If you’re heading to England, then, of course, you must see London – red buses, mail and telephone boxes, right? Once you’ve ticked off the sights on your must-see London list, there’s another aspect of the UK you must not miss. The Great British seaside. Although you don’t necessarily have to even leave London to have some beach time.
Read on for more details of sandy beaches you can visit within the city and my ultimate list of the best beaches near London.
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Best Beaches Close to London
There are several lovely seaside towns that are an easy day trip from London. You don’t even need a car as there are public transportation options. If you have more time and the weather looks pleasant, why not make it a weekend by the sea? Just be sure to bring along all the beach essentials.
Brighton, East Sussex
Brighton is basically London-on-Sea – the seaside city has been the day trip destination of choice for centuries. In addition to its popular beach, there is the historic pier and in 2016, the British Airways i360 viewing tower opened.
All the quintessential British seaside foods are readily available in Brighton, including colorful sticks of lettered candy known as rock, ‘Whippy’ ice creams with Flakes (a crumbly British chocolate bar), and fish and chips (French fries).
Brighton is also rather bohemian and has a multicultural population. It’s popular with the gay crowd, hippies, city workers, the young and the old alike. It is also well known as a romantic break destination. Or ‘dirty weekends’ as Brits like to call them.
The train ride takes around an hour, and you can hop onto a Brighton-bound express from Victoria or London Bridge stations. (Check train schedules and pricing here.)
It may not be as famous as Brighton, but Southend in Essex could soon be giving the Sussex city a run for its money. There are around seven miles of golden sandy beaches, three of which have Blue Flag status (an award given to the cleanest beaches in Britain).
Southend’s pleasure pier is the world’s longest, and you can take a little train between both ends. It also has all the traditional British seaside treats in Southend-on-Sea as well as a range of cafes, shops, restaurants, galleries, and bars. Don’t miss the colorful beach huts at Thorpe Beach.
Like Brighton, it takes around an hour by train to get to, with trains departing from Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street stations. (Check train schedules and pricing here.)
If you want to see a typical English seaside resort that’s packed with quaint little lanes and buildings, then head to Whitstable in Kent. It’s a pretty little place and becoming famous as a serious foodie destination.
At around an hour-and-a-half from London, it’s slightly further than Brighton or Southend – but it feels like an entirely different world. The town is characterized by wooden beach huts, twisting streets and intriguing, independent shops, galleries, and eateries.
Grab some of the oysters the town is famous for from a beach shack, sample fish and chips or a tub of fresh whelks, and enjoy the fresh sea breeze. Kids can poke around in rock pools while windsurfers take to the seas.
Trains to Whitstable leave from both Victoria and St. Pancras Stations. (Check train schedules and pricing here.)
Lesser known than the larger, nearby town of Bournemouth, Christchurch has a charm and character all its own. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Bournemouth’s packed beaches during a heatwave, you’ll know just how crowded they can get. While Christchurch is popular, it’s always possible to find a sandy spot.
The stretch of coastline here runs from Mudeford Quay to Highcliffe, passing Gundimore, Avon, Friars Cliff, and Highcliffe Castle beaches on the way. You can take a short ferry ride from Mudeford Quay across to Hengistbury Head, where there are some stunning photographs to be had of the overnight beach huts. These huts are some of the only ones in the UK where you can stay overnight, and they change hands for as much as a modest home in the local area.
The train journey takes around 90 minutes to London Waterloo. If the train stops at Hinton Admiral station, you can walk to the nearest beach and Highcliffe village in around 20 minutes. Otherwise, alight in Christchurch and hop on a local bus, or take a slightly longer walk to Mudeford Quay and beyond. (Check train schedules and pricing here.)
Camber Sands, East Sussex
Of all the best beaches near London, Cambers Sands is the one to go for if you want to see sand dunes. The broad golden mounds of sand resemble the desert, which is why various movies have been filmed here. Because unlike Brighton, this beach is indeed sandy rather than pebbly.
You can see marram grasses, the tufts of growth that play an important role in maintaining sand dunes. The photogenic wooden fences also contribute to this. Due to the prevailing local winds, this is a popular water sports spot with kite and windsurfers. You might also see people horse riding along by the water’s edge.
It takes around an hour and a quarter to travel from St Pancras International to Rye by train, then the beach is around 4 miles away by local bus or taxi. (Check train schedules and pricing here.)
Margate in Kent is another popular British seaside resort with the bucket-and-spade brigade. Like other seaside towns, Brighton and Bournemouth, it has suffered from a reputation as an old folks’ favorite in the past.
Modern Margate is the perfect blend of old and new, with the Turner Contemporary Gallery and the restoration of Dreamland, a cool funfair featuring a roller skating disco and arcade games as well as thrilling rides. There are also some quirky shops and cafes in town, plus a golden, sandy beach.
A nod to Margate gone by exists in the form of the Shell Grotto, a typical example of the kind of kitsch that was popular in Victorian Britain. Remnants of Tudor times can also be seen here and there. Catch a train from St Pancras or Victoria, and it takes just over two hours to reach the Kent coast. (Check train schedules and pricing here.)
Best Beaches in London
You actually don’t have to travel from London to go to the beach, there are some within its borders. The sand may be imported or the water may be a lake rather than the sea, but you can still have a fun day out in the sun. If you want to take a dip in the sea, it’s best to check out the beaches that are outside London.
Ruislip, West London
Inside the 700-acre ancient woodland nature reserve, Ruislip Woods, there is a large 60-acre lake called Ruislip Lido, which has a natural, golden sandy beach at its edge. It’s a popular destination for anyone looking for a bit of faux-seaside fun. You can also take a trip around the lake on the Ruislip Lido Railway.
Hillingdon is London’s least populated borough, so to escape the city life for just a short while Ruislip Lido makes a lovely spot in which to while away a day or even just the afternoon. The Lido is open all year round and admission is free. The nearest tube station is Ruislip at the end of the Piccadilly Line, from which you can hop on a local bus to the Lido.
Say Neverland and you might think of Peter Pan or Michael Jackson – but no. Neverland in this case is the name given to a city beach in Fulham. You can hop on a tube to get there, taking the Wimbledon branch of the District Line to Parsons Green in underground zone 2, the closest station. Neverland is basically a pop-up beach bar that appears during the summer months.
Think of the video for British duo Wham’s 1980s hit, Club Tropicana, and you’ve got the idea. (Drinks are far from free, of course, but this is London.) Neverland comprises a beach made from sand that’s shipped in every year, complete with beach huts, sunbeds, and deck chairs. You can book a general entry ticket, or book a sofa, daybed or enclosed ‘beach bubble’- perfect for those rainy London days.
While you may not be able to put your feet in the water, Neverland is still a fun time. Food is served – mainly burgers, pizzas, and Tex-Mex platters – and the drinks list includes tropical-style cocktails.
More Seaside Towns in England
If you enjoyed these beaches not too far from London, there are some other seaside towns in England that you need to check out when you have more time. These spots are lovely, but are a bit far for a day trip:
Beach Day Trips from London
As you can see, if you want to do a beach day trip from London, there are several options where you don’t have to travel too far. It could be a delightful escape from the Big Smoke.
What are your favorite UK beaches near London?
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Last Updated on February 26, 2021