The 14 Best Beaches Near London (Within 2.5 Hours)
Looking for the best beaches near London for those long summer days when it gets hot in the city and you need an escape? OK, these hot, sunny days may be few and far between, but there’s nothing to stop you visiting some of these beaches near London all year round.
I lived in London for 15 years and during the summer months when the thermometer went above 25 degrees Celsius, I would make the most of it by escaping to a beach near London.
I lived in the south of London and so the best beaches near me were on the south coast. Because I didn’t have a car, Brighton was a particular favourite beach day trip from London. It’s not uncommon to live in London without a car so we have made sure to include details on how to reach some of these beaches near London by train.
Either way, these top beaches near London are easily reached on a day trip from London because they are all less than 2.5 hours away. Some of them are also some of the best beaches in the UK.
If you’re planning on spending a little time in London on a UK staycation this year, you will definitely want to know about these beaches.
We’ve included tide times for each beach too. While some beaches can be visited at any time of the day, others need to be visited at certain times for the optimal experience.
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Here are our recommendations for the best beaches near London…
Beaches in Kent
Broadstairs is an impossibly cute little British seaside town set in a small bay with a lovely sandy beach lined with colourful beach huts and beautiful Victorian buildings. As the beach faces east, you will be treated to beautful sunrises on clear days. It is one of our favourite beach day trips from London.
If you’re a Charles Dickens fan, you’ll want to pay Bleak House Broadstairs a visit which sits on a bluff overlooking Viking Bay. You can even stay there if you are doing a weekend trip.
This secluded cove with calm waters makes it the perfect beach near London for families. If you haven’t packed your own picnic lunch, make sure to check out one of the fabulous restaurants in Broadstairs such as Wyatt & Jones or Posillipo Broadstairs.
Want to eat on the beach? Grab an upmarket fish & chips takeway from Flotsam & Jetsam (beware of the greedy seagulls) followed by a gelato from Morelli’s. This is one of our favourite beaches near London.
Botany Bay Beach
Botany Bay is right next door to Broadstairs and being one of the best sand beaches near London, it is definitely worth a visit. You can even walk to Botany Bay from Broadstairs if you want to visit both beaches.
There is a 2 mile Broadstairs to Botany Bay walk that takes in four bays before reaching Botany Bay; Viking Bay, Stone Bay, Joss Bay and Kingsgate Bay.
At Botany Bay you’ll find a long 200m stretch of sand and striking white chalk cliffs. When the tide is out, Botany Bay is a great place for fossil hunting and exploring rock pools.
Parking is very limited here. There is a small, free car park so we would advise getting here early. There is a food kiosk on the beach during the summer months but if you are looking for something more substantial, you can head up to Botany Bay Hotel.
If you find Botany Bay too crowded, you can try heading to lesser known Kingsgate Bay next door. There are no facilities here and the only parking available is at the Captain Digby pub which you have to pay for.
Driving time from London: 1 hour 55 minutes
Train from London: Trains from London Victoria to Broadstairs on Southeastern Railway take a little over 2 hours then a taxi (2 miles)
Tide times: Botany Bay tide times
Whitstable is traditional fishing town that has been transformed into a thriving beach holiday destination. It is also a great place for foodies. The Whitstable restaurants have a seafood bias as Whitstable harbour is a working harbour. As well as the Whitstable Oyster Company, there are also some great seafood shacks along the seafront. Whitstable oysters are a local speciality.
In all honesty, we went to Whitstable for the food rather than the beach as we were there during the winter, but we’ve heard that it is a buzzing place in the summer months and if you are there towards the end of July, you should check out the Whitstable Oyster Festival.
Whitstable beach is a shingle beach with colourful beach huts and large wooden groynes which protect against the waves making it safe for families.
If you’re looking at staying in Whitstable, you should really give the converted fishermen’s huts a go. They are located right on the beachfront and look super cosy and are an important part of Whitstable history.
Driving time from London: Around 1 hour 30 minutes
Train from London: Trains from London Victoria to Whitstable on Southeastern Railway take around 2 hours
Tide times: See here for Whitstable tide times
Margate has undergone a bit of a regeneration in recent years with art galleries, bakeries and clothing shops. Make sure to pop in to The Old Kent Market for the freshest hot cross buns from Gina’s Old Kent Bakery.
Just by the Turner Contemporary art gallery on Margate’s seafront you will spot one of Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Time’ sculptures. It is one of one hundred such sculptures around the world. If you want to see the sculpture, check out the tide times. It will be visible 3 hours before low tide.
