7 Great Beaches near London

Ugo Arinzeh

August 4, 2021
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Top Beaches Near London

As someone who grew up in the US, and moved to London just over 10 years ago, I wasn’t really expecting to have beaches when I moved here. Whether it’s New Jersey, New York, and the entire East Coast which is packed with stunning beaches, I believed I was leaving the beach life behind when I moved to the UK. Boy was I wrong! I know the UK is an island, but I always thought that I would have to travel for some time to get to the beach, and in the past, I have tended to travel abroad to get my sandy oasis fix. As I have recently discovered, I can get to the beach in just an hour or so from central London – which is mind-boggling to me. 

If you’re looking to get to the beach this Summer, without having to hop on a plane, then discover the top 7 beaches near London with me! 

Bournemouth

Let’s kick things off with one of the longest beaches and that’s Bournemouth located on the south coast of England.   At 7 miles long, you should have plenty of space to socially distance. 

Whether lying out with the sand between your toes, strolling along the pier, relaxing in with an ice cream, enjoying amazing food or just admiring miles of breath-taking coastline – Bournemouth beach is the ideal location whatever the weather or time of year.

Bournemouth is well known for its great variety of accommodations from hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and self-catering options to luxury international hotel groups and boutique hotels along the neighbouring coastline and countryside. 

Bournemouth has five Blue Flag beaches – Alum ChineDurley ChineFisherman’s WalkManor Steps and Southbourne.  The iconic Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognised voluntary awards for beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators. And to qualify for the Blue Flag, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained.

How to get to Bournemouth beach from London – Approximately two hours from London (train direct from Waterloo to Bournemouth).

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Brighton Beach

One of the UK’s most famous beaches, Brighton Beach is a pebbly or so-called shingled beach with certified Blue Flag waters along a  4-mile promenade that buzzes with life all year round. A quick 1-hour train ride out of London Waterloo/Victoria, it’s one of London’s easiest beaches to get to.  

The waters can be chilly but are popular for swimming and water sports such as windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and wakeboarding. 

Even if you don’t step foot in the water, you can spend the day visiting along the Victorian pier nearby and traditional fairground where you’ll find loads of cafes, restaurants, fish and chips and beach clubs. Next to the pier is the Sea Life Centre which may be the oldest aquarium in the world, dating back to 1872.

How to get to Brighton Beach from London – approximately 1 hour from London (train from London Bridge/Victoria to Brighton).

Brighton Beach Pier Uk In Autumn

Ruislip Lido Beach, West London

So what is actually the closest beach to London? Well that Ruislip Lido Beach in west London at the end of the Piccadilly Line! It’s a 700-acre woodland nature reserve that is home to a gorgeous natural lake, with an actual sandy beach. 

The nice thing is you’re surrounded by woodland trails, a miniature train, and a pirate ship for kids.  But here’s the kicker, swimming is technically not permitted. There is, however, a very cool miniature train that’ll whizz you around the lake! 

How to get to Ruislip Lido Beach from London – Take the Piccadilly line to the nearest stations which are Ruislip and Northwood Hills, Zone 6 – it’s then a 20-minute walk. 

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Whitstable Beach

Wonderful Whitstable is famous for seafood, but the beaches are pretty cool too.   More classic British, without a pier and amusement, West Beach is a lovely spot for a wander, while Tankerton Beach, a little further east, offers unspoiled views of the sea and sky. Top it off with fresh seafood, and you’ve got an incredible day out. There’s even an annual oyster festival held towards the end of July.  

Whitstable, along with other picture-perfect towns of Kent, have long attracted stressed out Londoners in desperate need of a little fresh air and seawater. Since you can wander along its pastel-painted shop fronts or take a dip off its sheltered beach, this town is ideal for day-trippers. There’s also a thriving arts scene and a genuine community spirit you’ll immediately notice.  

Whitstable beach is popular for windsurfing and sailing, with the Whitstable Yacht Club located at the northern end.

To top this all off Whitstable beach faces west meaning it offers a great place to catch the sunset.

How to get to Whitstable Beach from London – one and a half hours from London (train from St Pancras/Cannon Street/Victoria to Whitstable).

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Dungeness Beach, Kent

Beautiful and bleak is often how Dungeness in Kent is described.  But I’m going to highlight it to anyone as it’s noted for its eerie beauty.  It is also the largest expanse of shingle or pebble beach in Europe.  While this no lay out and get a tan kind of beach, the appeal is its striking but bleak vista as the area is littered with ramshackle fisherman’s huts, abandoned fishing boats, the Dungeness nuclear power station, and a set of concrete towers used to listen for incoming aircraft in the 1930s. 

You may feel like you’ve  reached the end of the world when you get here as this tiny fishing town, at the southernmost point of Kent, is very different from a sandy beach paradise you might think of. Instead, the landscape is stark and wild. 

If you do go visit, make sure to check out the Old Lighthouse, a historic Grade II-listed building that saved ships from the dangers of the English Channel between 1904 and 1960. From the top you can see for miles across Dungeness and Romney Marsh.

How to get to Dungeness Beach from London – approximately one hour from London (train from St Pancras to Rye).

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Greatstone Beach, Kent

If you’re visiting Dungeness, you may also want to hit Greatstone Beach, another underappreciated gem just around the headland. Now here you will find a proper sandy beach that boasts windswept dunes and an endless horizon where the English Channel disappears into the distance.

Greatstone Beach’s two miles of sandy shoreline is dotted here and there by large rocks.  There is also a long stretch of flat, soft sand and safe swimming waters.   The beach’s conditions make it ideal for wind sports including land yachting, windsurfing, kitesurfing and kiteboarding which is so very appealing to water sport enthusiasts. At low tide, the water goes out almost half a mile, exposing even more sand for visitors to enjoy. 

The Greatstone Dunes that run along nearly the entire length of the beach and separate the seafront from land are also a Site of Specific Scientific Interest. A wide variety of rare plant species grow on the dunes and the area supports a strong population of small animals and insects.

How to get to Greatstone beach from London – Approximately two hours from London (train from St Pancras to Ashford International, then a pair of buses to the beach).

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Eastbourne Beach, Sussex

Finally, we’ll highlight Eastbourne in Sussex.  

Eastbourne offers more than 3 miles of vast shingle beaches offering sand and in some cases rock pooling opportunities, at low tide.  This resort town is another favoured Victorian seaside retreat where you’ll find a historic pier, numerous seafront hotels, and an enchanting beach. It’s also not far from charming Beachy Head, with its impressive views. Offering lifeguard patrolled safe bathing, seafront restaurants, showers, beach huts, cabins, sun loungers, deckchairs and children’s attractions.

The seafront is also home to the famous Floral Carpet Gardens. Located next to the pier these form just a part of Eastbourne’s extensive seafront gardens.

As with most beaches along the Sussex coast, Eastbourne is not sandy. In fact, the tide has to be a long way out before there is any evidence of sand. It is a typical south coast beach with pebbles and shingles divided up by a series of wooden groynes.

While there you can check out the stunning cliffs and a Marine Conservation Area at Holywell along with windsurfing off Royal Parade and fishing at Harbour Reach.  

How to get to Eastbourne beach from London – approximately one and a half hours from London (train from London Bridge/Victoria to Eastbourne).

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Which of these was your favourite? Have you visited any of them, or have I missed any off the list? Pop your top beaches to visit in the comments!

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