When the sun shines and the beach beckons, most of Britain heeds the call. Instead of following the crowds this summer and settling for sandy sandwiches or naff caffs, up your beach game with some of the best seaside eating in the country. Here are 10 beachside gems from around the UK.
The Beach Café, Holkham, Norfolk
What: When people talk about Norfolk’s big skies, you only have to visit the vastness of Holkham’s breathtaking beach to get the picture. This child-friendly, dog-friendly, wallet-friendly café is a short walk from the beach: eat alfresco on the terrace, pop in for a wedge of homemade cake, or pick up some local delicacies for a picnic.
Where: Beach Road, Wells-next-the-Sea, NR23 1DR
The Beach Hut, Llangrannog, Ceredigion
What: This family-run café and chippie on the Wales Coastal Path has a chic yet convivial vibe – plus unbeatable views of Llangrannog beach (especially beautiful at sunset). Try the battered cod burger with homemade tartare sauce, exotic specials such as Keralan fish curry, or Welsh trademarks such as the rarebit on rye.
Where: Llangrannog, SA44 6SN
What: Sat right on the sands between Thurlestone and Hope Cove, this ramshackle local venture offers unrivalled views of the Devonshire coast, plus lip-smacking seafood dishes best eaten with your hands (it’s that kind of place). Go for the sensational seafood platter, comprising lobster, crab, mussels, prawns and clams; stay for a sundowner.
Where: South Milton, Kingsbridge, Devon, TQ7 3JY
Beachside Grill at Saunton Sands Hotel, Devon
What: The panoramic views of Saunton Sands from the first floor of this modern, airy eatery are simply stunning. Depending on how the British weather treats you, sit out on the terrace or in the spacious, vaulted dining room, and order from lighter dishes such as flavour-packed open sandwiches to more substantial meals like the formidable surf ‘n’ turf.
Where: Saunton Road, Braunton, EX33 1LQ
Big Beach Café, Brighton
What: DJ Fatboy Slim owns this colourful, down-to-earth beachfront caff, with its arty-surfy vibe, good-quality food and distinctly normal prices. The chef has toured with big music names, but his menu is solidly unstarry – think ham, egg and chips, battered cod with mushy peas, and gourmet burgers. This simplicity, coupled with excellent coffee, keeps locals loyal.
Where: Lagoon Watersports, Hove Lagoon, Kingsway, Hove, BN3 4LX
The Company Shed, Essex
What: Locals and tourists alike swamp this no-frills hotspot each weekend, so arrive early and expect to queue for their startlingly fresh shellfish (crab, lobster and oysters are specialities). It’s worth it: staff are super-friendly and the atmosphere couldn’t be more laid back – you bring your own bread, for Chrissakes. Access is tide dependent.
Where: 129 Coast Road, West Mersea, CO5 8PA
East Beach Café, West Sussex
What: You can’t miss this iconic beachfront café, whose design has won it as many awards as its equally stand-out food. The stop-and-stare exterior, built to resemble a piece of driftwood, boasts expansive views of the coast. Tuck into salt-and-pepper squid or chilli-flecked prawn and chorizo linguine as you watch the waves.
Where: Sea Road, Littlehampton, BN17 5NZ
Hive Beach Café, Dorset
What: The set-up at Hive Beach Café is a simple one – who needs a concept when your backdrop is the picturesque Jurassic Coast? The pricey menu champions locally and sustainably sourced seafood: from crab sarnies to Lyme Bay hake and potato curry to seafood platters, there’s something to sustain every type of beach body.
Where: Beach Road, Burton Bradstock, DT6 4RF
Porthminster Beach Café, Cornwall
What: This award-winning establishment sits right on the sands of Porthminster beach. It’s a smart place – more River Café than Bab’s Caff – so be sure to book. Treasures on the upmarket menu include local oysters or creamy cod roe smeared over freshly baked bread, followed by Cornish lobster or sourdough-crumbed fish with herbed chips.
Where: Portminster Beach, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 2EB
The Ship Inn, Northumberland
What: This homely, whitewashed pub deserves a shout-out for its gorgeous beachside location and simply cooked dishes. It’s so close to the sea that not-to-be-missed Newton Bay lobsters are delivered straight to the pub’s back door in season by the man who caught them. Perfect for a pint with a view or a post-prandial seaside stroll.
Where: Farm Road, Low Newton-by-the-Sea, Alnwick, NE66 3EL
Looking for more UK restaurant inspiration? Check out our list of the 100 best restaurants the length and breadth of the country, as chosen by SquareMeal’s readers and team of critics.