Imagine it’s one of those bright, blue-sky summer mornings. You wake to the sound of birdsong and the odd sheep. Outside, you catch a glimpse of a green swathe of grass with glittering sea beyond. It’s the sort of view you’d pay a fortune to bag if you were staying in a hotel – but it’s yours for just a few pounds at one of Britain’s coastal campsites.
Many sites have direct access to the beach, perfect for a swim or surf before breakfast – and ideal for families with lots of beach clobber. Then at the end of the day it’s a clamber back up the path for a barbecue as you watch the sun slip over the horizon.
We pick our favourite coastal campsites below.
1. Bryher Campsite, Isles of Scilly
Bryher Campsite enjoys lovely salty views of Hangman Island and Tresco, but its situation between two hills means it’s relatively sheltered. During the summer Bryher can, in the right weather, feel like an other-worldly paradise, with a glorious sandy beach at Green Bay and a quieter cove at Rushy Bay for swimming. Facilities include lavatories and basins, with coin-operated showers, hair dryers, washing machines and tumble dryers. There are also fully equipped bell tents to rent, with kitchen and airbeds; £62 a night for four, £50 for two.
Where to eat: If you’re looking for a cosy pub, try Fraggle Rock (bryher.co), but if you’re tired of campfire cooking, treat yourself to local seafood on the outdoor bar at Hell Bay Hotel.
Price: £10.50pp, under 4s free
Contact: 01720 422886; bryhercampsite.co.uk
2. Treen Farm Campsite, Penzance
Just three miles from Land’s End, Treen is also a short walk or drive away from some of Cornwall’s best beaches, including the isolated sands of Pedn Vounder. Sennen, with surf schools, is a 10-minute drive away, and Whitesands Bay is one of the best places to surf. The site sits in a field back from the cliff top, so it’s not too exposed, even in inclement weather. The South West Coast Path is 250 metres away and local attractions include Porthcurno Telegraph Museum for wet days, or the dramatic Minack Theatre, an open-air auditorium cut into the rocks. Facilities include showers, lavatories, laundry and washing-up area. No pre-bookings are taken, cash or cheque only.
Where to eat: there is an on-site shop selling local meat, vegetables and bread, along with beach goods and camping gas.
Price: from £6 per adult, from £3 per child. Tents from £2 per night, cars £1 each
Contact: 07598 469322; treenfarmcampsite.com
3. Ayr Holiday Park, St Ives
This site is situated within walking distance of the traditional Cornish fishing port and holiday resort of St Ives. There are really lovely views of the beach, so it’s not surprising that this is a popular spot for surfers who head to Porthmeor Beach for sand, surf and sunsets. Facilities at the site are first-rate, with a children’s play area and games room, a wet room for wetsuits, and plenty of hot water after a day in the sea. Hairdryers, showers and hot water are free.
Where to eat: Blas Burgerworks offers top-quality beef, chicken and more in arty St Ives. Read more on Britain’s best seaside cafes and restaurants.
Price: tent plus two adults from £39 – £46.75 per night in summer season, extra adult from £7.50 per night; child from £3.75 per night. £75 deposit required on booking.
Contact: 01736 795855; ayrholidaypark.co.uk
4. Bay View Farm, Cornwall
The views from this charming site in south-east Cornwall are wonderful – out across Looe Bay and to St George’s Island nature sanctuary. A small site, it’s beautifully run, with a good amenities block and free hot showers and Wi-Fi, and electric hookups (£3). Also available are “camping snugs” – wooden huts for which “you bring everything except the tent”. If the weather turns nasty, the Eden Project is about 10 miles away.
Where to eat: The picturesque fishing village of Polperro, where you can buy fresh fish for your barbecue, is just down the road. Or walk along the coastal path to the beach cafe at Black Rock resort.
Price: pitches for two adults and two children from £17 to £24, depending on season; snugs from £35 per night in winter and £50 July-August (sleeping two adults and two children).
Contact: 01503 265922; looebaycaravans.co.uk
5. Slapton Sands Camping and Caravanning Club, Devon
As well as immaculate facilities and 115 generous pitches on manicured grass, this South Devon site also has spectacular views over Start Bay and a gently relaxed atmosphere. There is a huge shingle beach at Start Bay while Dartmouth is a few miles up the road, from where you can join a kayaking trip or take a boat ride up the river to Totnes. The excellent facilities include lavatories, showers, washbasins, laundry and a children’s playground.
Where to eat: The village of Slapton is just down the road, with a nice pub (the Queens Arms) and a good food shop with local organic food and vegetables.
Price: £25.25 a night in summer for a tent and two adults; reductions for Camping and Caravanning Club members.
