This way to the beach, landlubbers!
The sun's making more and more of an appearance (at long last) so we're thinking impromptu, socially-distanced day trip to the coast. Who's in?
We have rivers and lakes aplenty in Wiltshire, but a beach? A big fat zero. Never fear: a one-day jaunt to the seaside is still doable if you get an early start. All of the suggestions below are one to three hours in the car, depending of course which part of the county you live in. So grab the wind-breaker, slap on the (rather optimistic?) SPF, pack your bucket and spade, and let’s go.
Mudeford Quay, Dorset
This is definitely one of our family favourite. Mudeford is a stunner with its pristine white sands, enclosed by rocks and backed by candy-coloured beach huts. There’s a fantastic cafe called The Beach House across the sandspit which is open for takeaway ice creams, food and drinks. It’s roughly 1hr 30 mins away.
Fun fact to whip out if you get stuck in traffic: Coldplay’s famous one-take video for Yellow, where Chris Martin walks/sings along a beach was filmed at Studland. There are four miles of divine sandy beaches here. Alternatively, there’s plenty of watersports on offer at Knoll Beach (opening soon), plus a 1km stretch for naturists, should you fancy letting it all hang out. It’ll take about 2 hrs.
Sandbanks beach, Poole, Dorset
Ma Muddy used to spend her entire summer here when she was a little girl, lucky thing, but it wasn’t quite the millionaires’ playground it is today. Some things never change and that’s Sandbanks‘ huge swathes of golden sand, but make sure you visit the fab Sandbanks Beach Cafe, plus there’s a BBQ facility on the beach and watersports nearby. After 1hr 30mins in the car you could be ogling Jamie Redknapp in his budgie smugglers…
West Wittering, West Sussex
A firm favourite with the family, West Wittering beach boasts wide, gently shelving golden sands, sand dunes, Blue Flag rating and ample parking, It is perfect for a family day out – even Kevin the Teenager couldn’t find fault with this one. Bring a picnic or BBQ, and loll on the grassy area behind the beach to take in views across to Chichester harbour. It’s a decent 1hr 40min drive.
Lepe Beach, Hants
Southampton has more going for it than its port (thank goodness for that). Head to Lepe, a coastal country park in the New Forest and enjoy its long stretch of shingle beach. It’s a popular spot with windsurfers, kitesurfers and families, with views of the Isle of Wight. Lepe Beach also played a big role in the D Day preparations and many troops departed from here. In my book that’s a history lesson right there, so counts as school.
Calshot Beach, Hants
Another New Forest National Park beach, and one that’s very close to Lepe. Calshot Spit is the epitome of pretty – brightly coloured beach huts, views across to the Isle of Wight and on good days Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower and a castle built by Henry VII.
Brighton, East Sussex
You probably don’t need me to tell you about Brighton but don’t dismiss it as too far for a day trip – I can make it in two hours if I hammer around the M25. It’s a pebbly beach of course but that iconic view of the pier more than makes up for it and you won’t be finding sand in places you didn’t know you had. All the cool kids live in Hove now, so head west for a slightly quieter beach or Rottingdean.
Barton-on-Sea, New Forest, Hampshire
I get so distracted by the gorgeous greenery and cute ponies in the New Forest, I forget it does beaches too. It can be windy in Barton – it’s a prime para-gliding spot – so don’t forget to pack your kite. It’s all a good spot for fossil hunting, so if you have any dino mad kids (or adults) that should could keep them busy for a bit. Above the safe, sandy beach, you can stroll along the clifftops.
An obvious choice but you can’t beat Bournemouth, even if its seven miles of golden sands and tropical gardens are like catnip to sunseekers. Now it’s important to note, that the mere hint of sunshine and the crowds are flashing the flesh faster than a stripper in Soho, so in the interest of maintaining some social distance, head to less popular beaches like Hengistbury Head, Durley Chine and Alum Chine.