There’s nowhere like the seaside on a hot summer’s day with the cooling sea breeze, the chance to swim in the waves, and the feeling of sand between your toes. Sadly this is one thing that London itself cannot provide. But that doesn’t mean visitors need to go without. Try this trio of beautiful beaches instead — all within easy reach of the capital.
Whether you fancy fish and chips or fine dining, Whitstable, located about an hour and 30 minutes by train from London’s Victoria train station, is the place to visit for the very best in U.K. seafood. Take a stroll along the pebble beach to Whitstable’s historic harbor, where the town’s famous oysters are landed. Sample the freshest possible shellfish (such as the clams, crab, rock and native oysters, and more) at the Crab and Winkle, located on top of the Whitstable Fish Market.
Alternatively, head to the high street and get in line for the town’s best fish and chips at VC Jones or make the journey along the coast to Seasalter for delectable cuisine at The Sportsman, where you can enjoy locally-sourced seafood from mussels to brill as well as more of those delicious Whitstable native oysters.
People come to Brighton (about an hour and 25 minutes by train from St Pancras International station) for its sweeping sandy beach, but they stay for its personality. It’s a city like no other — a laid-back seaside resort with a strong cultural undercurrent and a bohemian edge.
Soak it all up in the Lanes, once the heart of fishing village Brighthelmstone (Brighton’s original name), and today a twisting network of cobbled alleyways packed with independent boutiques selling everything from antiques to jewelry. Grab a coffee from one of the numerous cafés and seek out live music, played by buskers here regularly.
Afterward, head to the Royal Pavilion, one of the U.K.’s most exotic buildings. Once the seaside retreat of the Prince Regent (George IV), it was transformed by designer John Nash between 1815 and 1822 into the Indian Gothic palace you see today. It has an impressive Chinese-style interior and houses furniture and works of art including original pieces lent by the Queen herself.
Finally, don’t leave before sampling one of the city’s many quirky bars. Experience the Black Dove for cocktails (try the Sazerac — a mix of absinthe, whisky and bitters), a beer list consisting of some U.K. beers (such as the Magic Rock from Huddersfield or Bristol Beer Company’s Milk Stout) in an antique chic setting, or Plateau for romance over a bottle of wine, including French champagne, white and red varietals from the U.K., Chile, Portugal and more.
Southend (about an hour by train from the Liverpool Street station) is a proper English seaside town, complete with sandy beach, traditional amusements and the world’s longest pleasure pier. English poet Sir John Betjeman once said, “The Pier is Southend, Southend is the Pier.” And even today it dominates the place with a quiet grandeur. Head out along its 1.34-mile length on foot or by train to enjoy 360-degree sea views and some of the famous healthy sea air that brought droves of visitors here from London during the 19th century.
Back on dry land, visit the Sea Life Centre aquarium and check out the poisonous dart frogs and giant crabs (new for 2013) or scream your way around Adventure Island theme park, where admission is free and you just pay for the rides as you go.
For something a little more sedate, take a stroll along the coast to Leigh-on-Sea where Osborne Bros café serves local, high quality shellfish overlooking the water.
Photos Courtesy of www.visitbrighton.com and Visit Southend