There’s nothing like a refreshing dose of sea air to lift those spirits. CHRISSY HARRIS rounds up some of the best beaches for day trips and places to go for a nostalgia-filled day trip to the coast.

Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Anywhere that has an iconic Victorian pleasure pier is in the business of proper seaside fun. ‘Saaaaafend’, as they say, has held resort status since the 19th century and city status since 2021. This is place that embraces it all, much to the delight of the generations of day-trippers that come here for the arcades, candy floss and the posh restaurants.


The pier. At 1.3 miles, Southend Pier is the longest pleasure pier in the world. It even has its own electric trainline. Jetstream Tours offer boat trips from the pier to see the Maunsell Forts – armed towers built in the estuary during World War Two.

The kids (including big kids) will go mad for Adventure Island, the free-to-enter seafront theme park.

South End Cliff Lift is a volunteer-run funicular railway between Clifton Terrace and Western Esplanade.

The open top bus from Southend to Old Leigh is a great way to see everything.


Ye Olde Chippy (Marine Parade) for good fish and chips with a side order of a small soft-play area for young diners.

Beaches Bar and Bistro (Marine Parade) is very child- and dog-friendly.

Zinnia Southend (Western Esplanade) is ‘pan-pacific’ dining in a glitzy £3.5million venue inside the Clifftown Shore development.

Monti (Southchurch Road) for an authentic, family-run Italian.

Mawson’s (Southchurch Road) is said to be Southend’s first micropub, offering up to six cask ales.


Enjoy a Rossi ice-cream. This Southend staple has been part of life here since 1932. Double scoops all round.

See; mum’

Folkestone, Kent

We used to take the mick out of a friend for being from Folkestone. He took it with good humour and knowing look of agreement. Now he’s having the last laugh because his home patch is actually pretty great these days. Regeneration and revival, particularly around the harbour, has lifted the look and feel of this port town. The rise in Folkestone’s fortunes has been helped greatly by Sir Roger De Haan of Saga Group fame, who has invested millions in the town where most of his employees are based.

Aside from all of this, Folkestone has a sandy beach and is just a 55-minute train ride from London St Pancras. What are you waiting for?


Visit the Old High Street, as it’s called. It’s charming and full of creative life with galleries, gift shops and vintage boutiques.

Just off the Creative Quarter is Payers Park, redesigned in 2014 to become a much-loved green space to lunch and host events. And the long slide! It’s the quickest way down, however sensible you think you are.

Sunny Sands is the town’s top beach, perfect for swimming, bodyboarding and building epic sandcastles.

The Quarterhouse hosts a regular programme of theatre, music, film, comedy and more.


Rocksalt (Fishmarket) is well worth a visit for the food and the views over the water. The Radnor Arms (Christ Church Road) is one of Rocksalt’s pubs.

There’s a choice of street food outlets on the Harbour Arm, formerly a ferry port and now a promenade that takes you out to sea. The Famous Ship Inn (Sandgate High Street) does a good Sunday roast and a ‘pie of the week’. John Dory wine bar, also in Sandgate, is a recently opened wine shop and tasting room.


Walk The Leas, a mile-long stretch of promenade along the clifftops.


Blackpool, Lancashire

Yep, go on, just try it. This is one of the UK’s best-loved seaside spots and officially the ‘most underrated’ holiday destination of last year, according to a survey released by car firm Dacia. (Other modes of transport are available, of course.) Blackpool has a bad rep and can be a ‘boisterous’ at night but there’s another side to it, a side that’s still an exciting, family-friendly, brightly lit town that wants to do better.


You don’t have to be a thrill seeker here, but it helps. Take a trip to the top of Blackpool Tower and sip a cocktail in the sky-high Bar 380. For another taste of the high life, ride the UK’s tallest rollercoaster, The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach theme park.

Showtown, a museum of fun and entertainment (it was due to open its doors in March) promises to be a big deal, with six interactive exhibitions celebrating the seaside, circus, magic, dance and more.

Spot the street art. Blackpool is well-known for its urban creativity. There are incredible works of art around many corners.

Book a heritage tram tour for the full promenade experience.


It’s not all fish ’n’ chips, you know (if you fancy that though, Papa’s on the Promenade has been named as one of the best in the country).

Award-winning Stefani’s Pizzeria (Cedar Square) deserves all the fuss. And it’s just had just had a refurb.

Abingdon Street Market has also recently had a makeover. It’s home to six local independent food businesses, serving everything from bagels to beer.

The Eating Inn (Promenade, South Shore) is a must for decent steaks.

Common bar and kitchen (Edward Street) for a taste of South America and a cool bar.


See into the future. This town is home to many fortune tellers, psychics and clairvoyants waiting to predict your destiny. But you already knew that.


21 of the best beaches to visit this summer

Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

More beach than sea, here. Weston at low tide is a vast expanse of open space with the water just a shimmer of light on the horizon. Good for sandcastle building and avoiding other  picnic spaces but be prepared for a trek if you fancy a paddle. And watch out for the sinky mud. It’s dangerous.

At the risk of underselling it, however, Weston is an instant seaside fix, 23 miles from Bristol. In just a few flicks of a donkey’s tail, you can be eating an ice-cream and overlooking three sweeping bays. And – as is the way with many seaside towns these days – it’s ‘levelling up’ here all the time, with funding and investment gradually helping WSM make the most of its assets.


