There’s nothing quite like the smell of the salty yet fresh sea air. Although the beach is not on our doorstep there are a number of seaside towns just a short drive away from Manchester to get that refreshing sea breeze. Add in the relaxing sound of waves coming in and out of the shore, sandy beaches and quaint shops to mooch around, it’s a grand day out all round. Want beaches and more? Check out our guide to the most scenic coastal towns that are less than two hours away from Manchester.
1. Lytham St Annes
Located on the Fylde coast, directly south of Blackpool on the Ribble Estuary, you’ll find the seaside town of Lytham St Annes. The dual seaside towns of Lytham and St Annes vary in both character and atmosphere and you’ll find them nestled along a picturesque stretch of coastline lined with well tended lawns, a boating lake and pretty parks.
Lytham St Annes boasts an expansive sandy beach, Victorian pier, historic windmill, a ‘royal’ golf course and stylish independent shops. Also what makes this spot stand out from other coastal towns near Manchester is Lytham St Anne’s iconic (and award-winning) beach huts which are available to stay at, meaning you can cosy up watching stunning seaside sunsets or seek refuge on more blustery days.
Drive from Manchester city centre: 1 hour 14 mins
Located north of Liverpool and popular beach destinations Crosby, Formby and Ainsdale, Southport has plenty of character, having been a popular seaside spot during the Victorian era. Explore the Grade II listed Wayfarers shopping arcade, pedal across Southport Marine Lake or wander around the picturesque Hesketh Park.
For thrill-seekers there’s Southport Pleasureland, for foodies there’s street food hub Southport Market and for beach bums there’s 22 miles of coastline to dip your toes into. Southport also boasts an array of bars, coffee shops and restaurants serving the classic seaside staple fish and chips as well as a variety of cuisines.
Drive from Manchester city centre: 1 hour 12 mins
It’s not just Lancashire and Merseyside which are blessed with beautiful beaches and quaint coastal towns for the North Wales coastline is also a must-visit. Prestatyn continues to be one of the most popular coastal towns due to its beautiful beach, clean sea, long promenade and entertainment.
The beach looking out to the Irish Sea is not the only attraction in Prestatyn as visitors can also head to Scala Cinema and Arts Centre to catch a film or show, tread in the footsteps of ancient royalty by following part of the Offa’s Dyke Path or venture to the nearby Gronant Dunes. For more beach adventures, head east to Talacre for a quieter beach and to look up in awe at the Point of Ayr Lighthouse or go west to Rhyl to visit a seaside aquarium, take part in watersports at the marine lake or cycle at Marsh Tracks.
Drive from Manchester city centre: 1 hour 30 mins
4. West Kirby
Located at the north west tip of the Wirral peninsula, West Kirby is one of the quickest coastal towns to get to from Manchester. As well as being able to roam the beach, a stroll along the marine lake is a must where you can witness incredible views out to the Welsh Hills across the Dee Estuary. West Kirby is also where the Wirral Way starts, which is a 12-mile, traffic free path through the Wirral countryside and along the beautiful coastal estuary of the River Dee.
For those who fancy a bit of adventure, you can head out across the water to Hilbre Island or further north up the coast towards Hoylake where you’ll find Red Rocks Nature Reserve, both with amazing wildlife to spot including birds and grey seals. Away from the waterfront, you can explore The Crescent, a curved street filled with Tudor architecture and Banks Road, which is lined with local independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
Drive from Manchester city centre: 1 hour 17 mins
Head north to the seaside town of Morecambe, close to the city of Lancaster, where you’ll not only be rewarded with views out towards the Irish Sea at the bay but also a host of activities. Talk a walk along the Stone Jetty, a walking path with bay vistas, which was one side of the former Harbour and built around 1853.
On days when the weather isn’t as sunny as we would like, you can head to Soul Bowl for boutique bowling with luxurious wood lanes, or mooch around the stalls at the Festival Market. As you go towards the market you can spot the TERN project, a collection of bird sculptures, and follow the Poem Path. Or head south to Heysham where you’ll find the Saxon ruins of St Patrick’s Chapel, which stand above the sea and are said to predate the Battle of Hastings.
Drive from Manchester city centre: 1 hour 30 mins
Another stunning Welsh coastal town that is a short drive from Manchester is Llandudno. Stroll down Llandudno’s his classic Victorian pier, which is complete with traditional Welsh gifts, Punch and Judy stalls, penny arcades and retro stores, plus a perfect spot to grab an ice cream. Also what makes Lladudno special is that it has not one but two coastlines and beaches to explore with the West Shore Beach looking over Conwy Sands and offers great conditions for kite surfing.
The Welsh seaside town has plenty of breathtaking views including ones on board the Great Orme Tramway and also Camera Obscura at the top of Happy Valley on the Great Orme where you can experience views including ones of Liverpool Bay and Anglesey on a clear day. Plus, you can explore the likes of Conwy Castle as well as over 40 caves in and around the town with Elephant Cave being the most well known.
Drive from Manchester city centre: 1 hour 50 mins