Best beaches near London for summer
We've rounded up the best sandy beaches near London for a day trip including Camber Sands, Cuckmere Haven and West Wittering
After a touch-and-go start to June, summer has finally arrived, with blue skies and soaring temperatures in the UK. And what better way to make the most of the weather than a day or weekend at the beach?
Although London often seems like an endless urban sprawl, just a short hop away lie some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline Britain has to offer. Here are nine of the best beaches within two hours of the capital:
Camber Sands, East Sussex
Our list begins with one of the country’s most beloved holiday hotspots; the beautiful undulating dunes of Camber Sands in East Sussex.
Just east of the picturesque ancient town of Rye, the sand here is unusually soft compared to the rough pebbled beaches that cover the remainder of the Sussex coast, and the dunes serve as a vital habitat for plant and animal life, according to the Sussex Biodiversity Partnership.
Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex
A few miles down the coast to the west is Cuckmere Haven, a large floodplain flanked on all sides by the iconic Seven Sisters chalk cliffs and cleaved in two by the River Ouse.
Although the beach here is pebbled, the surrounding area is a stunning wash of green hills and a curved oxbow lakes, perfect for an easy bike ride or a picnic in the sunshine, while young ones are kept happy by the ice cream trucks that regularly patrol the plain.
Littlehampton Beach, West Sussex
Visitors to the laid-back seaside town of Littlehampton actually get two for one when it comes to beaches, as the River Arun runs into the sea here, splitting the town’s coastline.
Broad, sandy East Beach runs in front of the town, whose promenade offers a traditional British seaside experience, complete with a pier, amusement arcades, a funfair and plenty of options for fish and chips.
The prom is also home to the town’s most unusual attraction, a looping art installation which claims to be the longest bench in the UK. And if that doesn’t float your boat, the more adventurous can try their hand at sailing, fishing or kite-surfing.
If you prefer something more chilled, try heading across the harbour to the more secluded West Beach. This pebble beach, fringed with sand dunes and close to the ruins of an old fort, is perfect for walking a dog or simply exploring.
West Wittering, West Sussex
“Weathered shabby-chic beach huts on a huge powder-white Blue Flag beach makes this West Sussex spot one of the south coast’s finest for all kinds of beach activities,” writes Time Out of West Wittering, one of the most picturesque beachfronts in the UK.
Sandbar-sheltered tidal lagoons give ample room for safe swimming away from riptides, while the rockpools and salt marshes nearby allow for a great day of wildlife spotting.
Perched on the southern bank of the Thames Estuary, the colour seafront houses and winding lanes of Whitstable are just a stone’s throw from central London.
Fresh fish huts and cafes are dotted up and down this peaceful stretch of beach, with surfing and kiteboarding facilities drawing in extreme sports enthusiasts from across the southeast.
Way out on the horizon are the fascinating Maunsell Forts, a collection of WW2-era defence forts propped up on stilts visible from the beach on a clear day.
Described as a “swaggering, story-telling town”, Broadstairs has become one of Kent’s hottest prospects in what Conde Naste Traveller calls the county’s “seaside renaissance”.
Although Broadstairs is a town with a wealth of gorgeous and varied beaches, Viking Bay in particular takes the crown here, its curved stretch of coastline playing host to plenty of high-end restaurants, shops and, of course, warm yellow sand.
At just under two hours from St Pancras, the train journey to Broadstairs is swift and takes in glorious, desolate views over Dover and Dungeness in this isolated corner of the UK.
Dungeness Beach, Kent
On the coast of Kent, Britain’s only desert Dungeness beach is a hub to those looking for adventure. It is one of the most unique habitats in Britain, technically classified as a desert rather than a beach. Even still, it is home to an abundance of wildlife, including 600 species of plants and numerous rare insects.
Dungeness beach is also the second largest shingle formation in the world, so it is enjoyed by visitors looking to hike and explore rather than lounge. If hiking isn’t your thing, enjoy the pubs and cafe not too far from the beach, or take a look at the towering old lighthouses dotted along the shore.
Mersea Island, Essex
Head over to Essex if you’re looking for a magical retreat in the tiny island of Mersea. Known for its mouth-watering seafood and old-world charms, Mersea is the perfect place to sit and relax, enjoying good food (such as its Colchester native oyster) and lounging on the beach.
You can choose from East or West Mersea - the west is a small fishing town, with soft, sandy beaches and a wide selection of shops, restaurants and pubs. The east attracts people who prefer rural, wild natural beaches and large open spaces.
Minnis Bay, Kent
Time Out says this “long and lovely Blue Flag sandy beach” on the northern coast of Kent, just 90 minutes by train from London St Pancras station, is a “firm family favourite offering lots of free parking, a children's outdoor play area and a paddling pool that’s perfect for discovering crustaceans and other marine life”.
More adventurous types can take advantage of the ample water sports opportunities along this pristine stretch of coastline, with windsurfing, kite surfing and sailing equipment all available for hire.
For the fainter of heart, just a stone’s throw from the water’s edge is the famous the Viking Coastal Trail, a 27-mile trail along the Thanet coastline that is perfect for both hikers and bikers.
Quiet and secluded, this lovely beach is also home to the Minnis Bay Bar & Brasserie, which offers excellent views over the seascape - as well as first-class fish. Picnic areas and a kiosk are also available for those who prefer to keep the budget down.
As Explore Kent puts it, Minnis Bay really is “perfect sandcastle-building territory” for young and old alike.
Bournemouth Beach, Dorset
The bustling seaside town of Bournemouth boasts a mammoth seven miles of golden sands, as well as plenty of attractions.
The shoreline here contains everything from high-end restaurants and fabulous beachside bars to exciting kids’ play areas and the Oceanarium - a world-class aquarium featuring ten recreated environments include the Amazon, Key West, the Mediterranean and the Great Barrier Reef.
And if Bournemouth Beach is getting crowded, within a few miles you can find more secluded beaches at Alum Chine, Durley Chine, Fisherman’s Walk, Southbourne, Branksome Chine, Canford Cliffs, Shore Road, Sandbanks and Manor Steps.
Furthermore, the beaches in this part of the world have received plenty of cleanliness awards, holding international Blue Flag award status since it was first introduced in 1996. The Bournemouth Council website adds that as of 2019 Bournemouth, along with the nearby beaches at Poole and Christchurch have now secured nine Blue Flag awards.
“We have also secured a total of 14 Seaside Awards for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole,” the site adds, which recognise the highest standards for water quality, environmental management, safety and services and environmental education.