Contact: 01548 580538; campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk
6. Axmouth Caravan and Camping Site, Devon
By the side of the River Axe and an easy, flat walk from the shingle, cliff-backed beach at Seaton, this is an open, laid-back campsite with basic but clean facilities. A second, slightly sloping field opens when it gets busy. The site also benefits from there being a friendly gastropub next door, for those who can’t be bothered to cook. The perfect day out consists of walking across the ochre clifftops to pretty Beer, where kids might enjoy taking a short mackerel-fishing trip out into the bay or a look around the caves. They might also enjoy the Seaton Tramway, a narrow gauge electric tramway that runs to Colyton.
Where to eat: The Ship Inn (01297 21838; shipinnaxmouth.com) is a family pub serving fresh crab from Beer and fish from Lyme Bay. There is occasionally live music in the beer garden.
Price: £15 per 4-man tent, caravan £18, or £20 with electric
Contact: 01297 24707
7. Acton Field, Dorset
The unassuming village of Langton Matravers boasts two great campsites, Acton Field and Tom’s Field. While you are more likely to spot bunting at Tom’s Field, it is smaller and so quite often full, and less relaxed than Acton Field. The latter has more space and sits directly on a track that leads through a couple of fields onto the South West Coast Path. Below are two popular wild swimming spots – Dancing Ledge, which is a deep, naturally-formed tidal pool in the rock and Chapman’s Pool, a much harder to reach small, cove, reached via a steep path down the cliff. The camping ground isn’t flat but this prevents the site from feeling crowded as you will need to avoid the odd hillock.
Where to eat: The sloping beer garden at The Scott Arms (thescottarms.com) in nearby Kingston has views across to Corfe Castle, a bus ride away. It also serves reliable gastro fare and has a spicy Jerk chicken shack in the garden in the summer. Worth Matravers is the next village and home to the wonderful Square and Compass pub (squareandcompasspub.co.uk), which has views of the coast and a dinosaur fossil museum adjacent to it, that’s bound to entertain kids.
Price: from £14 for a car, caravan or motorcaravan and two adults, extra people £3 each
Contact: 01929 424184; actonfieldcampsite.co.uk
8. Burnbake Campsite, Dorset
The high number of repeat visitors is testament to the charm of this woodland site on the Jurassic Coast, which has 130 pitches, close to the sandy delights of the beaches at Studland Bay. The proximity of excellent cycle paths means it is worth bringing children’s bikes. Corfe Castle and Swanage are just six miles away. Facilities include showers, washing machines, baby-changing facilities and a small shop stocking camping and cooking equipment. No individual pitch bookings are taken except for the spring and August bank holidays, so turn up early.
Where to eat: There’s a good pop-up on-site café, Travels with my Aunt, (open in school holidays and summer weekends) and the shop sells some local produce, including Purbeck Ice Cream. Alternatively head for Shell Bay Seafood Restaurant, on the shores of Poole Harbour, which has views to Brownsea Island (01929 450363).
Price: basic summer pitch charge is from £17 per night for one adult with a tent; extra adults from £5, children from £3.
Contact: 01929 480570; burnbake.com
9. Trehenlliw Farm, Pembrokeshire
This charmingly basic site sits in 115 acres of farmland used for sheep and breeding cattle, framed by Carnllidid and Penberi mountains. This area of coast is studded with wonderful sandy beaches, and the popular surfing beach, Whitesands Bay, is just a mile down the road. You can also take a boat to Ramsey Island for some seal and dolphin spotting, but if you want a break from the sea, you can walk to the exquisite tiny city of St David’s, with its beautiful cathedral, in about 10 minutes. The pretty basic facilities on site include shower blocks, free hot water and washing-up sinks.
Where to eat: there are independent food shops aplenty in St David’s, including a deli, butcher and a grocery store. Cwtch restaurant (01437 720491; cwtchrestaurant.co.uk) is good for something a little more formal, serving modern classics including smoked mackerel pate and Welsh ribeye steak.
Price: £10 – £12 per pitch
Contact: 01437 721601; coolcamping.co.uk
10. Shell Island, Gwynedd
A peninsula of sand dunes and grass on Snowdonia’s coast makes up this magical spot, which has 300 acres dedicated to camping, supposedly making it Europe’s largest site. There are lots of great spots to choose from: cliff-top pitches with stunning views, sheltered fields close to the extensive facilities and romantic pockets of space among the dunes. There are even a few pitches level with the seashore, though all are close to the huge beach. Facilities include a reception area with supermarket, restaurant, pub, shop, free hot showers and a laundry, as well as four miles of roads and tracks across the island. There are also three flats available to rent. No caravans or single-sex groups. Check the tide table on the website for causeway crossing times.