If you’re looking for some good, old fashioned thrill seeking, you should check out Dreamland Margate, a traditional British seaside funfair with vintage rides and attractions.
Driving time from London: London to Margate is around 1 hour 50 minutes
Train from London: 1 hour 30 minutes from St Pancras International on Southeastern Railway
Tide times: You can check the Margate tide times here
Beaches in East Sussex
This mammoth expanse of sand on the coast of Kent is a favourite for daytrippers from London. It’s one of the best sandy beaches near London and somewhere you can go where it won’t feel too crowded during peak summer because it is so large.
It is a good idea to check the tide times at Camber Sands because at low tide, the water can be as far as a mile out, making it a long walk to the waters’ edge.
The beach is favoured by horse riders who you will often see riding throught he waves and it is one of the best dog friendly beaches near London.
There are a couple of pay and display car parks offering plenty of parking and there are a lot of beach style cafés along the sea front.
Of course, Camber Sands is right next door to one of the most beautiful small towns in England, Rye, which is really worth visiting.
Driving time from London: Just under 2 hours
Train from London: Around 1 hour. First take the Southeastern from London St Pancras to Ashford International and then the Southern from Ashford to Rye. Despite the change, it is still under 1 hour in total. You can walk from Rye or take a taxi (4 miles)
Tide times: Camber Sands tide times
Read more: The best things to do in Rye
Brighton beach is perhaps the most popular beach near London. It is so easy to reach by train that people actually live in Brighton and commute to work in London. It can get very busy at weekends in the summer.
Brighton is the quintessential Victorian British seaside town with the focal point being Brighton Pier with its bars and restaurants and traditional fairground rides at the end.
It’s the kind of place where you can grab a deck chair and enjoy a stick of Brighton Rock (obviously) on the pebble beach. There are loads of fabulous shops in Brighton and if you like small, independant shops, then you should head to The Lanes.
If you have time, the Brighton Pavillion (Royal Pavillion) is worth a visit. It was once the seaside pleasure palace for King George IV, built in a distinctly Indian style with elaborately decorarated rooms. I remember seeing it when I was young and thinking it was the Taj Mahal!
Birling Gap is a part pebble, part sand beach set at the bottom of the hugely imposing white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. It’s located between the famous British seaside towns of Brighton and Eastbourne and yet is refreshingly undeveloped. Despite this, the beach can get busy during peak seasons.
The beach is accessed by steps leading down from the cliff top. Make sure to enjoy the uninterrupted views of the sea before heading down. At low tide, it’s a great spot for rockpooling and fossil hunting.
The site is managed by the National Trust and there is a National Trust run café at the top of the cliffs along with a pay and display car park. Here you will also see a row of cottages that is edging ever closer to the cliff edge due to coastal errosion.
Beaches in Essex
Frinton-on-Sea is a quiet family beach located on the Essex coast. It’s a gently shelving sandy beach rated for its cleanliness and perfect for families. Along the sea wall, there are miles of pretty coloured beach huts, some of which are available to hire.
When the tide is out, there are wonderful safe shallows for the children to run about and play in. There always seems to be plenty of space for everyone and whilst the main areas can sometimes get busy, if you keep walking towards the Walton end, you will often find a quiet spot. Frinton beach has lifeguards on duty from July to September.
There are no amusements or shops on the seafront so make sure you take a picnic but there are public toilets. If you do need shops, however, take a short walk into the town centre where you will find a full range of shops.
A walk in one direction brings you to Walton on the Naze, a lively seaside resort and in the other direction to Holland Haven Country Park, a local nature reserve.
Driving time from London: Around 2 hours
Train from London: 1 hour 30 minutes on the GreaterAnglia train from London Liverpool Street (1 change at Thorpe Le Soken)
Tide times: Frinton-on-Sea tide times
There is loads to do at Southend, particularly if you are into rollercoasters and the like which you will find at Adventure Island.
Southend-on-Sea has a long pier and at 1.34 miles long, it is the longest pleasure pier in the world. If you don’t want to walk the entire length, you can take a narrow gauge train which runs on the hour and half-hour.
Southend is predominantly a pebble beach and is easily accessed from London by train on the new C2C line.
If you want to get away from the crowds at Southend, head to Chalkwell Beach for a quieter experience. It’s just a short walk from the entertainment of Southend.
If you’re looking for quiet beaches near London, you can’t get much more secluded than Osea Island. The only drawback is that it is a privately owned island so you would need to stay in one of the accommodation options to be able to visit.
