As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, a seaside break might not be on your radar, but there are plenty of brilliant coastal spots in the UK that are well worth a visit in winter.
While it might not be sunbathing weather (and let’s face it, that’s not even guaranteed in summer), blustery beach walks, cosy pubs, and great seafood are just some of the reasons to head to the coast at this time of year.
Here’s our guide to the best cosy seaside breaks to visit this winter. Just don’t forget to bring layers.
This seaside town in Suffolk is a great place to visit all year round, but there’s something particularly atmospheric about the shingle beach during the colder months. And despite its small size, there are plenty of things to do. Escape the elements at Aldeburgh Cinema (aldeburghcinema.co.uk), a quaint, two-screen venue that’s one of the oldest in the UK.
Further out of town, there’s The Red House (brittenpearsarts.org), the former home of composer Benjamin Britten, which has a cultural events programme, a gallery, and a café. On the food front, grab something from a fish shack on the beach, or warm up with fish and chips (there are two fish and chip shops, owned by the same people).
For something more upmarket, head to The Suffolk (the-suffolk.co.uk, from £240 per night) for lobster and chips or the catch of the day. You can also stay at one of The Suffolk’s recently renovated rooms. Other accommodation options include Five Acre Barn (fiveacrebarn.co.uk, from £125 per night) which is slightly further out of town, or the unique Martello Tower (landmarktrust.org.uk, from £825 for four nights) – a striking tower on the beach that sleeps four. With Snape, Dunwich and Thorpeness nearby, there are lots of lovely walks in the area and plenty of cosy pubs to warm up in afterwards.
Often referred to as Shoreditch-on-Sea, Margate has changed a lot in recent years. While it still retains some of its shabby chic seaside town charm, it’s also home to an array of cool restaurants and bars, as well as a thriving art scene. Visit the Turner Contemporary (turnercontemporary.org) for cutting-edge art in an impressive gallery that’s right on the seafront, or explore the intriguing Shell Grotto (shellgrotto.co.uk), a subterranean passageway that’s covered in shells (no one really knows why).
You’re spoilt for choice for great food and drink. For cosy pints with views of the sea, grab a spot at The Harbour Arms (instagram.com/harbourarmsmargate) or The Two Halves (instagram.com/thetwohalves). There’s delicious and sustainable seafood at Angela’s (angelasofmargate.com) – or try its sister restaurant Dory’s which is walk-in only. Go to Sargasso (sargasso.bar) for great wine and European-inspired dishes on the harbour (run by the owners of Brawn in Shoreditch) or Bottega Caruso (bottegacaruso.com) for hearty Italian fare. Stay over at Fort Road Hotel (fortroadhotel.com, from £170 per night) a beautifully designed 14-room boutique hotel with sea views.
Mawgan Porth, Cornwall
Follow in the footsteps of Cate Blanchett, Jason Statham, Jamie Dornan and Stanley Tucci, who have all fallen in love with this seaside village on the north coast of Cornwall. Near Newquay, but way less crowded, several Hollywood A-listers have bought homes in this area, and it’s easy to see why. Its gorgeous sandy (and dog-friendly) beach is perfect for wintery walks, or you can tackle some of the South West Coastal Path which passes through here.
After you’ve blown away the cobwebs on a seaside walk, head to the Merrymoor Inn (merrymoorinn.com), which is right by the beach and a great spot for drinks and pub grub. For some proper R&R, book a room at the Bedruthan Hotel and Spa (bedruthan.com, from £165 per night) a cliffside hotel just above Mawgan Porth beach, where the spa includes outdoor hot tubs and a sauna with views of the sea. Its sister hotel, Scarlet (scarlethotel.co.uk, from £245 per night) is also a great option that’s eco-friendly and adults-only.
Burgh Island, Devon
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, a night on a remote, private island might be just what you need. Located opposite Bigbury on Sea beach, Burgh Island in Devon is only accessible on foot at low tide, or by a sea tractor at high tide. It’s worth the journey, though – it’s where you’ll find the grade II-listed, art deco-inspired Burgh Island Hotel (burghisland.com, from £333 per night). Built in 1929, it was a favourite spot of Agatha Christie’s, who wrote “And Then There Were None” and “Evil Under The Sun” there (there’s even a beach house suite named after her, complete with an outdoor hot tub). Wander around the island and you’ll see lots of wildlife, the ruins of a chapel and a single pub, The Pilchard Inn (burghisland.com/the-pilchard-inn). It’s a great place to totally switch off.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
Eastbourne’s cultural credentials are on the rise, in part thanks to the fact that it’s the home of the 2023 Turner Prize. As part of the celebrations, you can see the work of the four shortlisted artists on display at the Towner Eastbourne gallery (townereastbourne.org.uk) until 14 April 2024. It’s also a great area for walks, whether that’s a leisurely stroll on Eastbourne beach, or a bracing walk around Seven Sisters Country Park, with its dramatic white cliffs.
