More than one-third of the English coastline is not open to the public, according to Natural England.
A recent audit found that almost 1,000 miles (1,482km) of coastline did not have 'satisfactory or legally secure access'. This amounts to 34 per cent of the English coast.
More than 240 million trips are made to the coast every year and in many areas it is an important part of the local tourism industry. The South West Coast Path alone is estimated to bring in £300 million a year.
Military installations and coastal erosion are just some of the reasons behind the poor access. But the picture varies from region to region.
In the North West, more than half (56 per cent) is inaccessible. The best figures were in Yorkshire and Humber (70 per cent) and the South West (76 per cent).
'On average you cannot walk further than two miles without reaching an area of unsecure access or having to turn back,' said Poul Christensen, Acting Chair of Natural England.
The conservation body is pushing for the adoption of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill later this Autumn which will allow it to create a coastal path around the entire country over the next decade.
'Our audit maps are the start of what we expect to be a ten year journey to improve access around England’s coastline,' said chief executive Helen Phillips.
'It is clear that with nearly 1000 miles of access gaps there are real opportunities to open up a new future for the ‘forgotten areas’ of England’s coastline,' she said.