Whatever the season, there’s a beach to make the most of the weather. With over 500 miles of coastline in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk there’s a beach for every taste and occasion.
Norfolk’s beaches really are spectacular. They run for miles, celebrated in films such as Shakespeare in Love (Holkham), where you’re as likely to see horses, or seals basking, as sunbathers. Other Norfolk gems include the family friendly beach at Old Hunstanton, flanked by distinctive russet-coloured cliffs. If you’re staying in the area there’s also a pitch and putt green, foot-golf, for the footie-mad amongst you, and a welcome tea shop by the car park, which serves chips to hungry day-trippers.
Further round the coast, check out Mundesley. This is a classic, family-friendly sandy beach, backed by colourful beach huts. There’s safe swimming at low tide, and not too far to get to the sea either. The village has an old-world charm, with a couple of fish and chip shops locally to round off a day on the sands.
Head to Suffolk for shingle spits and beaches with history. Dunwich, with its drowned village half a mile off-shore is a great spot to spot wildlife and soak up the atmosphere. Other eerie haunts include the ruins of a 15th century church at Walberswick, surrounded by sands, dunes and marshland. If churches are your thing, Covehithe has another ruined church, notable for the thatched chapel built inside the roofless nave. There’s no access to the beach from here, although there are low cliffs with views of the sand and shingle beach as far as the eye can see.
Away from the docks, Felixstowe old town is Edwardian charm itself and the beach is fabulous. A mix of sand and shingle, there are four miles of beach to the town, gently sheltered within a wide and curving bay. Walks abound, along the promenade, through the seafront gardens or along the pier. Traditional seaside attractions can also be found at Walton-on-the-Naze, just over the border in Essex. Walton pier is a little more restrained than Clacton, the beach is wide, safe and sandy, and the nature reserve further over towards the Naze Tower is a great place to take dogs, hunt for fossils or call in at the well-appointed Visitor’s Centre.
Frinton-on-Sea, a couple of miles further down the coast, is a time-trap. Inside the ‘gates’ (the other side of the level crossing) The High Street could still be in the 1950s – no blaring arcades here – and is surrounded by genteel avenues lined with old-fashioned houses. Although the beach is wide and well-appointed, there’s also a large greensward suitable for picnics and family ball-games if the tide is up.
Lastly, but by no means least, Southend-on-Sea is a typical seaside resort with fun for all. It’s bright and brash – but fantastic fun for thrilling rides at Adventure Island and known for the longest pleasure pier in the world, stretching nearly a mile and a half into the Thames Estuary. Handily, it’s serviced by a train, so if you want to visit the RNLI station at the far end, you won’t have to walk too far. And, of course, the beach itself is great – sandy, wide and safe.