Best Sandy Beaches near London
Whether you’re living in or visiting London, a day or weekend at the beach makes a great escape from the capital. I’m sorry to say this, Brighton, but your pebbly beach doesn’t really do it for me. (Although I do love the Sussex city.) I live in Christchurch, near Bournemouth and Poole’s mile after mile of golden sands, so I admit I’m spoilt for choice. If like me, you like a soft surface at the seaside, then check out this list of the best sandy beaches near London. Two of them are even in London…
It may not be by the sea, but sand is to be found at the end of the Piccadilly Line. Ruislip Lido beach boasts hundreds of acres of ancient woodland, within an Outer London nature reserve centred around a sizeable lake. The beach, at the lake’s edge, is not only golden and sandy, it’s also natural.
Ruislip Lido is normally open all year. You can jump on a local bus to it from Ruislip tube station on the Piccadilly Line. Ruislip has the closest beach to London – well the nearest natural one, anyway. I loved to visit when we lived in nearby Greenford.
The borough of Hillingdon is London’s least populated, so jumping on a tube to take a break from city life is ideal. Ruislip Lido makes a lovely day trip for anyone living or staying in London. The charming little Ruislip Lido Railway can also take you on a trip around the lake.
Southend in Essex might just be giving Bournemouth and Brighton some serious competition in the near future. Like the Dorset resort, Southend has seven miles of golden sands, and three of the beaches boast squeaky-clean Blue Flag status. It is one of the best sandy beaches near London.
Southend has the longest pleasure pier on the planet, and there’s even a small train to transport you from one end to the other. It takes around an hour to get to by train from Liverpool Street or Fenchurch Street station.
You can sample all the treats of a traditional British seaside resort in Southend, including deck chairs, striped rock, colourful beach huts at Thorpe Bay, fish and chips and ice cream. The Essex town also has some pleasant shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and galleries.
Stay in Southend
If you fancy staying overnight, why not book into the independent Roslin Beach Hotel at Thorpe Bay? This much-loved property is right by the sandy beach and guests rave about the rooms and views as much as the fabulous food.
I’m not always the biggest fan of chain hotels – but I do love the rooftop bar at Southend’s Holiday Inn. Which is fully soundproofed, as you can see the planes taking off and landing from the airport nearby. Light, bright rooms offer everything you need at a bargain price.
Camber Sands in East Sussex is famous for its sand dunes, as well as its use as a film location (featuring as the desert). It’s not the nearest seaside to London, but it’s close.
The train journey to Rye takes around an hour and fifteen minutes from St Pancras International, and Camber Sands is about four miles from there by taxi or local bus. Look out for the native marram grass that literally holds the sand dunes together.
Camber Sands can be very windy, making this beach popular with water sports fans. You might see kite surfers and windsurfers in the water and even people horse riding on the beach.
Stay in Camber Sands
Make a weekend of it by booking into The Gallivant, right opposite Camber Sands beach. This award-winning boutique property is stylish, convenient and luxurious.
Stay in Rye
As an alternative, you could bed down for the night in the town of Rye. The delightfully-named Mermaid Inn is one of the oldest in England. It’s packed with character, including beamed rooms and four-poster beds, and is on a pretty, cobbled lane. Mermaid Street, no less.
Margate is a typical British seaside, bucket-and-spade resort. Like Bournemouth and Brighton, it has formerly been known as a favourite with the blue rinse brigade.
Not now – present-day Margate seamlessly blends old and new. The funfair Dreamland has been fully restored, and now includes arcade games and breathtaking rides plus a roller disco rink. The Kent town also has the Turner Contemporary Gallery, interesting shops and eateries and a golden, sandy beach.
The Victorian Shell Grotto is delightfully kitsch, while Tudor features can also be spotted around town. Take a train from St Pancras International or London Victoria, and you can reach Margate in around two hours.
Stay in Margate
Stay overnight to make the most of the Kent coast. The Crescent Victoria Hotel is a delightful new boutique place, and some rooms offer magnificent views over Margate sands.
Angela’s Guest Suites are also very popular, and the harbour-side location cannot be beaten. Accommodation is on a self-catering basis, but there are plenty of eateries close by.
