Towns that were once destinations for summer holidaymakers but neglected during winter are attracting Londoners seeking that elusive combination of accessible seaside location and value-for-money property.
Exclusive research by Savills highlights the best-value resorts within commuting distance of the capital.
Commute into St Pancras
Kent has long had historic links with London, traditionally welcoming city dwellers during the summer months to pick hops. But the “garden of England” is now even easier to reach thanks to the HS1 high-speed rail link, putting some areas within an hour of the capital.
In the district of Thanet, both Whitstable, famous for oysters and its pretty harbour, and arty Margate, home to the Turner Contemporary gallery and the resurrected Victorian amusement arcade Dreamland, have been on the radar of capital commuters for more than a decade, but in the last five years house prices have increased by around 30 per cent.
Broadstairs might have the reputation for being the “jewel in Thanet’s crown”, but Whitstable has the highest average house prices in the region, according to Savills, at £327,000.
Margate remains relatively affordable, with average prices still under £200,000 and Ramsgate, which has a lovely harbour and a family friendly vibe, is similarly affordable, and features pretty coastal walks and a town centre with a good range of shops.
Another Thanet area to keep an eye on is Minster, slightly more inland, but still worth a look for its historic buildings and the enormous parish church for which it is named, Minster Abbey.
Other Kentish coastal areas to have benefited from HS1 include the “market town of kings” Faversham (inland, but on an estuary) and Deal, a former fishing, mining and garrison town.
Herne Bay, near Whitstable, is another popular holiday destination with a pretty pier and brightly coloured beach huts. These days, it is home to one of Britain’s largest offshore wind farms and, just seven miles from Canterbury, offers an authentic old English seaside feel. The same can be said of Sandwich, a medieval town which is picture-perfect pretty and a popular destination for tourists. House prices have risen nearly 40 per cent in the last five years to an average of £313,000.
Commute into Victoria and London Bridge
Brighton is about 50 miles south of London at the end of the M23, or an hour’s train journey from Victoria. Thousands of its residents do a daily commute and its accessibility to the capital grants them the best of both worlds: the relaxed life at one end of the line and London at the other with all its opportunities.
The stunning seafront is dotted with fine Regency properties and rows of attractive Edwardian terraces just a stone’s throw from the pebbly waterfront. There's a fashionable, bohemian vibe thanks to the array of trendy bars, good restaurants, modern shopping centre Churchill Square, vintage markets in North Laines and a buzzing pub, theatre and gig culture.
Average house prices in Brighton are £364,000, making it the second-most expensive region on our list of coastal hotspots - just behind its grown-up neighbour Hove (£399,000) which is home to huge Art Deco period mansions, and a road so fancy it has been nicknamed “Millionaire’s Row”. Hove is quieter than Brighton, but also has good shops, places to eat and cafes. It is just a short bus journey from downtown Brighton, but also has its own station with fast links to London.
Brighton’s popularity has positively affected neighbouring areas in West Sussex, in particular Shoreham-by-Sea, Portslade and Hastings.
Shoreham is smaller and less busy than Brighton with a spectacular position on the coast at the mouth of the Adur and the beautiful South Downs behind. The working modern port keeps things lively and there is a smattering of industrial architecture and an Art Deco airport which jostles with the ancient buildings of Old Shoreham (some of which date from the ninth century) and the modern bungalows and new builds overlooking the shingle beach. Families are attracted to Shoreham for its good schools, green space and a community feel.
House prices in the small harbour of Portslade near Shoreham have also piggybacked on the popularity of Brighton and Hove, rising by 40 per cent in five years to an average of £290,000. The area is chocolate-box pretty, if in need of a lick of paint in places.
Meanwhile, Hastings, is attracting increasing numbers of arty Londoners who want to take advantage of cheap house prices (£213,000 on average) and fast rail links to London.
Commuting into Fenchurch Street
Southend-on-Sea, known for its pleasure pier - the longest in Europe - is the largest town in Essex and is a regional business centre thanks in part to the town's expanding airport. The commute to Fenchurch Street takes an hour. The area has many historic and pretty villages and has some of the country’s best schools, but it is also undergoing a transformation, with homes with sea views being built by developers.
Into London Liverpool Street
Ipswich appeared on the National Hotspots Index for the first time this year, revealing that plenty of London workers are upping sticks and moving to Suffolk.
Tara Grace, manager of Jonathan Waters estate agents in Ipswich, says: “We are seeing lots of buyers coming from London because prices here are a bit more sensible and it is only an hour’s commute.”
“It costs £250,000 on average to buy a three-bedroom semi-detached house. It is still a fairly rural, quiet area with a low crime rate, which makes it attractive to people. It also benefits from the surrounding area - popular villages like Woodbridge, and neighbouring Southwold, where a beach hut will sell for £150,000.”