8 stunning seaside towns and beaches to visit in the South East
Whatever the season, the beach is the perfect place to breathe in some fresh, sea air and take a walk along the coast. With so many fantastic beaches to be discovered in the South East, you’ll be spoiled for choice of where to visit. Grab your bucket and spade, the shores await.
We’ve put together a list of beautiful beaches and stunning seaside towns in South East England. We can’t guarantee winter sun (or even summer sun, let’s be honest) but we can assure you that we’ll find you some of the best cheesy chips and ice cream in this corner of the UK. Just watch out for those pesky seagulls as you’re stuffing your face, you have been warned...
By: Megan Trigg | 11 March 2020
1. Brighton, East Sussex
Brighton is often dubbed ‘London by the sea’, making it a home from home for city-lovers. It even has its very own viewing tower (The British Airways i360) where you can take in the view over the city. With pebbled beaches, a quirky pier and more independent shops than you can shake a stick at, Brighton really does have it all. Of course, it does tend to get rather busy in the summer months which can make it near impossible to grab a good spot on the pebbled beach.
Luckily there’s more than enough to keep you entertained away from the beach; enjoy a fairground ride on the pier or try your luck in the arcade. After, grab some chips or a tasty crêpe from one of the shops along the seafront. Equally, a spot of shopping in The Lanes will go down a treat after a morning of excitement.
Where to stay
Just two miles away from the centre of Brighton, our campsite sits within the South Downs and is just a short way away from Brighton Marina. Brighton campsite also offers tent camping and glamping with Experience Freedom. Upgrade your camping trip by staying in one of our cosy camping pods, luxury glamping pods or iconic Airstreams.
Set on a working farm in Newhaven, this Certificated Location offers a truly rural setting amongst sloping grassy fields. Take the 10 mile drive along to coast to visit the bustling beach, or enjoy the nearby coast of Newhaven.
2. Whitstable, Kent
Famed for its oysters, Whitstable has a thriving fresh fish market, tons of independent craft shops and even its very own pub on the beach - The Old Neptune. Like many beaches in the South East, it’s pebbled, but its quintessentially British charm makes up for that.
If the beach-side pub wasn’t enough to pique your interest, there are plenty of other reasons to visit this little seaside town. Whitstable hasn’t fallen to the commercialisation of piers and seaside towns like elsewhere on the south coast, and instead, its pulling power lies with its undeniably British beach. Colourful huts line the waters and fishing boats can be seen hauled up on the pebbles. The nearby town of Tankerton meets Whitstable at the grassy Tankerton Slopes, and here you can enjoy long walks or bike rides. There's also the harbour, where you can watch the boats dock or have a bite to eat.
Where to stay
Bearsted campsite, near Maidstone, is a large, open site which opens out onto rolling farmland. Our members say that the feel of the site is peaceful, inviting and offers a great base to explore the Garden of England.
Stoney Leys Certificated Location is perfect for a peaceful break. With plenty of nearby dog walks and no electric hook up, this campsite is great for those looking for an off-the-grid getaway.
3. Hastings, East Sussex
Hastings is probably best known for its battle in 1066, and to this day is home to the first castle built by William the Conqueror. It’s the perfect town for seaside weekenders, offering a variety of things to see and do, including the Hastings Contemporary gallery and Hastings Fish Market.
With a predominantly shingle beach it’s perhaps not ideal for sunbathing, but it is the perfect place for a long walk. The pier is also worth a visit, providing beachgoers with plenty of free activities during the summer months; from open-air photography exhibitions to retro markets.
Where to stay
With spacious, grassy pitches, Glebelands Certificated location is perfect for a relaxing getaway. The campsite features a nearby local pub, a dog walk which leads into the woods and even has an adjoining alpaca paddock!
4. Margate, Kent
A rarity in the South East, Margate is home to some beautiful sandy beaches which are great whatever the weather. The town has become an artistic haven in recent years, and art enthusiasts will love perusing artworks at the world-class Turner Contemporary Art Gallery or the Carl Freedman Gallery. The young (or the young at heart) can hop aboard a fairground ride at Dreamland or check out mini-golf favourite ‘Strokes Adventure’ to work on their swing.
Recent years have seen a lot of regeneration in the area, which has not only seen the reopening of Dreamland, but also plenty of new shops and exciting arcades. The Old Town in particular has made a name for itself as a must-visit seaside destination, opening everything from new galleries and vintage shops to quirky cafés and restaurants.
Where to stay
Set on a working farm in Margate, Lydden Farm Certificated Location is perfect for a peaceful break. The campsite offers plenty of space to pitch up and access to nearby pubs and shopping. Keen cyclists can hop on the Viking Coastal Trail, just minutes away from the site.
