If you like stunning sea views with your seafood, then these places are for you.
We've hand-picked a selection of the best beach restaurants and coastal cafes in England – some of which literally sit on the sand.
From casual surfers’ beach cafes serving fresh, reasonably priced food to Rosette-holding restaurants offering gourmet fare with unrivalled ocean views...take your pick.
Some beach cafes and restaurants are only open in peak season, so check before you visit.
Perhaps the UK’s most south-westerly beach cafe, Dibble & Grub is a Mediterranean-style restaurant and bar on Porthcressa Beach, in the Scilly Isles. Dine alfresco in good weather or take in views of the bay from inside the restaurant. The emphasis here is on friendly, attentive service and fresh, quality ingredients. Try the tapas, some local fish or a gourmet burger – or simply swing by for a boozie (that’s an alcoholic smoothie for the uninitiated).
Sat just a mile from Land’s End, atop one of the UK’s most beautiful and unspoilt beaches, this restaurant combines gourmet dining with stunning views. Classically trained chef Ben Tunnicliffe and his team believe in "a friendly environment, good food, efficient service and good wines and beers". Using local, seasonal produce is a priority. Enjoy a stunning sunset from the terrace on a clear day.
Porthminster is the largest of St Ives’ beaches, and at the far end you’ll find Porthminster Beach Restaurant. Enjoy the summer sun on the terrace, or visit in winter and enjoy stunning views from the cover of the restaurant. The delicious food served here is certainly a cut above your traditional beach cafe, and the multi-award-winning restaurant boasts an AA Rosette.
Tucked into a cliff overlooking a beautiful part of the Cornish coastline, the Minack Cafe may not be a beach cafe, but it offers unrivalled sea views. Daytime visitors to the famous open-air theatre can enjoy spectacular views of the amphitheatre and the glistening sea beyond, from the onsite coffee shop. The Minack theatre was carved into Porthcurno cliffs during the 1930s. Some visit purely to see an evening performance, but its exhibition centre is open during daylight hours, along with the coffee shop that serves light meals and snacks, including afternoon tea.
The Watergate Bay Hotel has an enviable location, set on one of the UK’s most famous surfing beaches. Its Beach Hut cafe is practically on the sand and affords stunning views from both a decked balcony as well as indoor tables. The relaxed beach vibe is reflected in the decor, and the menu places an emphasis on fresh, local produce. There’s a great children’s menu, plenty of fresh fish, and the Beach Hut is famed for its desserts and ‘extreme hot chocolates’.
This large, bright, modern and open restaurant directly faces the sea so there’s plenty to feast your eyes on, whatever the weather. Rather more than a beach cafe, this Rosette-wielding restaurant prides itself in serving signature rustic Italian cuisine. Fifteen Cornwall was refurbished in early 2013 and the interior is stunning, now featuring an antipasti bar. The service is professional, the welcome warm, and the food delicious. There’s even a children’s menu.
Sat on Maenporth Beach, The Cove boasts uninterrupted views across Falmouth Bay. This deluxe take on the beach cafe offers a menu featuring Cornish ingredients from largely local producers. Tapas is a speciality as well as seafood. This award-winning, contemporary beach restaurant has an elevated terrace, as well as a Glassroom with extended alfresco terrace available for private functions.
Also in Falmouth, this beach restaurant is the sister venue of a popular eaterie in Truro. Overlooking Swanpool Beach, with views of Pendennis Castle and St Anthony’s Lighthouse, Hooked on the Rocks boasts a spectacular setting. Cornish fish is the order of the day here, and the menu features a range of local seafood and shellfish choices. Daily specials vary according to the day’s catch.
The name of this restaurant comes from its clifftop location on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula, and it overlooks Mullion harbour. Diners enjoy views across the sea, as well as a menu that has earned the establishment an AA Rosette. As you might expect, there’s an emphasis on locally caught fish as well as oysters from Helford River.
More a coastal restaurant than a beach cafe, The Cove overlooks Marine Lake and Knightstone Island. The refurbished building is modern, bright and airy with a glass front that opens onto a terrace, providing great views of the bay. The modern British menu features daily specials using ingredients from local producers, as well as fresh seafood from Brixham and Newlyn.
Aruba is a bright and vibrant beach cafe, bar and restaurant overlooking Bournemouth pier, the beach and the sea beyond. The laid-back, Caribbean-themed restaurant has a definite Club Tropicana feel, complete with palm trees and tropical birds. The menu is global, featuring everything from chow mein and thai curry to pizza, meze and mussels. In the evenings, DJs and musicians transform Aruba into a kicking nightspot with a dancefloor and cocktail bar.
Mere metres from the sand, this award-winning beach restaurant specialises in gourmet seafood and has been awarded an AA Rosette for its modern cuisine. Local produce and seasonality are key to the menu and fresh ingredients arrive daily from Smithfield, Billingsgate and Brixham markets, as well as local waters. Enjoy the sea view from the sheltered restaurant, or bask in sunshine on the decked terrace.
