Complex hazards associated with climate change are increasing the vulnerability of urban coastal areas around the globe. This was particularly evident in the UK during the winter of 2013–14 when many coastal areas and infrastructure suffered from unprecedented storms, flooding and erosion. Given the value and importance of urban environments, there is a real need to assess the vulnerability of towns and cities on the United Kingdom (UK) coastline on the basis of the latest projected climate scenarios. Accordingly, a modified Physical Coastal Vulnerability Index (PCVI) was developed in which beach width and coastal slope are considered the most critical physical parameters. The PCVI can be used to rank spatial coastal cells into four classes of vulnerability (from extremely low to high) and to map coastal vulnerability using GIS. As a case study, this approach was applied to the city of Southampton; one of the key port and trade cities in the UK, with results indicating that 38% of the city’s coastline is highly vulnerable, and more than 50% moderately vulnerable. The work demonstrates that the methodological framework can be used as a planning tool for coastal management and, based on the availability of suitable data, can be adapted for estuarine or coastal and port environments without any geographical limits. Newly developed coastal vulnerability maps can be used by coastal engineers, managers and other decision makers to implement rigorous shoreline management planning as well as supporting risk, and disaster management policy and procedures.