Best-looking beach

In the final scene of Shakespeare In Love Gwyneth Paltrow is shown strolling across a seemingly endless stretch of terracotta sand. The shore in question is Holkham Bay in Norfolk, and frankly if it’s good enough for Gwynnie it’s good enough for us.

The vast sweep out to the North Sea manages to soak up the crowds so that even on a steamy bank holiday it’s as far from the back-to-back sunbathers of Brighton as you can get. Nature lovers will enjoy the wildlife that hides among the miles of dunes and marshes of Holkham National Nature Reserve, while naturists will enjoy the privacy afforded by said dunes.

Best seaside pier

Southwold on the Suffolk coast has avoided the candyfloss and neon lights that blight so many English seaside resorts. Instead the town is a mix of organic cafés, Adnams pubs, Cath Kidston boutiques and second-hand camera shops.

Wander down to the beach for a walk past the rainbow-coloured huts and you’ll reach the recently renovated pier. If the sun’s out grab all you need for sandy fun from the Beach Shop.

If not, hunker down over fish and chips in the Promenade Café or try your luck at the Under the Pier Show, a mad collection of home-made slot machines including the fortune-telling Booth of Truth and the wandering mechanical hands of the Autofrisk.

Best secret beach

Luccombe is not only one of the most remote beaches on the Isle of Wight, it’s possibly also the most secluded in the UK. We’d tell you how to get there, but then we’d have to kill you … OK, arm twisted. It’s between Shanklin Old Village and Bonchurch. Park in the free car park just before Smugglers Haven Tea Room (the last facilities for a while) and with your back to the main road turn left and take the footpath down, wrestling overgrown trees and bushes as you go. Once you’ve found the small beach there’s a whole lot more to discover, including impressive rock formations and smugglers’ caves.

Best for surfing

The new retro beach ‘pods’ at Boscombe are supposed to lend this corner of Bournemouth a feel of Western Australia, according to their designer Wayne Hemingway (founder of Red Or Dead). While this might be pushing it, the completion of Europe’s first artificial surfing reef in August will help the cause.

This stretch of Dorset coast is already home to the third largest surfing community in the UK and the new reef, which will boost the size and shape of the waves, is expected to draw a whole lot more. Good job there are already lots of surfer-friendly hangouts to keep them happy, such as the Urban Beach Hotel, the Urban Reef café-bar and Sorted surf shop. 

Best for tacky fun

As fans of The Apprentice will know, Margate isn’t the easiest of towns to market, lacking as it does most of the attractions of a modern tourist destination: no boutique hotels, no chichi shops and little in the way of slow food.

But this is part of the Margate experience. It’s the kind of place where chintzy B&Bs serve up greasy breakfasts, it’s OK to drink Stella on the beach (rather than fresh fruit smoothies), and an elderly male stripper might entertain a table of ladies during dinner in a family restaurant (seriously, this happened to me). Let’s hope plans to turn the town into a trendy art hub, funded in part by Margate’s favourite daughter Tracey Emin, don’t alter the tack too much. 

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