Sitting on Boscombe promenade, just outside Bournemouth, this beach cafe is almost on the sand. The restaurant above offers stunning sea views over Boscombe bay. Part of the Overstrand redevelopment, this modern beach restaurant is beautifully designed with 1950s inspiration. Much of the produce comes from suppliers in Dorset and Hampshire, and the menu features seafood as well as British and Mediterranean classics. There’s also a children’s menu, bar snacks, and an array of cocktails.
Perched on a picturesque clifftop, offering spectacular views of the sea, this aptly named coastal cafe is a short, steep stroll from the beach. Large windows afford panoramic views, and outdoor tables allow you to take full advantage of the sea breeze. The Cliffhanger’s full English breakfast is legendary, but it also serves fish and chips, sharing platters, cream teas and much more. There's often live music in the evening, along with a more grown-up menu.
Very nearly a beach restaurant, Pebble Beach sits on a clifftop overlooking the sea and the Needles on the Isle of Wight. The modern establishment has a bar, an oyster counter and an outside terrace. Pebble beach offers modern brasserie cuisine and has been awarded an AA Rosette. Its menu changes seasonally and features light lunches as well as more formal dinners.
Although not strictly a beach bar, this Hall & Woodhouse pub and restaurant is only around 300 yards from the sea. And what a spot – Lulworth Cove is a stunning Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. The Inn has an extensive menu of British classics, naturally featuring seafood, as well as a children’s menu, and roasts every Sunday. You can even spend the night – several of its rooms boast views of the cove.
Sitting on the edge of the Isle of Purbeck, and overlooking Brownsea Island and Sandbanks, Shell Bay is flanked by dunes. As you might expect, the menu is rich in seafood and usually features scallops, oysters, salmon, mackerel, crayfish, clams, crevettes, hake, pollock, grey mullet and more. Local lobster and crab are available with 48 hours’ notice, and some evenings there’s live music.
Crab House is right on the coast, overlooking Chesil Beach. This beach restaurant is serious about food, and its fresh approach and attention to detail have earned Crab House an AA Rosette. Seafood is at the heart of its offering so the menu varies daily according to the catch – sometimes changed twice daily. The seafood served is landed from nearby Weymouth, Poole or Brixham, and fresh local crabs are a speciality.
This beach cafe is literally on the beach, as close to the water’s edge as it’s possible to dine. Part of the World Heritage Coast, it’s in a beautiful spot on Chesil Bank overlooking Lyme Bay, with unspoilt sea views. Food is homemade with an emphasis on local produce, and there’s plenty of fresh, locally caught fish. During the summer, Hive Beach Cafe serves spider crabs from its own beach as well as hand-dived scallops. The Hive’s cake counter and ice-cream parlour are a big hit with little ones.
This beach cafe is mere yards from the sea, offering stunning views of Dorset’s beautiful Jurassic coastline. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, specialising in seafood and wood-fired pizza. There are daily specials, and the cafe has a fresh take on fish – its ‘diverse dinner’ concept strives to introduce diners to lesser known varieties of fish. Pop in to see the ice-cream parlour, take afternoon tea, or visit on a late summer’s evening for a spot of dinner. Opening times vary.
This Italian beach restaurant and bar occupies an enviable elevated position on the seafront, overlooking the dramatic ruins of Brighton’s West Pier. The 1950s Milkmaid Pavilion building was created for the Festival of Britain and is now home to this thriving restaurant. Dine truly al fresco on the decked terraces, or, if you prefer to eat under cover, floor-to-ceiling windows ensure a fantastic ocean view whatever the weather. Executive chef John Dickson has crafted a Mediterranean menu using mainly locally sourced ingredients, naturally reared free-range meat and sustainable fish.
This very cool beach cafe sits right on the beach offering unrivalled views. Enjoy breakfast, lunch, tea or dinner, in close proximity to the sea – and choose from menus offering an abundance of seafood. East Beach Cafe has played an important role in the regeneration of Littlehampton, and has won awards for architecture, tourism and sustainability. The unique design of the building is down to architect Thomas Heatherwick, who since designed the Olympic cauldron for the London 2012 games.
The sister of East Beach Cafe, West Beach Cafe is, essentially, a small but perfectly formed seafront fish and chip shop. Sitting at the mouth of the River Arun, right on a beach of Special Scientific Interest, it offers wonderful views. Choose from fish and chips – eat in or take away – homemade fish cakes, scampi, toasties, homemade cakes or local ice cream.
This family-friendly bar and restaurant overlooks Scarborough’s North Bay and Scarborough Castle. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu features a wide range of dishes – from risotto, pizza and omelette, right through to hotpot, curry, burgers and fish. Enjoy sea views, an affordable menu, and – on occasion – live music to boot.
20 October 2015
Hive Beach cafe and Watch House images © email@example.com
AA Breakdown is recommended by readers of 'Which?' magazine