Life is quite literally a beach with these beautiful beaches.
Looking for a sunny getaway, but can’t afford the flight? Beach, please! There are stunning beaches within two hours of London, so grab your flip flops and sunnies for a day trip to one of these beauties. (For a swim in the city, check out our guide to London’s best lidos.)
1. Ruislip Lido Beach, West London
Believe it or not, the closest beach to London is actually on the Central Line! In Ruislip, West London, a 700-acre woodland nature reserve is home to a gorgeous natural lake, with a genuine sandy beach! Woodland trails, a miniature train, and pirate ship for kids are also on offer, but despite what you may see in the photo above, swimming is technically not permitted. Nearest stations: Ruislip and Northwood Hills, Zone 6 – it’s then a 20 minute walk.
2. Frensham Beach, Surrey
Another unlikely landlocked beach near London, this sandy spot faces onto Frensham Pond in the midst of a large common near Farnham. The water quality here is rated excellent, and you’re allowed to swim; there’s also a brilliant and bizarre sculpture park with 600 statues to explore within walking distance.
Catch a train from Waterloo to Farnham, then a 19 bus to St. Mary’s School and walk – total journey about 1hr45. Or for taxis and drivers, bang GU10 2QB into the sat nav.
3. Whitstable, Kent
Wonderful Whitstable is famous for seafood, but the beaches aren’t to be missed either. Within Whitstable itself, West Beach is a lovely spot for a wander, whilst Tankerton Beach, a little further east, offers unspoiled views of the sea and sky. Top it off with fresh seafood, and you’ve got a picture perfect day out.
Approximately 1.5 hours from London (train from St Pancras/Cannon Street/Victoria to Whitstable).
4. Brighton, Sussex
London’s smaller, wannabe-edgy cousin, does have us beat on one front: the beaches. Wander along the pebbly beach, go paddle boarding, grab an ice cream (obviously), or brave the crowds on the world famous pier. Expect this one to be busy on sunny days, but the beach is big enough for you to nab a spot.
Approximately an hour from London (train from London Bridge/Victoria to Brighton).
5. Climping Beach, West Sussex
Forget the sandcastles here, because Climping Beach is mostly pebbles. It makes sunbathing a stretch, but this one will certainly be quieter than others on this list, so a seaside wander and a cheeky picnic are in the offing. The only warning I’d give is that, in the fight against beach erosion, the authorities installed a series of groynes, so the less mature in your party may spend their time sniggering at that.
Appromixately 2 hours from London (train from Victoria to Littlehampton).
6. Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex
Lots to do here in Walton: wander along the second longest pier in England, climb the Naze Tower, or hire one of their luridly colourful beach huts. In a seaside town brimming with history, a day out here is the perfect chance to make some memories of your own.
Approximately 1.5 hours from London (train from Liverpool Street to Walton-on-the-Naze).
7. Sunny Sands, Kent
Regarded as one of the best beaches in the country for building sandcastles, you’d better pack your bucket and spade for this one. The clue’s in the name: it’s sandy, which makes it a bustling place in summer. Sadly though, your four-legged friend won’t be coming along, because dogs are banned from May to October. At least you can hang out with the mermaid statue as a consolation prize.
Approximately 1 hour from London (train from St Pancras to Folkestone Central).
8. Bournemouth, Dorset
As beaches go, you won’t find bigger than this one. Bournemouth Beach is a whopping eleven miles long, so it’s easy enough to escape the crowds here. Amongst golden sands of spots like Sandbanks, you’ll also find shops, gardens, hotels, and restaurants. Heaven is just a train ride away…
Approximately 2 hours from London (train direct from Waterloo to Bournemouth).
9. West Wittering Beach, West Sussex
For starters, it’s called West Wittering. Isn’t that just the most charming name you’ve heard today? Aside from the name, this beach offers stunning views of Chichester Harbour, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty filled with an abundance of wildlife. It also has some of the cleanest waters of any beach on this list, so if you’re brave enough for a dip in British waters, this is the spot.
Approximately 1.5 hours from London (train from Victoria to Chichester).
10. Botany Bay, Kent
Not to be confused with Botany Bay, Australia, this Kentish charmer is drop-dead gorgeous. Those imposing white cliffs have featured in many a ‘gram over the years, and it remains one of the most photographed beaches in the UK. Explore the rock pools for little sea creatures, or go fossil hunting to find something more impressive.
Approximately 2 hours from London (train from St Pancras/Cannon Street to Margate).
11. Mersea Island, Essex
You’ll need to plan carefully to reach this one, as Mersea Island gets cut off from the mainland at high tide. The sunny South Beach is perhaps the best place to visit for a beachy day out, with the beach huts along Victoria Esplanade adding a splash of colour to proceedings. The island even has a vineyard, so you know where to head if you get thirsty!
Approximately 1 hour from London (train from Liverpool Street to Colchester).
12. Camber Sands, East Sussex
Regularly voted as one of the best beaches in England, Camber Sands is so beautiful, it’s even featured in Hollywood films. A five-mile stretch of sand, backed by rolling sand dunes, you can definitely up your sandcastle game here. Alternatively, take kitesurfing lessons for no other reason than to look like a badass.
Approximately 1 hour from London (train from St Pancras to Rye).
13. Dungeness, Kent
A stone’s throw away from Camber Sands, you’ll find this place. The largest expanse of shingle in Europe, Dungeness isn’t exactly the bathing costume and ice cream kind of beach. The beauty here is a bleak, striking kind of sort, as the vista is littered with ramshackle fisherman’s huts, a nuclear power station, and a set of concrete towers used to listen for incoming aircraft in the 1930s. Elegantly eerie.
Approximately 1 hour from London (train from St Pancras to Rye).
14. Minnis Bay, Kent
A good spot for watersports, is this one. Whether you try you hand at windsurfing, or a more sedate session of sailing, Minnis Bay will keep you entertained. A massive expanse of beach will disappear at high tide, but until then, you’ve have time enough for fun in the sun.
Approximately 1.5 hours from London (train from St Pancras/Cannon Street/Victoria to Birchington-on-Sea).
15. Eastbourne, East Sussex
The final spot on our tour of beaches near London is the resort town of Eastbourne. Another favoured Victorian seaside retreat, you’ll find a historic pier, numerous sea front hotels, and a rather charming beach. It’s also not far from the utterly enchanting Beachy Head, which is as impressive a view as you’ll get on the south coast.
Approximately 1.5 hours from London (train from London Bridge/Victoria to Eastbourne).
Featured image: Ian Southwell