Sand and the city: 11 best sandy beaches near London
If you can’t stand to be stuck in the city on a sunny day, you’re in luck! London is within easy reach of vast stretches of untouched sand dunes and some of the best seaside towns in the country. Discover options from Essex to East Sussex in the following round up of the best sandy beaches near London.
1. Botany Bay
Location: Broadstairs, Kent
Best for: Dramatic backdrops and brilliant rock pools
Distance from London: Two hours by car, two hours and 15 minutes by train and bus
Kent has no shortage of sandy beaches, especially on its East Coast. Venture from London to Broadstairs where you’ll find a handful of idyllic options, including the enchantingly named Botany Bay. Its soft sand is backed by white cliffs and it’s usually calm enough to swim or paddle. Visiting at low tide? Check out the amazing rock pools home to all sorts of fascinating sea creatures.
2. Camber Sands
Location: Camber, East Sussex
Best for: Peace and quiet
Distance from London: Two hours by car, three hours by public transport
For seemingly endless amounts of soft golden sand, it’s hard to beat Camber Sands! The beach lies just off Camber in East Sussex and it’s the only stretch of coastline in the county home to sand dunes. Head there on a sunny day and find a secluded spot along the three miles of unspoilt beach to lay down your towel and snooze in the sun.
3. West Beach
Location: Littlehampton, West Sussex
Best for: Adventures in the sand dunes
Distance from London: Two hours by car, two hours and 10 minutes by train
While West Beach in Littlehampton may feature a mix of sand and pebbles, it’s backed by gorgeous sand dunes which form part of a nature reserve. There are stunning views across the sea, in addition to the intriguing Littlehampton Napoleonic Fort. When you're feeling peckish, pop into the West Beach Cafe for fish and chips and an ice cold drink.
4. West Wittering
Location: Chichester, West Sussex
Best for: Pretty photo ops and exciting activities
Distance from London: One hour and 50 minutes by car, two hours and five minutes by public transport
Huge West Wittering is one of the best sandy beaches in the UK and you’ll find it tucked away on Selsey Peninsula near Chichester. Ice cream coloured beach huts line one end, while the rest is made up of several miles of soft sand. The water is excellent for kids to swim in, plus there’s opportunities for a variety of wind and water sports.
5. Tankerton Beach
Location: Whitstable, Kent
Best for: Sandy walks and delicious seafood
Distance from London: One hour and 40 minutes by car, one hour and 35 minutes by train
Tankerton Beach lies on the north-eastern fringes of picturesque Whitstable and it’s another brilliant beach to visit from London. While the seaside town’s main beach is known for its pebble shoreline, you’ll find Tankerton has a long stretch of sand when the tide is out. Time your visit right and enjoy strolls down the sand. You could also finish up your beach day with a delicious seafood dinner back in Whitstable town itself.
6. Frensham Beach
Location: Frensham Great Pond, Farnham
Best for: Nature and relaxation
Distance from London: 65 minutes by car, one hour and 26 minutes by public transport
This beach is totally unique as it’s not actually located by the coast! Nestled deep in the heart of rural Surrey near Farnham, Frensham Beach is a manmade sandy cove on the edge of Frensham Great Pond. The lake was created back in the 13th century to supply fish to a local nobleman. Nowadays, it’s a stunning walking area teeming with wildlife and benefiting from a lovely sandy beach where you can easily relax for a few hours in the summer sunshine.
7. West Mersea Beach
Location: Colchester, Essex
Best for: Sandcastle building and outdoor dining
Distance from London: One hour and 40 minutes by car, two hours by public transport
Another beach with photo-perfect beach huts is West Mersea Beach. Found on the South Coast of Mersea Island and only 25 minutes by road from Colchester, it’s a lovely pick for a day out from London. The shoreline is a mix of soft sand and tiny stones, making it perfectly possible to build a few sandcastles! There’s also lots of handy amenities nearby and a couple of cafes ideal for an alfresco lunch with waterside views.
8. Minster Leas Beach
Location: Isle of Sheppey, Kent
Best for: Refreshing swims
Distance from London: 75 minutes by car, two hours by public transport
Venture to the Isle of Sheppey on Kent’s North Coast to find beautiful Minster Leas Beach. The laid back stretch of sand and shingle in Minster on Sea is a great location for a walk and particularly popular with dog owners. If you’re keen to have a dip in the sea, there’s a designated swimming area between Shingle Bank and Oyster Bay that’s lifeguarded from May to September.
9. St Leonards Beach
Location: Hastings, East Sussex
Best for: Sandy strolls and shipwrecks
Distance from London: One hour and 50 minutes by car, one hour and 40 minutes by train
Hastings is home to a handful of pretty pebble beaches which turn into sandy stretches at low tide. Head west of the main town to St Leonards where you’ll find the attractive beach of the same name. St Leonards Beach is less crowded than Hastings’ main beach and has a wonderful promenade. Stroll along the sand to neighbouring Bulverhythe Beach where an 18th century shipwreck is often visible when the tide is out.
10. Jaywick Sands Beach
Location: Clacton-on-Sea, Essex
Best for: Peaceful jaunts and a little bit of history
Distance from London: One hour and 40 minutes by car, two hours and 30 minutes by public transport
Another brilliant pick for a beach day out from London is Jaywick Sands. It’s one of several beaches close to Clacton-on-Sea in Essex and it has a tranquil, untouched feel to it. Enjoy a leisurely walk along the promenade and look out for the various Martello Towers (19th century defensive forts) dotted along the shoreline.
11. Sunny Sands Beach
Location: Folkestone, Kent
Best for: Great grub and fun water sports
Distance from London: One hour and 40 minutes by car
Found not far from the famous white cliffs of Dover, Sunny Sands Beach in Folkestone is as idyllic as it sounds! The bustling shoreline features swathes of golden sand, as well as several great places to grab a bite to eat along Folkestone Harbour Arm. If you’re feeling energetic, why not rent kayaks or book a stand up paddle boarding lesson?