Cleethorpes is in the midst of a sea change and there’s never been a better time to visit, discovers Jessie Johnson, who explores an east coast resort rich in culture, cafés, family activities, nature and a good old dose of seaside fun.

Cleethorpes Beach

Cleethorpes Beach. Photo credit DAA Creative

Donkey rides, ice-creams under the pier, fish and chips and a sandy beach; since the dawn of British sea-bathing in the early 1800s, Cleethorpes has offered holidaymakers a timeless escape from the urban grind. Situated on the estuary of the River Humber, Cleethorpes sits between Hull and Skegness on Lincolnshire’s north-east coast, and originally sprang to life as a fishing village in the early 6th century. Today, Cleethorpes is on the crest of an exciting new wave. Its pristine Blue Flag sands and modern seaside amenities saw it clinch number two in the UK’s best beaches last year as ranked by Trainline; Cleethorpes’ salt-licked train station – surrounded by little kiosks selling hot doughnuts, coffee and seaside rock – sits just a few steps from the prom and Victorian pier. Meanwhile, a major plan for rejuvenation led by the designer Wayne Hemingway could see the addition of a new-look marketplace, a skate park and even beach-front camping huts to the resort, offering visitors even more reason to come and dip a toe into the North Sea waters.

But it’s not all candy floss and arcades. Leave the bright lights of the North Promenade behind and the sea path reveals a rich, coastal landscape informed by marshland, wildlife, golden sand dunes and unspoilt nature reserves, while The Fitties – a century-old community of huts built in the sand – speaks of the area’s timeless appeal as a place to unwind by the sea. From kayaking and SUP to nature-watching, walks, top-notch eateries and a whole host of family-friendly activities, it’s all here – in buckets and spades.

Cloves B&B. Photo credit Kate Buffey

Cloves B&B. Photo credit Kate Buffey

We check in to Cloves Boutique B&B which is tucked just off the seafront. Nick and Maria Ross have run this stylish, homely guest house for over 16 years and their tribe of returning guests from across the globe is testament to the couple’s natural knack for hospitality and love for local. We walk down the prom and board the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway, one of Britain’s oldest seaside miniature railways. The two-mile return journey is a fantastic way to drink in part of the wilder, more unspoilt coastline further up the estuary and, needless to say, the trip goes down brilliantly with our adventure-seeking six-year-old (

Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway

Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway. Photo Credit David Enefer

Cleethorpes Boating Lake is a fantastic place to while away an hour or three if you have kids in tow. After a play in the sand pit – which has a huge wooden pirate ship – we take our son for a splash in the newly refurbished paddling pool, which has free entry and most importantly, ice-creams for sale, then hire a boat and take a gentle row around the lake which we share with bobbing ducks and swans (boat hire from £9 an hour, CleethorpesBoatingLake).

Cleethorpes Boating Lake

Cleethorpes Boating Lake

The Boating Lake’s on-site restaurant, Cleethorpes Taphouse & Kitchen, serves up wood-fired pizzas, burgers and salads alongside a wide range of local ales, beers and wines. We grab a table in the last sliver of evening sunshine and share a Woodland – a delicious pizza topped with mixed mushrooms, caramelised onions, walnuts, truffle honey and parsley (£14) along with a portion of chips and ice-cold beers. The restaurant has a great laid-back vibe and has a wide menu for kids, too (

Taphouse Pizza

Taphouse Pizza

Fortified by a delicious home-cooked Lincolnshire breakfast at our B&B, we take a short stroll to Ebb & Flo Living on the North Promenade for my first SUP lesson. As ambassadors for Surfers against Sewage and active beach clean organisers and campaigners, founders Vince and Toni are passionate about protecting our seas and champion the many wellbeing benefits of being connected to the ocean through their expert SUP tuition. It’s the perfect day for it. I get kitted out in my wetsuit before Toni talks me through the basic techniques on land. After paddling on my knees to get my balance, I slowly rise to standing, with Toni beside me offering gentle guidance and reminders to keep looking at the horizon. Before I know it, I’m navigating little swells and I can feel the tension release from my legs which in turn helps me feel much more in control. It’s amazing to glimpse the beach from the sea and when I eventually lose my balance and fall in, I’m able to jump back on, though I can’t stop laughing. An adult’s introductory lesson starts at £35 an hour and there’s also board hire for seasoned SUP folk (

Ebb and Flo SUP Photograph

Ebb and Flo. Photo credit – Daniel Jones Photography

Seaview Street is a quaint little corner of Cleethorpes which is home to a range of independent stores, boutiques and coffee shops – a great place for a spot of interesting shopping. We make a beeline for People Bar on Cambridge Street – a tiny but über-cool pub which, by day, plays pop-up shop for Stem & Co’s lush array of houseplants and fresh flower bunches ( Across the road, Original Emporium offers a sample of the area’s burgeoning arts and crafts scene – its shelves are home to evocative seaside paintings, handmade ceramics, candles, indie clothing brands and greetings cards for all occasions ( Then we pick up a couple of coffees from Maranta shop and café just a couple of blocks away and browse its range of beautiful mid-century antiques, trinkets, jewellery and upcycled garden tools (



