Only two coastal sites failed: Staithes in the North-East and Aberafan in Wales, compared with 9 sites in 2005.
The standard was also failed at one inland bathing water - the Ladies’ Pond on London’s Hampstead Heath.
76.1% of UK coastal water met the tougher ‘guideline’ standard in 2006. 134 sites failed the test, a small decrease on the year before.
Environment Minister Ian Pearson said: "We should be very proud of the consistently high standard of water quality being achieved each year."
However, he indicated that further measures, especially on diffuse pollution from farming, would be necessary to ensure the UK meets tougher standards under the revised bathing water Directive, which must be met by 2015.