The 12 Best Beaches Just Outside of London
Buckets and spades at the ready!
Don’t disregard a trip to the beach if you’re heading on vacation in London, England. Sure, the city itself might not be home to glorious white sand and picture-perfect views but venture an hour outwards, and you’ll find some of England’s best beaches nearby. In fact, due to England’s small size, you’re never more than 70 miles from the sea at any one point. But you’ll only have to travel an hour or so to feel the sand between your toes. Ready for a trip to the seaside? Read on for all of the best beaches just outside of London.
A long list of celebrities call West Wittering home, and we’d definitely consider the beach at least part of the reason why they decided to settle down there. One of the best beaches near London if you’re traveling with children, West Wittering boasts some of the clearest water in the U.K. and offers safe swimming conditions to match. It’s also absolutely beautiful: an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that comes with an abundance of wildlife and ample facilities. Its huge size means even when West Wittering beach gets super busy, it never feels overcrowded. The same thing applies to its surrounding areas: plenty of homely restaurants ensure there are enough dinner options for everyone visiting.
There aren’t many beach towns so full to the brim with traditional charm as Walton-on-the-Naze. Proudly bringing together everything most-loved from those picture-perfect postcard scenes–vibrant beach huts, kitsch ice cream parlors, and cute cafes, to name just a few–Walton-on-the-Naze is a beautiful spot from morning to night. This sandy beach is home to the second-longest pier in Great Britain and is also widely known as “England’s friendliest resort,” so you can expect a quick chat with at least one local here when you’re buying an ice cream. Walton-on-the-Naze is laidback with its regulations; unlike some other spots in the U.K., you’re free to walk dogs here or set up a BBQ when the sun comes out.
Vibrant Brighton is an hour south of London and comes with not only a popular beach but also an eclectic range of vintage stores, restaurants, and bars at the nearby Laines. Brave the crowds on the world-famous pier to hop on one of the multiple rollercoasters, dig into fish and chips overlooking the sea, or try your hand to win your fortune at the amusement arcades. Brighton beach may be a pebbly one, but that doesn’t stop Londoners from setting up camp on stripy deck chairs on a daily basis. When you’ve wandered up and down the promenade, you can paddleboard out to sea or spend your time watching the oversized seagulls attempting to pinch a chip or two.
Beautiful Bournemouth spans seven miles of soft, golden sand, and when the weather heats up, it’s one of the busiest beaches in England. Still, it’s worth braving the crowds with your parasol and sun lotion to experience the glory of Bournemouth Beach with its quintessential surroundings. Its beautiful coastline is dotted with pastel pink shells and brave surfers wading into the water. Wander out onto the pier to get a closer look at the waves crashing down below–ideally with an ice cream or stick of rock in hand. Once you’re done with your beach day, you’ll find plenty of restaurants nearby for dinner. Bournemouth is also home to a large number of cute and cozy hotels, if you fancy extending your stay.
Birling Gap is the beach for people who don’t traditionally like beaches. Sure, you can swim, sunbathe and relax here. But you can also wander around the world-famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, catch crabs and hunt for fossils during low tide or even head out into the water to surf. The National Trust partially owns this popular spot, which ensures it remains clean and safe for everyone who visits. If you’re hunting for sea views without the desire to get your toes wet, spend your day at Birling Gap, walking parallel to the sea along the windy clifftops instead. From here, you’ll have stunning views over the coastline and the bright blue skies. There’s even an exhibition center nearby with a constant cycle of interesting talks on everything from shipwrecks and smugglers to local wildlife.
Broadstairs is a variety pack of gorgeous bays rather than one standalone beach. Visit the local area, and you’ll be treated to not one but seven individual beaches, each with its own charm and personality. Those looking to get out on the water will love Joss Bay’s choppier waters and larger waves, while photographers and ramblers will quickly fall in love with the picturesque and rural Botany Bay. Broadstairs is often called the “jewel in the crown” of the surrounding areas, and the town’s Latin motto is Stella Maris (“Star of the Sea”), which should give you a clue of just how much the people there love its beaches. The most popular sandy bay is Viking Bay, where you’ll find a traditional scene of children’s rides, beach huts, a harbor, and even a cliff-top promenade.
