Britain's top 20 coastal towns
Becky Dickinson picks the best places to live for people who really do like to be beside the seaside
The nights are drawing in and the leaves are tumbling from the trees, but a home by the sea never loses its appeal. Do you dream of moving to a house with a view of the waves and a dawn chorus of seagulls? Then a life on the coast could be for you. What’s more, studies have (not surprisingly) found that living near the sea can lead to better health.
As an island surrounded by other islands, Britain is well endowed with seaside towns. Although be careful if your relocation dream involves the words Heritage or National Trust. It may mean that for at least six weeks a year “your” beach could feel more like junction 13 on the M25. The roads will be choked with drivers whose satnavs appear to be having a laugh and the price of parking will increase 20 times above inflation.
Alternatively, you could relocate to a place known only to a handful of seals. Though not if the thought of life without fibre optic gives you palpitations. And remember, if life’s a beach, so is your home – expect to find sand on every surface: the fruit bowl, the wardrobe and, of course, between the sheets, making for perennially itchy nights.
Still keen to take the plunge? Relocating could be the smartest move you will make. Here are 10 of Britain’s best coastal towns.
1 Deal, Kent
There’s a Fifties vibe to this shingly seaside location. “It’s a destination town. You only come to Deal to come to Deal,’’ says Nigel Colebrook of Bright and Bright. “It’s still relatively unchanged, unspoilt.” The area attracts a cosmopolitan mix of writers, musicians and business people. In the sought-after Conservation Area, Georgian cottages go for £300,000 to £400,000. Further out, old miners’ homes start at £150,000. Deal or no deal?
On the market: Three-bedroom modernised period house in the Conservation Area for £485,000. with Bright and Bright. (01304 374071; brightandbright.co.uk)
2 Whitby, North Yorkshire
“It is a most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic bits,’’ so goes the description of Whitby Abbey in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Beneath this atmospheric backdrop, there are cobbled streets, sandy beaches and properties cloaked in history. Harbour views are valued and St Hilda’s Terrace commands a premium.
On the market: Four-bedroom end of terrace period home on Esk Terrace for £325,000 with Astin’s. (01947 821122; astin.co.uk)
3 Salcombe, Devon
On the Kingsbridge estuary, Salcombe is surrounded by idyllic sandy beaches and rugged cliffs. This exclusive south Devon haven attracts a designer-heeled nautical crowd and some of the highest property prices outside London. The average house is worth £600,000, while £3 million will get you a glass fortress with far reaching views. Many properties are second homes.
On the market: Sark cottage, a traditional four-bedroom semi-detached, close to the town centre. £850,000 with Charles Head. (01548 843952; charleshead.co.uk)
4 Beaumaris, Anglesey
You can’t fail to be impressed by the views from Beaumaris, which stretch over the Menai Strait to Snowdonia. And it’s less touristy than other Welsh seaside towns. Waterside properties attract the usual premium, selling for £400,000 plus. Further back, you can get a terrace for as little as £100,000.
On the market: Six-bedroom Grade II listed Victorian residence on the seafront for £695,000 with Fine and Country. (01248 711999; fineandcountry.co.uk)
5 Dornoch, Sutherland
Looking for somewhere off the bucket-and-spade trail where you can still get broadband and play golf? “It’s a quaint wee town, just before the wilderness with a super white sandy beach that just runs and runs,” says Joanne Stennett of Bell Ingram. Coastal living doesn’t get much more beautiful or laid-back than this. The peaceful lanes are lined by sandstone cottages and town houses.
On the market: Detached three-bedroom cottage for offers over £180,000 with Arthur and Carmichael. (01862 810202; arthur-carmichael.co.uk)
6 Ilfracombe, Devon
It has rock pools, magical tunnel beaches and now a 66ft sculpture of a pregnant, sword-wielding woman, courtesy of Damien Hirst. This is a relaxed north Devon seaside resort trying to keep up with the Padsteins, only cheaper. “Ilfracombe properties are very competitively priced. The local market has been very active this year, with a vast majority of buyers coming from outside of the area,’’ says Karl Seeley of Bond Oxborough Phillips. In sought-after Torrs Park, a Victorian town house will set you back around £385,000. Closer to town, you can find a four-bedroom family home for £175,000‑£200,000
On the market: Two-bedroom cottage a pebble’s throw from the High Street for £124,950 with Bond Oxborough Phillips. (01271 866699; bopproperty.com)
7 Tenby, Pembrokeshire
Tenby is ridiculously picturesque. With its pastel cottages and golden sand cocooned within the town walls, it’s like something out of a fairytale. “If you want to avoid the bustle, The Norton has glorious views and is much quieter than the town centre, but still within easy walking distance,’’ explains Carol Peett of County Homesearch. Lexden Terrace is prized, but pricey. Outside the revered walls, £190,000 will get you a three-bedroom terrace.
On the market: Detached four-bedroom home in sought-after North Cliffe for £650,000 with Chandler Rogers. (01834 849090; chandlerrogers.co.uk)
8 Lymington, Hampshire
“You’ve got the New Forest, unspoilt coastline, it’s a sailing hub and you can still get to London easily,’’ says George Wade of Property Vision. A pretty Georgian coastal town, Lymington benefits from good schools, boutique shops and Britain’s oldest Lido. A wealthy area, you can expect to pay even more close to the sea or yacht club.
On the market: Four-bedroom Grade II listed detached house on the High Street for £1,295,000 with Hayward Fox. (01590 675424; haywardfox.co.uk)
9 The Witterings, West Sussex
“The beaches are fantastic and you have got The South Downs and Chichester nearby,’’ says Philip Harvey of Property Vision. Relative proximity to London, gastropubs and a Blue Flag, mean congealed roads when temperatures rise. It’s an affluent area, especially West Wittering. Houses are 50 per cent cheaper in East Wittering.
On the market: Detached four-bedroom Victorian house for £995,000 with Humberts. (01243 756956; humberts.com)
10 Hunstanton, Norfolk
If the perfect English seaside exists, it may be hiding in Norfolk. The beaches are idyllic, but never too far from civilisation. “Hunstanton is a lovely Victorian seaside resort with stately Victorian squares and two-tone cliffs of chalk and carstone,’’ says Ben Marchbank of Bedfords. So, the coast is clear for you to start a new life by the sea.
On the market: Camoys Lodge, a six-bedroom wing of a Grade I listed moated mansion for £975,000 with Bedfords. (01328 730500; bedfords.co.uk)
11. Southwold, Suffolk
‘’There’s the harbour, pier, sailing clubs, golf clubs, everything people want really,’’ says Adrian Smith of Jennie Jones. A prestigious town with a limited number of properties, expect to pay over £700,000 for a prime spot by the sea - unless it’s a beach hut - and even they go for £100,000 plus. Over the bridge in Reyden, properties are up to 40 percent cheaper and still within walking distance of Southwold.
On the market: Five-bedroom Edwardian house for £845,000 with Jennie Jones. (01502 722065; jennie-jones.com)
12. Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex
Not to be confused with the less appealing Burnham-on-Sea, Burnham-on-Crouch is a delightful, self-contained small seaside town with everything going for it: schools, supermarkets, a sailing club and a cinema. ‘’It’s slightly undiscovered and away from the madding crowd so prices are more affordable,’’ says Chris White from independent estate agent, Zoe Napier. Best areas are the quay front and conservation area.
On the market: Three-bedroom detached cottage on Church Green for £450,000 with Zoe Napier. (01621 840333; inthecountryside.com)