersing in seawater were the best for his health and in 1815, 4 years after becoming Prince Regent he commissioned the architect John Nash to build him an oriental villa suitable for his status and for entertaining. The Prince Regent’s adoption of Brighton played a huge part in the growth of the town and much of the architecture we still see today is from that period, giving Brighton a Regency style as well as an oriental palace.
You can check out the Regency architecture on the seafront by looking at Regency Square, Bedford Square and Brunswick Square and the attractive Royal Crescent.
The Lanes in Brighton near the Old Steine and not far from the seafront is an ancient warren of lanes that are home to boutiques, antique shops, art galleries and much more. The Lanes is the original home of the upmarket perfume company Pecksniffs.
Twenty First Century:
As well as shopping or window shopping in the Lanes the gently sloping pebble beach is a popular draw.
Other attractions include the I 360 tower, the remaining pier there were two and the marina. If you centre your stay near the seafront, there is plenty to see and do. A walk along the promenade which runs all the way along the seafront is essential to take in the sea air, the architecture and the cheerful Brighton vibe.
The Playground of Essex
Famous for its nightlife and 7 miles of sandy beach, visitors to Southend are not usually interested in the history of the place, although for those who are interested the many attractions include museums and historical sites.
Southend can guarantee an action packed stay; however, there is no reason not to spend the days lazing on the beach and the nights dancing the night away. At night Southend comes to life when the amusement arcades, casinos and nightclub are all brightly lit up. By day Southend boasts the longest pleasure beach in the world, so there is plenty to do.
TBH, history wise there is the medieval Prittlewell Priory, a Grade II listed building that is open to the public; Hadleigh Castle, a ruined tower that overlooks the marshland; Or the architecturally wonderful, Grade I listed Southchurch Hall a Medieval house with a moat.
A bit inland at Rayleigh is the Rayleigh Windmill which is a Grade II listed Tower Mill.
Less Than 2 Hours by Train
Like Southend on Sea Bournemouth has 7 miles of sandy beaches. Bournemouth though has a different vibe to Southend, it’s all there, but the pace is a little more relaxed.
As well as Bournemouth itself, it is a great place to visit the wider area. Close by are the natural harbours of Christchurch and Poole, with the famous yachting town of Lymington is just a few miles along the coast.
Inland, there is the fantastic New Forest and all that has to offer, places to visit such as Corfe Castle and Wimborne Minster.
Not to say that Bournemouth doesn’t have great attractions in its own right, there are all the usual attractions of amusements, gardens and museums.
The South Coast Makers Market is an exciting project where you can see and buy a huge variety of artisan made items direct from the makers. The market takes place on the first Saturday of the month and is well worth a visit.
Nightlife is thriving in Bournemouth too, with plenty of choices of clubs, bars, live music venues and restaurants.
The Concert venue The BIC is in Bournemouth and hosts some big names such as Stormzy and can match any of the London venues for size and visiting acts.
Dymchuch is probably best known for the Blue Flag award sandy beach and the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, Dymchuch is one of the four stops for the steam railway.
As far as attractions go the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway offers a great way to see the local countryside. There is an amusement park at Dymchuch and of course the main line railway station.
A quieter choice than Brighton or Hastings
Largely Victorian, Eastbourne has an architectural mix of Villas, Victorian terraces and the luxurious hotels along the seafront. Added to this mix are the inevitable newer buildings and the early 1990’s Sovereign Harbour is an added place to spend some time and a big advantage for the town. The Old Town area at the other end features brick pavements and old style charm.
In common with Brighton, Eastbourne is an interesting location for those interested in history, but the luxury and the yachts of the Sovereign Harbour offer a draw to those interested in people watching and contemporary style.
For those wanting a quiet stroll Eastbourne has gentle lawns and gardens on the seafront that lead to the long wide promenade. The beach though is pebbles and rocks in places, so sandy beach lovers would best fair with a trip to Cooden Beach or Norman’s Bay nearby. Eastbourne’s pier offers a night club and for other night life there are pubs and live music venues as well as restaurants and cafes. For the daytime Eastbourne offers art galleries, museums and theatres as well as plenty of areas for children to let off steam, such as Treasure Island and Sovereign Park with its swan boats.
Eastbourne is close to Beachy Head and its famous lighthouse. There are buses that go near to the head and you could enjoy a walk along the South Downs atop the famous Seven Sisters cliffs.
