All these beaches have great facilities and easy access for trips with the kids
WORDS JESSIE JOHNSON
1. Best for: Surfing and starfish
Caswell Bay Beach, Gower Peninsula, Wales
Why here? Nestled behind Mumbles headland, this half-mile sandy beach, which proudly flies the Blue Flag and is a Seaside Award winner, is a natural haven for children who can spend long happy hours scouring rockpools, paddling in the shallows or trying their hand at surfing under the expert tuition of Gower Surf Academy. Forgot the buckets and spades? Pop to the on-site souvenir shop for all your beachside essentials. If the family fancy stretching their legs, the bay is connected to the pretty neighbouring beach of Langland via a short cliff-top path, making it an ideal amble with only a few steep inclines. Alternatively, feast on ice creams from Surfside Café and keep your toes firmly wedged in the sand.
Facilities: Lifeguard cover operates from May to September. Parking, toilets and outside showers are next to the sand and the beach is accessible by wheelchair. To arrange free hire of two floating beach wheelchairs, contact Swansea Council.
Where to stay: The Coast House is a modern B&B just a 10-minute drive inland from Caswell Bay, offering seven double bedrooms with views over Swansea Bay. Prices start from £85 per room, per night, with a minimum three-night stay (enjoygower.com/coasthouse).
2. Best for: Budding wildlife watchers
Portstewart Strand, Co Londonderry
Why here? Near-shore currents are few and far between at Portstewart, which makes this two-mile stretch of golden, Blue Flag sands – or ‘strand’ as it’s known in these parts – a much-loved destination for beach-going families. Owned by the National Trust, the strand is backed by dramatic cliffs and sand dunes dating back some 6,000 years, which have become a haven for wildflowers and butterflies. Kids will love keeping their eyes out for seals, dolphins and porpoises, too – they all make regular appearances out at sea.
Facilities: Portstewart Strand is one of the few local beaches where visitors can drive onto the beach, making big sandy picnic gatherings a doddle. Lifeguard cover runs in peak season and toilets are sited at the eastern end of the beach. Grab a seat at Harry’s Shack, plonked right on the beach, where freshly-landed seafood, fish and chips, ice-creams and takeaway coffees are all orders of the day.
Where to stay: Boasting four luxury bedrooms, a beach changing room and jaw-dropping views over Portstewart Beach, self-catering property Strand Head is perfect for special occasion family breaks (strandhead.com).
3. Best for: A family day out
West Wittering Beach, West Sussex
Why here? Thanks to its vast belt of Blue Flag sands, pristine bathing waters and top-notch facilities, West Wittering has long been regarded as one of England’s best family beaches. When the tide’s out kids can poke about in the many shallow lagoons, build endless sandcastles and try and spot some of the many migrating birds on their route from South Africa looking to nest
in the nearby dunes.
Facilities: Due to dangerous currents and side bars to the north of the beach approaching National Trust-owned East Head, it’s essential children only swim and paddle between the designated flags which are manned by lifeguards from May to September. On arrival, families are encouraged to head straight to the Lifeguard Tower base to collect free child-safe bands for the duration of their stay. Facilities include toilets, showers, drinking water stations, first aid points and an on-site café that serves coffee, juices and lunches along with kids’ favourites such as fish fingers and chips. Pre-booking for the car park is essential. For more information, visit westwitteringestate.co.uk
Where to stay: A family room at The Beach House B&B, based in West Wittering village, can sleep up to five with prices starting from £160. There is a two-night minimum stay until the end of September (beachhse.co.uk).
4. Best for: Ice-creams & rockpools
Coldingham Sands, Scottish Borders
Why here? Situated within the St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve, this sheltered sandy beach has a rocky shore at either end, perfect for little ones to spot hermit crabs while rockpooling. In addition to the variety of paths around the surrounding coastline, which provide excellent views of the beach and surfers making the most of the waves, the nearby St Abbs village and harbour provide the perfect pit-stop for an ice-cream on a sunny day.
Facilities: Boasting great accessibility, with toilets and a café, this safe bay is patrolled by lifeguards from May with dedicated areas for swimming, surfing and kayaking or paddleboarding.
Where to stay: Surrounded by babbling brooks and woodland just a short walk from the beach, The Sands (sleeping six), is one of eight luxury self-catering lodges run by Colonia Dene. Featuring a spacious decking with hot tub, family bathroom and all the mod cons, a three-night stay starts from £460 (coldinghamlodges.co.uk).
5. Best for: Sandy swashbucklers
Alum Chine Beach, Bournemouth
Why here? A pirate-themed children’s playground and gentle sloping sands to the sea make Alum Chine a winning day out for little beach bums. The beach is backed by a paddling pool and tropical gardens, plus there’s a wide range of beach huts available for day hire all year round. Keep an eye out for the land train too, which chugs the prom from Bournemouth Pier to Alum Chine beach.
Facilities: The beach is patrolled by lifeguards from May to September between 10am and 6pm. Toilets are close by on the prom, including baby-changing facilities, and there’s an accessible toilet and changing area next to the children’s park. Extra facilities include a lost children’s centre, outdoor showers and drinking water points along with a range of cafés and ice cream kiosks for essential beach snacks.
Where to stay: Big kids and little ones will love a stay in the doll’s house surrounds of Alum Chine Log Cabin, sheltered by woodland and just a five minute walk to Alum Chine beach. Prices for a week’s stay start from £1,017 based on two adults and two children sharing (alumchinelogcabin.com).