Thursday, 17 September 2015
The best child-friendly British beaches
We know you like to be beside the seaside so we asked Cathy Winston to steer you around the coast, flagging up all the kid-friendly hotspots.
With its rows of painted beach huts and day- trippy vibe, Whitstable is perfect for ambling around – plus the harbour and fishing port offer plenty of I-spy opportunities for curious toddlers. Rent a cute cottage, have a sleepover at the nearby Premier Inn, or book into the Hotel Continental. It's the area's only beachfront hotel, offering newly revamped accommodation – or you can stay on the beach in one of its 13 converted fishermen's huts.
The pebble seafront is great for crabbing, especially along West Beach, as well as paddling on warmer days (don't forget to pack wet shoes!). Or you could hire bikes to explore the six-mile Crab & Winkle Way.
There are fishy takeaways to be grabbed from VC Jones or the Whitstable fish bar. Or for a sit down, head upstairs to The Crab and Winkle for award-winning dishes. Take a wander to Sundae Sundae for English lollies and ice-creams, enjoy browsing the board books at Harbour Books, souvenirs and jewellery at Taking The Plunge or stocking up on traditional sweets from Sugar Boy.
Protected nature reserves, the last surviving 'End of the Pier' show, and seals too, make the north Norfolk coast the perfect spot for families. Cromer is a classic seaside resort, with an award-winning pier along with gourmet fish and chips at No1 Cromer. You can stop for a spot of rock pooling at West Runton beach too – Western Europe's most important archaeological site produces tonnes of fossil finds each year, plus a mammoth skeleton and 850,000-year-old human footprints.
Hop on the Poppy Line steam railway from Sheringham towards Weybourne, or further west to spot seals basking on the beach near Cley-next-the-Sea in the Blakeney National Nature Reserve. Then refuel at the Cley Smokehouse with local seafood and, once you've got a taste for them, go crabbing in Wells-next-the-Sea, while Brancaster beach is perfect for kite-flying.
Scarborough has the perfect mix of retro style and traditional family fun – you'll be spoiled for choice with seaside apartments and self-catering cottages. The soft sand and calm waters of South Bay make it great
for entertaining toddlers, although if you'd like a quieter stretch of sand, try the wilder waves of North Bay. Visit the penguins at the Sea Life Centre before exploring the ruined castle overlooking the sea.
The Barn Bistro Burniston is one of the area's best delis, or pick up cake from the Francis Tea Rooms on South Street, tucked between an art gallery and a vintage shop. And the fabulous Harbour Bar is an ice cream parlour unchanged since 1945, with proper leather booths, knickerbocker glories and a retro American soda fountain.
Flamborough headland's stunning scenery leads to more beaches at Bridlington. Keep an eye out for porpoises off the coast and check out Robin Hood's Bay. You can also hire bikes to follow the disused railway track to Whitby if you're feeling energetic.
There's a good reason why Cornwall regularly tops the list of the UK's, and the world's, best family holidays, especially the north coast between Padstow and Newquay with its great hotels, restaurants and beaches. Check into Sands Resort or Bedruthan Hotel, which both offer everything for families from baby listening to surf lessons – and then make your trip as stylish or laid-back as you fancy.
Newquay has sea safaris, and there's the Blue Reef Aquarium for rainy days. Beach-wise, Lusty Glaze and Watergate Bay are fab; swim at Towan and Tolcarne, or rock pool at Holywell Bay. For food, splash out at Fifteen Cornwall, get a takeaway from Newquay's Gusto Deli Bar, or head to Padstow for Rick Stein's Fish & Chips then explore the craft shops and ice cream stands along the alleys of the harbour town.
A short boat ride takes you to glamorous Rock, but for something quieter find sheltered St George's Bay or go inland along the Camel Estuary, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the 18-mile Camel Trail cycle route is the perfect way to explore it.