Passionate People, Passionate Places: 12 best beaches in the North East

Bamburgh

A survey of nearly 3,000 holidaymakers in 2019 rated Bamburgh as the UK’s best seaside location, and it is hard to argue with that verdict.

With the dramatic backdrop of Bamburgh Castle, views of the Farne Islands and Lindisfarne and rolling sand dunes, Bamburgh beach is as picturesque as it can be bracing to walk along.

Other points of interest include the white stag painted on rocks at the far end of the beach, pill box defence bunkers from World War Two and the flora and fauna at what is one of the UK’s longest-established Sites of Special Scientic Interest.

Embleton Bay

There can be few beaches more perfect than Embleton Bay as it stretches from Low Newton to Dunstanburgh Castle.

Low Newton itself is a delight, with fishermen’s cottages and the recently revived Ship Inn making it very much a picture postcard village. The beach is overlooked at its northern end by a pleasingly ramshackle of beach huts, while Dunstanburgh Castle, its nearby cliffs and the abundance of birdlife provide a dramatic backdrop.

Alnmouth

With its colourful houses and welcoming pubs and cafes, Alnmouth has been described as the “Tobermory of Northumberland”.

Once a busy port at the mouth of the River Aln, Alnmouth now boasts an unspoilt beach that is part of the Northumberland Coast area of outstanding natural beauty.

The beach also provides a backdrop to a golf course that is one of the oldest links courses in England.

Druridge Bay

With towering dunes and sand stretching as far as the eye can see, Druridge Bay is one of the most dramatic beaches in the UK.

The seven-mile stretch between Amble and Cresswell is a haven for birdwatchers and walkers, while Ladyburn Lake in the Druridge Bay country park is a favourite of water sports enthusiasts.

Proposals for a nuclear power station and then an open-cast coal mine have been seen off at various points by supporters of the area, which has hosted a mass skinny dip in recent years.

Tynemouth Longsands
(Image: ncjMedia)
The sun rises over Dunstanburgh Castle, Embleton Bay
(Image: Tom White/PA Wire)

Whitley Bay

The beach at Whitley Bay was singled out by the global Traveller magazine as one of the best in the UK, praising it as a “popular holiday destination for locals, who come here to swim in the clean, safe waters.”

From the backdrop of St Mary’s Lighthouse along to the recently restored Spanish City, the beach is loved by walkers, water sports enthusiasts and the hardy open water swimmers of the Panama Swimming Club.

The Whitley Bay seafront has seen extensive investment in recent years that is seeing it recover from a slightly downbeat recent past to recover old glories. The Rendezvous cafe remains an art deco gem.

Longsands/King Edward’s Bay

Tynemouth’s Longsands is one of the region’s most popular beaches, attracting thousands of visitors with its mile of unspoilt sands.

The beach is also popular with surfers and plans are ongoing to restore the open air pool at the southern end of the beach that drew massive crowds in the mid 20th-century but has lain dormant for years.

The nearby King Edward’s Bay is enclosed by cliffs and grassy banks and sits in the shadow of Tynemouth Priory and Castle, while seafood lovers come from miles around to queue outside Riley’s Fish Shack.

South Shields/Marsden

Sandhaven beach at South Shields is popular with families, as well as with birdwatchers and surfers.

A few miles down the coast from the seaside resort is Marsden Rock, a 100-feet sea stack which developed a trademark arch in 1911 when a section of the rock fell into the sea. Tidal erosion caused the arch to collapse in 1996, and a smaller stack was demolished a year later on safety grounds.

The Marsden Grotto pub overlooks the beach in a cave created in the 18th century and said by some to be haunted.

Roker/Seaburn

Sunderland’s twin beaches have been favourites for hundreds of years with open promenades and a landscaped seafront.

Every summer the area draws huge crowds to watch the Sunderland International Airshow, while the autumn and early winter sees the area is brightened by the popular Sunderland Illuminations

Seaburn was a favourite of the painter LS Lowry and more than 30 works he produced during holidays in the village are now held by the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

Druridge Bay
Druridge Bay
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Durham Heritage Coast

A large stretch of coastline running from Sunderland to Hartlepool, the Durham Heritage Coast has emerged from an industrial past and the coal-strewn wastelands made famous in the final scene of the 1960s gangster film Get Carter.

Remediation work over decades, most notably in the Turning the Tide project, has brought back birds and other wildlife, while the unique geology of the area provides dramatic cliffs and occasional caves and stacks.

The area is popular with walkers and birdwatchers.

Seaton Carew

Seaton Carew – or Seaton Canoe, as it briefly came to be known due to the bizarre story of John Darwin – was a fishing village that was developed into a seaside resort for wealthy Quaker families from nearby Darlington.

The town’s promenade offers views down the North Sea coast towards Whitby, while the Hartlepool Submerged Forest, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, is just down the coast.

Marske

A locals’ favourite, Marske beach has remained relatively unspoilt but was singled out as one of the best beaches in the North last year in a national guide.

The Sunday Times’ Beach Guide described Marske as “magnificent – almost Bamburgh-like in scale, with dune backed shingle dropping at low tide to a shimmering immensity of flat sand.”

Saltburn

As Teesside became an industrial centre in the 19th century, Saltburn was developed as a seaside resort for people working in the area.

The town’s pier opened in 1869, followed 15 years later by the cliff lift funicular when it was decided that the steep cliff walk was deterring people from walking from the town to the beach.

The beach remains popular with Teessiders and has some of the best surfing in the North.

Chronicle Live – Sunderland