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This way to the beach – in under two hours

The sun's making an appearance this weekend (at long last) so we're thinking impromptu, socially-distanced day trip to the coast. Who's in?

Need to blow those lockdown cobwebs away? This week’s glowing weather forecast is the perfect opportunity to get your Vitamin D fix, breathe in the sea air and feel the sand between your toes. A one-day jaunt to the seaside is totally doable. All of the suggestions below are less than two hours in the car. So grab the picnic blanket, pack some soggy sandwiches and let’s go!

Mudeford Quay, Dorset

Mudeford Quay beach
Mudeford spit, photo:

This is definitely one of our family favourite. Mudeford is a stunner with its pristine white sands, enclosed by rocks and backed by candy-coloured beach huts. There’s a fantastic cafe called The Beach House across the sandspit which is open for takeaway ice creams, food and drinks. It’s roughly 1hr 30 mins away.

Studland, Dorset

Studland Bay beach with beach huts

Fun fact to whip out if you get stuck in traffic: Coldplay’s famous one-take video for Yellow, where Chris Martin walks/sings along a beach was filmed at Studland. There are four miles of divine sandy beaches here. Alternatively, there’s plenty of watersports on offer at Knoll Beach (opening at the end of June), plus a 1km stretch for naturists, should you fancy letting it all hang out. It’ll take about 2 hrs.

Sandbanks beach, Poole, Dorset

sandbanks poole sorset wide sandy beach

Ma Muddy used to spend her entire summer here when she was a little girl, lucky thing, but it wasn’t quite the millionaires’ playground it is today. Some things never change and that’s Sandbanks‘ huge swathes of golden sand, but make sure you visit the fab Sandbanks Beach Cafe, plus there’s a BBQ facility on the beach and watersports nearby. After 1hr 30mins in the car you could be ogling Jamie Redknapp in his budgie smugglers.

West Wittering, West Sussex

sandy beat blue skies and tidal river West Wittering beach West Sussex

A firm favourite with the family, West Wittering beach boasts wide, gently shelving golden sands, sand dunes, Blue Flag rating and ample parking, It is perfect for a family day out – even Kevin the Teenager couldn’t find fault with this one. Bring a picnic or BBQ, and loll on the grassy area behind the beach to take in views across to Chichester harbour. It’s a decent 1hr 40min drive.

Lepe Beach, Hants

Lepe Beach New Forest Shingle beach
Image: Visit Hampshire

Southampton has more going for it that its port (thank goodness for that). Head to Lepe, a coastal country park in the New Forest and enjoy its long stretch of shingle beach. It’s a popular spot with windsurfers, kitesurfers and families, with views of the Isle of Wight. Lepe Beach also played a big role in the D Day preparations and many troops departed from here. In my book that’s a history lesson right there, so counts as homeschool.

Calshot Beach, Hants

Calshot Beach hampshire sea, narrow shingle beach and castle turret
Image: Visit Hampshire

Another New Forest National Park beach and one that’s very close to Lepe. Calshot Spit is the epitome of pretty – brightly coloured beach huts, views across to the Isle of Wight and on good days Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower and a castle built by Henry VII.

Brighton, East Sussex

STRIPED DECK CHairs on Bright Beach with pier

You probably don’t need me to tell you about Brighton but don’t dismiss it as too far for a day trip – I can make it in two hours if I hammer around the M25. It’s a pebbly beach of course but that iconic view of the pier more than makes up for it and you won’t be finding sand in places you didn’t know you had.. All the cool kids live in Hove now, so head west for a slightly quieter beach or Rottingdean.

Barton-on-Sea, New Forest, Hampshire

Barton on sea beach sand sea and painted beach huts
Image: Visit Hampshire

I get so distracted by the gorgeous greenery and cute ponies in the New Forest, I forget it does beaches too. It can be windy in Barton – it’s a prime para-gliding spot – so don’t forget to pack your kite. It’s all a good spot for fossil hunting, so if you have any dino mad kids (or adults) that should could keep them busy for a bit. Above the safe, sandy beach, you can stroll along the clifftops.

Bournemouth, Dorset

Bournemouth beach sand sea and pier

An obvious choice but you can’t beat Bournemouth, but its seven miles of golden sands and tropical gardens is like catnip to sunseekers. Now it’s important to note, that the mere hint of sunshine and the crowds are flashing the flesh faster than a stripper in Soho, so in the interest of maintaining some social distance, head to less popular beaches like Hengistbury Head, Durley Chine and Alum Chine.

Looking for something closer to home? Clickety click for our pick of the loveliest Berkshire walks.

Find more ideas here

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