WITH the confusion and Covid tests making trips abroad harder to plan, it is the perfect time to head to an amazing British beach instead.

We have some of the best and cleanest sands in the world – with 76 of them making the latest Blue Flag Award list.

That is more than Cyprus, Malta and even Mexico.

So grab your bucket and spade.

From snorkelling coves to thrill-seeker pier rides, Sophie Swiettochowski picks the best Blue Flag beaches in England and Wales . . . 

BEST FOR SURFING

Porthtowan, Cornwall

An exposed stretch of blustery coastline draws a crowd of pro surfers. There is nearby village of the same and the beach is a corker, set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A huge sweep of sand extends as far as St Agnes to the north. After exploring the heathland or surfing, drop in to the Blue Bar shack for seafood, nachos and pizzas.

BEST FOR FAMILIES

Tynemouth Longsands, Tyne and Wear

With a mile of shoreline, aquarium and the nearby Tynemouth Park, which has a boating lake and crazy golf, it’s a day out. Grab a wetsuit, as the gentle break makes this a good spot for surfing beginners There are toilets, plenty of parking spaces and places to eat, such as Longsands Fish Kitchen, which does a great scampi and chips.

BEST FOR SWIMMING

Mundesley, Norfolk

In a charming seaside village, Mundesley beach is backed by coloured beach huts that can be hired for £195 a week in the summer and a parade of quaint’ independent shops. The long, sandy shoreline and calm sea make this one of the best spots in Norfolk for swimming. With lifeguards on duty in the summer months, little ones can safely paddle too.

BEST FOR TRADITIONAL FUN

Weymouth, Dorset

There is stacks to do on a day out to the golden sands at Weymouth, including donkey rides and the arcades. The town has a promenade brimming with ice-cream parlours and charming cafes. Take the little ones to the Punch and Judy puppet show (£2 a ticket), while older children can have a go at paddle-boarding or try kayaking.

BEST FOR SCENIC WALKS

Freshwater, Pembrokeshire

On a sunny day, the beach at Freshwater East is magical – a wide sweep of sand backed by dunes and boasting views of the Bristol Channel. In the 18th Century, the cliffs were a favourite with smugglers hiding their stash. But these days the treasure is hiking trails extending into the Pembrokeshire National Park.

BEST FOR DOGS

East Runton, Norfolk

Wooded hills and grassland give way to sandstone rises and a golden beach. The sands are perfect for dogs, which are welcome year round without any restrictions. Clamber to the top of Incleborough Hill, past grazing wild goats, for one of the best coastal views in Norfolk. It is also a short walk to the town of Cromer, which is famous for delicious crab.

BEST FOR SNORKLE & SCUBA

Porth Dafarch, Anglesey

The sunken wreckage of the Missouri, an American steamer that lies 18 metres below the surface, makes this small, remote cove a top spot for divers who come to explore the wreck. Not up to strapping on the oxygen tanks? The National Trust site also has secluded spots with shallow waters full of sea life, making it perfect for snorkelling or rock-pooling.

BEST FOR PIER FUN

Central Beach, Skegness

The pier has undergone a £1million revamp and now boasts Clip’n Climb, a climbing experience with 14 walls, plus a beach bar and huge children’s play arena. Among its restaurants is the US-themed Hollywood Bar & Diner, while games and daily live entertainment abound. Away from the pier, there are donkey rides on the sand, Fantasy Island amusement park and Natureland seal sanctuary.

BEST FOR WILDLIFE

West Wittering, Chichester, West Sussex

Dodge the summer crowds and walk along to East Head, a sand dune spit at the eastern side of the entrance to Chichester Harbour, where you can see cracking wildlife. Birds such as whimbrels and godwits can be seen in summer, while seals are often spotted in the muddy shallows. Book a space at the West Wittering Estate car park before you arrive.

BEST FOR FISH & CHIPS

Whitby, North Yorks

The beach is overlooked by Whitby Abbey, inspiration for Dracula, but attracts a crowd on its own merit – gentle, shelving sands, rock pools and donkey rides. Deck chairs are available to hire from the West Pier. The real treat, fish and chips, is up on Pier Road. Book ahead at Magpie Cafe for one of the best fish suppers in the country. Customers queue down the street for a table.

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