If you are looking for a beautiful beach destination near London that will give you the feeling of being a million miles from London, this is the place for you. And why not have a couple of nights away on one of the best islands in the UK?
It is accessed by a causeway which is visible at low tide for 4 hours so for 8 hours a day, you are completely cut off from the mainland which adds to the relaxed vibe. It is utterly idyllic.
Driving time from London: 1 hour 30 minutes
Train from London: London Liverpool Street to Witham on GreaterAnglia (50 minutes) and taxi (25 minutes). Or you can take a water taxi arranged by Osea Island.
Tide times: Osea Island tide times
Mersea Island Beach
Just a little further on from Osea Island is Mersea Island and it is more accessible to the general public while still maintaining some rustic charm.
As with Osea Island, Mersea Island is accessed by a causeway that is completely covered at high tide so you must check the tide times before you go.
Mersea Island is known for its native oysters and even has its own vineyard. West Mersea is where you’ll find the holiday beach vibe and along the seafront you’ll also find lots of seafood shacks where you can try out local specialities.
To make your day trip to the beach a little more special, you could consider hiring one of the colourful beach huts on West Mersea Beach from the Little Beach Hut Company.
East Mersea is also worth visiting, but distinctly different to West Mersea. The east coast is a nature reserve and Cudmore Grove Country Park.
Driving time from London: Around 1 hour 40 minutes
Train from London: London Liverpool Street to Colchester on GreaterAnglia (around 1 hour) and then 20 minutes in a taxi
Tide times: Mersea Island tide times
Beaches in West Sussex
West Wittering, 9 miles south-west of Chichester, West Sussex is one of the country’s most popular beach destinations.
Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the beach forms part of the privately-owned West Wittering Estate. Local residents set the area up in the 1950s to preserve the beach and waters for the enjoyment of the public they continue to maintain this area to this day.
Boasting the prestigious Blue Flag Award for cleanliness this large sandy beach offers family-friendly activities such as windsurfing and kite surfing as well as the traditional ‘bucket and spade’ day out.
Out of season the beach is ideal for dog walking, horse riding and a leisurely stroll around the adjacent National Trust managed East Head sand dune spit. Whatever time of year the Beach Cafe is a perfect refreshment stop.
Driving time from London: Around 1 hour 50 minutes
Train from London: Not very convenient. Train to Havant on Southern Rail (1 hour 30 minutes) then a taxi (16 miles)
Tide times: West Wittering tide times
Beaches in Suffolk
The lovely thing about Suffolk is that it has retained much of its charm from yesteryear and the beautiful Victorian seaside town of Aldeburgh is no exception.
If you take a walk along the beach path towards Thorpeness, you will spot The Scallop. Come to Aldeburgh for a weekend in August and you’ll be able to check out the fantastic cultural offerings going on at Snape Maltings.
Aldeburgh has lots of fabulous restaurants including The Lighthouse which is our favourite, but you may want to just grab some fish & chips from Aldeburgh Fish & Chips (or try one of the many seafood shacks on the beach) and eat them on the beach.
If you are planning on spending a bit more time in Suffolk, some more of our favourite Suffolk beaches are:
Driving time from London: Around 2 hours
Train from London: Not very convenient. Around 2 hours 45 minutes from London Liverpool Street to Saxmundham on Greater Anglia and then a taxi (7 miles)
Tide times: Aldeburgh tide times
Beaches in Middlesex
Middlesex is landlocked right? So how can it have a beach? Well, if you don’t have the time to head to the coast from London, then the Lido in Ruislip can be a great alternative.
It is a man-made beach built around a 60 acre lake (reservoir) next to Ruislip Woods. With its golden sands fringed by trees, it is very scenic and you will soon forget you are still in a London Borough.
Officially swimming is not allowed there due to pollution, but people still swim. We found the water a little dirty being honest and not very appealing so we gave it a miss, but the kids loved making sandcastles.
It can get very busy in the summer months and it is not a large place so expect crowds on a sunny day but if you can visit outside of peak season, it’s a lovely hidden gem in London.
There is a fairly long walk from the car park OR you can take a narrow guage train which, of course, we had to do. There is a café at the beach (San Remo Café), toilets and a splash pad play area for children.
Driving time from London: Around 45 minutes
Train from London: Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines to Ruislip
Tide times: N/A
Map of the best beaches near London
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Best Beaches in Norfolk – a little further from London ( 3 hours) but the north Norfolk coast has some fabulous beaches. It’s a great destination for a weekend trip from London.