(CNN) — The beaches in England are enjoying a golden age. Dozens of the country's best-loved stretches of sand and shingle enjoy Blue Flag status, with clean and clear waters and first-rate seaside cafes.
Meanwhile, its smaller coves remain among Europe's most beautiful. These are the nine English beaches on our summer hot list -- or really for any time of year.
1. Covehithe, Suffolk
On England's fastest-eroding stretch of coastline, Covehithe's exposed beach is a windswept gem. Weather-beaten dead trees poke out of the sand like sentinels, while ground-nesting birds hide away in the reeds surrounding Benacre Broad, a brackish lagoon at the back of the beach. The cliffs have receded by 500 meters in less than 200 years, meaning no two visits here are alike.
Post-beach perfection: Rummage around St Andrew's Church in the old village. Partly ruined and dating back to the 14th century, the encroaching sea means it may not be there for much longer.
2. Porthcurno, Cornwall
Porthcurno: Sand and Shakespeare.
Clamber down the vertiginous steps from the stunning open-air Minack Theatre and you'll come to one of Cornwall's most beautiful beaches. A narrow sandy cove where turquoise waters roll gently onto the beach, this is an ideal place for sunbathing or a long, salty soak. Paddle out past the breakers and you could even be joined by the dolphins that frolic in the crystal-clear ocean.
Post-beach perfection: The Minack Theatre enjoys legendary status thanks to its coastal views and clifftop location. Head here to take in a Shakespeare play or classic musical. The program is as diverse and brilliant as the theater itself.
3. Whitby, North Yorkshire
The historic fishing port of Whitby is home to two excellent beaches on either side of the River Esk, which empties out into the North Sea through the middle of town. Tate Hill beach, on the eastern side, is a dog-friendly stretch, while the famous West Cliff beach is an archetypal English seaside spot. Think bright beach huts, tea shops and places to hire deck chairs for the day.
Post-beach perfection: No visit to Whitby is complete without eating fish and chips. There are plenty of options, but the award-winning Magpie Cafe is the place to beat.
4. Holkham, Norfolk
Tramp over the boardwalk, crest the sand dunes and be confronted with one of England's most stunning beaches. Holkham's golden sands cover a vast stretch of the North Norfolk coast, from Wells-next-the-Sea to Burnham, the churning waves often a distant white squiggle on the horizon.
Even in the height of summer it's easy to find solitude here. The nearby salt marshes also make this a key destination for migrating birds.
Post-beach perfection: Pop back along the coast to Wells to check out this corner of England's best restaurants. The superb Crab House Cafe is the best of the bunch.
5. Crosby Beach, Merseyside
Crosby Sands: Statuesque.
Courtesy Sefton Council
Just north of Liverpool, Crosby Beach has always been one of northwest England's most atmospheric beaches. But the addition of sculptor Antony Gormley's "Another Place," a series of 100 identical life-size figures which dot the sand, has turned it into a tourist hotspot. The incoming tides have made each sculpture unique, each one looking out across the Mersey and into the Irish Sea as if in anticipation.
Post-beach perfection: Liverpool is mere minutes away. If Gormley's sculptures have got you wowed, then the Tate Gallery's northern outpost, in Albert Dock, is an essential visit.
6. Bamburgh, Northumberland
Northeast England's arresting coastline has countless beaches where visitors can enjoy a blustery stroll or, on a rare warm day, a few hours of lounging on a towel and enjoying a swim. Of them all, Bamburgh is hard to beat. Overlooked by the towering ramparts of a spectacular Norman castle, the sandy beach is ideal for those learning to surf, as well as nature fanatics. There are more than 500 different species here.
Post-beach perfection: Explore the sprawling nine-acre castle site, from the high walls to its hidden Inner Ward chapel. Great when the weather blows in.
7. Chesil Beach, Dorset
Chesil Beach: Unique sand bar.
Courtesy Visit England
Stretching 18 miles from West Bay to Portland, Chesil Beach is utterly unique. A shingle sandbar pushed landwards over hundreds of years, its increasing height from northwest to southeast means that its stones are graded from small to large. This means experts know exactly where they are on the coast without a map. With Fleet lagoon behind it and Portland Bill at its far end, Chesil Beach's biggest draw is its sheer diversity.
Post-beach perfection: Head to the Hive Beach Cafe at Burton Bradstock. Freshly caught fish and local beers have made this one of Dorset's best foodie hotspots.
8. Mothecombe, Devon
Situated at the end of country lanes in a part of South Devon that's easily overlooked, Mothecombe's private beach opens up to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Visitors following the deep gully down towards this sandy cove will find a beach perfect for body boarding and swimming. It's a perfect spot for grabbing an ice cream, rolling out a towel, lying back and listening to the slumping waves.
Post-beach perfection: Take a walk along the River Erme estuary, which flows into the English Channel in the next bay along from Mothecombe. Few places in southern England feel this far from civilization.
9. Camber Sands, East Sussex
Camber, with its 1950s holiday park, remains one of southeast England's most enduring vacation destinations. But away from the waterslides and fun pools lies Camber Sands, an empty, windswept stretch of sand which stands in stark contrast to the shingled mass of Dungeness just down the road. Popular with kite surfers, you only need to walk a few meters from the main cafe to have an expanse of beach all to yourself.
Post-beach perfection: Drive up the coast to the pretty village of Rye and have a pint at the excellent Globe Inn.