The British seaside revival
Date Posted: 15/05/2011
Whether your group favours traditional beach fun, waterside activities or coastal learning whilst on holiday, we highlight the UK’s best seaside resorts to suit.
Best for tradition
These classic resorts epitomise traditional seaside fun - donkey rides on the beach, ice cream on the pier, helter skelter rides and fish and chip suppers. If your group wants to reminisce back to childhood holidays, then choose from one of these quintessentially British resorts.
The introduction of both the railway and Bank Holidays allowed city dwellers to escape to the seaside. The train journey from London to Southend-on-Sea in Essex is under an hour, so this coastal resort has remained a popular destination with urbanites. Boasting seven miles of seafront and laying claim to the longest pleasure pier in the world, Southend offers groups plenty of traditional shore entertainment. Adventure Island, with its 60 rides, is at the heart of the fun, along with the Sea-Life Adventure aquatic attraction and Southend Planetarium. New for 2011 is the city beach project, part of a £25 million investment package which consists of better lighting, improved beach access, new footpaths and cycle facilities for the area.
Promoted as the East Sunshine Coast, nearby Clacton-on-Sea is said to boast one of the best climates in the country, and some of the lowest rainfall in the UK. Forming part of the Tendring Peninsula, the traditional pleasures of the seaside are at its soul, as you’d expect from the home of one of the UK’s earliest Butlins holiday camps. The Victorian pier is consistently popular with visitors, featuring amusement arcades, fairground rides and the Seaquarium, plus the Green Flag award-winning seafront gardens are a draw for green-fingered groups in the summertime.
Heading further north along England’s eastern coast, Great Yarmouth has been a popular seaside destination since the late 18th century. Known locally as the ‘golden mile’, the beach is home to two Victorian piers - one with a traditional summer season theatre, and the other with sea-view eateries, a model village and the renowned Pleasure Beach. Just along the promenade, visitors will find the Sea Life Centre aquarium, and for a money-spinning flutter, choose between the greyhound and horse racing tracks. Great Yarmouth offers a wealth of group-friendly accommodation options, including B&Bs, hotels, guest houses and holiday parks.
Combining a mix of old and new, Bournemouth is one of the south coast’s premier seaside resorts. Groups are drawn to the Dorset town’s seven miles of golden sands, where deckchairs, traditional beach huts and stylish new beach pods can be hired for your stay. The Land Train and Cliff Lifts provide easy access around the promenade and to the shore. Bournemouth is well known on the bowling circuit, so organisers can set up a tournament at either the indoor or outdoor lawns. The Pavilion Dance complex is the result of a recent £3 million investment, and a number of hotels run professionally-hosted dance holidays throughout the year, whether your group prefers salsa, sequence, ballroom, tango, folk or line-dancing.
Best for learning
It’s not just inland cities that excel in culture and education, as seaside towns provide their own take on museums, galleries, visitor centres and learning attractions local to the beach.
Located on the east coast of Yorkshire, just north of Scarborough, the maritime town of Whitby features both a sandy blue flag beach and a harbour. Dominated by the cliff-top ruins of the 13th century abbey, the resort offers groups a selection of diverse attractions. The Captain Cook Memorial Museum pays homage to the great explorer, whilst the Whitby Museum displays a collection of local fossils, model ships, toys and costumes. Magpies will spot the regional presence of jet jewellery production, and history buffs are likely to enjoy a trip to the genuine Victorian jet workshop. A visit to Whitby wouldn’t be complete without a stop at The Dracula Experience, to learn about Bram Stoker’s connection to the area.
The renaissance resort of the English Riviera in Devon comprises the three towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, each with their own distinct flavour. Beyond the sandy beaches and buzzing harbours is a wealth of stimulating attractions. Learn about prehistoric history at the hands-on Dinosaur World, and discover real-life rare animals at Paignton Zoo. The Torquay Museum houses Britain’s only Agatha Christie gallery, dedicated to the crime author and the town’s most famous daughter, and groups can step through the ancient doors of Torre Abbey to uncover the restoration project. Not-to-be-missed is the English Riviera Geopark - a landscape untouched by glaciation - which offers geological cruises and walking trails.
