The Wash may not be the Indian Ocean, and the Channel no Caribbean, but this tiny island of ours has a captivating coastline all the same, even if the weather can occasionally (ahem) fall somewhat short of tropical. Seeing the sea is always uplifting – and from these hotels with views of the shore, you can admire it without braving the British elements (or annual heatwave)…
It might be more at home in Florida, but the Nici is bringing the South Beach heat to the slightly less glamorous shores of… Bournemouth, the South Coast’s answer to Sydney, Miami and everything in between (without the weather).
The once-sleepy seaside town is no longer God’s waiting room, not now that the bright young things have somewhere stylish to let their hair down. The hotel was once the Savoy (not that one) but even its most loyal fans would struggle to recognise it today, now that it has a bright and breezy restaurant, eye-catching artworks and a private cinema, with all of the glorious gaudiness of the Great British seaside a swift downhill stroll away.
New this spring are a (cabana-lined, of course) outdoor pool and a spa for OTO and Oskia treatments. The alfresco area will also have sunken fire-pits, so even if it’s a bit nippy, you can close your eyes and pretend you’re in Will Smith’s favourite city.
THREE MILE BEACH
These breezy beach houses at Three Mile Beach in St Ives Bay are everything you could want from a coastal Cornish residence and more. Set a block back from the shore, with only dunes between you and the beach, the 15 houses have all nautical bases covered, and we’re not just talking portholes and striped cushions.
The self-contained suites have a barrel sauna, sunken cedar hot tub and hopeful barbecue out on the deck, log-burning stoves, high-ceilinged kitchens with breakfast bars, and bright white wooden walls.
In keeping with Britain’s usual approach to beach huts, the exteriors are painted in shades of hard-to-miss pink and turquoise. If you’d rather leave your kitchen unmanned, hire a chef to come and use it for you, or join the fun at the street-food truck, which brings globe-trotting flavours to Cornish shores (who needs a pasty anyway?).
You may have a Travis song from the late Nineties in your head now (sorry), but this Driftwood on Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula is certainly not floating underwater, but rather well above it, high on a clifftop near Portscatho and St Mawes. Once you’re done admiring the views from the hotel, you can wander down to the beach below following the path through the terraced gardens. Some of the rooms have direct access to the sand.
If it’s not just the views taking your breath away, you’ll be glad to hear that there are helpfully positioned places to stop and admire the surroundings. You’ll be rewarded back at the hotel with drinks on the deck and suppers of super-fresh seafood. We like to think of the seven-acre estate as our own private Manderley, only one that’s thankfully still standing…
Like Bournemouth, Eastbourne’s charms may have faded, but thanks to the DFLs coming down for more than just weekends, it’s being gradually restored to its former glory. Helping progress along is Port Hotel along the promenade (proudly known in these parts as the Royal Parade), a smooth pebble’s throw from the beach. The restored Victorian townhouse now has 19 stylish bedrooms, a cocktail bar and a restaurant serving so much more than brunch.
Stay in one of the sea-facing rooms and you’ll get a view of the historic pier, which opened in time for summer 1870, thrown in – along with a super-king-size Hypnos bed, high ceilings and (in two) a freestanding bath tub. If you love art as well as the English Channel, time your visit with one of the exhibitions that occasionally grace the restaurant and bar.
THE PIG ON THE BEACH
In what was once the Bankes family’s summer home (they spent the rest of the year at equally not-too-shabby Kingston Lacy, and once resided at Corfe Castle before it fell into its current state of disrepair during the English Civil War), the custard-coloured, turret-happy Pig on the Beach in Studland has a prime position overlooking Old Harry Rocks. If you’re a fan of the White Cliffs of Dover, you’ll love the limestone Polar Bear that is the Isle of Wight as seen from this angle (trust us).
As with all Pigs, provenance is key at the restaurant, where most if not all of the ingredients are sourced from within a 25-mile radius of the seafront estate, with some produce only travelling as far as the greenhouse, garden and polytunnel.
THE SWAN SOUTHWOLD
Set on the marketplace in the sweet Suffolk town of Southwold, the Swan is the perfect alternative to staying in one of the cute but not that comfortable colourful beach huts strung along the shore (which may sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds, but that’s just the British housing market for you). The interiors are just as charming and cheerful as their surroundings, with lime-green sofas and fuchsia four-poster beds.
It’s owned by the Adnams group, so you can be sure of some excellent ales and ciders to enjoy while admiring the North Sea in the distance – a brewery has stood on this site for almost seven centuries. Southwold itself is British-seaside perfection, with a promenade, pier and even a restored vintage cinema (the Electric Picture Palace).
Sea views and painter-approved light await at Boskerris at Carbis Bay in Cornwall, a mile or so from the centre of St Ives. On a sunny day, you may as well be in the Med – especially if you’ve found yourself a spot on the terrace and a bottle of chilled rosé. The clifftop setting also means glimpses of the Godrevy lighthouse (the very one from To the Lighthouse, no less) and there’s a Blue Flag beach directly below the hotel.
If culture is calling and you can bear to (temporarily) forego the rosé, head out in search of Cornish artworks at revered gallery the New Craftsman, visit the Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden or just be grateful that Tate branched out from sugar at its second South West outpost.
If just a view won’t do, discover eight of the best hotels right on the beach