Adaptation to climate change has experienced a recent rapid increase in guides, manuals and strategies, including the EU adaptation strategy of 2013. However, minimal critical review or evaluation has been done on the process and outcomes of adaptation strategies. This work presents a comparative analysis of progress towards adaptation strategies in nine coastal areas in NW Europe (from Belgium, France, Ireland and UK) where the INTERREG IVb IMCORE project was implemented. Adaptation progress was evaluated using a suite of indicators in six categories: Relevance, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Results & Impact, Sustainability and Management. Data were obtained through a combination of questionnaires and interviews. Although a similar IMCORE adaptation process was implemented there were notable differences between areas. Two alternate modes of implementation were identified: one focused more on impact and results and one on institutionalisation and future security of the adaptation process. The length of history of collaborative working was positively associated with progress in adaptation planning. The results thus recommend creation of a base for collaborative working prior to undertaking an adaptation initiative. However, this contrasts with the EU approach for developing adaptation strategies in which seeking agreement with stakeholders responsible for implementation is the penultimate stage.