Sure, the weather in the UK is not so great, but when the sun is shining, we know exactly where to go to escape the heat. What we lack in palm trees, we make up for in unspoilt beaches and incredible views. So, when you fancy nothing more than a few hours with the sand between your toes and the sound of waves crashing around you, we’ve actually got you covered.
Whether you want to picnic on the sand, sample delicious seafood, or simply kick back and relax, here are 9 of our favourite beaches near London.
West Wittering (1.5 hours from London Victoria)
Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, West Wittering beach is just as fairytale-esque as you’d expect. The beach is actually privately owned, but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to set up camp for a day in the gorgeous surroundings. Walk along nearby East Head for spectacular views across to Chichester Harbour and scrunch your toes in the soft sand. Paddle and splash in the small pools of water dotted around the beach. Or, wait until the tide goes out and you can stroll far into the seabed. Start your day at the nearby Drift-In Surf Cafe for some of the best pancakes in the area.
Brighton (1 hour from London St Pancras or Victoria)
If West Wittering is considered the most scenic beach near London, then Brighton is undoubtedly its cooler, grittier sister. Known for its vibrant promenade, eclectic assortment of shops in the nearby Laines, and more bars than you could ever sample in one outing. On a sunny day, you’ll catch hordes of people kicking back on the pebbled beach before wandering over to the nearby pier and taking selfies with the seagulls. If you’re feeling courageous, brave the mousetrap rollercoaster that lurches out over the crashing waves before heading back to dry land to dig into a burger at nearby Lucky Beach.
Camber Sands (1 hour from London St Pancras)
Regularly called out as one of the most beautiful beaches in the London area, Camber Sands should be top of your list if you’re on the lookout for some snazzy Instagram photos (as well as a peaceful day by the sea). Tiptoe across the sand dunes and build castles on the golden sands for a truly wholesome day out. There are plenty of good restaurants in the area, but for best results, bring a picnic and set up camp as the sun goes down. The waves are almost silken as the day passes by. Miles of beach means there’s space for everyone without getting overcrowded.
Mersea Island (1 hour from London Liverpool Street)
If you’re a seafood lover, then Mersea Island is a must visit. As the name suggests, Mersea is, in fact, an island, so you’ll have to plan your trip carefully according to the tide. But a bit of careful planning definitely pays off when you see what’s in store on arrival. Contrasting beautifully with the blue water is a row of perfectly pastel-hued beach huts. Mersea is a great spot for crabbing in the summer months, taking a trip out on a fishing boat, or even spending a cultural couple of hours at Mersea Island Museum.
Littlehampton Beach (2 hours from London Victoria)
Fun fact: not only is Littlehampton a great beach, but it’s also home to the UK’s longest bench, which spans a huge 1,000 feet. And don’t get confused when visiting, because Littlehampton is made up of East Beach and West Beach, and they’re both worth your time. West Beach is the more popular of the two, with preserved sand dunes and a boardwalk nature path. Over on East Beach you’ll find a perfect BBQ-ing spot. If you’re feeling active, the promenade is lovely to cycle down when the sun is shining (and the perfect way to work up an appetite). After you’ve had your fill of the beach, head to Fred’s for fish and chips.
Walton-on-the-Naze (1.5 hours from London Liverpool Street)
Picture a beach-themed postcard and what you’re imagining probably looks similar to Walton-on-the-Naze. Despite the unusual name, expect a traditional beach of dreams complete with transparent water and no seaweed in sight. Don’t expect much modernization here because WOTN takes delight in its kitsch ice cream parlours, cute cafes, and other traditional attractions. It’s also been dubbed ‘England’s friendliest resort’, so don’t be too surprised if you end up chatting away to a dog walker or family of locals while you’re relaxing by the water. Complete your day out with a trip to Jo-Jo’s for a floral-filled spot of lunch.
Broadstairs (1.5 hours from London St Pancras)
You might struggle to believe that the town of Broadstairs is only 80 miles east of London, because visiting will lead you to think that you’ve been transported into a sun-drenched capital outside of the UK. This charming seaside resort on the Kent coast is packed with some seriously beautiful bays. Surfers should head to Joss Bay, while nature lovers will love the rural and rustic Botany Bay. The cliff tops offer stunning views — the perfect accompaniment to a treat from one of the 1950’s ice cream parlours dotted along the shore. For a beach that offers a bit of everything, stroll on over to Viking Bay.
Bournemouth (2 hours from London Waterloo)
You’ll find seven miles of beautiful views at Bournemouth Beach and, more often than not, students dotted along the coastline lighting barbeques and making the most of the warm weather. Due to the nearby universities, Bournemouth is a great seaside town for everything from bars to brunch (and everything in between). It would be almost criminal to visit Bournemouth and not feast upon some local seafood. The best place to do so is at WestBeach. Positioned right on the seafront, you’ll be able to keep one eye on the sea while the other is admiring the fresh crab, scallops, and oysters on your plate.
Tankerton Beach/Whitstable (1.5 hours from London St Pancras)
We wouldn’t typically suggest visiting a beach once the sun has gone down, but Tankerton is the obvious exception. Known for its incredible sunsets, it’s a clean stretch of sea and sand offering beautiful views reflected on the water. Come down earlier in the day to walk out into “the street”— a stretch of sandy raised seabed that goes out into the sea when the tide is out. Feeling peckish? The Carousel Fish Bar is your best shot for local seafood or, perched at the top of Tankerton Slopes, you’ll find The Royal: one of the best vantage points in the area to idly watch boats go by.