The character of the North West coast is generally low-lying and sedimentary, with vast intertidal mudflats and extensive salt marsh and sand dune habitats, wide sandy beaches and spectacular views across estuaries and bays. In contrast there are also areas of vegetated shingle, particularly on the Cumbrian coast, and small areas of maritime cliff habitat, on the Dee Estuary and at St Bees in Cumbria. The coastline is highly dynamic with a tidal range of around 10 m and a generally soft sedimentary nature so that in Sefton – home to the largest continuous sand dune system in England – parts of the coast are receding by up to 4m per year, whilst the tidal flats and channels at Morecambe Bay are constantly changing.

Over 80% of the North West’s coastal habitats are designated as nationally important SSSI and internationally important Natura 2002 and Ramsar sites (SACs and SPAs, respectively). Collectively the bays and estuaries of the North West coast host the second largest gathering of winter wildfowl in the Western Palaearctic and are home to many protected species. The coast also provides an internationally significant and vitally important feeding ground for thousands of wildfowl and wading birds over the winter and during the spring and autumn migration on a globally significant East Atlantic Flyway migration route.

Morecambe Bay is a unique part of the region. It has the largest intertidal flats in UK, covering 310km and has over a quarter of a million birds passing through its feeding grounds on their migration.  Traditional fishing methods still thrive in the bay, with rich catches of cockles and shrimp to be had, although the speed of the tides and notorious quicksand can be treacherous.

Environmental conditions in the North West also make the region one of the best places in Britain to find some lesser seen animals. The dune system on Sefton’s coast provides the perfect habitat for two rare species: the sand lizard and natterjack toad,Whilst in Cumbria, the tidal conditions make it an ideal place to see Sabellaria (honeycomb worm) reefs.

Aside from its fauna and flora, the North West coast is also well known for its spectacular landscapes. There are two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), one on the Solway Firth, and another at Arnside and Silverdale in Morecambe Bay. There is Heritage Coast at St Bees Head and the Lake District National Park, which draws over 8 million visitors to the region every year, has a popular 23 km  of coastline. On Crosby beach in Sefton, Antony Gormley’s art installation ‘Another Place’  has transformed the beach into a visual spectacle that brings visitors from far and wide. The coast also features two World Heritage Sites – part of the Hadrian’s Wall (Frontiers of the Roman Empire) World Heritage Site extends down the Cumbrian coast and the Liverpool waterfront is host to the Liverpool Mercantile Maritime City World Heritage Site.