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Beaches: Campsites and Holiday Parks

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Camping by the beach: our top seaside stays

What is it about the seaside? Perhaps it’s the special aroma of sea breeze, or the soothing sound of the waves, or the feeling of open space around you… whatever the magic element may be, one thing’s for sure: a holiday by the sea is a very very fine thing indeed.

An even finer thing? Making the most of your fresh air stay by settling down for an outdoor stay near the coast. After all, in the list of life’s proper simple pleasures, the mix of beach + barbecue + sleeping under the stars has to be right up there with the best.

Holidays by the coast don’t come in one-size-fits-all, of course: your choices around the gorgeous coastlines of the UK and Europe are as varied as the scenery itself, covering everything from action-packed family holidays to quiet soul-soothing breaks, from soft sands to rugged clifftop hikes, from bargain beach stays to swish seaside glamping. Read on here to find our top tips on outdoor stays by the beach…

Campsites near the beach: the perennial favourite

Packing up a tent and heading off to the seaside: it’s a classic holiday setup for a reason. Pick yourself a coastal campsite for easy access to the sea whenever you fancy it – why waste time sitting in a traffic queue when you could simply stroll down there (and then scamper back when you realise you’ve forgotten a vital bit of kit)? Extra bonus points here for having access to those magic hours at either end of the day, before/after the crowds fill the place…

How close do you want to be? Well, there’s certainly something to be said for camping by the beach – particularly if you get a splendid sea view thrown in. What could be finer than unzipping your tent first thing and sipping your morning cuppa while looking out to sea? (Very few things, that’s what… although maybe a bacon sarnie wouldn’t go amiss).

That said, perhaps settling just a little bit inland isn’t such a bad idea – there are times when the wind rolls in off the sea and you may just be glad of that bit of extra shelter that comes picking your campsite near the sea rather than right there by the beach. Dunes and maritime forest are the top picks for natural shelter (and pretty backdrops) but you’ll get the same effect from a field or a slightly inland village stay.

UK family campsites by the sea: sandcastles and surf schools

Every family’s different, of course, and we’ve got the coastal campsites to suit heaps of different tastes. All those classic activities – sandcastle-building, amusement arcades, chips on the beach – never go out of fashion, especially if you head for somewhere within easy reach of a stalwart seaside resort (Scarborough, Skegness, Weymouth and most of the Isle of Wight are excellent picks here, with all manner of kid-pleasing attractions thrown into the mix too).

If the kids had their pick of the places, they’d likely also gravitate towards the many theme parks and activity centres around Pembrokeshire, or maybe the surf schools around Bude. Dino-dippy small sorts might also be pretty happy to spend a day or few digging for fossils on a stay at a Jurassic Coast campsite.

Town or country? It’s all up to you. Mix up urban wanders and seaside days with a city stay in/near Brighton or Edinburgh, or aim slightly smaller with towns like Tenby, Llandudno, Newquay or Whitby. Somewhere in a seaside village might be an idea if you fancy a pub dinner or fish and chip takeaway, although a campfire night somewhere well away from urbanisation is also a fab thing for family bonding (just make sure you bring along all the supplies you’ll need…)

Beach camping for couples and solo travellers

You’re totally welcome to get stuck in with the classic activities too, of course – you’re never too grown up for a paddle, a play on the slot machines or getting candyfloss stuck in your hair. You might want to skip the donkey rides but there are plenty of places around the British coast where you can fulfil that dream of horse riding on the beach.

However, it’s likely that you might want to seek out a little bit more peace and quiet for your break if you’re travelling without nippers. In that case, maybe seek your seaside camping spot somewhere a bit more out of the way, even going the whole hog and looking out for an adults-only site, or booking a pub campsite. 

And while the UK’s beaches are of course completely fab, don’t neglect the other excellent aspect of this fine land’s coastline: the coast path that gives an ever-changing view as you wander, while also helping you really give those legs a stretch. Try a campsite near the coast path in Norfolk if you like it flat, Cornwall for something more challenging, and Anglesey or Dumfries to escape the crowds. You could even walk all the way around the Wales coast path if you’ve got seven weeks or so to spare…

No kit? No problem – beach caravan parks and seaside glamping

There’s no need to feel left out of all the seaside fun if you’re not in possession of all your own camping kit, or suspect that you might need a tad more space than that offered by a tent. Pack up your own rolling home and head to a campervan or caravan site by the beach, or make life properly easy by looking out a seaside holiday park where everything’s already provided for you (just BYO bucket and spade…)

Something a bit smarter? Check out our options for glamping near the beach – take your pick from cosy little shepherd’s huts and gypsy caravans, coastal camping pods and swish fully furnished yurts or glamping tents.

Beyond Britain: seaside camping in Europe

Yes, there’s more than 10,000 miles of coastline to explore here in the United Kingdom – and a whole load of campsites by the beach from which to do (some of) that. But maybe you’re after a change of scenery? If so, check out our seaside campsites in France, along Portugal’s rugged Atlantic coast, in Italy’s smart seaside resorts, on the wide sandy beaches of the Netherlands – the call of the sea rings far and wide.