ea, sand (or pebbles) and occasional sun are all on offer within 90 minutes of London. And since the pandemic has given many Londoners the chance to work at least a few days from home, the stretch of coastline that has long been popular with artists and other creatives has also opened up to office crowds.
But where should these forward-thinking yuppies start in their search for a place to live?
If you dream of the taste of salt in the air, of morning walks along the promenade and the possibility of spending your weekends paddling or sailing, but you don’t want to give up the comfort of London life, there are options.
These five towns, all within a decent commute from London for the office, are where you should seek out the sea with culture and cafes.
How much? You’ll have to shell out close to a million pounds for one of the beautiful Regency houses overlooking the sea on The Paragon or Royal Parade, and around £700,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.
Away from the seafront, prices drop dramatically – around £425,000 to £475,000 would buy a Victorian townhouse east of the town centre, while a two-bedroom flat would cost around £200,000.
The path : Trains to St Pancras International take around an hour and a half.
What is to love? Not as pretentious as Broadstairs, this beautiful town is the perfect place to relax on the beach, pick up vintage finds in its outstanding collection of antique shops (you’ll be hard-pressed to visit the Petticoat Lane Emporium without finding something buy you), or cycle the Viking Coastal Trail.
Emma Jane Palin, 31, an interior designer and blogger, bought in Ramsgate almost a year ago, along with her husband Josh, 34, a musician who also works at Margate Forts. Prior to this, the couple rented in Margate, having moved to the coast from London.
“We moved to Ramsgate because we could afford to buy here,” she says. “Margate has become much more expensive in recent years. Ramsgate is always quiet and there is that sense of community.
Palin recommends a stroll down Addington Street. She likes Potters for home shopping, Positive Retail for second-hand luxury fashion and Vinyl Head for records. For coffee, head to Union, a yoga shop and cafe.
How much? Folkestone’s alpha address has long been its West End, with its streets of fine Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses.
A two-bedroom flat will cost around £300,000, says Bairstow Eves branch manager Claire Reene, while you could buy a four-bedroom house for around £600,000.
Reene recommends looking east around the Harbor Arm, which has become trendier as the area has been regenerated with bars and restaurants. A two-bedroom apartment here would cost at least £200,000 while a four-bedroom house would cost around £400,000.
The path : Trains to St Pancras International take just under an hour. Services from London Bridge take an hour and a half.
What is to love? Catherine Nice moved to Folkestone in 2015, with her husband Gary and their two children, Jude, 11, and Ruby, eight.
Nice, 41, is a print designer with her own housewares brand, Kitty McCall, and she and Gary, 44, who is setting up a bespoke recruitment agency, had lived all around the south and South East London, most recently in West Dulwich.
In 2014, Nice felt the need to be close to his parents, so the family moved to Leighton Buzzard. She liked the city, but it didn’t really click.
Then her parents announced that they were moving to Folkestone. “We came down to have a look and I was blown away by the sea, the sense of community and what they were trying to do with regeneration,” she said.
A year later, the family was living on the south coast. “When we first arrived, there were maybe a restaurant or two. Now you have The Folkestone Wine Company, which I love, a little tapas restaurant called Pick Up Pintxos, and the Harbor Arm is amazing in the summer as it has live music and lots of street food stalls.
A new creative district has been created by Roger De Haan, who invested millions in his home town, which is now bursting with public art, by Antony Gormley and Tracey Emin, and hosts the Folkestone Triennial.
How much will it cost? Mark Newman, director of Winkworth estate agents, said buyers of a home in Leigh-on-Sea should budget around £350,000 for a two-bed flat, or £550,000 to £600,000 for a terrace at three beds.
Shoppers on a budget might consider nearby Westcliff-on-Sea, which attracts more interest thanks to its value for money – although it’s by no means as hip as Leigh. You could buy a three-bed house for around £500,000.
The path : Trains to Fenchurch Street or Liverpool Street take around an hour.
What is to love? Georgie Perkins moved to Leigh-on-Sea in 2004 from Hertfordshire.
“You have a very nice old town with cobbled streets and pubs with seats on the sea wall so you can sit and have a drink and watch the estuary and the fishing boats and then you have a really vibrant high and thriving street, full of bars, shops and vegan restaurants,” she says.
Georgie, 43, runs a local community center while her husband, Lee, 45, is an electrician.
The couple have a six-year-old son, Evan, and a dog, Buddy, and the family love hanging out on the beach. “It’s one of the longest stretches of beach in the country, one leads to the next, so it’s great for walks,” she says.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
How much? The posh part of town is Meads, west of the town centre, close to the South Downs and the seafront. Stephen Rodgers, branch manager at estate agents Fox & Sons, estimates you’d pay around £280,000. £300,000 for a two-bedroom apartment, or around £500,000 for a three-bedroom terrace.
For more bang for your buck, look east towards Redoute, where you can buy a two-bedroom apartment for £180,000-£200,000, or a two-bedroom Victorian cottage for £250,000-280,000. £. “Investment is coming in from the London and Brighton market and you can get some really nice traditional brick or flint houses,” says Rodgers.
The path : Trains to Victoria take around 90 minutes.
What is to love? Levels Wine offers wines on tap, including local options, there’s craft beer at Bottle Grove, small plates at Cru, and the Port Hotel Restaurant is another favorite spot for local produce. . In Little Chelsea you will find record stores, cafes, delis and boutiques.
The jewel in Eastbourne’s crown is Towner, a gallery designed by American architect Rick Mather. It houses a fantastic collection of contemporary art, has its own cinema and organizes inspiring exhibitions and workshops.
Mersea Island, Essex
How much? Detached rambling houses in peaceful East Mersea come with large gardens and price tags of over £1million. You can buy a new three-bedroom detached house for around £525,000 to £600,000 or you can find one of the island’s cottages for £450,000.
There aren’t many apartments on the island but there are a few small purpose built blocks, priced at around £250,000 for two bedrooms.
The path : You need to get to Colchester by car or bus, trains to Liverpool Street are less than an hour away.
What is to love? You would never believe you are only 10 miles from Colchester. But the second you cross the ancient causeway that separates the island from the mainland, you’ll feel like you’re on another planet. Island life is quiet – all long walks, sailing and messing around on the beach – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do.
The Company Shed is a fabulous seafood restaurant, Mersea Barns is the perfect place for a Sunday roast and there are three pubs.
Occasionally the causeway is flooded at high tide and you are romantically stranded on the island – unfortunately this beautiful seclusion only lasts about 90 minutes.
Although quiet in winter, Mersea is very busy during the summer holidays. Since most houses were built after the 60s, this is not the place to look for a cute cottage.
Advice for Londoners moving to the seaside
- Join local Facebook groups. This is how we found our first rental home and they are usually very active with community news and events.
- Visit in all seasons. People move on a whim after a fun weekend of summer beach parties. In the middle of winter, the seaside is a different place.
- Go to local events, on your own if possible. Stores often have things on offer and it’s a good way to meet people.
- Be open to making friends on social media. I often went for coffee with someone I met on Instagram.
- Don’t advertise how much money you have to spend. A London budget will go a lot further here – tenants will say they have £1,300 for a two-bed when that should pay for a five-bedroom house.
- Don’t ask where the “nice” areas are. Coastal towns are still very mixed communities, so get to know your neighbors, whoever they are.
by Emma Jane Palin