When you want to refuel, Cru (cruwine.co.uk) is a lovely spot for wine and seasonal dishes, or head to Levels (levelswine.co.uk) for charcuterie boards and more wine. Ready for bed? Port Hotel (porthotel.co.uk, from £89 per night) is a 19-room boutique hotel with a restaurant that celebrates local produce.
A former fishing town on the north coast, Whitby has everything you want from a seaside town – sandy beaches, cosy pubs and really great fish and chips. Climb the town’s famous 199 Steps for great views, and if you’re ready for more steps (and lovely vistas), head up to the top of the Whitby Harbour west lighthouse. Don’t miss the Whitby whalebone arch which is made from two huge whale jaw bones and a nod to the area’s history as a whaling industry hub.
If you fancy seeing more than just bones, head out on a whale-watching boat tour. If the weather turns and you need indoor activities, there’s plenty to see and do at the Whitby Museum (whitbymuseum.org.uk) and the Pannett Art Gallery (pannettartgallery.org). The Magpie Cafe (magpiecafe.co.uk) is the place to get fish and chips – just make sure you allow time for queuing before you get too hangry. With a great restaurant, cosy rooms, and gorgeous gardens, Raithwaite Sandsend (raithwaitesandsend.co.uk, from £105 per night) is a great place to base yourself.
Rye and Camber Sands
A visit to The Gallivant (thegallivant.co.uk, from £205 per night), by Camber Sands beach is a real treat. This boutique hotel has chic rooms, a spa and a restaurant serving up delicious food made from local ingredients. If you want to go all out, book the Unlimited Galivant package which includes all meals, morning yoga and English wine at 5pm. If you can tear yourself away from the hotel, there are lots of great things to do nearby. Go for walks along the sand dunes, or venture into Rye for antique shopping, great pubs and cute cafés – stop for a drink at The Mermaid Inn (mermaidinn.com), or have lunch at The Fig (thefigrye.com). A little further afield, Tillingham (tillingham.com, from £205 per night), is well worth a visit. It’s a vineyard with a restaurant, bar and pizza barn – it’s a great spot for food and a winery tour and tasting. If that sounds like your kind of thing, book to stay in one of the rooms.
Once an old seaside town pub, The Rose (therosedeal.com, from £161 per night) in Deal is now a stylish hotel with a restaurant menu that’s overseen by top chef Nuno Mendes (who previously ran things at Chiltern Firehouse). A couple of streets back from the beach, it’s a great place to stay for a trip to Deal. It’s not the only draw, though. Pop into Linden Hall Studio (lindenhallstudio.co.uk) for contemporary art exhibitions and events, go in search of vinyl at Smugglers Records (shop.smugglersrecords.com) and round things off with wine and charcuterie at wine shop and bar Le Pinardier (frogandscot.co.uk). If you’d prefer to rent a house rather than stay in a hotel, there are lots of cute places in town – check out Keepers Cottages (keeperscottages.co.uk, from £451 for seven nights) for some good options.
In a lovely spot that’s right on the waterfront, The Blakeney Hotel (blakeney-hotel.co.uk, from £146 per night) in Norfolk is a wonderful place to stay, with panoramic views over the salt marshes. The hotel has 60 rooms, a pool, a restaurant and a “look-out” lounge where you can spot Blakeney Point. This area on the north Norfolk coast is particularly atmospheric at this time of year, with pretty skies and walks along reedbeds and sandy beaches. Immerse yourself in nature with a visit to Blakeney National Nature Reserve which is great for birdwatching. Blakeney Point is home to England’s largest grey seal colony and this time of year is pupping and breeding season (from late October to mid-January), so it’s the prime time for you to see some very cute seal pups.
