All over the UK, resorts and seaside villages offer hassle-free, budget-friendly staycations. But while the world and their uncle are heading for the oversubscribed delights of Cornwall and other hotspots, check out East Anglia and Kent – especially if your tastes tend more to the traditional than the chi-chi.
With its broad sandy beach, criss-cross of charming lanes, pretty greens and distinctive lighthouse, Southwold is the definition of picturesque. Its pier has more imaginative entertainments than in your average seaside resort, including a performing water clock and deliciously quirky amusement arcade, and there’s an old-fashioned sweet shop, a putting green, and a fish-and-chip hut along the little harbour.
This town, completely separate from its huge docks, comes as a delightful surprise, with a genteel seafront that reflects its popularity with well-to-do Victorians in its heyday, featuring pretty flower gardens, a sand-and-pebble beach and a handsome promenade. Look out for the old-fashioned amusements by the pier, The Little Ice Cream Company and the leisure centre with its fun pool and indoor play centre (great for rainy days). The Landguard Fort near the docks makes for a good family excursion.
This pretty seaside village is great for a back-to-basics holiday, with acres of sandy beach –walks along the dunes will keep kids amused for days (it’s also an excellent stretch for bird-watching). Crab-fishing is bountiful around the harbour area all summer (lines and nets can be bought at the village Post Office). There’s a little row-boat foot ferry that operates in summer across the short channel of Southwold Harbour, another top resort for families (see above).
The vision of a businessman who built a seaside resort for friends and family at the turn of the 20th century, this is like something straight out of Enid Blyton, The mock Tudor and Jacobean houses and higgledy-piggledy lanes are endearing, and though the beach itself is pebbly, the rowing boats on the shallow man-made Meare provide hours of fun. Don’t miss the fabulous House In The Clouds, a former water tank disguised as a quirky seven-storey house, available as a holiday let. Another accommodation recommendation is Thorpeness Hotel & Golf Club (and Apartments)
Brightly painted beach huts line the sand-and-pebble beach in this beautiful little town, which was very popular with tourists in the 18th century and is now enjoying a quiet revival. There’s a model-boating lake and a crazy golf course, the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum, where kids love practising Morse Code, and the ceramics studio Sticky Earth Café, where they can paint their own plates, mugs and T-shirts.
This charming little town is separated from its huge stretch of beach by a mile, but in summer you can travel to it by horse and carriage or by narrow-gauge railway from the quay (grab some fresh local seafood first). For older kids there’s good bird-watching to be had along the Norfolk Coast Path, which stretches in both directions.
‘Sunny Hunny’ is a little worn around the edges, but it’s warmer than most of the East Coast because it actually faces west, and there’s an enormous expanse of sandy beach to enjoy, as well as distinctive two-tone cliffs. A pretty bandstand hosts summer concerts and there are family-friendly amusements at the stubby pier. Older kids enjoy crazy golf on Cliff Parade and the Sea Life Sanctuary, where injured sea creatures come to convalesce.
It does have a pebbly beach, but Whitstable is very family-friendly – you can ride bikes along the seafront or walk out to sea at low tide on ‘The Street’ (a natural pier that disappears fast once the tide comes in), and there are great cafés serving fresh seafood (where better to introduce the little ’uns to oysters?), a working harbour and rows of pretty beach huts.
Villagey in atmosphere at its centre, Broadstairs is fantastically child-friendly, with a sheltered sandy beach, an adorable mini-golf course, trampolines and a small-scale fair on the sand. On the cliff-top promenade is a tiny arts cinema that screens children’s films in the afternoons, plus Morelli’s first British ice-cream parlour. Older kids like the Dickens House Museum and walking along the seafront to neighbouring Ramsgate.
The shingle bay here is popular with families, and there’s a good play area on the promenade. Concerts and children’s shows take place on the front in summer, and there are knickerbocker glories galore at Makcari’s or various ice-cream parlours. Don’t miss the sundial on the Plaza next to the enormous clock tower, which tells you the time if you stand on the right month.
See our recommendations for other things to see and do and family-friendly places to stay in Suffolk, Norfolk and Kent.