Last Updated on 30th August 2020 by Coralie
Have you ever dreamed of discovering buried treasure? Well, you can – in Seaham, a rejuvenated English harbour town on the Durham Heritage Coast that’s well worth a visit. Finding beautiful Seaham sea glass here is as easy as waiting for the tide to turn on the world-famous beaches.
The beaches at Seaham have such a strong reputation among sea glass collectors that fans of sea glass flock to this rejuvenated former mining and industrial town on England’s Northern coast. Seaham seaglass is highly prized!.
Why Seaham Sea Glass?
Growing up on a small island, I spent hours beach-combing for sea glass gems. Most of the time, there was a lot of hunting and very slim pickings! So, after moving to Yorkshire, I knew I had to visit the best beach with glass in England – Seaham!
What is Sea Glass?
Sea Glass (or beach glass) is the name given to glass which has been dumped into the world’s seas and oceans. Over time, the glass is tumbled and shaped by the sea, before washing up onto the shore. It’s the ultimate recycled glass!
Where does Sea Glass come from?
Sea Glass washes ashore on beaches all around the world. However, it’s the quantity and the colour variations of sea glass on the beach at Seaham that makes it so popular with visiting sea glass collectors.
Why is there so much Sea Glass in Seaham?
Seaham was once home to the largest glass bottle works in Britain. The Londonderry Bottleworks, operated until the early 1920s, producing up to 20 million hand-blown glass bottles a year at its peak. Made in different colours and designs, glass bottles from Seaham were shipped all around the world.
As part of the manufacturing process, however, waste glass was dumped straight into the North Sea. That’s what makes Seaham such a treasure trove for sea glass collectors today. Twice a day, on every new tide, the beaches at Seaham are sprinkled with shiny new glass gems, that have been tumbled, smoothed and speckled by the North Sea for decades.
What is Seaham sea glass like?
Every sea glass pebble is a unique shape and colour, with individual markings. At Seaham, you’ll discover lots of different colours and types of sea glass, including codd marbles, which were used as a seal for carbonated drinks. There’s also safety glass with wire reinforcements still running through it, bottle necks and sea pottery!
The most common sea glass to find in Seaham is clear and green glass – this was the most popular glass produced by the Londonderry bottle works. If you’re lucky, you might also find yellow, red, blue, aqua and even multi-coloured pebbles or milk glass in pastel shades of blues, yellows and green. It all depends on what the tide washes in!
Fun fact: If you find black glass, you’ve found some of the oldest glass produced by the bottle works!
Where is the best place in Seaham to find sea glass?
Seaham has several beaches, with varying quantities of sea glass on the beach, however, the most popular beach for finding Seaham Sea Glass is Seaham Beach (known as Seaham Hall Beach until 2013). Seaham Beach is also known locally as North Beach or Vane Tempest.
How to find Seaham sea glass
You can spot sea glass at any time during low tide; however, some hunters choose to follow the sea out a few hours after high tide. With every wave new sea glass is washed up onto the beach and snatched back, never to be seen again.
The beaches at Seaham are sand and shingle, which can make sea glass tricky to spot. What you will probably see is sea glass hunters using one of two techniques:
- “The stooped walk” – walking along slightly bent over, to scan the beach for sea glass on the surface
- “The diggers and rock turners” – using a small spade or stick to delve beneath the surface for buried sea glass
Don’t forget that the beach changes with every tide – especially after a big storm!
What can I do with sea glass?
Here are a few ideas of what to do with beach glass:
- Display the sea glass in pretty glass bottles or bowls
- Create stunning jewellery
- Make a picture from the sea glass
Of course, if you’re lucky enough to find a large piece of red sea glass, you could also sell it! Red is the rarest, most sought after sea glass colour!
A Responsible Tourism Note
Currently, there are no restrictions on how much sea glass you collect from the beach at Seaham, unlike many other famous sea glass beaches worldwide. Some even ban any beach glass collecting at all!
While it’s lovely to take a small amount of beautiful Seaham sea glass home to enjoy, it’s thoughtful to leave some behind for others to discover.
