Your guide to museums and galleries by the sea
Featuring idyllic seaside views, beachwear exhibitions and bold buildings, these coastal museums and galleries all have something unique to offer and make the most of their spectacular settings by the sea.
From pebble beaches to sloping sand dunes, fish and chips to 99p flakes, Brits have long been lovers of the seaside. Why not combine the fun of the seaside with arts and culture by hitting some of these sensational coastal museums while you’re there?
The museums and galleries featured here boast spectacular seaside views, iconic architectural structures that complement their coastal settings, and art that celebrates life by the sea.
Add a splash of culture to your close-to-home vacation by combining a trip to the beach with one of these outstanding venues.
This dazzling contemporary art gallery on the Margate seafront boasts unrivalled views of the harbour and a bright and elegant interior behind its glass skin. Looking out on the scenery that was said to inspire its namesake, JMW Turner, the gallery shows a mix of historical and contemporary works, and its pioneering exhibitions explore the social, cultural and political makeup of our time. A spectacular example of how art can change the landscape of a town, this seaside gallery in Kent is one for the must-see list.
Tate St Ives is a former winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year, set in a spectacular Cornish location overlooking Porthmeor Beach. This gorgeous contemporary art gallery celebrates the colourful, artistic history of the idyllic fishing town in which it sits. With an array of large-scale seasonal exhibitions, this modern art hub is coastal museum perfection.
Also in St Ives, concealed behind the stone walls at its centre, is the tranquil paradise of the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden, which offers a unique insight into the life of one of Britain’s most important artists of the 20th century. Explore the studio and garden where Hepworth lived and worked, and wander the exquisite garden designed by the artist herself. Many of the bronze sculptures remain in the positions Hepworth placed them in – the museum and garden standing as an homage to this beloved artist’s life and creative practise.
Galleries reopen 13 August
Wales’ foremost contemporary art gallery in the charming seaside town of Llandudno boasts a spectacular Edwardian terracotta façade, landmark gold spire and six gallery spaces exhibiting contemporary arts and crafts from Wales and beyond. The seasonal programme of exhibitions ranges from large-scale shows to small site-specific art projects.
In 1901, Bournemouth’s mayor Merton Russell-Cotes gave his wife, Lady Annie Russell-Cotes, an extravagant birthday gift: her dream house at the top of a cliff with a panoramic view over the sea – and would later gift the property to the town. Today the site boasts four galleries, a delightful garden, and the fairytale Victorian turreted property that started it all. Displaying works from the museum’s permanent collections, and hosting changing exhibitions, events and family activities, this coastal house turned art hub is the perfect addition to a day in Bournemouth.
At the centre of artistic life in the seaside town of Blackpool, Grundy Art Gallery is hailed as a leading contemporary art gallery in the North West. With a varied programme of exhibitions drawing on the heritage of Blackpool itself, the Grundy presents work examining the relationship between contemporary art and pop culture, all inside this gorgeous Edwardian building. Combine a visit here with a trip to the iconic Blackpool tower or the old-school amusement park, and you’ve got yourself some enviable weekend plans.
- North Yorkshire
Tucked in Scarborough bay, just a short walk from the beach, Scarborough Art Gallery aims to reflect the varied nature of the community it sits in and the cultural heritage of the resort town of Scarborough. The Italianate villa is one of the finest buildings in the area, and the gallery is home to a range of collections, notably acting as the archive of the Printmakers Council, and regularly displays a selection of contemporary prints to peruse.
- East Sussex
Founded in 1923 as an ‘art gallery for the people’, Towner Eastbourne sits within Eastbourne’s cultural centre, the Devonshire Quarter, collecting and exhibiting contemporary art for nearly 100 years. Best known for a fine collection of British art, including a body of work by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942), the gallery’s open space near Eastbourne’s charming seafront also includes a library, cinema, art school and relaxing Sensory Room, dedicated to inspiring and involving the local community in contemporary art.