Recommend a good seaside town near London in July
June 1, 2016 8:39 AM   Subscribe

It should be within a couple of hours of London by train, but not Brighton (we go there a lot). Probably for just one night--a Sunday. It's for my SO's birthday, so someplace romantic would be good although it's not a requirement. Recommendations for places to stay, restaurants and pubs also welcome.

Other hopefully helpful details: I'm American, he's English (so I don't know the area well but anything that would be exciting for foreigners but unimpressive for an English person is out). I love seafood but he's allergic to shellfish and hates fish (not dying-allergic, so I can eat it, but any restaurant recs need to have other things on the menu, like steak). If we just go for the Sunday I know stuff may be closed but for what it's worth, we both like books, film, music. Really just looking for a pretty and relaxing place to get away for a night, walk by the sea, and have a nice dinner and accommodation. No car, so it has to be reachable by train--the easier the journey the better. Budget is around £300 but I would be happy spending less as well!
posted by tiger tiger to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You could get to Bournemouth from Waterloo in about 2 hours, would be ~£60pp return. Hotels look ok for ~£100 for a double per night.
posted by biffa at 8:57 AM on June 1, 2016

Weymouth is a bit further (looks like about 2h45 by direct train from Waterloo) but it's a lovely seaside town with a good beach, harbour and nice walks around Nothe Park.

There are good restaurants around the harbour and in Hope Square. We liked Il Porto, the Galley Bistro, and the Monkeys Fist.
posted by crocomancer at 9:07 AM on June 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I liked The Ship in Dunwich, Suffolk, a picturesque pub-hotel with good food near a lovely beach.

Apart from scenic walks, beach time and awesome food, there's not a hell of a lot to do in Dunwich. But the scenic walks are excellent-- there's a ruined monastery a short distance away, and there are little wild Chinese water deer roaming about.
posted by Pallas Athena at 9:25 AM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh I should know this! I spent a couple of years going on basically all the reasonable day-trip seaside journeys from London, and GOSH there are a lot of them. Sticking to places you can get on a single train journey of less than two hours for under around £40, and where you can reasonably spend a day or a day and a half:

Margate is traditionally pretty run-down, but a lot of things have been happening there recently. So there's eg the Turner Contemporary art gallery, and Dreamland, which is a newly-reopened amusement park with a few old-school rides (no huge rollercoasters or anything but if you want to be moved about gently near the sea it's a great bet). Plenty of little cafes, etc. About £40 return from London; the Sands is I think the fanciest hotel and looks like it's maybe £130, plus there are plenty of nice B&Bs as there are for all these places. There's also a weird Shell Grotto, which is a few underground caves covered in shells by (probably, but WHO KNOWS) Victorians who wanted to pretend it was something older and more mysterious.

Just along the coast there's Broadstairs, which is a little bit fancier and more old-fashioned, and has a tiny cinema (the Palace), loads of chalk cliffs (and because of this, chalk graffiti scrawled EVERYWHERE), a place Dickens lived for a bit that you can walk around, etc. Both Margate and Broadstairs have lovely clifftop walks. Broadstairs is a slightly longer journey I think, maybe 1:45.

If Margate is trad rundown British seaside town with some modern changes, and Broadstairs is super-old-fashioned fancy seaside town, then Whitstable is kind-of... crafty modern? Like, there are shops with bunting EVERYWHERE, tables made from half-painted driftwood, etc. It has some lovely cafes, a little museum, a little art gallery, a tiny theatre, a "castle" (actually a slightly fancy house) that has occasional open-day-type things where there's a food festival or similar. Train is around 1 hour 20.

Southend-on-Sea is much more touristy, but in a quite old-fashioned way - it has rides to go on including actual rollercoasters, the WORLD'S LONGEST PIER with a little train you can get along it, etc. The Village Green Festival in one of the parks is full of really neat artsy stuff, if you happen to be going around 9 July. Despite the name its beach is actually on the Thames estuary so it's not great for swimming or even wading, and there are lots of grumpy teenagers who wish they didn't live in Southend-on-Sea, so its not uncomplicatedly charming, but it's got a lot going for it. Train journey is maybe 1:15.

And then there's Hastings, which is a lovely town with nice walks, a big hill, little bookshops in the wibbly streets of the Old Town, the ruins of a castle, a lot of really nice food places including the medium-fancy St Clements which we really enjoyed, a funicular railway, an art gallery (the Jerwood Gallery), a museum. Trains are around 1:40.

Of these I'd say that Hastings is probably the best bet for what you're after, unless there's anything that particularly appeals about any of the others - or if you'd be going on the 25th/26th when there's a fish festival in Hastings. (I haven't been there during the fish festival but during other festivals the old town and the beach can get pretty overwhelmed.)
posted by severalbees at 10:04 AM on June 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Great suggestions above. I'd add Rye to these. It's a small town but it's so beautiful and it's not at all rough round the edges like most other UK seaside towns (which aren't in Devon or Cornwall). There's a hotel there called The Ship which is lovely. I'm not from England so that's maybe why I was so impressed by this bucolic vision of an English seaside town
posted by stevedawg at 10:41 AM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you have the time, read Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbing before you make plans. He has a quirky take on many English seaside towns and made me want to visit several of them.
posted by Elsie at 10:50 AM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Whitstable.

Because there are many good places to eat: Wheelers Oyster Bar, The Sportsman (1 Michelin star), many little cafes, as well as a dock, where you can get fresh oysters for between 50 - 70p. For non-seafood eaters, there's JoJo's (Mediterranean mezzes)

Easy walk from train station (I have done that myself). I rented a bike while I was there, and cycled around to The Sportsman. Did not have a car and it was perfectly navigable.
posted by moiraine at 12:02 PM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: +1 to Whitstable. Lovely little place.
posted by A Robot Ninja at 12:29 PM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Poole is very pleasant - but right at the edge of your range. It has a Weymouth-y air to it, not as aggressively, 'kiss me quick' touristy as Bournemouth and Southend, but a bit closer than Weymouth.

Some surprisingly excellent seafood restaurants in the town, and it isn't too touristy. My wife and I ate at Storm in Poole town a few years ago and it was excellent - would definitely recommend (a whole fresh dressed crab from memory - yowzah)
posted by bifter at 1:18 PM on June 1, 2016

Best answer: Whitstable, definitely. Stay at Hotel Continental or the Marine Hotel. Eat at Samphire (I'm vegetarian and my husband doesn't eat shellfish, we always find food to eat there, your husband will be fine. Do book, it's popular). Drink either in the Hotel Continental bar, Neptune pub, East Quay pub, or just take your pint out onto the beach.

A quieter option is the Royal Hotel in Deal. Some of their rooms have roll top baths in the room, perfect for sitting in with a beer and watching the tide go out. Practically nothing in Deal, but if you want to do nothing except walk along the beach, eat fish and chips, and hang out on your balcony, it's great.
posted by tinkletown at 2:23 PM on June 1, 2016

Response by poster: You all are brilliant, as ever. Whitstable is one of what felt like a zillion places I looked at but with so many choices I just had no idea what to pick. But the consensus is in and Whitstable it is, and it does look just perfect for what I'm seeking. Even better, as I was browsing the websites of Hotel Continental and Samphire, tinkletown's suggestions arrived, so those look like the right choices for accommodations and restaurant!

Thank you to everyone else as well! We both love the seaside, so I'll be taking your other suggestions into account for later journeys.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:14 PM on June 1, 2016

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