Sorry. Something went wrong.
Trade Portal Homepage
Business Listing Hub

Our Must-See Wildlife Destinations on England's Coast: A Nature Enthusiast's Guide​

Wherever the land meets the sea you’ll discover a coastal habitat. And with a mainland coast of around 17,800 km, the UK’s shores burst with amazing plant and animal life.

Nothing beats spotting wildlife in its natural habitat

The UK has one of the longest national coastlines in Europe; its mix of towering cliffs, rocky shores, sand and shingle beaches, dunes, mudflats and saltmarshes ensures our shore teems with bird and sea-life and countless plant species of wildflowers, lichen and seaweed. 

Once you’ve been whale watching, you’ll be hooked.  Head to Northumberland to see minke whales which appear all along this coast from mid to late summer, late August is peak time for sightings. Book a boat trip from North Shields near Newcastle and benefit from a wildlife expert. 


Just off the Northumberland Coast, the Farne Islands are famous for their summer bird colonies but also the thousands of grey seals, easily spotted in autumn. 


Head to the Durham Heritage Coast from May and you’ll find the UK’s smallest Tern, these delightful chattering seabirds arrive from West Africa and nest on the sands at Crimdon. Expect lots of noise when the courtship starts! 

Autumn prompts the annual autumn migration. The Durham Coast and many of the coastal nature reserves are great spots to watch this seasonal spectacle. Cast your eye out to the North Sea to spot dolphins, porpoise and minke whales too. Common and Grey seals can be seen all year with Harbour Porpoises in summer. Ideal conditions for spotting these amazing creatures are calm seas, a light breeze but not too sunny. 


Further south, Whitby, North Yorkshire, offers some of the best whale-watching opportunities, the town’s perched right on the mouth of the River Esk, providing a natural shelter. Late summer and early autumn are top choices for spotting minke, humpback and even fin and sei whales, simply board a boat to follow shoals of breeding herring down the Yorkshire coast and you’ll be entranced.  But book ahead, these trips are immensely popular. 

In East Yorkshire, RSPB Bempton Cliffs features safe viewing platforms where you can encounter up to 500,000 birds between March and October. The cliffs are also a fantastic vantage point to spot seals and porpoises. Enjoy an amazing spectacle of gannets, guillemots and the captivating antics of puffins, mid-April to mid-July. 

Nearby Flamborough Head boasts one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe. Tens of thousands of breeding auks, gannets, gulls and puffins thunder to the cliffs in summer, this is one of the most amazing spectacles in the UK. 

England’s Coast – alive with nature and wildlife England’s Coast – alive with nature and wildlife
England’s Coast – alive with nature and wildlife

Pick the right time, and you’ll get right up-close to nature

Even if you're not a twitcher, the arrival of thousands of birds on the coast is a thrilling spectacle.

East Coast

Further south, the Donna Nook Nature Reserve in Lincolnshire is another magnet for wildlife. Lined with dunes and inter-tidal areas, you’ll find 47 species of breeding bird. Situated just north of Skegness, this area’s also home to one of the UK’s largest and most accessible colonies of grey seals, best seen from October to December when they haul themselves onto the beach to breed. 

Still on the east coast, Blakeney, Horsey and Winterton, Norfolk, also offer seal watching opportunities, volunteer wardens will help you observe them safely from the sand dunes. 

Two of the most startling wildlife experiences along the Norfolk coast takes place at Snettisham Nature Reserve. One is the Wader Spectacular the other is the flight of the Pink Footed Geese, you’ll see hundreds and thousands of wading birds taking off and landing, swarming like bees. Check out the RSPB timetables for the best times to arrive. 

With 37 islands, Essex has one of the longest coastlines in the UK and a glut of wildlife. Head to Wallasea Island, jump on a two-hour trip around the creeks and inlets of the Rivers Crouch and Roach to spot seals, Common and Grey. If you’re lucky, you might glimpse a porpoise or two too! Visit Wallasea Marina or Burnham Town Quay. 

South East Coast

Brighton might not spring to mind for wildlife wathcing, but from November to March, thousands of over-wintering starlings gather en masse at Brighton’s West Pier as dusk descends.  Up to 40 thousand birds whir into action before funnelling down on the pier joists for the night, an absolute show-stopper! 

Off the south coast, 50% of The Isle of Wight is protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one of only seven places in the UK to have the accolade UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 

One of its famous residents is the endangered Red Squirrel, but here you’ll also spot vast populations of Brent Geese, the beautiful Glanville Fritillary butterfly and maybe a Cattle Egret bird or Bottlenoise Dolphin. 

If you’re in search of Harbour porpoises, Common or Bottlenose dolphins or Common or Grey seals, grab the binoculars and get over to St Catherine’s Point, Bembridge Ledge or Compton Bay, also a haven for fossil hunters. 

South Coast

Set in the heart of Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island is also home to the rare red squirrel, visit in autumn when they’re foraging for nuts and seeds for best sightings. The Island’s lagoon draws scores of overwintering birds such as avocets, black-tailed godwits and huge numbers of wildfowl. Winter’s also the best time for catching sight of tall white spoonbills.

England’s Coast – alive with nature and wildlife
England’s Coast – alive with nature and wildlife England’s Coast – alive with nature and wildlife

While wildlife-spotting is magical, our coastal grasslands and clifftops are carpeted with a stunning display of natural flora.  

Look out for Thrift, also known as sea pink which thrives on cliffs, marshes and sandy locations but also shingle beaches from April to July all around the coast. 

Sea campion’s white flowers can be seen across most of the coastline between June and August. 

The ancestor of beetroot, Sea beet’s flowers are green on spikey stems and bloom from July to September. 

Despite its name, Sea Holly has nothing to do with Christmas, its blue flowers with globular heads appear in sandy shores and dunes from July to September.  While purple Sea Asters, or Michaelmas Daisies, are commonly found in saltmarshes, estuaries and on cliffs from July to October all along the coastline. 

Look out for Golden Samphire on cliffs, rocky areas and drier saltmarshes in the south-west, these yellow flowers bloom from July to September.