With restaurants from top chefs like Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth, it’s pretty hard to have a bad meal in this Cornish seaside town. Choose from one of Rick Stein’s four restaurants in Padstow (rickstein.com), which range from classic seafood dishes like grilled scallops and local lobster at The Seafood Restaurant or more casual fare at Stein’s Fish & Chips. Not to be outdone, Paul Ainsworth has three restaurants in the area, as well as the Padstow Townhouse (paul-ainsworth.co.uk, from £413 per night), a delightful 18th-century six-bedroom hotel where dogs are welcome, breakfast hampers are delivered to your room and there’s a Kitchen Pantry and honesty bar that’s well-stocked with treats. If you fancy a break from eating, soak up some culture at The Padstow Studio (padstowstudio.co.uk), Padstow Gallery (padstowgallery.co.uk) or go further afield and explore the Eden Project (edenproject.com).
Brighton isn’t all hen dos and stag dos – and there won’t be an L-plate in sight at the Artists Residence (artistresidence.co.uk, from £371 per night) a chic hotel with sea views, a great restaurant and a buzzy cocktail bar. The hotel’s central location makes it great for exploring the rest of the city, too. Go for a wander around The Lanes, a network of quaint, cobbled streets where you’ll find bookshops, cafés, homeware shops and more. If you fancy something more refined than fish and chips, try Plateau Brighton (plateaubrighton.co.uk) for wine and small plates, Petit Pois (petitpoisbrighton.co.uk) for French cuisine or The Chilli Pickle (thechillipickle.com) for great Indian food. Want to work up an appetite? Go for a walk around Devil's Dyke, the deepest ‘dry valley’ in the UK and a lovely part of the South Downs.
With pastel beach huts, super-fresh oysters and great pubs, Whitstable is a quintessential seaside town that’s well worth a visit beyond the summer months. Settle in for drinks at The Old Neptune (thepubonthebeach.co.uk), an old-school pub that’s right on the beach, or head to the super cosy Twelve Taps (thetwelvetaps.co.uk) on the high street for great beers and cocktails. There are loads of great places to eat in Whitstable – try fish and chips at V C Jones (vcjones.co.uk) or have a sit-down meal at the Whitstable Oyster Company (whitstableoystercompany.com). But for something really special, book ahead for a table at The Sportsman (thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk) in Seasalter, a few miles out of town – it’s a hugely popular spot serving up things like sole grilled in seaweed butter and mussel and bacon chowder. This area isn’t short of lovely holiday homes, but if you are planning a trip to The Sportsman, Drift Wood Beach House on Cool Places (coolplaces.co.uk, from £170 per night) is within walking distance and has beach views and a hot tub.
Jurassic Coast, Dorset
If being close to the sea makes you feel instantly calmer, you’ll love The Seaside Boarding House (theseasideboardinghouse.com, from £175 per night) – a cliffside hotel on the Jurassic Coast with views of Chesil Beach and Lyme Bay. The hotel is also minutes from the South West Coast Path, making it a great location for bracing walks and filling your lungs with sea air. This area in Dorset is also known for its fossil hunting – and you can book a fossil walk if you’re not sure where to start. While you’re in the area, you could head inland a bit and visit Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage (rivercottage.net, from £125 per night) which hosts cookery classes covering everything from fish and seafood to baking – and there’s also accommodation if you fancy extending your stay.
St Ives, Cornwall
This Cornish seaside town is hugely popular – and for good reason. But visiting in the cooler months means you’ll beat the crowds, making it a much more chilled-out trip. Book to stay at Carbis Bay Hotel (carbisbayhotel.co.uk, from £250 per night) for luxurious rooms, a spa, a yoga room and a range of restaurants, including Ugly Butterfly by Michelin-star chef Adam Handling, as well as some more casual options. Don’t miss a trip to Tates St Ives (tate.org.uk) for world-class art in a gallery space that was once a gasworks, and overlooks Porthmeor Beach. Have a seafood lunch on the beach at Porthminster Cafe (porthminstercafe.co.uk), pop in for a pint at The Sloop Inn (sloop-inn.co.uk), or go further afield to The Gurnards Head (gurnardshead.co.uk), a great foodie pub with lovely walks nearby.