Visiting Seaham – The Essentials
How to get to Seaham
The two nearest cities to Seaham are Sunderland (6 miles to the north) and the UNESCO World Heritage city of Durham, 13 miles to the west. Take the 154 bus from Durham or the 159 from Sunderland.
Seaham is just 28 mins from Newcastle by train (Newcastle is on the mainline route from London to Edinburgh via York). Trains run every half hour.
Plan your trip to Seaham by public transport here.
You may also like: Train Travel in the UK = a complete guide.
Alternatively, set your satnav for SR7 7AF to reach Seaham Hall Beach Car Park.
When to visit Seaham
- Springtime and Summer are the best times to see wildflowers in and around the town, and on the cliffs at Nose’s Point.
- The best time for sea glass hunting is just after high tide, as the retreating sea reveals any new sea glass it has brought in. Check the tide tables for Seaham here.
Where to stay in Seaham
Seaham Hall Hotel: an impressive Georgian country house located high above Seaham Beach which is now a fabulous luxury hotel and spa.
For literary lovers – Seaham Hall was where poet and politician Lord Byron married heiress Anne Milebanke in 1815 (an ill-fated union that only lasted for one year).
Where to eat in Seaham
Clean Bean Restaurant and Bar: For delicious food and fantastic service this is a great find. Try their breakfast on the beach box or luscious burgers, and the vegan Sunday nut roast is award-winning! There’s a cute dog-friendly “secret garden” too! 22 North Terrace, Seaham
5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Seaham
- A small container for your sea glass treasures (please no single-use plastic baggies!)
- Sturdy shoes for walking on the beach and up/down the steps to the beaches, which can be slippery
- A windproof jacket – this is Britain’s North coast, and the weather can be very changeable, even in the summer
- A reusable water bottle
- Your camera/phone!
Beyond the Beach – Seaham Town
Eleven 0 One “Tommy”
A must-see above the beach is “Tommy” – a magnificent and massive 1.2-tonne steel sculpture of a First World War soldier, sat upon an ammunition box.
Positioned to look over the town’s beautifully maintained war memorial, this 9ft 5in tall sculpture by East Durham artist Ray Lonsdale depicts the emotions of a soldier (a Tommy) in the first minute of the peace in 1918.
East Durham Lifeboat and Heritage Centre
This lovely little museum shares the history of the RNLI on this challenging coastline. Visit to see the fully restored “George Elmy” lifeboat which capsized in heavy seas on November the 17th, 1962, with the tragic loss of all but one life. Discover the incredible story of how the lifeboat was rescued and brought back to Seaham, after being spotted for sale on eBay!
Location: Seaham Harbour Marina. Tel: +44 191 581 8904. Check opening hours here
Seaham harbour is protected from storms by two long breakwaters, with the town’s lighthouse was built in 1905, right at the end of the north breakwater. The 10-metre high lighthouse has a cylindrical metal tower which is painted in an alternating black and white pattern
A real favourite with photographers, Seaham lighthouse is spectacular to see when high winds cause waves to crash over it.
Safety Note: When built, the breakwaters in Seaham had railings – these were removed years ago, so take care if you plan to walk along them!
Blast Beach was once the infamous home of the biggest coal mine in Europe, with some of the worst coastline pollution in the world. The natural beach lay buried beneath the two and a half million tonnes of toxic waste from Dawdon colliery that was dumped here every year. It was an ecological disaster for wildlife and a real no-go zone for human visitors too.
Blast beach is blooming again today, thanks to a massive clean-up partnership involving the National Trust. If you’re up for a scramble down to (and back from) the beach, there’s sea glass here too.
Fun fact: Eagle-eyed movie fans will spot that part of Blast Beach was used in the opening sequence of the Alien 3 movie!
The car park nearest to Nose’s Point is free, with plenty of spaces. Satnav SR7 7PS.
Places to Visit Nearby
- Durham City – UNESCO World Heritage Site
- National Glass Centre, Sunderland
- Beamish: The Living Museum of the North
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Have you been to Northumberland? Did you visit Seaham? Did you go to collect some Seaham sea glass? I’d love to get your thoughts about this post and to hear about your trips to the Durham Heritage Coast too.