Let’s go to the beach! 10 coastal hotspots near you
We've picked out 10 beachy hotspots in the Isle of Wight and Hants to hit this summer - just add your bucket and spade, a G&T and a lifeguard in speedos.
Hampshire is flanked by two incredible beaches – West Wittering in West Sussex to the east and Sandbanks in Dorset to the west – but don’t discount the sands in our area. Here are just some of our top picks.
ISLE OF WIGHT
Steephill Cove, best for: fresh seafood
Could this be the Isle of Wight’s best-kept secret? Steephill Cove is an unspoilt fishing cove with a sandy beach, located just south of the Victorian town of Ventnor on the south-east coast of the island. Likened to Cornish beaches, it’s one of the prettiest and quaintest beach on the island – think cottages, lobster pots… and a donkey!
Resident fishermen catch crab and lobster for the fabulous Boathouse restaurant with its al fresco deck, and the more informal Crab Shed where crab pasties are the order of the day. With no road access to the beach, parking is in the award-winning botanical gardens and the beach has step/slope access. Make sure you pay the nearby iconic Spyglass Inn a visit too if you’re in this area.
Priory Bay, best for: feeling like you’re abroad
No, it’s not the Caribbean, it’s Priory Bay beach, as spotted from the stunning Priory Bay Hotel. This manor house hotel is perched on the north-east of the island in its own 60-acre estate, with its grand period buildings, helipad, tennis courts, outdoor swimming pool and Gertrude Jekyll-designed gardens. The hotel is currently being revamped, but the 600m private beach is accessed via woodland and the hotel’s gardens. The woodland, Priory Woods, is owned by The National Trust so even if you can’t afford the hotel you can waft around the greenery like you own it.
Compton Bay, best for: families
Compton Bay on the south-west of the island has been name-checked by The Sunday Times as one of the world’s best beaches (discuss!). Here you’ll find two miles of contrasting dark and golden sand, backed by multi-coloured sandstone cliffs. It’s a ‘bring everything you need’ kind of beach so come armed with a BBQ and body boards, and don’t forget to hit the ice cream van post-lunch. Compton Bay is great for fossil hunting and you can book tours to see the dinosaur footprints in the sandstone ledge at Hanover Point, which is exposed at low tide.
Totland Bay, best for: sunsets.
The tranquil Totland Bay on the west coast of the island has an old-fashioned seaside vibe with its small pier and promenade. The beach is straight off the front of a postcard, with rows of colourful beach huts, golden sands and safe turquoise waters for bathing. Kick back with a bottle of something bubbly and watch the yachts and cruisers drop anchor and row ashore for lunch, or jetski wideboys revving up in the distance. Gorgeous sunsets here too.
Shanklin and Luccombe Bay, best for: pub grub
Luccombe Chine on the east coast of the Isle of Wight is a lush wooded ridge leading to an isolated beach with an undiscovered feel. If you’re looking for a rugged spot to enjoy your packed lunch, this is it. At low tide Luccombe Bay can be accessed from Shanklin beach, but be careful you don’t get trapped! On the esplanade at Shanklin you’ll find the Fisherman’s Cottage, an old dining pub trading since the early 1800s. Expect a warm welcome and classic dishes – and possibly the best fish and chips on the island.
White Cliff Bay, best for: fossil hunting
White Cliff Bay on the eastern tip of the island is a stunning bay, backed by trees. The name comes from the Culver Cliffs at the southern end of the beach, which are rich with fossils and rock pools to keep the whole family busy. This is a beach for sandy sandwiches and gulps of lemonade between adventures! You get a good view of the busy shipping lane leading to The Solent from here, so pack your binoculars. The facilities are simple and it’s located near popular holiday parks too.
Castlehaven and Reeth Bay, best for: isolation
This charming hidden bay lies near the village of Niton on the southernmost tip of the Isle of Wight. It’s flanked by steep cliffs and it backs onto the small village of Castlehaven, which means you may find you have this curved rocky bay to yourself. A great spot for a thermos of tea and some quiet reflection.
Southsea Beach, best for: an old-fashioned day out at the seaside
Southsea is a vibrant, traditional seaside resort. The beach stretches from old Portsmouth to Eastney – mainly shingle with a stretch of sand exposed at low tide. On the iconic South Parade Pier you’ll find traditional amusements, fish and chips and ice cream. A stroll along the Promenade with a 99 and a flake is just the ticket at Southsea Beach and perhaps a spot of crabbing at Canoe salt water lake, a popular recreation space near the beach.
Hayling Island Beaches, best for: cleanliness
Hayling Island is blessed with three miles of award-winning beaches, along the seafront and the shore around Langstone and Chichester Harbour. All three Hayling beaches (West Beach, Beachlands Central and Eastoke) fly the blue cleanliness and environmental flag. The beaches are shingle so it’s worth visiting at low tide when long stretches of sand are exposed. Dog walk at sunset anyone?
Thanks to the West Winner Sand Bank, West Beach boasts a ‘lagoon’ within which the waters warm nicely as the tide rises, so is popular with swimmers. From Eastoke you have views over to West Wittering Beach across the Sussex border. This beach is popular with kitesurfers and windsurfers – not surprising, as apparently windsurfing was invented on Hayling Island!
Barton-on-Sea, best for: beachcombing
Think New Forest and your mind may go to woodland and ponies rather than beaches, but there’s some fantastic rugged coastline here too. The beach at Barton-on-Sea is backed by high clay cliffs and enjoys views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. It’s great for swimming, relaxing with a book and watching kitesurfers and windsurfers whip over the water in a blur of colour. The best time for beachcombing and fossil hunting is low tide if you’re Jurassically inclined.
Words: Helen Ruff