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To the beach! Seaside trips which are doable in a day

Fancy feeling the sand between your toes? No need to jump on a plane. How about impromptu trip to the coast. Here are our faves within a 3 hour drive. Pack the bucket and spade and off you go!

Although Herts/Beds couldn’t get much further from the coast (*sigh*), a one-day jaunt to the seaside is still possible if you hit the road early. All of the suggestions below are within 1-3 hours in the car, depending of course which part of the county you live in. Pack the coolbox, slap on the SPF and off you go!

Mersea Island, Essex

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Pastel beach huts, delectable oysters and rolling countryside views – who knew this hidden gem island was just outside of Colchester? Just seven miles across, Mersea Island is just over an hour’s drive from our counties’ eastern-most towns), but the beautiful wild beaches and fresh seafood are worth the trip. Stop by The Gilt Rooms and pick up a picnic hamper to scoff on the beach if you don’t fancy packing your own sarnies.

Frinton-on-sea, Essex

best places to live Frinton-on-Sea

Frinton is known as Essex’s Sunshine Coast’s exclusive resort, and a trip here puts you in mind of those fun vintage beach postcards from the 1920 and 30s. It’s all very genteel – lots of flowers planted along the tree-lined avenues and esplanade, colourful Victorian beach huts and a delightful sandy beach. And, fyi kids… you won’t find any amusement arcades in this upmarket town!

West Wittering, West Sussex

With its wide, gently shelving golden sands, Blue Flag rating and ample parking, West Wittering is perfect for a family day out – even Kevin the Teenager couldn’t find fault with this one. Bring a picnic or BBQ, and loll on the grassy area behind the beach to take in views across to Chichester harbour.

Brighton, East Sussex

You probably don’t need me to tell you about Brighton but don’t dismiss it as too far for a day trip – it’s doable if you hammer it round the M25. It’s a pebbly beach of course but that doesn’t matter when there’s so much else to do. All the cool kids live in Hove now, so head west for a slightly quieter beach and amazing pizza at Fatto A Mano on Church Street.

Barton-on-Sea, New Forest, Hampshire

I get so distracted by the gorgeous greenery and cute ponies in the New Forest, I forget it does beaches too. It can be windy in Barton – it’s a prime para-gliding spot – so don’t forget to pack your kite. Above the safe, sandy beach, you can stroll along the clifftops and stop off at The Beachcomber Cafe (its grassy garden is open, serving a limited menu).

Mudeford Quay, Dorset

This is our family favourite, with its pristine white sands, enclosed by rocks and backed by candy-coloured beach huts. There’s a fantastic cafe doing takeaway called The Beach House across the sandspit (you can get a little ferry there) and a Noddy train to keep little ones amused.

Studland, Dorset

Fun fact to whip out if you get stuck in traffic: Coldplay’s famous one-take video for Yellow, where Chris Martin walks/sings along a beach was filmed at Studland. There are four miles of divine sandy beaches here – Middle Beach is an easy stroll from boutique hotel/restaurant The Pig, aka the perfect spot for a chichi G&T at the end of a hard day’s sunbathing. Alternatively there are plenty of watersports on offer at Knoll Beach, plus a 1km stretch for naturists (ooh, err!)

Bournemouth, Dorset

An obvious choice but you can’t beat Bournemouth. Miles of golden sands, a massive Harry Ramsden’s with views out across the water, tacky arcades to wow the kids (and must admit I myself have a long-term obsessions with 2p slot machines) and a little train that runs around the tropical gardens and up to Boscombe beach. Boom!

Southwold, Suffolk

Beach huts that cost more to own that the average flat in the UK. Yep, that’s Southwold, or Poshwold as some people like to call it. It might be expensive, but for good reason. The beach is sandy and wide, so even on a hot summer’s day there’s room to swing a bat. The town is charming and full of cool indie shops and eateries (leave those soggy sarnies at home). And it’s home to Adnams Brewery so there’s a delicious hoppy whiff about the place. It’s about 2.5 hours from Bedford but worth the schlepp.

Lowestoft, Suffolk

This huge wide expanse of sand is as soft as a tropical island’s beach. Seriously, take off your shoes, shut your eyes, and ignore the sound of sea gulls and you could almost be in the Maldives. The town has a long, buggy-friendly promenade to walk on if the sand starts to get hard work and there’s plenty of fish and chips and candy floss outlets. On a sunny day, you can’t beat it for kiddy-friendly attractions, and we love the beach down at the Pakefield end for a spot of horse-riding against the wild backdrop of the dunes.

Holkham Beach, Norfolk

Image credit: Norfolk Coast Partnership

Fancy a nice long walk? Good, because Holkham is the biggest beach we’ve ever come across and to reach the sea is no meat feat. Park along a tree-lined avenue and then follow a charming path through woodland and along raised walkways to emerge on the glorious sight you see above. There are sand dunes to play in and shelter you from any wind and miles of unspoilt beach to explore. The real clincher is that Holkham Estate is across the road and home to The Victoria, a delightful pub and hotel that’s famous for it’s crab sandwiches.


Lyme Regis Town Beach for the pretty crescent beach in front of the Cobb, right in the heart of the town; Sandbanks beach in Poole – huge swathes of golden sand, plus the fab Sandbanks Beach Cafe, a BBQ facility on the beach and watersports facilities.

For more ideas, check out the Muddy guide to the Best beaches in East Anglia.

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