Aldeburgh stays in the mind from the moment you visit it. The town and beach combine for an experience that is unique in the South East. The calming corner of Suffolk is a far drive from major hubs but is well worth the effort. Architecturally, the town is a delight, and backs perfectly onto the beach that’s primarily formed by shingle. The quaint atmosphere continues as you make your way south towards the town’s marina. You’ll see various boats head away in the distance along the River Alde, which meets the North Sea at this point. Don’t forget to try some seafood at one of the stands that welcome you to the beach. The centuries-old Moot Hall is also steps away, a reminder of the history of Aldeburgh.
Beaches in the South East
The South East is England’s most populated area. Many different beaches serve the people that call it home and attract visitors near and far, domestically and internationally.
Each county in the South East brings its own charm to the table. Lush countryside, historic towns and hilly verges extend the whole way out to the coast. Some of the country’s most famous seaside names are closer to major cities than you’d assume. This list covers the classics and introduces some new names that are itching to welcome you for a day visit or even a cheeky staycation. Read on and find out how this group of beaches combine sea, sand, food, entertainment and history to bring you another chapter of cherished memories by the coast.
The Birling Gap sits neatly between the major towns of Eastbourne and Brighton. They may be far more talked about, but it’s the Birling Gap that truly mesmerises visitors to this pretty beach on the South East’s coast. The unspoilt terrain never fails to win people over. Mainly pebbles, a hint of sand hits you as you access the beach from the cliffs above. Their raised position provides a great opportunity for a photo of the wide English Channel. If you’re feeling energetic, a walk to Beachy Head gives you an even better appreciation for spectacular surroundings. A National Trust Café is on hand to relax and refresh you before you set off.
This pristine stretch of sand offers something different throughout the year. In the summer, you’ll want to bask on the pretty dunes as the sea breeze cools you down. When it's colder, there are a series of great walks to be done along with this, one of Norfolk’s best beaches. It faces northwards out to sea, with the Lincolnshire coastline out to the left and sometimes visible on a clear day. There is a great range of facilities here, and the beach welcomes dogs all year round. When the tide lowers, the curious sight of SS Vina reveals itself, all but a few higher sections of the ship consumed by the sand. Only just a beach in the South East, Brancaster is a great option for visitors north, south, east and west.
Brighton is close to the top of the conversation when it comes to beaches in the whole country, let alone the South East. The four-mile stretch is a vibrant hub of activity morning, noon and night, 365 days a year. Its popularity is also one of its strengths, generating an atmosphere that few other coastal towns can in this country. The Victorian Pier houses staples of the seaside. It’s neighbours with an enticing aquarium that is widely recognised as the world’s oldest, dating back to 1872. The sometimes-chilly waters don’t stop a whole host of water sports here, and extra sand is brought in each peak season to host some epic amateur beach volleyball matches.
Another name synonymous with the seaside, Clacton has been hosting those keen on a staycation for decades. It was arguably the first town by the sea to provide those all-important memories that last a lifetime, welcoming Londoners who could easily reach the Essex coast and escape the rugged industrial heartland of the capital city. Today, the town’s role is the same, and you know exactly what you’re getting. The beach is still one of the best in the county. It’s accompanied by amusements, dining and entertainment to top off any visit. Swimming is popular, and the beach is impressively maintained considering it remains one of the UK’s go-to places all year round.
Cromer is a prestigious name in Norfolk when it comes to a seaside getaway. Another beach on the county’s north coast, it attracts visitors from around England. The Victorian seaside resort is popular with swimmers and surfers taking advantage of the large North Sea waves that can wash up on the shore. Sand and shingle combine to welcome your blanket. If you’re feeling indulgent, there are also deckchairs for hire. The beach is backed by colourful guesthouses and the charming pier that is home to a range of handy attractions and amenities. You must try some of the seafood sold in the town. One bite and you’ll understand how Cromer also has a name for its fishing. It’s probably the tastiest beach in the South East.
If there was an award for most peculiar beach in the South East, Dungeness would take it. It would also be in the running for the national title. The shingle that forms in this coastal area extends massively inland in what is way more than widely considered a beach. Quirky huts are perched on this curious foundation and the cute Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway reaches the end of the line here. Look out for the tiny trains turning around on the circular track. It’s hard not to describe Dungeness as odd. The sight of the brutalist nuclear power station imposes itself on the area, making this one of the UK’s most extraordinary seaside spots.
Dymchurch offers a great range of facilities without the feeling of being gentrified or commercialised. The beach combines convenience and quality. Parking spaces put you steps from the sand and you can grab a classic fish and chips from one of the great options in the small town. When the tide is out, the beach stretches almost beyond the horizon. A sea wall protects land when it comes in, and a walkway allows you to stretch your legs the whole way up to Hythe if you desire. This is also one of the closest points in England to France, and you’ll be able to see its north coast on a clear day. Only an hour or so from London, Dymchurch really is a great day out for all the family.
Frinton stands as Clacton’s lesser-known neighbour on the north Essex coast. Its wide sandy beach has retained a simple and peaceful vibe, worlds away from the hustle and bustle of down the coast. A grassy but paved slope leads you down to the sand, which has been given a Blue Flag Award for its impressive cleanliness. The sand is perfect here, not too sharp but not too fine either. Many a sandcastle has been made. Classic and colourful beach huts add character. The town has a train station of its own with services to London via Colchester. The similarly charming Walton-on-the-Naze is just up the coast and is worth a detour for some pie and mash when you’re done in Frinton.
West Wittering adopts a unique position in the South East in the far western corner of Sussex. It’s neatly positioned at the mouth of Chichester Harbour and Hayling Island feels like it will reach out and touch you across the bay. The beach leads to the National Trust-run East Head, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Sandy and slopy, the sand covers ample space for stretching and sunbathing when the weather permits. You’ll see a variety of birds in the area. Many different species migrate here in the sunnier months. Peak season also brings lifeguards, deck chairs and surf lessons. When you’re done, check out the lovely village the beach is named after. It’s only a five-minute car journey away.