Check out our latest magazine... Read Online

The Exciting Appeal of the Beach Holiday

Full of intoxicating sensory pleasures, the beach is the world’s favourite holiday destination as Lisa de Silva explains

The sound of the waves lapping the shoreline, the feel of warm sand between your toes and the smell of sea-salt in the air, conspire to both relax and revive us. While travel trends may come and go, the beach holiday has remained enduringly close to our hearts.


The beach holiday has its origins back in the 18th century when doctors began to prescribe bathing in mineral rich seawater as a cure-all for many diseases, including gout, depression and tuberculosis. The Royals helped to popularise this trend. George III visited Weymouth back in 1789 for skin and nervous diseases, while his son George IV built the Grand Pavilion in Brighton, for easy access to the seafront.

Soon seaside holidays, complete with bathing machines to preserve bathers’ modesty, were all the rage for the wealthy social elite. In time, the bathing machines transformed to static beach huts, piers were built with penny arcade amusements and donkey rides were offered as added attractions.

As the British railway network continued to grow, it also afforded easier access to the coast. However, it was the 1938 Holiday Pay Act introducing paid holiday leave for workers that brought seaside holidays within the scope of the masses.

The industry really took off in the 1950s and 60s. With large numbers of us wanting a beachside break, there was pressure on accommodation. This gave rise to the birth of seaside holiday camps, such as Butlins and Pontins, which offered an all-inclusive deal with meals and entertainment included. What’s more, during the 1970s travel companies started to offer holiday packages overseas and by 1979, the British were spending more money on overseas holidays than at home. Today, despite most of the planet’s many charms being well within reach, the beach holiday continues to reign supreme.


One of the main lures of a beach holiday is that it makes us feel good. Sharing relaxed and uninterrupted time with family and loved ones in a beautiful natural setting is good for the soul. The beach is also the ideal spot to meditate and reflect. Gazing at the ocean, or what psychologists call ‘blue space,’ is known to calm and destress our minds.

Spending time at the beach also has a positive impact on our health. Sea air is rich in negative ions, which boosts the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, while sea water has properties that can produce an antibacterial and antibiotic effect to improve our immune systems. Along with stimulating Vitamin D and the chance to swim, walk and play on the sand, beach life is a brilliant way to be more active and feel both more carefree and energised.


Every beach has its own rhythms and personality, from long stretches of golden sands and turquoise waters to rocky coastlines with tide pools, frozen shorelines and tropical beaches with swaying palms and rainforest backdrops. So, whether you enjoy exploring, lazing, swimming or fishing, there is a beach to suit all sensibilities and occasions. Don’t forget many lakes and rivers also boast freshwater beaches for those unable to get to the coast.


Choosing a location for a beach holiday offers a wide range of possibilities and doing your holiday research will pay dividends in ensuring all your party are catered for. While a honeymooning couple maybe looking for luxury private island seclusion, a family may prefer a Mediterranean beach with a range of activities to suit all ages.

Alternatively, walkers might want to make for the headland trails of the West Country, surfers may look to catch the breaks of the Portuguese Atlantic and groups of friends with varied interests may enjoy an urban beach break, such as Nice or Barcelona, with retail, dining and cultural attractions all close by. The presence of lifeguards, the opportunity to get food and drink and/or the chance try your hand at a range of water sports are also worthy of consideration.

With climate change now a reality, choosing the right time of year for your beach holiday will become increasingly important. Certain beach destinations are best visited at specific times of year, such as parts of Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. However, while southern Europe has long been popular for summer beach holidays, rising temperatures and forest fires could see beach holidays in Southern England, Northern France, and Scandinavia gaining in popularity.

More from Features