Beside the Seaside, Beside the Sea

THERE’S never been a better time to choose vacation beside the seaside in the UK. An increasing number of England’s beaches have been awarded Blue Flag status this year. For 2012, a total of 79 English beaches have received Blue Flag awards – that’s up by nine from 2011, meaning England is ranked in the world’s top 10 countries for having the most Blue Flag beaches.

Blue Flag scheme organisers Keep Britain Tidy revealed the area with most of the awards is Thanet in Kent, which has nine. Torbay in Devon and Cornwall both have five and new awards for 2012 include Herne Bay in Kent, Seaton Carew in Tyne and Wear and Bridlington North and Bridlington South in East Yorkshire.

Here we take a look at the pick of England’s cleanest beaches.

Polzeath, Cornwall

One of Cornwall’s finest beaches, Polzeath sits tucked inside the Camel estuary, making it a great spot for novice surfers. Waves aren’t too big and scary, but they are consistent, meaning you get plenty of practise. There’s a snack bar and surf school, which has been operating from the beach for 15 years. Top level coaches work with everyone from complete beginners to elite riders and taster sessions are on offer for younger children.

Blackpool Sands, Devon

With its golden beach, turquoise sea and steep, wooded cliffs, Blackpool Sands has an almost Mediterranean feel.  There’s a bathing raft bobbing out at sea during July and August, always popular with swimmers who want to practise their diving. The Venus Café, which sources food from the region, serves locally-caught seafood and organic steak in the evening.

Tynemouth Longsands, North East

Another popular spot for surfers who brave the cold North Sea temperatures. Crusoe’s café does a great hot chocolate if you need warming up after a bracing walk and there’s the Blue Reef Aquarium if you need to get in out of the wind or rain. Surf contests attracting some of the world’s best take place in October.

Sandbanks, Dorset

Make like you’re a millionaire and head for this mile-square expense of sand. There are stunning golden sands, clear water, luxury yachts and homes currently going for millions of pounds apiece. Nestled between Poole Harbour and Bournemouth it’s often referred to as Britain’s Monte Carlo. The bay is very shallow, you can walk for a couple of hundred yards before getting out of your depth, making it very safe for children. Start your day with Eggs Benedict at the Café Shore restaurant before heading to the beach.

Hunstanton, Norfolk

Traditional British seaside holidays at their best. Everything you’d expect from a bygone age is here during the summer – candy floss, doughnuts, donkey rides, even a bandstand. But “sunny hunny” as it is affectionately known is also bang up-to-date with a thriving kite-surfing and buggying community.

Stone Bay, Broadstairs, Kent

It may have been immortalised in fiction, as the setting for John Buchan’s novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps, but this peaceful arc of sand cradled by chalky cliffs is often overlooked by visitors who head for the hustle and bustle of nearby Viking Bay. A great place for kids to take their fishing nets to go rockpooling, you get there down one of two steep flights of steps or along the promenade from Viking Bay.