Despite its reputation for chilly air and gloomy weather, Great Britain is an island. It has a lot of coastline and a plethora of towns for seaside weekend getaways. Some of them even offer the promise of bright sunshine yearround.
If you need some fresh air and want to let the kids feel sand between their toes, here are five destinations in southern England and Wales that promise quaint seaside towns and villages, scenic coastline, fresh seafood and plenty of activities for families.
They’re great minibreak destinations with kids all year round, even in winter. They also make great sidetrips for tourists who want to see a different side of the U.K.
Some are an easy drive from London. Others are faster by train or require a short flight. Once you arrive, renting a car will make getting around these rural areas much easier and allow you to see more.
Base yourself in one of the several seaside towns we mention below and explore the areas around them. They’ll provide your family with some much-needed fresh air maybe even a little warmth.
5 U.K. Seaside Weekend Breaks For Families
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East Sussex: Your Seaside Town Near London
Where: Almost due south of London. It’s less than three hours drive and a 90 minutes to two hours by train.
The reason to visit this place during winter is that Eastbourne is located here.
Eastbourne is popularly known as Britain’s sunniest town, featuring with a palm-tree-lined seafront. You and your loved ones will surely be able to feel the sun’s warmth even in the depths of the winter season.
Eastbourne is where you’ll find hotels and restaurants, but you’ll want to Roam around the nearby medieval villages here as well as the breath-taking coastline and countryside.
Things To Do: Imagine what this seaside town was like more than a century ago as you wdmire the beachfront Victorian hotels and the 19th-century pier.
History buffs will want to visit the military museum at Redoubt Fortress, which dates from the Napoleonic era. Go for a cliff-top walk through South Downs National Park.
Isles of Scilly: Low Key Islands For Outdoorsy Families
Where: This archipelago sits off the most southwest coast of England. There are five inhabited islands among the group; virtually everyone arrives on the main island of Scilly.
Fly from Exeter or Cornwall, fly or take a helicopter from Land’s End, or take a ferry from Penzance.
The Isles of Scilly are said to be the warmest place in UK, with an average temperature of 12°C (53°F). The isles are ideal for beach activities and gorgeous views.
It’s tempting to take a walk, fly a kite or play in the sand, even on days when you need to bring a heavy sweater along. There are a lot of inns and hotels that can accommodate families.
Things to do: This is the spot for a low-key getaway with lots of outdoors and scenery. Depending on the season you might see seals or dolphins in the water and puffins and other rare birds along the coastline and in the cliffs.
Try Paddleboarding or buy a net and take your kids crabbing along the rocky shore.
If you want to get off the beach visit the Tresco Abbey gardens with their stone arch and collection of figureheads from local shipwrecks.
Look for locally sourced food in the restaurants. Visit a star-shaped castle or catch some local gig-boat racing in the summer.
Pembrokeshire: Seaside Fun in Wales
Where: This county is in the southwest corner of Wales. It’s a bit more than a two-hour drive from Cardiff (longer by train).
Pembrokeshire’s chief offer is it’s coastal national park, more than 180 miles of coast line for walking and hiking, watersports and wildlife, not to mention plenty of beaches, coves and cliffs to explore.
Things to do: Go hiking, rock climbing and cycling Yearround (even if you only do it for a short period of time before heading inside for hot tea). In summer try surfing, sea kayaking or even coasteering.
Make sure to stop by Pembrokeshire Castle which offers quite a bit to do. Look for the enormous map of Wales that kids can run around on and explore exhibitions that include wax figures recreating moments in the life and history of the castle.
There are hotels scattered all along the peninsula, with concentrations in and around Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock.
Cornwall: Seaside Towns for BBC Fans
Where: in England’s southwest corner, Cornwall is the last bit of mainland you hit before the Isles of Scilly. It’s more than a five-hour drive from London, a bit less by train, or a one-hour flight.
It’s peninsula offers hundreds of beaches and wild moorland. You’ll recognize it from a host of BBC shows including Doc Martin, which was filmed around Port Isaac on the north side of the Peninsula, and Poldark, which uses a collection of locations around the county.
Escape the humidity and have fun at any of the region’s many beaches and exceedingly scenic seaside towns. In winter you won’t have the summer crowds ruining your photos.
Things to do: choose one of many scenic seaside villages for your base—Falmouth, St. Ives, St. Isaac or Penzance to name a few.
Then indulge in coastal hikes, horseback riding, surfing lessons, or bike riding if you don’t mind the hills. Your reward for an active day will likely be a lovely seafood dinner.
Devon: An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Devon is in the fat middle part of the same peninsula as Cornwall.
Fans of the 1970s British comedy Fawlty Towers might want to stay in the resort town of Torquay, a four-hour drive or three-hour train ride from London.
Devon County (top photo) mixes medieval villages, inland national parks, and sandy beaches. It’s rolling rural scenery is absolutely picture perfect.
It’s home to five official Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It also has vibrant towns and historic homes, which you can tour on your own at your leisure. For a family that likes a little bit of everything this could be an ideal weekend getaway.
Things To Do: In addition to a plethora of outdoor walks, hikes and bike rides, Devon has some fun beachy tourist attractions on the south coast.
Kent’s Caverns date to the stone age. If the rock formations aren’t enough to impress the kids, scavenger hunts, tribal face painting, fossil “digs” and “cave painting” should entertain.
Geoplay Park is a playground with four sections for different ages. It’s free and adjacent to the Paignton beach with its pier, boardwalk, mini-golf and beach.
The the Babbacombe Cliff Railway, essentially a funicular, down to secluded Babbacombe Bay beach. It’s not a wide open strip of sand, but it has a cafe, is calm for paddleboarding and is a good beach for dogs.
You’ll find your choice of scenic hotels both along the coasts and inland.
Consider any of these five seaside towns around the U.K. when you crave sunshine, a warmer breeze or just some fresh salt air during the gray days of winter.