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A Coast for All... Nature-lovers

Seals, otters, Sika deer and amazing wading birds, our coastline teems with wildlife in all shapes and sizes. Grab the binoculars and check out what’s right on the doorstep across three different coastlines.

Unplug the phone and recharge in West Sussex

With its extraordinary mix of nature reserves, mudflats and harbours, West Sussex is a birdwatcher’s paradise  

Bursting with nature reserves, beautiful coastal walks and sandy dunes, West Sussex’ coastline is the place to see birds of prey up close, switch off the phone and relax in a quiet campsite tuned into nature. 

This county has 44 miles of coastline stretching from the Living Coast of Shoreham across to the RSPB Pagham and Medmerry Nature Reserves, and the National Landscape of Chichester Harbour (formerly AONB) - with Sussex Bay and its kelp recovery project in front and the green rolling hills of the South Downs National Park as a backdrop – it’s a wonderful place to enjoy and learn about natural habitats and wildlife.  

For guided tours and nature watching, head to RSPB Pagham a gloriously peaceful nature reserve and one of the few undeveloped stretches of the Sussex coast. Spot black-tailed Godwits and Little Egrets by day, watch amazing sunsets at night and in winter you might spot hundreds of Brent Geese and Wigeon pass overhead. 

RSPB Medmerry - is a wild and wonderful reserve near Chichester. The reserve has 6.25 miles of trails to help you get to know the landscape. Come here to observe birds of prey, and if you brave the bleak winter weather you could be rewarded with the thrill of the chase, you’ll see vast numbers of wildfowl and waders, plus Linnets and Finches in large flocks. Look out for the arrival of a hunting Peregrine or Merlin and you’ll spot an intense life and death battle of agility, strength and guile. 

Visit Chichester Harbour and you’ll encounter thousands of Curlews, Godwits, Redshanks and Dunlins pretty much all year, this is a mud-flat haven for waders! 

Nearby Selsey is a secret coastal gem nestled at the tip of the Manhood Peninsula - home to Mulberry Marine Experiences who offer marine life walks and snorkeling training. Enjoy fresh seafood in Sidleham at the Crab & Lobster and learn about this town’s fishing heritage, the RNLI lifeboat history tour is a gem for salty sea dogs.  You can even stay in a converted Pullman Railway Carriage. 

There’s a stunning four-mile circular walk at the East Head Nature Reserve, West Wittering. Home to white sandy dunes and salt marshes, Skylarks nesting in the inner dunes and Ringed Plovers between April and June at the north of East Head. Spot Common Seals basking on the mud flats and maybe the bright green markings of a rare sand lizard.

A Coast for All... Nature-lovers A Coast for All... Nature-lovers
A Coast for All... Nature-lovers

Dorset’s coast and countryside offer an amazing wildlife escape

Discover more of the natural world with a guided walk or boat trip, from tiny insects to vast bird murmurations, nothing beats getting up-close to nature 

With two huge natural harbours, wild heathlands and island nature reserves, Dorset is perfectly placed for watching migrating birds, rare red squirrels, dolphins and native reptiles. 

Join experts on guided walks, boat trips and events to really get up-close to the natural world. 

Portland Bill is the most southerly spot in Dorset and one of the first landing points for migrating birds.  Daily updates are a feature at the The Portland Bird Observatory, follow them on Twitter! 

If you’re a lover of dolphins, visit Durlston Country Park for great sightings of Bottlenose dolphins. Explore its 300 acres and for less mobile visitors there are Tramper mobility scooters for hire. There’s also a huge variety of birds in the Park as well as Common Lizards, Adders and Slow Worms, join a Ranger on a guided walk. 

You’ll find Razorbills and Guillemots in the coastal cliffs, take a City Cruises boat trip in May from Poole Quay with on-board rangers so you don’t miss a thing. If you’re in Swanage, there’s a Guillemot webcam in its visitor centre. 

Poole Harbour draws more than 20,000 wintering birds. Following a successful translocation project, Ospreys are now regularly spotted in the harbour, two chicks hatched in 2023. White-tailed Eagles can also be spotted, following their reintroduction in the Isle of Wight. 

RSPB Arne Nature Reserve is a magnificent 400-acre reserve which played host to Springwatch in 2023. Take a boat trip, observe with binoculars from its shores or watch the ospreys from the webcams, they’re an incredible sight. Arne is also home to all six of the UK’s native reptiles as well as Dartford warblers and nightjars, picnic on the sandy beach or lunch at the café. 

For red squirrels, Sika deer, peacocks, chickens and amazing bird sightings at the lagoon, escape to the wonderful Brownsea Island, managed by the National Trust and Dorset Wildlife Trust and one of the best wildlife havens on the coast. 

You might not associate Weymouth with natural wildlife but it boasts two RSPB reserves right at its heart. Radipole Lake comprises a network of wetland habitats home to waders such as Redshanks, Lapwings but also otters and watervoles. Look out also for Kingfishers, Reed Buntings and Cetti Warblers and follow the nature trails. 

Lodmoor Nature Reserve is also easily reached from Weymouth centre, this wetland habitat boasts Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher and Common Terns. Weymouth’s SEA LIFE is also nearby. 

A Coast for All... Nature-lovers
A Coast for All... Nature-lovers A Coast for All... Nature-lovers

On the Kent coast, Birdwise on the Isle of Thanet ensures visitors enjoy the coast without disturbing birds, flying here from the Arctic and as far as Canada.  

They stage a host of fun and educational events and an annual photography competition. 

Alternatively join a bird watching walk with Keith Ross, wildlife filmmaker and avid birdwatcher, take a Pegwell Bay Nature Walk or Kingfisher Walk around Ramsgate Harbour.  

Sandwich and Pegwell Bay Nature Reserve is an important site for breeding, migrating and wintering birds year-round. The new King Charles III England Coast Path runs through the reserve, so as you walk check out Nightingales, Cuckoos and Warblers in spring, you might also see grey and common seals bobbing in the sea or resting on the beaches, Konik horses and highland cattle graze here occasionally too. 

Monkton Nature Reserve covers a 16-acre abandoned chalk quarry and now boasts more than 350 species of flora, including 10 species of orchid, 25 of butterfly and countless insects, birds and mammals. Here you’ll find the first artificial bat cave but also visit the nature and woodland trails and dragonfly and damselfly ponds. 

If you’re looking to entertain the kids, Thanet is packed with nature and wildlife events.  The Thanet Coast Project runs Seashore Safaris during the summer holidays, Great Eggcase Hunt at Easter and Nature Treasure Trails as well as seal excursions.  Check out its website for activities during Active Ramsgate Week, 25 May to 2 June 2024. 

Saturday 8 June is World Ocean Day, the Thanet Coast Project will celebrate with a Seashore Safari, set off early from Stone Bay, Broadstairs to explore Thanet’s chalky shoreline, meet the project’s volunteers and learn how you can protect this coastline. 

To find out everything you ever wanted to know about seaweed join a walk led by expert Ian Tittley, Seaweed and their Secrets walks take place in Walpole Bay, Botany Bay and Dumpton Gap from April to October. 

To explore the geology, fossils and history of the spectacular White Cliffs of Kingsgate coastline, join Richard Hubbard on a guided walk, taking place from May to September.