Those travelling by car and staying for a few days could easily fill their time in the area just exploring the history, with The Long Man of Willimington being close by and Michelham Priory a few miles inland near to Hailsham. Also accessible by car is miles and miles of the South Downs Way to explore and this is easily accessible from the picturesque village of Alfriston which is well worth a visit.
1066 and all that!
The battle of Hastings actually took place about 8 miles away near the location of the historic town of Battle, named after the battlefields nearby.
Hastings though still has a long and interesting history. With its twisting lanes and alleyways in the old town near the seafront it is easy to imagine the smugglers at large.
The St Clements Caves offer a chance to let the imagination run wild and visit the world of smugglers at Hastings. Other attractions include the ruins of Hastings Castle; the East Hill Cliff Funicular Railway; Hastings Pier which was reopened in 2017; the gently sloping pebble beach and the variety of museums.
Hastings is next to Bexhill, but notably on the seafront the towns have very different characters. If staying for more than a day a visit to Battle and Battle Abbey is recommended.
Lymington is a lovely picturesque ancient seaport and where the New Forest meets the sea. Mostly Georgian, the High Street has a lovely mix of independent shops boutiques and some names you may recognise. The pretty cottages line cobbled streets and ancient squares as you follow them down to the Harbour area. Lymington is a famous sailing location and has three marinas in the mouth of the Lymington River that it is named after.
Activity wise, this location is all about the sailing, water sports and boutique shopping. Naturally, there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and pubs. Lymington has a regular ferry crossing to the Isle of White.
Reinvented and newly Cool
Ladies and Gentlemen Margate has been reinvented. Margate is THE seaside town you have to visit. The people of Margate are clear about their town, what it is, what it does. For those of us planning a visit it does what it says on the tin and more.
Margate offers sandy beaches, seaside attractions, typical seaside town facilities and much, much more. Somehow the old seaside charm of candy floss and arcades sits brilliantly alongside 21st century living.
Margate has a Turner Art Gallery, so is an art lover’s destination.
The amusement park Dreamland is on the seafront for the fun lovers.
History lovers will be drawn to the Museum, the Shell Grotto, Drapers Windmill and the Tudor House.
The cobbled streets of the old town is home to a quirky shops and cafes and is just inland from the Turner Art Gallery.
The main road of and Northdown Road is worth exploring for retro and vintage stores, boutiques and vinyl records as well as the seaside town stores all mixed in with the facilities for living.
Whatever your pleasure, chances are you’ll find it at Margate.
Stay for more than a day and explore the area.
Rye with Camber
Rye is probably best known for its cobbled lanes and crooked half timbered houses. Situated between rolling hills and the English Channel, Rye is just along the coast from Hastings and is in East Sussex, but only just, very close to the Kent boarder.
Rye is not a typical seaside town, situated a little inland with far reaching views over the harbour, the nature reserve and out to sea over Camber Sands, Rye is not really a seaside town at all.
Rye is a must visit location and that is why it is here, having a train station it is easy to get to from London by train in less than 2 hours and has the nearest train station to the wonderful stretch of sands on the south coast known as Camber Sands.
Just down the road from Rye is Rye Harbour and Camber Sands.
Camber is a popular film and television location, the most notable being the 2014 films The Monuments Men and The Theory of Everything.
From Camber you can stroll along the beach, watch the kite surfers, enjoy the views out to see, there are boat rides both for speed and seal spotting.
The two together combine the medieval history of Rye and the fun filled seaside of Camber.
For history lovers there is the charm of Mermaid Street, the Mermaid Inn, the Ypres Tower and the Rye museum in Rye.
For nature lovers there is the windswept nature reserve and the miles and miles of beaches to comb and sand dunes to explore in Camber.
But don’t expect the usual seaside attractions of arcades and amusements, a visit to Rye and Camber is a different type of seaside experience.
A little pastel coloured gem!
Whitstable is known for its pastel shaded beach huts and pastel painted shops. Loved for its maritime history and famous harbour market, it is a popular day trip location from London and other parts of Kent. Whitstable has charm, lots of it.
The market is a series of huts selling a huge eclectic mix of wares, crafts and even fine art and furniture.
There are plenty of options for refreshments and lunch. Notably there is a good vegan cafe Potato Tomato at 49 Oxford Street. It’s gaining quite a reputation, so it is worth booking a table.
Tip: Go at the weekend, because a lot of the shops do not open on weekdays.
If you go in the summer, it is busier, but the atmosphere is ramped up with live street music and entertainers.