From windsurfing in Weymouth to craft beers in Brighton, we pick five very different breaks on England's south coast.
ACTION: Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is probably best known as a mecca for fossil-hunters; a geological spectacle where layers of rock spanning the Mesozoic Era (250-65m years ago) offer a view of the slow evolution of life. But it’s also a haven for those craving something a little pacier, whether that’s surfing at Kimmeridge, hiking and biking along the south coast path or sailing, kitesurfing and windsurfing in Weymouth. The crescent-shaped Kimmeridge Bay regularly throws up a decent swell, but it’s not for beginners or the faint-hearted thanks to its rocky outcrops and rip tides. Long sand and shingle beaches, and winds that whip along the coast, make much of the area a great place to try kitesurfing – Weymouth and Portland are both excellent starting points. But if you’d rather stay dry, the south coast path runs the 95 miles of the coast (and way beyond), with staggering views rewarding those walkers who take it on.
FOOD & DRINK: Brighton
There are plenty of reasons to head to Brighton, which these days is an authentic destination for foodies. Oyster and champagne joint Riddle & Finn’s has two locations – one in the city’s famous, narrow Lanes and the other in a new(ish) location under the arches on the beachfront – and both will be heaven for lovers of fresh seafood and bubbly. For non meat and fish-eaters, Food For Friends has a sophisticated vegetarian menu and a typically Brightonian approach to sustainability and local sourcing. For a drink or two to wash it all down, try the North Laine, a large and bustling pub in a former nightclub that brews its own craft beers. We’ll drink to that…
RELAXATION: Rye and Camber Sands
Along with neighbouring Camber Sands, medieval Rye combines quiet natural beauty with a bubbling undercurrent of culture and gastronomy, making it an ideal spot for some escape-the-city R&R. The rolling sand dunes – the only ones in East Sussex – provide a scenic accompaniment to a leisurely stroll along the seafront, while in the town itself cobbled streets, petite shops and tiny buildings scrunched up by the centuries will make you feel you’ve taken a step back in time. If that all sounds too sedate, the beach is a magnet for kitesurfers – though you might need trip to the spa at Flackley Ash in nearby Peasmarsh to recover.
FAMILY: New Forest
William the Conqueror knew what he was doing when he named the expansive and beautiful ‘Great Ytene’ as his hunting ground in 1079, though today it’s less about chasing animals. The New Forest stretches from Ringwood in the west almost as far as Southampton in the east, and there’s a vast expanse of woods, wide open heathland and wildlife in between – perfect ingredients for an outdoorsy family holiday. The best way to explore is on bike and foot, and you’ll see rivers, the forest’s famous ponies, trees, ponies, quaint little cottages and ponies. And did we mention the ponies? There are plenty of places to horseride if your kids are inspired, while you can take time out in one of the forest’s many pubs, including the diminutive and rustic (but predictably packed-out) Royal Oak in Fritham.
Ask the wrong person and they’ll tell you that Bournemouth is the stag and hen capital of the south of England. They’re not far wrong – but there’s more to it than that. The town has long been a mecca for house music, thanks in no small part to the Opera House, the home of the legendary Slinky club night and now renamed the O2 Academy Bournemouth. Exeter Road has plenty of bars and is a good place to start; Halo keeps the spirit of EDM alive with big name DJs (and is in a converted church), while Sixty Million Postcards has a distinctly indie flavour. For more laid-back libations, Urban Reef, in nearby Boscombe, has a surfy vibe and fantastic beach views.