Best small waterside city

Galway, Ireland

Galway: known for cream tea, girls that are sung about by Ed Sheeran and… monster swells and sandy beaches. Yep, that’s right: the city has some of the best surfing in Ireland, along with blue-flag beaches and temptingly swimmable – if a bit chilly – waters. Amble along the promenade and you’ll find the three postcard-worthy beaches of Salthill, as well as a diving board at Black Rock. Winter brings bigger waves, while summer is the perfect time for novices. What’s Irish for gnarly again?

Stay: Whether you’re after a guesthouse, a houseboat or rooftop views, you’ll find something to suit you on Airbnb. From around £76.

Getting There: Ryanair flies from Stansted to Shannon from £50 return. ryanair.com

Best big waterside city

Porto, Portugal

There’s more to the medieval city of Porto than, er, port. Magnificent churches, for example; a buzzing food and drink scene; and, which might be more surprising, a clutch of rather lovely beaches. Because what you could, but shouldn’t, forget in the face of all that bustling city life, is that Porto lies on the Costa Verde, complete with secluded coves, spectacular cliffs and, yes, endless stretches of beaches that are primed for sleeping off port-induced hangovers, sunbathing and frolicking in the sea. Praia do Carneiro lies within the city limits, but we’d make the extra effort to go slightly further afield to the golden sands of Praia de Matosinhos instead, only a 15-minute metro ride from the city centre.

Stay: With walking tours and home to local art, Gallery Hostel is entrenched in Porto’s cool cultural scene. From £100 for a private room.

Getting There: TAP flies from Gatwick to Porto from £180 return. 

Best wildcard waterside city

Asbury Park, New Jersey

Beaches, beer and… the Boss. If you’re more about urban grit than white picket fences, skip the pristine lawns of the Hamptons and head 60 miles south of New York, to Asbury Park, the tiny New Jersey city mainly known for having spawned Bruce Springsteen. Now, though, it’s the go-to for cool New Yorkers in the know, who come in search of sun, sea and sand. While things have been slow to pick up, it’s home to a boardwalk, boutiques and beer festivals, not to mention a burgeoning music scene, as well as plenty of food trucks dishing up everything from tacos to ceviche. What more could you possibly ask for?

Stay: The funky colours and sleek design of The Asbury will put a spring in your step. From £244.

Getting There: Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to New York from £450 return.