While the stunning scenery of the Amalfi Coast and soft sands of Bondi may have their appeal, we reckon there’s nothing quite like devouring a bag of salty chips on one of the UK’s gorgeous windswept beaches (or in the carpark next door, should the weather turn…). With more and more Brits swapping budget airlines and excessive emissions for home-grown staycations, we’ve decided to round up England's very best beach holidays - all within two hours of London. Buckets, spades (and raincoats) at the ready.
Brighton (1 hour by train)
STAY: The Artist Residence - One of Brighton’s most stylish hotels, The Artist Residence offers a touch of luxury, whilst staying true to the town’s quirky and creative identity. Located in the heart of Regency Square, the hotel was decorated by 24 Brighton-born artists, with many of the rooms also boasting sweeping views of the iconic West Pier.
EAT: The Salt Room - Located right on the beachfront, The Salt Room is a seafood lover’s dream. With a focus on sustainably-sourced fare, menu highlights include whole roasted plaice, black miso aubergine and chargrilled stone bass, which is lovingly cooked over hot coals.
DRINK: Bison Beer North Laine - Easy to spot thanks to its brightly painted exterior, Bison Beer North Laine is a must-visit for any lover of all things hoppy. Specialising in all kinds of craft brew, this independent bar boasts a stellar line-up of Sussex sips.
Bournemouth (1hr 54 by train)
STAY: Urban Beach Home to just 12 cosy rooms, Urban Beach is an intimate guesthouse, ideal for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Bournemouth’s beachfront. Boasting second to none hospitality, nothing is too much hassle here. Forgotten your wellies? Not a problem - just borrow a pair. Can’t face venturing out for dinner? Simply dine in the in-house restaurant. There are even yoga retreats on offer for those truly looking to embrace Bournemouth’s laid-back lifestyle.
EAT: The Stable - Formerly the town’s tourist information centre, The Stable is now one of Bournemouth’s most popular weekend hangouts. A wonderland of all things pizza, cider and live music, it’s the perfect place to dust off your sandy toes and refuel after a long day on the beach.
DRINK: Sixty Million Postcards - One of the town's best-loved pubs, Sixty Million Postcards can be easily identified thanks to its candy-coloured interiors and alfresco beach huts. Promising all manner of fun, this place hosts regular quizzes, live music and weekend DJ sets - perfect for some late-night foot-stomping.
Hastings (1hr 37 by train)
STAY: The Laindons - A family-run bed and breakfast, The Laindons is a stylish retreat just a stone’s throw away from Hastings' newly-renovated pier. Drenched in history, this Georgian Grade II listed building has been sheltering seaside visitors since the turn of the 19th century - though you can rest assured that it has been well and truly brought up to date, with all the mod-cons you would expect as well as a handy honesty bar in each room.
EAT: Dragon Bar- Originating in Shoreditch back in 1998, The Dragon Bar’s choice of Hastings for its second venue might not have been an obvious one, but it is now one of the town’s most popular dining spots. This contemporary restaurant prides itself on its local and seasonal menu, with artwork-adorned walls and live DJs on the weekend.
DRINK: Yates Hastings - Located on Robertson Street, Yates is one of Hastings' most packed-out bars come the weekend. Serving real ale and a huge selection of wine from all over the world, it’s the perfect sleek spot to unwind after a day exploring the historic town.
Margate (1hr 38 by train)
STAY: The Reading Rooms - The popular destination for a romantic staycation in the UK, Margate combines independent boutiques with vibrant arcades, and of course - a sandy golden beach. And when it comes to hitting the hay? The Reading Rooms is the only option, offering luxe interiors, oh-so-comfy beds and a history that stretches back all the way to the late 1700s.
EAT: Buoy and Oyster - Serving up some of Margate's finest and freshest seafood, Buoy and Oyster is not to be missed. The ultimate date night spot, the menu here is bursting with freshly-caught crab, giant king prawns and local lobster, as well as a healthy selection of sparkling wine to wash it all down with.
DRINK: XYLO - Keen to sample some of Margate’s local sips? Look no further than XYLO Brewing. Serving Kent wine and home-brewed beer, the drinks here are just about as local as you can get. And the views aren’t too shabby either - bagsy yourself a window seat in the early eve and you’ll be treated to one of Margate’s magnificent sunsets.
Whitstable (1hr 21 by train)
STAY: Hotel Continental - One of Whitstable's best-known hotels (and for good reason), Hotel Continental offers the perfect nighttime retreat for a seaside staycation in the UK. Perched right at the top of the beach, the rooms here come complete with gobsmacking views. Wake up to the sound of crashing waves, before skipping on down to the ground floor brasserie for a French-inspired brekky.
EAT: The Lobster Shack - What would be an English beach holiday without a healthy dose of fish and chips? And for the swankiest scran in town, you’ll want to head to the Lobster Shack - the Easy Quay eatery that is putting a swish spin on all your classic favourites. From homemade tartar sauce to beer-battered skate wing - it’s all pretty droolworthy.
DRINK: The Old Neptune - Just about as close to the sea as you can get without getting your tootsies wet, The Old Neptune (or ‘The Nepy’ as it’s affectionately referred to by locals), is one of Whitstable’s most historic boozers. A welcome shelter during the winter months, and the perfect spot for an alfresco pint when the sun shines, it’s an all-round winner in our eyes.
STAY: 100 Queen’s Gate Hotel - Sufficiently well fed and watered from a day exploring Fulham, you won’t have to venture far to come across the oh-so-swanky 100 Queen’s Gate Hotel. Just a short bus ride away from Fulham Beach, this 4-star sleep promises cloud-like beds and elegant alfresco breakfast spreads fit for a queen - the ultimate staycation indulgence.
DRINK: Fulham Beach - Okay, it’s not technically a beach beach, but it does have sands and brightly-painted huts. Just about as close to a seaside staycation as you’ll find without leaving the confines of the M25, Fulham Beach is a quirky hideaway for sipping on cocktails on a hot summer’s day. And while you may not be able to take a dip in the sea, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with group games, beer pong and flamingo-themed interiors.
EAT: Market Hall - Just a short stroll away from Fulham Beach you’ll find Market Hall - West London’s number one street food spot. Touting a variety of gourmet scran, you can expect to feast on anything from juicy burgers, to creamy pasta and tasty vegan wraps.
Looking for more staycation inspiration? Check out our guide to London's fanciest sleeps here.