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