Exploring the North East’s Blue Flag Beaches
If you’ve ever seen any of my original North East artwork, then you’ll know that I love a good beach. My art studio is just a stone’s throw away from one of my favourites, Cullercoats Bay, and walking distance from several other fantastic spots along the Tyneside coastline.
The North East has always had amazing beaches, and they are only getting better. Earlier this month, the prestigious Blue Flag award was given to 78 beaches across England - with an amazing five of these in the North East!
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the Blue Flag award, what it means and which beaches nearby have been named the UK’s best.
What is the Blue Flag award?
Blue Flag is an internationally recognised scheme operated by the Foundation for Environmental Education. The award is given to the beaches, marinas and tourism boats that meet certain standards across a wide range of criteria, including cleanliness, sustainability, environmental impact, biodiversity and more.
To put it simply, the Blue Flag is given to the very best beach beaches in the whole world. There are 5,036 Blue Flag sites across the world, with 78 in England and five in the North East!
Achieving a Blue Flag is no mean feat, as beaches must prove everything from water quality to accessibility, environmental management and health & safety. It’s so exciting to have five amazing Blue Flag beaches on our doorstep, ready to explore (and paint!).
Which North East beaches have the Blue Flag?
As of May 2023, the following five beaches have the Blue Flag award:
- Tynemouth Longsands
- King Edwards Bay
- Whitley Bay
With three out of these five beaches within walking distance of my gallery, and the other two just a short drive, I can confidently say that I have visited them all dozens (if not hundreds!) of times.
In fact, the first three beaches on this list (and the ones closest to me) have all achieved Blue Flag status every year since 1994!
Here are some of my favourite things about these very special places, and some artwork inspired by the region’s award-winning golden sands.
This 500m stretch of golden sand is one of the most popular spots for families, dog walkers and surfers alike. Home to a number of fantastic eateries, including the Tynemouth Surf Cafe, The View and Crusoes, this beach really does have it all.
The sheer scale of the Longsands makes it a great spot for a summer picnic, as there’s plenty of space for everyone. So, whether you are looking for a stroll with the pooch or a place to sit and watch the surfers ride the waves, the Longsands is a perfect choice.
And, of course, you can bring a slice of this Blue Flag beach home with one of my limited-edition art prints.
King Edwards Bay
The next beach along from the Longsands is King Edwards Bay, which sits right at the end of Tynemouth Front Street. Overlooked by the ruins of Tynemouth Priory which dates back to the 13th century, this beach is a truly beautiful spot. In the below art print inspired by the beautiful bay, you’ll even see the Blue Flag blowing in the sea breeze.
Perhaps the beach that has seen the biggest regeneration in recent years is Whitley Bay.
This area has come full circle as the go-to summer destination for locals and tourists alike. In the early 20th century, visitors would come from miles around to see the Spanish City dome. Whitley Bay has always been a traditional British seaside town, but in the 90s and early 2000s, the seaside was desperate for some TLC. After a much-needed renovation project, the famous dome reopened in 2018, and we’ve never looked back.
On the other end of Whitley Bay beach, you’ll find St Mary’s Lighthouse – a fantastic place to spot seals and other marine wildlife. Rockpooling by the lighthouse is a must every summer for our family.
From party town to family favourite, Whitley Bay has seen it all. Here’s one of my favourite pieces inspired by this beloved location depicting the iconic dome at sunset.
Roker & Seaburn
Now it’s time to venture a few miles south for the last two beaches on this year’s Blue Flag list. Roker Beach is another lovely sandy spot, ideal for a sunny day out. The coastline is also home to a Grade II listed pier and lighthouse, which have helped guide boats into Sunderland Harbour safely since 1903.
Seaburn Beach sits just north of Roker, and is home to Whitburn Bay. This popular spot offers plenty in terms of eateries and cafes, with benches along the sand to rest and enjoy your fish and chips. If you’re feeling brave, then Seaburn and Roker are popular swimming spots, with lifeguards and safety flags a key part of the Blue Flag scheme’s requirements.
Here’s a piece inspired by Whitburn Bents, the small grassy area (known as the “Bents”) nestled below a row of idyllic white fisherman’s cottages.
Which is your favourite of this year’s Blue Flag beaches? Let me know over on Instagram @Joanne.Wishart.art or come and visit me in the gallery to browse the full collection of limited edition art prints.