According to Harry Mount, in his book How England Made the English, we’ve got Benidorm to thank for the condition of our seaside resorts. ‘Just as concrete tower blocks were spreading across England in the late 1960s, so foreign package tours were getting cheaper and cheaper. The poor seaside towns may have lost custom to Mallorca and Tenerife, but they kept their pretty buildings.’ It’s taken a while for us to look to our own shores, but the tide has turned. Whether the reason is the rise in staycation fever, the desire to live in an area where there are still fishing boats bobbing in the harbour or the increased interest in eating locally sourced food, research shows that property prices in about half of towns near the sea have more than doubled in the past decade.

St Mawes, Cornwall
The pretty, whitewashed village of St Mawes is a self-contained harbourside community, which has been described as ‘Rock without the Hoorays’. In the late 1990s, the hotelier Olga Polizzi bought a former yachting club in the village and reinvented it as Hotel Tresanton, making it possibly one of the first boutique hotels in the UK. The village enjoys a microclimate, that makes it one or two degrees warmer than the rest of the country, and many of the houses have water views.

For sale £1.6 million
Carrick Water, St Just in Roseland
This superb waterfront house occupies one of the finest positions on the Roseland Peninsula. It has four bedrooms, a swimming pool and direct water frontage. Lillicrap Chilcott (01872 273473)

Whitby, North Yorkshire
Considered the Padstow of the North, Whitby is a picturesque fishing port surrounded by the North York Moors. ‘It still offers that classic British holiday experience,’ enthuses Andrew Fallows of Carter Jonas. As it faces north, it’s one of those rare places where the sun rises and sets over the sea. And, according to Rick Stein, it boasts the best fish-and-chip shop in the country-the Magpie Cafe.

For sale £550,000
Hob Garth, Glaisdale

This stone farmhouse enjoys uninterrupted views of the dale. Although the setting is deep in the North York Moors, it’s an easy drive from Whitby. Carter Jonas (01904 558200)

Aldeburgh, Suffolk
This attractive seaside town on what some refer to as Suffolk’s Côte Nucléaire is loved for
its Arts festival (founded by Benjamin Britten) and the food-and-drink festival. There’s good swimming at the shingle beach, and Slaughden Sailing Club operates on the River Alde. This isn’t somewhere to look for a bargain, however. According to Savills Research, the average house price in 2011 was £419,433, making it the third most expensive coastal town. ‘For houses with coastal or river views, the values will be the same today as they were at least two years ago because of their scarcity,’ explains Sarah Broughton of Prime Purchase. ‘It’s very popular. One local agent had a house for sale at £975,000, which went under offer in just three days despite not having a coastal view.’

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For sale £500,000
Raymond Cottage, Aldeburgh

The shingle beach lies only a short walk from this period cottage, which stands in the heart of the high street. There are three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small paved courtyard outside. Bedfords (01728 454505)

Oban, Argyll
Oban is known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, and regular ferries travel from its harbour to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, from where a myriad of smaller islands are within easy reach, including Iona, Staffa-home to Fingal’s Cave-and the Treshnish Isles. Oban itself has a beautiful horseshoe bay, good delicatessens and a proper farm shop. Whisky drinkers will be in their element at its distillery. Property prices are attractively low, with the average value of houses sold in 2011 standing at £185,743, according to Savills, making it the most affordable town of all those shown here.

For sale £495,000
Heatherfield House, Oban

This eight-bedroom Victorian house is currently run as a successful B&B. The current owners have updated the kitchen and a number of the bathrooms. Savills (0141-222 5875)

North Berwick, East Lothian
‘North Berwick evolved as a resort for holiday homes, but, now, there’s a good railway and road connection to Edinburgh, meaning that lots of people base themselves there and commute,’ explains Andrew Smith of Strutt & Parker. The best houses are those large rose- or grey-stone Victorian terraces that front the golf course or the beach, or sit on the hill at the back of the town and take advantage of the views over the Firth of Forth to Fife and out to Bass Rock, which was described by Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the wildlife wonders of the world’. It’s rare that these houses come to the market, however. ‘They’re often owned by families who pass them down through the generations, but when they do come up, they’ll cost between £1 million and £2 million,’ says Mr Smith.

For sale Excess £595,000
Park End, North Berwick

With views of North Berwick Bay, the Bass Rock and across the Firth of Forth, this beachfront villa makes the most of its position. The three-bedroom apartment comes with established gardens and parking. Rettie & Co (0131-624 9040)

Rye, East Sussex
Henry James described his home in Rye, Lamb House, as ‘a quite adorable corner of the wicked earth’. Rye was once the smuggling capital of England-its sandstone foundations were perfect for tunnelling and carving out cellars. Today, the perfectly preserved medieval streets and cobbled walkways attract tourists from all over the world, but, despite being only 70 miles from London, its relative inaccessibility due to the lack of fast road connections ensures it remains beyond the easy day-tripping reach of the London masses. Beaches include the wide stretch of sand at Camber where, on windy days, you can seek protection in the dunes, and the shingle beach at Winchelsea. Golfers might argue that the course at Rye is a match for Rock’s St Enodoc any day.

For sale £500,000
Clench Green Barn, Northiam

This smart barn conversion of black weather-boarded elevations underneath a tiled roof is in Northiam, home to the famous gardens of Great Dixter, and just eight miles from Rye. Outside is a secluded garden with a studio/office. Strutt & Parker (01273 475411)

Lynmouth, Devon
Keen surfers will be attracted to the swells of Lynmouth in Devon, which are some of the best in the British Isles, and offer rather more of a challenge than can be had in Polzeath. Trout- and salmon-fishing opportunities are abundant in the East Lyn River, and there’s all the hunting you could wish for on Exmoor.

For sale £485,000
Hedna Cottage, Parracombe

This charming four-bedroom cottage is just five miles from Lynmouth. It stands in 1.3 acres, and has a range of outbuildings. Stags (01271 322833)

The best seaside spots for…


Surfing

Lynmouth, Devon
Swimming
St Mawes, Cornwall, Lyme Regis, Dorset
Sailing/Yachting
Lymington, Hampshire, Beaumaris, Anglesey
Fishing
Oban, Argyll
Fish and chips
Whitby, North Yorkshire
History
Rye, East Sussex
Art
Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Lyme Regis, Dorset
Music
Aldeburgh, Suffolk
Shopping
Lymington, Hampshire
Restaurants
Beaumaris, Anglesey, St Mawes, Cornwall
Golf
Rye, East Sussex