Ah, the great British seaside. It’s a place for families - for mini-adventures, shared discoveries and new experiences - at any time of the year.
There is so much more to visiting the beach than just sunbathing. In the winter months, take the dogs on a windy walk or skim stones; as the sea warms up, pull your wellies for a spot of crabbing or rummage in rock pools; come summer, grab your sunnies and expect bucket-and-spade joys, picnics and splashingly good things.
Spades at the ready? Get more out of a day at the shore with these top 8 beach activities.
OK so it’s an obvious one, but you can get so creative with sand based constructions! Fashion a boat or a car in the sand big enough to sit in, build a sandcastle city, make a dam or even a sandman (like a snowman but without freezing your fingers!). Or channel your kids’ inner artists and make a sand sculpture with them, adding pebbles, rocks, seaweed and shells for decoration - whatever you like with whatever you can gather!
There are lots! Why not get the kids to build two sandcastles a good distance apart, stick a flag on each one, and then make it your day’s mission to capture their flags? Or put their buckets near the sea and get them to fill them with water, using only their hands. For target practice, draw three concentric circles in the sand and get everyone to gather small stones, pebbles or shells to throw into the circles, with more points given if they land one in the smallest circle. Or place a large stone or stack of stones in the sand for the winner to knock over with pebbles. Alternatively, play musical towels (like musical chairs but with your beach towels and music from your phone). When everyone’s taken to the water, assign someone as the shark and the rest as minnows. The shark has to catch the minnows, a tagged minnow becoming the next shark! Remember to hum the theme tune from Jaws for extra tension!
3. Just dig
If you’re craving a bit of peace, give the kids a spade each to dig as deep a hole in the sand as possible – the winner is the one with the deepest. Extend your relaxation time even further by getting them to fill the hole with water!
4. Examine Critters
As the tide goes out, it leaves behind a world of amazing sea life in rock pools, ready to be discovered. Next time you're down by the seaside, fill a bucket with water, grab a net and get ready to dabble. You can go rockpooling any time of year, though the best time is between spring and autumn, when the sea is warmer. Even if you don't have any kit, the water in most rock pools is so clear you can see all kinds of things from the surface. You are almost certain to discover a beautiful teeming haven of fish, crabs, anemones and other crustaceans. Try not to cast a shadow over the water as it will frighten the critters and lower your net in slowly. Add a bit of seaweed to your bucket so your captured beasties have cover and make sure your water stays cool. You don’t want rock pool soup! Return any creatures you’ve caught back to where you found them before you leave.
Be sure to search out caves in rocks near your beach too and explore the nooks and crannies – you never know what you might find. Please make sure you check the tide times before you go and take someone with you.
Crabbing is so simple, as all you need is a plastic bucket filled with seawater, seaweed and some pebbles, a small net, some string or handline and some bait in an old washing tablet bag. Crabs are partial to fish or those bits of bacon left over from brekkie. Crab at rockpools or from piers or a harbour wall. Try not to keep any crabs or sea life in your bucket for too long and return anything near to where you found it.
6. Play Games
Get the Frisbee out and challenge the family to a game. Just throwing a Frisbee back and forth between players can be enough to keep kids entertained for a good long while. You can also set up some targets in the sand and see who can throw the Frisbee nearest to them or knock them over. If there’s a group of you, have a kickabout with a football, or play a game of beach cricket or rounders. Kids v adults is always fun – especially when the kids win!
7. Go a-foraging
All sorts of tasty specimens can be found around our shores. And when you stay at our lovely Mayo cottages in Killala Bay on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, we can arrange a fantastic guided foraging tour with Denis Quinn, a local knowledgeable and friendly Fáilte Ireland-approved guide. Experience the ancient and rugged coast foraging for cockles, mussels, samphire, periwinkles, razor fish and sea vegetables, share some recipes and, best of all, an outdoor seafood feast!
8. Fossil hunting
If you want to go fossil hunting, head to Charmouth, Lulworth Cove and Lyme Regis which are known to have the best finds. The cliffs at Charmouth have a distinctive dark colour caused by the muddy and stagnant seabed during the Jurassic period, so conditions were ideal to preserve shells, bones and small critters millions of years ago. The best place to find fossils here is on the beach as there’ll be many there that have been washed up by the sea, and because the cliffs are too unstable to dig safely. Check out our nearby holiday cottages here.