Hungry from our sea paddle, we sit down for lunch at Riverhead Coffee. Sited at the top of Cleethorpes’ main shopping drag St Peter’s Avenue (known as ‘the Ave’ to locals), Riverhead was founded by Nic Till, who, fresh from time spent working in New Zealand, wanted to bring an independent business based on excellent coffee, community and kindness home to Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Riverhead knocks up everything from flat whites and the freshest smoothies to bagels, sandwiches, pastries and sweet bakes. Our son wolfs down a stack of syrupy pancakes while I try the signature sweet potato, loaded with falafel, hummus, seeds and rocket, which is both filing and delicious (

Riverhead Coffee, Pancakes and Smothie

Riverhead Coffee, Pancakes and Smothie. Photo credit Hudson & Rose Photography

3pm Hut for the day
The Brew Hut is a popular café on the coastal path along ‘Bucks Beck’ fronting a row of brightly coloured beach huts. Though many aren’t in use today, the café owners let their hut out for day use so we pitch up with buckets, spades and biscuits to spend the day idling in our very own seaside retreat. The hut has deck chairs, kettle, mugs, tea bags and sink and is the perfect base for beach walks, flying our kite and watching the world go by. Bliss (£25 per day,

For a special supper, Papas Fish and Chips on Cleethorpes Pier brings the location, the views and an extensive menu – offering everything from battered halloumi to fish pie to seafood sharing platters. We opt for medium haddock with chips, mushy peas and a dollop of tartar sauce, washed down with a pot of tea. In 2017 Papas was named Britain’s best fish and chips as part of a BBC TV search, and is committed to sourcing local ingredients – Lincolnshire potatoes and fish from Grimsby Docks – along with sustainable practices such as compostable takeaway packaging and the regular donation of fresh meals to local charities ( To the soundtrack of gulls, we walk some of the prom in the glow of the Luminations – a 500m animated light installation by artist Esther Rolinson, which opened this spring.

Papas Fish and Chips

Papas Fish and Chips

Nick and Maria’s Haddock Florentine and a freshly brewed coffee makes a fine start to our day as we prepare to check out. It’s a tad on the drizzly side so we hop into the car and take a 10-minute drive to Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre, which captures the sights, sounds and smells of life as a 1950s Grimsby fisherman through interactive displays and an award-winning exhibition. Our son ‘signs on’ to his maritime journey as deck hand and we all feel swept away to another era and in awe of the men who sacrificed their lives at sea to feed a nation (adult tickets start from £8.50 and children from £4 a visit,

Fishing Heritage Centre

Fishing Heritage Centre

Making full use of my designated driver, we call in to Docks Beers; an independent brewery based in a converted church near Grimsby Docks. The town’s fishing heritage runs through every pint at this brewery which has become beloved by locals. ‘Hard Graft’, ‘Low Tide’ pale ale and ‘Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap – FISH!’ (a Grimsby Town football club anthem) are just a few home brews that can be sipped at the hip in-house bar or taprooms or enjoyed at home (

We’ve had so many recommendations for Sunday roasts at Petit Delight on Seaview Street that we feel it’s only right to go along. Our chicken and beef roast dinners are cooked to perfection and come with all the trimmings. With full tummies, we take a last stroll to the beach to say goodbye, knowing it won’t be long until we’re back again (Sunday roasts from £18,

For further information on events, accommodation and activities, go to


  • coast stayed at Cloves Boutique B&B. Choose from two single rooms, two doubles or a twin room, which all offer use of the outdoor garden terrace and include a wide selection of home-cooked breakfast options. Doubles from £95 per night peak season (01472 597984,
  • South Shoal is a stylish one-bedroom bolthole boasting a sofa bed that can sleep two more by prior arrangement. Just a five-minute walk to the beach, the self-catering gem costs from £75 per night (07850 448699,
  • For something away from the crowds, The House With The Blue Door is an historic chalet on the Fitties. Owned by local artist Sarah Palmer, it comes with its own garden and sits just a few yards from the beach. Sleeps 4-6, from £75 per night, three-night minimum stay (


  • Cleethorpes is around an hour’s drive from Hull, Doncaster and Sheffield. Trains run regularly to London King’s Cross (3hrs) with a change at Doncaster.


  • Look out for the Festival of the Sea (16 July, Grimsby) and a host of family friendly events with The Culture House (, along with Cleethorpes outdoor cinema.

If you like this, discover our guide to moving to Cleethorpes, discover the best places to get fish and chips in the UK or pick up the latest copy of coast magazine for more coastal weekend guides and inspiration.