Time to swap the sounds of the city for some salty sea air. These are the absolute best beaches near London. From the vast unbroken expanse of Camber Sands to the eerie other-worldly beauty of Dungeness, we’ve rounded up the 15 best beaches within two hours of the capital. So, pack your swimming cozzie, grab your bucket and spade, and head to one of these gorgeous beaches near London. It might be England, but it can still get scorching out there!
1) Tankerton Beach and The Street, Whitstable, Kent
Whitstable is a charming town with a distinct character and colourful harbour. Overlooking the old town is The Street – a stretch of shingle that pokes out from Whitstable’s pretty Tankerton beach at low tide, offering lovely views back to the groyne-dotted beach, and beyond it the colourful clapboard houses and beach huts of nearby Whitstable.
2) East Beach, Littlehampton, West Sussex
Littlehampton has retained its ramshackle, seaside charm. Its gorgeous sand beach is great for swimming, with driftwood sculptures forming the stunning East Beach Café—a great place for brunch or ice cream.
3) Minnis Bay, Birchington, Kent
For a family-friendly day out, hop in the car and head for North Foreland Beach on the north Kent coast. This long sandy beach has an outdoor play area for children, free car parking, a paddling pool perfect for discovering crustaceans and other marine life, windsurfing and kite boarding – plus a restaurant with a bar and great sea views should keep the grown-ups happy too.
4) Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
Leigh-on-Sea is the perfect place for those who like their beaches to be flanked by cobbled streets, boats swaying in the breeze and traces of a place’s historic fishing past such as olde worlde cockle sheds. While the beach is small it is also sandy and you are in close proximity to some fine seafood eateries. Try Osborne’s cafe and Seafood Hall, which won the 2021 British Food Awards in the Fish & Seafood category for its cooked cockles.
5) Holywell Retreat, Eastbourne, East Sussex
Close to Eastbourne’s busy centre, but on the edge of town, Holywell Retreat is a quiet and relaxed beach. Between Boxgrove and Ebsfleet, a narrow road leads down to an unpretentious park that is home to some pretty blue and white beach chalets. Behind them are the white cliffs of Beachy Head and behind those the South Downs coastal path. A short walk along the seafront brings you to Rick Mathers’s elegant Towner Gallery of Contemporary Art
6) Botany Bay, near Broadstairs, Kent
The English seaside resort of Margate is as understated as it is hidden, with no funfairs or slot machines, just a Blue Flag-awarded 600ft-long strip of sand and a kiosk in a pretty little cove that’s one of seven along this part of the Kent coast.
7) Mersea Island, Essex
The south-east of England is a great place for a weekend getaway, as it’s home to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. There aren’t many beaches near London that involve a tide schedule, but Britain’s most easterly inhabited island does, being an estuary island reach via the Strood (an ancient Roman causeway linking it with the mainland). Foodies beat a path to West Mersea’s various oyster bars, while fossil hunters and nature-lovers make for East Mersea’s quiet beaches backed by cliffs that have revealed shark’s teeth and animal bones dating back 300,000 years. Wine aficionados can pick up a local souvenir at the Mersea Island Vineyard and Brewery.
8) Fairlight Glen, East Sussex
Fairlight Glen is, unlike other nearby beaches, not a sandy shore but all rocks and pebbles. Being shingle, it’s also rather steep so some will find it difficult to access. But for those who are naturists or naturist-friendly, it’s one of Britain’s best-kept secrets as a wild, secluded spot with excellent views out over the sea.
9) Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate, Kent
When you hop off the train at Ramsgate, it may be difficult to decide whether to stay put and get acquainted with the popular sandy beach, or head slightly off the beaten track to Pegwell Bay. Not only is it a wildfowl-heavy nature reserve and rich in local history, but archaeologists have discovered traces of Roman landings and Viking longships.
10) Cuckmere Haven, Seaford, Sussex
Cuckmere Haven isn’t huge, but you can get a good mix of the sea and beach life here. The famous Seven Sisters white chalk cliffs to the east of the pebbled beach are striking, attracting countless artists over the years. It’s a quiet spot that’s also popular as a film location with scenes from Harry Potter and Robin Hood shot here. Dogs are also allowed and it’s a good spot for angling if you want an excuse to sit quietly gazing out to sea for hours.
11) Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex
The stunning location of Walton-on-the-Naze is a great place to explore! Discover wildlife on the wide stretch of sandy beach, hunt for turtle and bird fossils, catch stunning views over the Essex coast by climbing the 86ft shipping tower-turned art gallery – there’s so much to see and do here.
12) Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
Windsurfers, kitesurfers and beach goers welcome! Shoreham has a laidback shingly beach that is dog-friendly, and has a children’s play area too. Explore the scenic River Adur Coastal Link & Sculpture Trail, or sit back with your deckchair and enjoy a bit of culture at one of the many galleries in Shoreham-by-Sea.
13) Dungeness, Kent
In the early-1970s, filmmaker Derek Jarman’s isolated home and garden became a sanctuary for artists and filmmakers, including David Hockney, Francis Bacon and Twiggy. Nowadays it is popular with birdwatchers who can view various creatures on the nearby shingle beaches. The house itself is a quirky sight as it has been constructed from old railway carriages and other found objects – designed by the late artist himself in true punk style!
14) West Wittering, West Sussex
This beach has all kinds of activities on offer. You can sunbathe, swim, go rock-pooling or just explore the salt marshes on the western end of the beach. Here you’ll find East Head which marks the entrance to Chichester Harbour and there are lots of great walks available right off this beach as well.
15) Camber Sands, East Sussex
Camber Sands is the most Arabian-looking beach destination on England’s south coast. Four miles of sand dunes and beach make it a perfect place to camp, cycle and trek across the many miles of undeveloped land. A number of ‘desert’ films were shot here including Carry On Follow that Camel’, so you can experience its amazing beauty for yourself!
16) Southend-on-Sea, Essex
Southend-on-Sea is home to the world’s longest iron pleasure pier. At 2.158km, it is just over a mile long! Southend pier has been rebuilt many times after being the victim of fires and a boat crashing through it. It was originally a wooden structure built-in 1830. The pier was taken over by the royal navy during World War Two to act as a departure point. There is a railway which runs the full length of the pier and operates every single day the pier is open. Prior to this, visitors were escorted by a horse tramway!
17) Clacton-on-Sea, Essex
Clacton may be a quintessentially English seaside town, but today it’s also a city of plenty. Whether you want to enjoy a jazz concert in the evening, or listen to the sea-shanty singers on the pier, there’s something for everyone here. And there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the best of British summertime: you can walk along an award-winning promenade while soaking up spectacular views of the sea and its famous chalk stacks, or explore Clacton Pier’s one million lights at Christmas time.
18) Brighton, Sussex
Brighton is famous for its historic attractions, but there’s more to this coastal town than meets the eye. Brighton is also a vibrant cultural capital with a passion for creativity and sustainability.
19) Hastings, Sussex
The Battle of Hastings probably still hurts for anyone who was forced to study history in the UK. But there’s more to Hastings than that. In fact, its connection to England’s last Anglo-Saxon King is just a footnote compared to its significance as a seaside resort.