Two-thirds of people believe seaside resorts are at the centre of national identity but many feel they have become run down, a survey suggests.
Margate is said to have undertaken successful regeneration
The English Heritage survey found more than 75% of 1,003 respondents believed seaside towns were shabby.
Many also thought the government should invest more in preserving what is good about the country's coastal resorts.
A total of 77% said the historic character of seaside towns was what made them beautiful and enjoyable.
The survey was published ahead of a two-day conference on England's seaside resorts to be held next week at Hastings, Sussex.
Academics, social historians and policy makers will take part in the event to highlight the problems coastal towns face.
They will also discuss how seaside resorts can reinvent themselves without betraying their heritage.
English Heritage has also just published a report describing how heritage can be "a dynamic resource for regeneration".
The report highlighted 15 coastal towns where historic assets have been used to underpin successful regeneration and economic diversification.
The towns include Hastings, Margate, Whitstable, Folkestone, Morecambe, and Great Yarmouth.
English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley said: "Investing in the historic core of seaside towns is the essential first step in revitalising communities and giving residents a home with a soul.
"From fishing alleys to Victorian boulevards, from old docks and harbours to historic spas, we have lots of evidence to show that people and businesses flourish in places where local character and distinctiveness are being revived, often through physical renewal and re-use of historic buildings."
He added: "It is clear that seaside towns need to adapt and evolve. The historic environment should be recognised as an integral part of the search for a strengthened identity and a better future.
"It is what makes them loved, welcoming and unique in the first place, and provides a natural economic, geographic and civic focus for their regeneration."