A trip to the beach is a must for the summer holidays. Its enjoyable as soon as you surrender to the fact that you’re going to take most of it home with you in your underwear and child’s buggy! We love a sandy beach for the sandcastle building (or if you’re my kids, throwing!) opportunity but sometimes a pebble beach can bring as much fun in hunting for shells and sea creatures. We’ve listed our top picks below……..
Bournemouth has a lovely sandy beach for families, the beach to the west of the pier is ideal with cafes, toilets and amusements. If you park on the streets around the Marriott Highcliffe you can park all day for free and walk down the zig zag path or past the Bournemouth International Centre to the beach. If you’re tired on the way back, get the cliff lift back up. We like to walk through the lower gardens to town, you can find the Wave 105 balloon here and an aviary of birds on the upper part of the gardens to the right of the stream. The Hot Rocks restaurant by the Oceanarium is nice for lunch or a drink, they do a kids menu too.
This area is great for dreaming of your future beachside home and spotting some flashy cars! We often park at Branksome Chine or near to the Sandbanks hotel, both have pay and display parking. If you’re happy to walk you can park on the residential roads of Canford Cliffs for free and walk down a long tree lined slope to the beach. The beaches here have toilet facilties and cafes, you can also hire paddleboards and kayaks from an outlet at the back of the Sandbanks Hotel. We did a paddleboard lesson last year which was great fun, seems that my balance needs some work though!!
A nice spot for crabbing on the quay and if you fancy a drink in the Haven Inn. There is pay and display parking and toilet facilities on the quay. The beach is pebbly but there are some sandy spots at low tide if you walk along to Avon Beach, for a bit of variety take the ferry across to Hengistbury Head. There are no amusements so its a more low key beach experience. If you fancy a walk park at Highcliffe Castle with its lovely tea rooms and walk through the woods towards the west and you’ll come to Mudeford in about half an hour.
Barton on Sea, New Forest
Great for fossil hunting as the soft clay makes it perfect to find some prehistoric imprints. You’ll probably find a few Jurassic rocks in your washing machine days later though! On the top of the cliff you’ll find a restaurant, shop and café. There are wide grass areas for playing. Parking is available in the large cliff top car park by pay and display.
Highcliffe Bay, New Forest
Just along the coast from from Barton on Sea is Highcliffe Bay. Lined with little coves it’s a stunning spot, perfect for some body boarding activity and for little ones to run in and out of the sea. It’s pretty sandy and very picturesque! On the top of the cliff you’ll find a restaurant, shop and café. Parking is available in the large cliff top car park by pay and display.
The beach here is made up of shingle interspersed with sand dunes, there is sand exposed at low tide. Wide expanses of grass separate the beach from the road which is handy if you have young kids, you don’t have to panic about cars constantly. At one end you’ll find Beachlands which has the fun fair and amusements and Eastoke corner has shops, restaurants and cafes. There is a little train that runs between these two ends, what child can resist a train ride? Lots of parking and toilet facilities.
Portsmouth is a favourite of ours as we met as fresh faced students at the university. A family day out normally starts by parking somewhere along Eastern Parade and wandering through the tennis courts and rose garden onto the beach. Its a pebbly beach but we find if the tide is out there are patches of sand. The kids quite like collecting stones and shells anyway. We’ve recently discovered the Southsea Beach Café, great for lunch or coffee and a delicious cake. It is situated on the beach so easy to access, there are ice cream kiosks nearby if you’d prefer a more casual snack. The public toilets are opposite next to Canoe Lake. There is normally a bouncy castle set up on the field next to the park by the lake so a change of scenery if the beach gets too much.
Isle of Wight
With its wide stretching sandy beach Ryde is perfect for a family day out playing sports or paddling. Its ideal for younger children as the beach gently slopes so the water is shallow for a long way out. You also have cafes and toilets nearby. There is also the boating lake towards Appley and Puckpool park to the East of Ryde.
On the west of the Island, Colwell Bay is a small gradually sloping shingle and sand beach. It has a seaside café and beach hut shops on the slipway, there is a bar on the road down to the beach and a restaurant along the sea wall.
A great sandy beach with a traditional promenade with amusements and beach shops, there is a crazy golf course and even an indoor play area, as lets face it sunshine all day is rare!! There are pubs restaruants and cafes along the promenade. The walk through to Shanklin old village is nice and Shanklin Chine has a lovely thatched pub at the bottom.
Picture is of Highcliffe Bay, New Forest.