Seaside towns near London have come a long way since the parasol-wielding days of yesteryear. Or have they? Londoners escaping the fog and congestion of the capital are often reassured to find that their nearest seaside towns contain many of the features that would have entertained their Victorian counterparts, including the best sandy beaches near London.
Situated just an hour from the centre of London, Southend-on-Sea is sometimes considered as more an extension of the capital than a distinct destination. Nevertheless, it does have its charms: a Victorian cliff lift and the world’s longest pleasure pier to name but two.
At the end of the 1.3 mile-long pier is a new £3m arts venue, which plays host to a variety of big acts and international festivals. The town centre is home to several art galleries, museums, and a planetarium.
One of the most uncluttered and aesthetically pleasing of English seaside towns, Broadstairs is just 80 miles east of London – thought it spiritually feels much further. The town lies above a harbour with cliffs either side of it. Visitors are spoilt for choice with sandy beaches near London – Broadstairs boasts a run of seven bays of golden sand.
Rumoured to be the ‘new Brighton’, Hastings is a quintessential English seaside town with a twist. After decades spent becoming increasingly run-down, the town has in recent years received an influx of creative types and can now definitely be counted among the top seaside towns near London. This has led to an upsurge in upmarket coffee shops, boutique hotels, independent retailers, art galleries and language schools.
The town lied 53 miles south of London and has Europe’s largest beach-launched fishing fleet, which makes use of the three miles of unspoilt beaches. Hastings also boasts Britain’s steepest funicular railway and the remnants of William the Conqueror’s first English castle.
If the charms of the winding streets of the Old Town fail to arouse interest, then the 660 acre Hastings Country Park will be sure to provide interest.
Allegedly the sunniest place in Britain, Eastbourne is a popular day-trip destination for those studying on an English course in London. It takes about an hour-and-a-half by train from the capital, after which visitors can quickly reach the town’s four-mile stretch of white shingle beach. Here they can enjoy the well-maintained promenade, 1,600-seater Bandstand and Grade II-listed pier.
It takes just over an hour and a half to get to Margate from London. Billed as the ‘original’ seaside resort town, Margate has centuries of experience with tourists arriving en-mass from the big smoke. The seafront and harbour have undergone a serious bit of revamping, and keeping up with its current status as one of the best sandy beaches near London, the Blue Flag beach is both clean and safe.
Inland, visitors can explore the famous Shell Grotto – an underground network of caves lined with shells. Alternatively, follow the Viking Coastal Trail as it snakes through a nature reserve, past historical sites such as abbeys and the place where Vikings were thought to have first landed in the UK.