Recreational visits to marine and coastal environments in England: Where, what, who, why, and when?

Research has revealed for the first time that around 271 million recreational visits are made to marine and coastal environments in England. The research found that the most common activity on these visits is walking. The study also revealed that most people head to these ‘blue’ environments for relaxation and social reasons.


Health and economic benefits may accrue from marine and coastal recreation. In England, few national-level descriptive analyses exist which examine predictors of recreation in these environments. Data from seven waves (2009–2016) of a representative survey of the English population (n = 326,756) were analysed to investigate how many recreational visits were made annually to coastal environments in England, which activities were undertaken on these visits, and which demographic, motivational, temporal, and regional factors predict them. Inland environments are presented for comparison. Approximately 271 million recreational visits were made to coastal environments in England annually, the majority involving land-based activities such as walking. Separately, there were around 59 million instances of water-based recreation undertaken on recreational visits (e.g. swimming, water sports). Visits to the coast involving walking were undertaken by a wide spectrum of the population: compared to woodland walks, for instance, coastal walks were more likely to be made by females, older adults, and individuals from lower socioeconomic classifications, suggesting the coast may support reducing activity inequalities. Motivational and temporal variables showed distinct patterns between visits to coastal and inland comparator environments. Regional variations existed too with more visits to coastal environments made by people living in the south-west and north-east compared to London, where more visits were made to urban open spaces. The results provide a reference for current patterns of coastal recreation in England, and could be considered when making policy-level decisions with regard to coastal accessibility and marine plans. Implications for future public health and marine plans are discussed.

Read the full article in Marine Policy

Dog and walker at beach
Research article
Published: 4 April 2018
Lewis R. Elliotta
Mathew P. Whitea
James Grelliera
Siân E. Reesb
Ruth D. Watersc
Lora E. Fleminga
aEuropean Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, United Kingdom
bMarine Institute, Plymouth University, United Kingdom
cNatural England, United Kingdom
Published in:
Marine Policy
Volume 97, November 2018, Pages 305-314

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