If you’ve seen the poignant 2016 film “Manchester by the Sea” starring Casey Affleck, you might be wondering – is the city of Manchester in England actually located by the sea? More importantly, if your kids discover it on Netflix you may find yourself explaining whether a trip to the seaside is on the cards for the day! As a major city in the north west of England, Manchester is located about as far from the ocean as you can get in the UK. However, it does have some charming seaside towns just a short distance away. In this post, we’ll give you the inside scoop on visiting Manchester, including how to get your ocean fix by taking easy day trips to gorgeous coastal destinations nearby.
Whether you want to relax on sandy beaches, explore maritime history, or sample fish and chips by the pier, there are plenty of options near Manchester for an authentic seaside getaway.
All About Manchester, England
First, let’s talk about Manchester itself. With a population of over 500,000, it’s the fifth largest city in the UK. Manchester is located in the metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, about 200 miles northwest of London.
Some fast facts about Manchester:
- Originally founded as a Roman fort in 79 AD
- Became an important centre during the Industrial Revolution
- Home to two world-famous football clubs – Stockport County and Rochdale! haha – of course I’m joking!
- Known for its music scene, art galleries, museums, restaurants and nightlife
- Major business hub with the largest city economy outside London
Despite its inland location, Manchester has an extensive canal system and maritime history. However, it does not border any major bodies of water or have direct access to the sea. The nearest major estuary is Morecambe Bay, about 60 miles to the northwest.
So while Manchester itself doesn’t quite live up to its “by the sea” Hollywood moniker, the good news is you can easily reach some beautiful seaside destinations by taking a day trip from the city.
Visiting Coastal Towns Near Manchester
Part of the fun of visiting Manchester is taking a short excursion to the nearby Lancashire coastline. Here are some of our top picks for coastal towns and beaches to check out:
The vibrant resort town of Blackpool is just a 1 hour drive northwest of Manchester, making it one of the most popular seaside destinations for Mancunians. Blackpool is known for its Pleasure Beach amusement park, Blackpool Tower, lively Central Pier, and illuminated Golden Mile.
Other highlights include:
- Riding the rollercoasters at Pleasure Beach
- Seeing a show at the Victorian Grand Theatre
- Strolling along the Promenade
- Exploring the Sea Life Centre aquarium
About 45 minutes north west of Manchester lies the elegant seaside town of Southport. With gorgeous beaches, an expansive pier, and a quaint town centre, it’s a wonderful spot for a relaxing beach holiday.
Top things to do in Southport:
- Relax on the golden sands of Southport Beach
- Take a stroll down Lord Street for boutique shops and cafes
- Enjoy sunset views on the Southport Pier
- Play a round on the Royal Birkdale Golf Course
For a more low-key seaside visit, head 40 minutes northwest of the city centre to Crosby Beach. Scattered across this scenic beach are the renowned “Another Place” statues by Anthony Gormley. At low tide, you can walk out to see these eerie, life-sized iron figures emerging from the sea.
Other Crosby Beach highlights:
- Snap iconic photos with the Gormley statues
- Search for colourful sea glass along the sand
- Spot local bird species like gulls and oystercatchers
- Hike the coastal path for gorgeous water views
Getting to the Seaside from Manchester
Luckily, it’s quick and easy to reach these seaside destinations using public transportation from Manchester. Here are some tips:
- Blackpool – Direct trains from Manchester Victoria take around 1 hour. Or drive via the M55 in about the same time.
- Southport – Trains from Manchester Victoria get you to Southport in under 1 hour. Driving takes 45 minutes via M58 and A59.
- Crosby – Trains go directly from Manchester Victoria to Hall Road Station in about 50 minutes. Drive down the M62 and A5058 in around 40 minutes.
So don’t let Manchester’s landlocked location stop you from enjoying some fish and chips by the seaside! With a bit of travel, you can experience beautiful beaches and classic coastal vibes.
More About “Manchester by the Sea”
Now let’s dive into the origins of this “Manchester by the Sea” business. As you may have guessed, the acclaimed film of the same name has nothing to do with Manchester, England.
Released in 2016, “Manchester by the Sea” takes place in the coastal town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts in the United States. Located on the North Shore of Massachusetts, the real Manchester-by-the-Sea is a quaint New England fishing village about 30 miles outside Boston.
In the emotional drama starring Casey Affleck, the ocean plays a pivotal role. Affleck’s character Lee Chandler returns to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea after his brother’s death and is continually confronted by traumatic memories linked to the ocean.
The title **“Manchester by the Sea” **poignantly reflects how Lee is unable to escape his seaside hometown and haunting experiences associated with the sea there.
While offering little resemblance to its English namesake, this Oscar-winning film put the obscure American town of Manchester-by-the-Sea on the map. And it gave us a memorable, if confusing, movie title in the process!
Getting Coastal Vibes in Landlocked Manchester
Given that the city of Manchester is situated smack dab in the middle of England, you may be wondering – how can I still experience the seaside atmosphere while in Manchester? Not a problem.
Though you won’t find beaches or ocean views, there are plenty of ways to channel coastal vibes right in the heart of Manchester:
- Munch on fish and chips – this classic British seaside staple which is abundant in Manchester. Although, if like me, you’re from the south, at first you may be wondering what the hell a chip barm is! Or, that you can have gravy served with your chips!! However, don’t be put off and get yourself a chippy tea from Fosters in Alderley Edge and Stockport, which does battered John Dory or go old school in Withington at the Battered Cod.
- Browse maritime museum exhibits like Creatures of the Deep at the Manchester Museum.
- Find public art installations with nautical themes like the Whale Tail Sculpture in Exchange Square.
- Check out the ultra-modern Manchester Aquatics Centre with its undulating roof reminiscent of ocean waves.
- Head down to any of the canals for a stroll along the waterways, or, if you want something on a more large scale, visit Salford Quays and take a boat trip to Liverpool!
So even though Manchester is 40+ miles from the nearest beach, you can still find reminders of the seaside woven throughout the urban landscape.
Visit Manchester and Head to the Coast
Despite its landlocked location, Manchester offers plenty to see and do, from world-class museums and restaurants to historic architecture and a buzzing arts scene. When you want to spice up your city break with a dash of the beach, the seaside is just a quick day trip away by rail or car.
Next time you find yourself in England, consider combining a visit to cosmopolitan Manchester with a jaunt to the coastal towns nearby. Enjoy the best of both worlds – urban energy and seaside tranquility!
Let us know in the comments if you’ve visited Manchester or have any tips for great day trips from the city. And whatever you do, don’t judge Manchester by its misplaced Hollywood moniker – the seaside is closer than you think!