In Herne Bay, just a few miles from Margate, you can stay on The Field Certificated Location. Pitch up in a quaint, old village with a couple of pubs with great food and drink. Stretch your legs on one of the scenic walks straight from the campsite.
5. Clacton-on-Sea, Essex
Clacton-on-Sea has a number of beaches to explore, with sandy shores and a Victorian pier at your fingertips. Whether you’re up for an exciting afternoon on the dodgems or getting headrush on the Twister, Clacton-on-Sea is home to plenty of seaside favourites. It’s also home to the Jaywick Martello Tower, which originally served as a fort to defend against the invasion of Napoleon in the 19th Century and is now used as a central hub for the local community. Visitors can take a trip to arts and heritage exhibitions as well as talks and events.
If you want a break from the beach, visit the themed gardens, practice your putting on the golf course or watch a performance at one of two theatres. During August, you can attend events like Carnival Week and the Clacton Air Show.
Where to stay
We have five Certificated Locations to choose from in the Clacton-on-Sea area, three of which are on working farms! These intimate five-van campsites are perfect for a peaceful holiday by the beach, with plenty of countryside to explore.
6. Littlehampton, West Sussex
Littlehampton’s sand and shingle beaches are award-winning, offering plenty of beach-side attractions to the thousands of people that visit each year. Kitesurfing, fishing and sailing are popular activities from the harbour, and the promenade is a great spot for cyclists.
Why not pull up a pew at the 324-metre Long Bench, one of Littlehampton's most recognisable architectural works, and read the messages of love and celebration which are engraved into the slats.
Where to stay
Set on the outskirts of Littlehampton seaside resort, Littlehampton campsite is just a 30-minute walk away from the town centre’s sand and shingle beach and promenade. The site includes a children’s play area and dog walk, and access to exceptional countryside walks leading to the South Downs and beyond.
Rowan Park campsite sits near to the South Downs in a tree-lined, park-like setting. Visit the nearby seaside resorts, or venture out to Goodwood for a range of events.
Wake up to stunning views of horses and wildflower meadows at Lyminster Nursery Certificated Location. Just two miles from the coast, this campsite is the perfect place to pitch up for a relaxing beach break.
7. Camber Sands, East Sussex
Camber Sands is home to the only sand dunes in East Sussex and is a popular place for windsurfing and kitesurfing. The beach itself is huge whether the tide is in or out, so even in the summer you’re bound to find a spot to sit and lay out your picnic blanket or just take in the view. It’s also regarded as one of the best places in the UK for beachcombing, so why not try your luck as you’re walking across the sand?
Where to stay
Just a 25 minute drive away from Camber Sands, Fairlight Wood offers a peaceful trip for dog walkers and nature lovers alike. After visiting the nearby beaches, explore the footpaths in the rich biodiversity area surrounding this intimate campsite.
Pitch up at Leasam Farm Certificated Location for a lazy stay by the seaside. The campsite itself offers outstanding views over the neighbouring countryside, and there are plenty of pubs within walking distance.
8. Folkestone, Kent
Discover sandy beaches, unique history and wildlife adventures on a holiday in Folkestone. Walking around the quaint, cobbled streets, you’ll find art galleries, quirky shops and plenty of laid back bars and pubs.
Along the coastline itself, you can visit the Lower Leas Coastal Park where you can enjoy a picnic on the beach, or head north to the Folkestone East Cliff and Warren Country for long, scenic walks.
Not to be missed in the area are Port Lympne Reserve and Howletts Wild Animal Park, where you can see lions, tigers and giraffes up close and personal.
Where to stay
With a view of Lympne Castle in the distance, Daleacres campsite offers a trip away in a beautiful setting. With an excellent dog walk, children’s play area and a fish and chip van that visits site, Daleacres is a great choice for a family getaway. Glamping enthusiasts can try out our Experience Freedom glamping yurts on this campsite, complete with a king-size bed and cosy interior.
In the Kentish village of Densole, Black Horse Farm campsite is set in the heart of farming country and offers a relaxing country getaway. Perfect for nature lovers, there are lots of footpaths for peaceful walks in the area. For those with an interest in National Trust and English Heritage, there are plenty of properties nearby for you to explore.
On an acre of mowed lawn, Capel Farm Certificated Location is not just a great stopover on your way to Folkestone or Dover port, but also a great base to explore the local area. This campsite is on the doorstep of the Kent Downs Area of Natural Beauty and just 3 miles from the sea.
About the author
When she’s not busy keeping the Caravan and Motorhome Club website up to date, Megan enjoys spending her time exploring new places and discovering the wonders of West Sussex. An avid photographer and writer, Megan also runs a popular lifestyle blog for young women.