Victoria Martin Photo/Shutterstock
Ruislip Lido may be an artificial beach, but it’s one that’s accessible via London’s Tube network, which gives it extra points. This 60-acre lake is most definitely a spacious one, surrounded by a sandy beach and set on the edge of the woods. While swimming in the water isn’t currently recommended, there are lots of activities that’ll keep you entertained if you’re not content with just sunbathing. Follow the woodland trails around 700-acres of beautiful land, jump on the miniature train to tour the surrounding area, or explore the kid-friendly pirate ship. There’s a restaurant nearby, but we’d recommend planning ahead and bringing a picnic to truly make the most of the gorgeous surroundings here.
Rolling dunes and pristine blue water make Camber Sands one of England’s most famous beaches: a title it’s made the official shortlist for on multiple occasions. This beautiful, wide beach offers a great route for exploring any time of day but visit just before sunset for an evening to remember. Camber Sands is known for many things but especially for building sandcastles. While that may sound a little niche, it’s something you’ll understand once you’ve scooped up handfuls of the fine, golden sand surrounding you here. It’s also known for kitesurfing and windsurfing. If you’re not feeling brave enough to try it yourself, you can spend some time watching others tackle the waves.
You’ll need to plan a little before your trip to Mersea Island as, as its name suggests, it’s an island. And it’s only accessible during low tide. But it’s worth the navigation, particularly if you’re a seafood fan. Often referred to as “the best-kept secret of Essex,” Mersea Island is home to soft, golden sand and an idyllic backdrop. It’s one of the most quintessential British beaches close to London, thanks to its multi-colored beach huts along Victoria Esplanade and its penchant for delicious, fresh-out-the-ocean dishes. This fishing village is best loved for its popular 13-mile walk around the island and its brilliant range of local restaurants.
Whitstable isn’t just famous for its beach but also what you’ll find a little further out in the water: seafood! A day trip to Whitstable isn’t complete without at least one seafood-themed dish, like oysters from Crab & Winkle or the aptly-named Whitstable Oyster Company. If you’re not an oyster fan, you’ll find plenty of sizzling, golden, freshly battered fish and chip shops, which are best enjoyed sitting on the beach watching the waves. Easily accessible from central London, Whitstable is home to a few different beaches with their own unique selling points. Head to Tankerton Beach for its beautiful, unspoiled sea and sky views, or, if you’re more of an explorer than a sunbather, head to West Beach for a wander along the shore.
Southend-on-Sea is consistently rated as one of the ten best places to live in the U.K. and comes with a cheerful seafront to match. If you’re after classic British holiday vibes, you’ll find plenty of them here. As well as the beach with its mile-long pier–the longest pier in the world–you can also spend a day getting your adrenaline pumping at the theme park or dig into a traditional Cream Tea overlooking the ocean. A large range of parks and gardens provides a scenic backdrop, while seven miles of coastline keep even the most active visitors entertained. It’s a firm favorite for anyone looking for a beautiful, easily accessible day trip close by to London.
Littlehampton is home to two popular beaches: West beach and East beach. While West Beach is the more serene of the two, they’re both award winners in U.K. competitions and European ones. Littlehampton is also more than just a beach town, with the picturesque River Arun running through the center and tranquil gardens in every direction. Work your way down the trendy promenade, try your luck at the amusement arcades, and, if you’re feeling daring, there’s even a theme park nearby. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, wander through the dunes of West Beach for wonderful sea and sand views. The best way to round off your trip to Littlehampton? By picking up fish and chips from one of the many nearby restaurants and eating it on the beach before heading home.