The world famous Grand Pier is both landmark and theme park.

The Brean Down Way is an eight-mile-long route from the pier to the tip of Brean Down, a dramatic limestone peninsula jutting out into the Bristol Channel. Brean Down Fort was built to defend the country against a possible Napoleonic invasion.

Puxton Park is an all-weather family fun day out, with indoor soft play and a miniature railway. Get your cute animal petting fix at Court Farm Country Park.

Picnic at Sand Point. This peninsula just north of town is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the most beautiful parts of Somerset.

Weston Woods, also known as Worlebury Woods, has a network of paths criss-crossing through 130 hectares. Certain areas have been surfaced for wheelchair access.


I’m quickly discovering that seaside towns and decent Italian restaurants seem to go hand-in-sandy-hand. La Veneziana (Boulevard Road) opened last year and is already a hit with the locals. Elsewhere, Brunello Lounge (Beach Road) is one of the popular ‘lounges’ gradually appearing all over the west country. Guaranteed nice atmosphere and easy food.

Sand Bay fish and chip shop and The Cosy Hatch (Crookes Lane) suffered a fire last year but is due to reopen in spring. The Cosy Hatch does pizzas and breakfasts.

Revo Kitchen and Terrace (Marine Parade) has Bristol Channel views and a crowd-pleasing brunch, lunch and dinner menu.


Swing by the fabulous Tropicana building, part of Weston-super-Mare’s seafront for nearly 100 years. Work is due to start this summer to increase the capacity of the venue and make it suitable for “a flexible range of activities.” Make sure you come back to see it in all its new-found glory.


Portrush, Antrim, and Portstewart, Londonderry

Two neighbouring coastal towns, one shortish journey from Belfast. Portrush and Portstewart might share a location on the spectacular Causeway Coast but they each offer a very different visitor experience.

Broadly speaking, Portrush is for old-school seaside fun – amusement arcades, candy floss and sticks of rock, plus lively nightlife (although it’s more restaurant-based these days).

Portstewart is slightly more sedate with coffee shops, an art centre and galleries.


Tee off. Golf is big news here. The prestigious Royal Portrush Golf Course is set to host The Open in 2025.

The beaches here are mega. East Strand and West Strand at Portrush. Portstewart Strand is popular with surfers. And you can bring your car right down onto the beach.

Portstewart Crescent, just off the Promenade, will provide hours of fun. There’s a boating lake, paddling pools, cafes and more.

The star attraction at the Crescent is a 33-jet water fountain – the first of its kind fountain in Europe. The water pulses to the beat of the music to create a captivating light, water and music show.

The Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart hosts concerts and creative events.


The Shanty (Old Lifeboat Shelter, Portrush) for a prime Irish beef steak and a Bushmills whiskey by the waves. Coast at Ramore (The Harbour, Portrush) serves tacos, pizzas, burgers and desserts, as well as cocktails.

Another seaside town Italian, Amici (Portmore Road, Portstewart) uses local produce to create their authentic menu.

Mr and Mrs Jones (The Diamond, Portstewart) is a dining experience you can make last. The restaurant is part of a boutique hotel.

Morelli’s (The Promenade, Portstewart) is always busy because of the selection on offer in this ice-cream parlour. Other foods are available.


Get out on the water with Causeway Sea Tours. The best scenery Ireland has to offer is even better from a boat. Groups catered for.



Lundy Island – if you’re in North Devon, take a trip to Lundy for the day. The crossing can be, erm, interesting, but you’ll recover as soon you set foot on this wildlife haven.

Isles of Scilly – travel to the islands from Cornwall by Skybus, Land’s End or sail on board Scillonian III from Penzance and spend the day overseas.

St Kilda – the dramatic archipelago of St Kilda lies 41-miles west of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides and is the UK’s only dual UNESCO World Heritage Site. This boat trip is an epic one – crossings take up to four hours one way – but it’s a trip that you’ll never forget.

Explore Gower – experience the beauty of Gower from the water. Set out to sea in a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) with an expert guide from Gower Coast Adventures.

Kinsale – play a round of golf at the Old Head Links, on a 220-acre diamond-shape area of land jutting out two miles into the Atlantic. The town here is worth a pit-stop.


Research shows that spending time on the coast – even if it’s just a couple of hours or so – can be hugely beneficial for our mind, body and soul.

Dr Lewis Elliott (pictured) is an environmental psychologist and part of BlueHealth, a Europe-wide project that investigated the human health benefits of coasts and waterways.

He says: “There is evidence from large international populations that the more visits we take to coastal environments, the better we tend to report our mental health to be.

“Over the past decade or so, we have tried to investigate how these benefits come about.”

Dr Elliott, a lecturer at the University of Exeter, explains there is considerable evidence that coastal spaces provide a sense of escape from our everyday lives, as well as being less polluted than urban spaces. In addition, these areas tend to support healthy levels of physical activity and social contact.

Dr Elliott says: “Of course, not everyone can live near the coast or regularly access it, but for those who do have the opportunity, our research suggests that using that time to undertake some physical activity (even if just walking) can heighten the benefits.

“So too, can paying closer attention to natural elements, such as the presence of wildlife or the textures of the sand when walking barefoot, both of which have been associated with a heightened psychological connection to nature.”

To find out more, see