Where to eat: there is a bar selling local beer for £2.50 a pint, a snack bar, and a restaurant in a converted barn, which serves a popular Sunday roast.
Price: adult from £7.75 per night; child from £3.50 per night in low season; £9.25 and £4 respectively in high season.
Contact: 01341 241453; shellisland.co.uk
South and south-east
11. Grange Farm, Isle of Wight
This site is perched on tall cliffs behind the sandy beach at Brighstone, and the flat camping field goes all the way to the edge. In high winds the site is a little exposed, but the panoramic sea views and the easy scramble down to the beach, 100 yards away, more than compensate. There are also basic lockable camping pods (bring everything as you would for camping). The basic facilities include free hot showers, lavatories and washing-up facilities in a heated block, as well as slot-operated washing machines and hair dryers. There’s a play area with trains, a hay-cart, and a rope-bridge to keep young children happy, and a small area for football and cricket, and you might spot the odd pig, rabbit or alpaca. There is also a small shop for basic provisions.
Where to eat: the village of Brighstone is three-quarters of a mile away and pubs, including the Three Bishops (01983 740226; threebishopspub.com) and a tea room.
Price: from £22 per night for a standard pitch in low season (two adults and two children with a tent) to £32 in high season.
Contact: 01983 740296; grangefarmholidays.com
East of England
12. Cliff House Holiday Park, Suffolk
The beaches at Walberswick and Southwold are within easy striking distance of this 30-acre woodland site, which also has direct access to the pebble beach at Dunwich Heath. The nearby Minsmere RSPB bird reserve has hides and nature trails throughout the woodland, beach and dunes, and Southwold, with its pier, colourful bathing huts and slot machines, is fun for a day out. Facilities include a toilet and shower block, with hot showers, a washing-up room and a launderette. There is a games room with a TV and pool table.
Where to eat: the site has a bar and restaurant serving local real ales. There’s a great National Trust cafe and tea room in the coastguard cottages at Dunwich Heath.
Price: camping pitch from £14.50 for two adults and an electric hook-up in winter; £34 in peak season; extra children from £1.80, extra adults from £4
Contact: 01728 648282; cliffhouseholidays.co.uk
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13. Deepdale Farm, Norfolk
This well-run site in the village of Burnham Deepdale has space for over 80 pitches, including tents and small camper vans (no caravans). The site is well positioned for access to popular spots along the North Norfolk coastline, and there’s on-site bike hire so you can cycle to nearby beaches (Brancaster is popular with families). The pretty town of Burnham Market is nearby, with a range of desirable shops. The eco-friendly facilities include solar-heated water, and clean lavatories and washing-up facilities. The
Where to eat: Deepdale Cafe (01485 210200; deepdale-cafe.co.uk) is open daily from 7.30am, serving breakfasts, lunches and snacks – and adjoining Dalegate Market has food supplies as well as a range of other shops. There are two pubs – the The White Horse and The Jolly Sailors – in nearby Brancaster. There are more options in Burnham Market.
Price: A standard tent pitch for up to five people and one car costs from £15 – £33 a night; minimum five night stay between July 1 and September 1.
Contact: 01485 210256; deepdalebackpackers.co.uk/camping
14. High Sand Creek Campsite, Norfolk
This no-frills site at Stiffkey has sweeping views of the north Norfolk salt marshes, beyond which lies the sea and great beaches at nearby Wells-next-the-Sea and Holkham. It’s a popular spot with birdwatchers and walkers, who come for the North Norfolk Coastal Path which runs nearby. The marshes are fun to explore, and there are boat trips from nearby Morston to see the seal colony at Morston Point. Facilities on this 80-pitch site, spread over five acres, include showers, lavatories and a sink for washing clothes.
Where to eat: for the best local food, including dressed crabs, try Wiveton Hall Restaurant and Café, along the coast beyond Blakeney.
Price: £12-£16 per family per night, depending on season
Contact: 01328 830235; coolcamping.co.uk
15. Hooks House Farm, North Yorkshire
The rocky romance of Robin Hood’s Bay, site of much 18th-century smuggling, is a 20 minute walk through the eponymous village – downhill from this relaxed site, which is situated in a field sloping gently to the bay. The beach is brilliant for rock-pooling, fossil-hunting and crabbing, and marks the eastern end of the Coast to Coast Walk from St Bees Head. There’s a disused railway track nearby running from Scarborough to Whitby, which is lovely for walking and cycling (it forms part of the Moor to Sea cycle track). All the facilities are clean and well maintained: use of showers, toilets, sink, an electric kettle, microwave, fridge and freezer are all included in the price. Barbeques are allowed, but not campfires.