Crossing the border, Swansea is described as Wales’s Waterfront City, and sits on the five-mile sweep of Swansea Bay. Rapidly evolved in recent years, the city centre has extended seaward into the award-winning Marina and Maritime Quarter, where groups will find a host of learning highlights. The National Waterfront Museum uses interactive technology and real-life artefacts to explore the country’s industrial and social history, whilst to complement, the Swansea Museum provides a more localised background. Poet and writer Dylan Thomas is celebrated in the Man and Myth permanent exhibition at the Dylan Thomas Centre, and literary lovers can also visit his birthplace. All-weather venue Plantasia is an exotic rainforest of plants and animals, and this hothouse can be a welcomed respite from a bracing sea breeze.
The North Tyneside coast is made up of the three seaside resorts of Tynemouth, Whitley Bay and Cullercoats, all steeped in heritage and distinct in character. Keen historians will be in their element, and should not miss the chance to explore the 2,000 year old Tynemouth Priory and Castle, which has stood guarding the mouth of the River Tyne for centuries. The nearby Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum offers views of the excavated fort of Hadrian’s Wall - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and also provides an insight into the days of the Roman Empire. St Mary’s Lighthouse was established in 1898 on an island reached via a causeway between tides. Here groups can learn the local icon’s colourful past, and even arrange to be stranded whilst the tide is in, for a detailed look into island life. The Childhood Memories Toy Museum and the Stephenson Railway Museum are also worth a visit.
Best for activities
Energetic groups will favour the seaside destinations that offer a host of options to keep active members occupied. These resorts boast an abundance of water-based fun, as well as activities which keep feet firmly on dry land.
Located on the northern tip of the Isle of Wight, and serviced by Red Funnel ferries, Cowes is well situated for groups travelling from the mainland. East Cowes seafront is popular with both residents and visitors alike, but beyond the beach, the town has a wealth of activities on offer. Sailing and fishing trips are aplenty, plus diving and other watersports are also available. See the area from a new perspective with Goodleaf Tree Climbing, and pay a visit to the Isle of Wight Military History Museum for a tank ride. Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s family home, is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island, and groups can book guided tours around this English Heritage property.
Nestled in the East Riding of Yorkshire is the holiday town of Bridlington. Pack a pair of walking shoes and begin your group itinerary with a guided tour of the Georgian Old Town. Once familiar with the area, you can hop aboard the land train bound for Sewerby Hall and undertake a woodland trail in the gardens. The cliffs at Bempton provide optimum birdspotting opportunities, as they are home to an RSPB reserve that welcomes over 200,000 nesting birds each year. Then take your programme into the evening with a visit to The Spa Bridlington. Following a recent £20 million redevelopment, groups can attend one of the popular tea dances set within elegant ballroom surroundings.
From the north east to the north west, the Victorian resort of Southport lies on the coast, 20 miles from Liverpool. Specialising in group visits, the town is very group-friendly and offers a number of related incentives. With its low cost cycle hire scheme, riding a bike between attractions might suit outdoorsy types. Marine Lake claims to be one of the biggest man-made leisure pursuit lakes in England, and is home to various water sports. The Southport Belle, a Mississippi-style paddle steamer, also takes visitors on a scenic tour of the lake and the seafront. If your group members prefer dry land, instead take a ride on the Lakeside Miniature Railway, which runs from Ocean Plaza to Kings Gardens.
A gateway town to the Dorset Jurassic coast, Weymouth’s three mile beach and promenade are just minutes from the town centre and historic harbour. This resort has a lot to offer adventurous groups, as the countryside and cliffs provide an ideal setting for rock climbing, paragliding, hiking, cycling and pony trekking activities. Being the host venue for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games sailing events, the waters are good for angling, diving, and sailing, or a whiteknuckle boat ride out in Weymouth Bay. GTOs can take advantage of the southern location and organise a day trip to the Channel Islands within your itinerary. Condor Ferries run fast services to Jersey and Guerney, or you may want to consider an overnight stay in St Malo, France.