England’s prettiest seaside towns for a short break

The Great British seaside break has been a rite of passage for centuries, with most of us having packed up our car and decamped to the coast for a two-week jaunt at some point in our lives. With over 7,000 miles of beautiful coastline at our fingertips, seaside staycations are still very much on the agenda for us Brits, but these days, it’s with a distinctly grown-up twist.

Long gone are the sandy sandwiches, sugary sticks of rock and days spent dodging downpours at the slot machines, in its place hails a new breed of coastal stays combining postcard-perfect scenery with artisan eateries and more trendy boutique hotels than you can shake a bucket and spade at. Here’s our pick of the prettiest seaside stays of them all.

Weymouth Harbour, Dorset. Image: iStock/ fotoVoyager

Weymouth, Dorset

Characterised by postcard-perfect Georgian townhouses, craggy cliffs and miles of sheltered coastline, Weymouth is fast becoming the jewel in Dorset’s line-up of seaside towns. Set on the nature-filled Jurassic Coast, it’s well known for being a great place to find fossils and spy wildlife, while its swathe of sparkling sand has secured its status as a popular sunbathing spot. Currently in the throes of a major resurgence with trendy eateries and boutique hotels springing up along the esplanade, it’s rapidly gaining in popularity with those seeking a stylish staycation. Be sure to spend a day on the tranquil shingle beach at Ringstead Bay, a horseshoe-shaped inlet and protected National Trust area surrounded by lofty limestone bluffs.

Padstow Harbour, Cornwall. Image: iStock/ tsafreer

Padstow, Cornwall

Set on the northern coast of Cornwall, this bustling fishing port is brimming with its own brand of coastal charm, from its pretty harbour dotted with brightly colored boats to the formal country house Prideaux Place taking, as its name suggests, pride of place on the fringe of the town centre. The main attraction, though, is a certain celebrity chef whose name has become synonymous with this tiny corner of the county. Rick Stein owns four seafood-centric restaurants and four hotels here, his most famous being the aptly named The Seafood Restaurant, a mainstay on the Padstow promenade since 1975. Swing by for a visit and set up camp on the circular bar to devour the day’s fresh catch as you sip ice-cold glasses of white wine. You never know, you might even catch a glimpse of the man himself.

Southwold, Suffolk. Image: Getty/ Steve Stringer Photography

Southwold, Suffolk

If you’re looking for a quintessential English seaside stay, Southwold ticks all the boxes. This unspoilt corner of the Suffolk coast boasts a butterscotch hued beach lined with rows of colourful beach huts, an award-winning 625 foot wooden pier stretching out to sea and a whitewashed working lighthouse guiding local fishing boats to shore after a day on the high seas. For rainy days, the quirky 70-seat Electric Cinema screens a series of classic films and Box Office giants while the cottage-like Southwold Museum is a fun place to while away a few hours. For dinner, feast on some of the region’s finest produce at the smattering of upscale gastropubs including the Harbor Inn and seafood staple The Boardwalk.

Deal seafront, Kent. Image: Getty/ Loop Images

Deal, Kent

Kent isn’t short of a pretty seaside stay (or two) with Whitstable, Folkestone and Margate luring ever-growing crowds to their chocolate-box jumble of houses, fine dining eateries and cash-splashing cocktail bars. Less than 20 miles down the coast, Margate’s smaller and less visited sister, Deal is worthy of a stay in its own right. Eschew the hipster crowds of the former in favour of a more laid-back clientele, found sipping craft beers in lively bars, chomping fresh seafood at 81 Beach Street or strolling along the picturesque pebble beach dotted with wooden fishing boats. Spend days searching for vintage treasures in the crop of boutiques lining the pastel-hued high street or shopping for antique-style interiors at the aesthetically appealing Hoxton store before ducking into Solley’s Ice Cream Parlour to create a sundae worthy of its own Instagram page.

Filey esplanade, Yorkshire. Image: Getty/ David Clapp

Filey, Yorkshire

Boasting history, wildlife and a scene-stealing five-mile stretch of toffee-coloured coastline hemmed in by sweeping cliffs, this former fishing village might just be North Yorkshire’s best kept secret. Skirting the rugged North York Moors, Filey is the trailhead for two iconic walks, affording hikers awe-inspiring views at every turn. If you’re in the mood for adventure, lace up your walking boots and set off on part of the 79-mile Yorkshire Wolds Way ambling through evergreen flora and fauna as you go. Back at Filey Bay, take things down a notch at the clifftop Crescent Gardens, with its winsome Georgian-style exterior giving way to blooming flower beds peering over the beach below.