Where to eat: Robin Hood’s Bay, a 10-15 minute walk away, has numerous pubs and restaurants.
Price: adults from £8 per night; child from £3 per night
Contact: 01947 880283; hookshousefarm.co.uk
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16. Beadnell Bay Campsite, Northumberland
This strip of the north Northumberland coastline feels romantically remote and undeveloped. It makes a lovely, if breezy, spot for camping, and the site is situated by the sea, about two miles south of the little resort at Seahouses, with its pretty fishing harbour. The coastal road through Seahouses to the castle at Bamburgh makes a good cycle ride, and farther north are Holy Island and Lindisfarne. There are also good walks to the south of the site to Newton Haven and Embleton Bay, with dramatic views to Dunstanburgh Castle. Facilities include lavatories, showers, washing machines and washing-up sinks.
Where to eat: The Craster Arms in Beadnall (01665) 720272); local fish can be bought from Swallow Fish Ltd in Seahouses, or Craster Smoke House.
Price: from £6.60 – £11.25 per person per night.
Contact: 01665 720586; campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk
17. Gibraltar Farm Campsite, Lancashire
The waters of Morecambe Bay are just visible beyond the low wall on the edge of the camping field at Gibraltar Farm, Silverdale. The bay stretches for miles along the northwest coast; it’s great for swimming, but watch out for the fast-rising tide. Just a mile from the site is Jenny Brown’s Point, a popular viewpoint and birdwatching spot overlooking the sands of the bay. There’s also a RSPB reserve nearby at Leighton Moss, with access to coastal lagoons and nature trails. Facilities include a new shower and toilet block, clean lavatories, and hookups. There is also a separate site of 10 acres of ancient woodland that can be booked as a private camp.
Where to eat: there are pubs and restaurants in Silverdale, half a mile away; home-made ice-cream and raw milk from the farm are available on site.
Price: 2/3 person tent from £13 per night; 4/5 berth, £15, ancient woodland camp from £150 for 10 tents.
Contact: 01524 701736/07760 781929; gibfarm.weebly.com
18. Dunnet Bay Caravan and Camping Site, Scotland
Situated against the sand dunes overlooking a sweeping, sandy bay, this is a spectacular spot just down from the cliffs at Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of mainland Britain. Perhaps because this is such a remote spot, the crescent-shaped beach is often empty, and the white sands are a great place for flying kites and having a picnic. The excellent facilities include lavatories, showers and laundry facilities.
Where to eat: there is a site shop selling milk, eggs, and local produce. The nearest supermarket is in Castletown, three miles away.
Price: adult £6.90; child £1.40; pitch £5
Contact: 01847 821319; caravanclub.co.uk
19. Camusdarach, Inverness-shire
This 42-pitch site is right next to miles and miles of white sands, and in the right weather it can feel more like the Caribbean than northwest Scotland. There are pretty views across the waters to the islands of Skye, Rhum, Eigg, Canna and Muck, and there’s a relaxed, friendly atmosphere on the site. The small fishing port of Mallaig is five miles up the road, and from here you can take a ferry to the islands. The excellent, modern facilities include showers, lavatories, washbasins, facilities for those with disabilities and a launderette. Free Wi-Fi. There’s a new wooden glamping pod, sleeping up to five (or four adults), from £45 a night.
Where to eat: the on-site shop sells milk, fresh croissants and hot rolls.
Price: £10 per night for 1-3 man tent, £15 for a 4-7 man tent, plus £5 per adult and £250 per child per night.
Contact: 01687 450221; camusdarach.co.uk
20. Seal Shore Camping and Touring Site, Isle of Arran
Seal Shore lies on the southern tip of Arran and is well known for its abundance of sealife, much of which can be spotted from the large, sandy beach. You will also be overlooking Ailsa Craig. The neat and well-run campsite slopes gently to the sea, and the finger of black rock protruding from the sands into the water makes a lovely place for sunbathing in hot weather. There are good facilities, including a lavatory block with hot showers, dishwashing area, laundry and campers’ day room with covered and windproof cooking facilities. There’s also a gypsy caravan to rent and two camping pods (both from £35 a night, min two-night stay).
Where to eat: there is an on-site shop and fridge-freezer facilities; the nearby Kildonan Hotel (01770 820207; kildonanhotel.com) has a decent restaurant with fine views
Price: From £16 for two adults in a two-man tent to £48 for six adults in a six-man tent. Children £4 a night. £20 deposit required.
Contact: 01770 820320; campingarran.com