Introduction In the context of high and rising levels of mental ill health, research interest in the potential health improving effects of physical environments is growing. Outdoor environments including the coast, countryside, and open spaces in towns and cities, can provide valuable opportunities for recreation and leisure activities. To date, research on the wellbeing benefits of outdoor environments has primarily focused on what have been defined as green spaces. Yet recent work on the role of blue space (including the coast, beaches, rivers, and inland waterways) has indicated that blue spaces may be preferred and have greater restorative effects, over and above green or urban spaces without water. MethodUsing data from 2750 English respondents drawn from 2 years of the Monitor of Engagement with Natural Environment (MENE) survey (Natural England, 2011), this study investigates psychological responses to leisure visits to different environment types (coastal and seaside; countryside; open spaces in towns and cities). Specifically, we explore if visits to the coast and seaside are more likely to be associated with (i) higher affective responses (i.e. positive emotion) and (ii) relaxation and peace as a motivation for the visit, when compared to visits to the countryside and open spaces in towns and cities. ResultsThe findings show that visits to coastal and seaside locations are associated with more positive psychological responses than visits to the countryside or open spaces in towns. These findings hold when taking account of (i) demographic variables, (ii) the presence of others on the visit and (iii) walking (one of the most frequent activities undertaken in the natural environment). We also find that relaxation and peace is more likely to be cited as a motivation for visits to the coast and seaside, than visits to the countryside or open spaces in towns and cities. DiscussionThis study provides new evidence that visits to coastal and seaside locations are associated with (i) more positive affective responses and (ii) relaxation and peace as a motivation for the visit, when compared to visits to the countryside or open spaces in towns and cities. This study also presents novel evidence that walking in coastal and seaside environments is associated with more positive affective responses than walking in the countryside or open spaces in towns and cities. ConclusionFurther research is required to fully understand the beneficial effects of exposure to different types of natural environments on both psychological and physical health, in addition to the mechanisms that may underlie a blue space effect. Nonetheless, for policy makers, health care practitioners and academics these findings imply that greater attention needs to be paid to coastal and seaside environments and the role they can play in promoting human health and wellbeing.