Cardigan Bay, Wales
The largest bay on the Welsh coast, Cardigan Bay is a seriously picturesque spot. Make Albion Aberteifi (albionaberteifi.co.uk, from £190 per night) your base, a waterfront hotel in a grade II listed former warehouse that celebrates the area’s maritime history. It has a restaurant serving up wood-fired pizza, as well as a sister site which it says is probably one of the smallest pubs in Wales, so expect cosy vibes. Wander over the bridge to explore the independent shops in Cardigan and stop for baked goods at Crwst (crwst.cymru) and Bara Menyn (instagram.com/bara_menyn), which means bread and butter but you’ll find much more than that on the menu. Head out of the bay and go to the coastline for breathtaking views and rugged scenery along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail, which runs for 186 miles.
With its gorgeous sandy beaches and clear blue sea, Salcombe is an idyllic seaside town. Stay close to the action at Harbour Hotel Salcombe (harbourhotels.co.uk, from £210 per night), a waterside hotel with a seaside restaurant, a spa and a cinema. Alternatively, Gara Rock (gararock.com, from £215 per night) is further away but perched on a clifftop, meaning you get incredible views over the sea. You won’t go hungry or thirsty in Salcombe – try the Winking Prawn (winkingprawn.co.uk) or The Crab Shed (crabshed.com) for delicious seafood, and visit the Salcombe Distillery (salcombegin.com) for tours and tastings of their gin and rum. A visit to Salcombe is also a great opportunity to walk along some of the picturesque South West Coast Path – although perhaps do that before you start sipping the local gin.
This coastal town in Northumberland promises beautiful beaches, an impressive castle and dolphin and seal spotting. For close proximity to the sea air, The Lord Crewe (lord-crewe.co.uk, from £249 per night) is a great place to stay – it’s a cosy pub with rooms with four-poster beds that’s a short walk from the beach and the Bamburgh Castle (bamburghcastle.com). There are plenty of opportunities for getting close to the local wildlife if that’s your thing – as well as dolphin and seal spotting boat trips, you can book horse riding trips along the beach. In the village, you’ll find traditional tea rooms, seafood restaurants and The RNLI Grace Darling (rnli.org) – a museum dedicated to Grace Horsley Darling, a Victorian heroine who saved nine men from a shipwreck in the 1830s.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
With its rugged coastlines, pretty waterfalls and stunning scenery, the Isle of Skye is a seriously picturesque place. Kinloch Lodge (kinloch-lodge.co.uk, from £420 per night) a 17th-century farmhouse on Loch na Dal is a lovely place to stay – as well as beautiful views, you can expect cosy fires roaring inside, great food (don’t miss their hearty porridge for breakfast) and a bar that’s well-stocked with whiskey. The hotel even has a ghillie (an ancient Gaelic term for someone who’s a custodian of the countryside), who can organise all sorts of outdoorsy activities, including foraging, fishing and walking. There’s plenty to do nearby, but if you fancy going further afield, check out Armadale Castle (armadalecastle.com), a country house ruin with beautiful gardens, or head to Torabhaig Distillery (torabhaig.com) for more whiskey.
Offering a very different vibe to bustling Whitstable or Margate, Dungeness is a quiet fishing town at the southernmost point of the Kent coastline. It’s a great place to slow down and mooch around. Go bird spotting in the RSPB Dungeness Nature Reserve (rspb.org.uk), climb to the top of the grade II-listed Dungeness Old Lighthouse (dungenesslighthouse.com), and check out Prospect Cottage (creativefolkestone.org.uk), a striking black and yellow building on the beach that was home to the late artist and film director Derek Jarman. No visit to Dungeness is complete without stopping at the Snack Shack (dungenesssnackshack.net), a rustic spot serving up mouthwatering seafood on the beach. If you want to stay close to the sea air, the Shingle House (coolstays.com, from £735 for four nights) is a beautiful spot that sleeps eight, or for something smaller, try Wi Wurri (wiwurri-dungeness.co.uk, from £250 for three nights) a charming two-bedroom fisherman's cottage.
If you're after Mediterranean vibes without leaving the UK, take a trip to Portmeirion. Originally built as a tourist village and inspired by the Italian Riviera, this village in North Wales is filled with brightly coloured houses, buildings with fairytale-like turrets, and doesn’t really feel like it’s in the UK. It’s not a huge place so there aren’t loads of places to stay but there are two excellent hotels to choose from – Hotel Portmeirion, which overlooks the beach and the Dwyryd Estuary, and Castell Deudraeth, an 11-room hotel in a gothic castle (portmeirion.wales, from £171 and £259 per night respectively). Wander along the estuary, mooch around the Japanese Garden, and pop into the local cafés and shops in this unique village.