Lesser known than Bournemouth and Poole, Christchurch also has a long string of sandy beaches. Christchurch is popular, but unlike some of the beaches in Bournemouth and Poole you can find a sandy, secluded spot even during a summer heatwave or the school holidays. There are several food festivals in Christchurch too, held during May and June.
The beaches begin with Gundimore, just east of Mudeford Quay. Then you can walk past Avon and Friars Cliff beaches before reaching Highcliffe – which has both a castle and a village beach. The ‘groynes’ between these two have sand and pebbles, and are generally the quietest spots. For a change of scene, jump on the Mudeford Ferry bound for Hengistbury Head, home of some of the prettiest – and priciest – overnight beach hut in the UK.
It takes around 90 minutes from London Waterloo to reach Hinton Admiral – for Highcliffe – or Christchurch. From there you can take a bus or taxi to Mudeford Quay and beyond.
Stay in Christchurch
For an overnight stay, it has to be the Christchurch Harbour Hotel. From here you can gaze out over Christchurch Harbour and the beach huts of Mudeford Sandbank beyond. There are two great restaurants here too, as well as a spa. It’s also close to Mudeford Quay and Avon beach.
Another lovely local option is the Captain’s Club Hotel and Spa in central Christchurch. It has a riverside restaurant with outside deck, stylish bar and is in a serene spot really close to the town centre.
Over in West Sussex you’ll find West Wittering, another of those Sussex beaches with sand dunes and beach huts. The closest train station is Chichester, and direct trains depart from London Victoria. Local buses and taxis can be taken from Chichester station, and West Wittering is also on the Salterns Way cycle path, so you can ride the 12 miles if you take your bike.
This beach is big enough to avoid crowding – even when it’s busy. There is a cafe, car park and Windsurfing club here too.
Stay in West Wittering
Stay at the Beach House B&B in West Wittering to make the most of your visit. This welcoming property has seven en-suite rooms, and is a short walk from the beach. There is also a bus stop right opposite.
Stay in Chichester
The Millstream Hotel is in the village of Old Bosham by Chichester Harbour. This elegant property has pleasant lawns, cosy fireplaces and even a grand piano. Guests can experience an English country house and an eighteenth century malthouse cottage.
Neverland, in this case, is not the late Michael Jackson’s estate, but a city beach close to London . Take the Wimbledon branch of the District Line tube to Parsons Green, which is the closest station, for a spot of beach life during the summer season. Neverland is a beach bar in Fulham that operates during the UK’s warmer months.
The place calls to mind Wham’s smash hit Club Tropicana from the 80s. Neverland’s beach is far from natural, being made from shipped-in sand, and you cannot of course paddle at the water’s edge. There are sun loungers, beach huts and deck chairs though. You can opt for a sunbed, sofa, or enclosed ‘beach bubble’ when you book.
You might not think to look for beaches in London, but there it is. In summer, anyway. Drinks do include colourful cocktails, and food like pizzas, burgers and Tex-Mex sharers is also available.
Botany Bay, Broadstairs
Broadstairs in Kent has seven bays, Botany Bay being the northernmost and a popular spot for surfing, kayaking and swimming. There are attractive chalk cliffs here too – a geographical feature typical of the Kent coast. During summer, lifeguards are on duty.
At low tide it’s fun to explore the rock pools and hunt for fossils. There is still plenty of sand during high tide, the each edge of the beach is cut off then. There is a hotel with restaurant overlooking the bay and a beach café.
Trains to Broadstairs leave from St Pancras International and the trip takes around two hours.
Stay in Botany Bay
The Botany Bay Hotel overlooks the sea and makes the two-hour train journey from London much more worth your while. Guests love the location, food and service as well as those stunning sea views.
Don’t be put off visiting Bournemouth. Beaches near London often appear on the news as overcrowded, but Bournemouth has many miles of golden sands. It’s thus a lot easier to find a peaceful spot than you might think. Avoid Bournemouth Pier – and perhaps even Boscombe Pier too – and a short walk, cycle or drive east or west will lead you to much quieter stretches of sand.
Between Christchurch and Bournemouth is Southbourne, which has number of car parks. Along the main sea road you can even park for free as long as you can find a space – and there are plenty of them. Take a wander down a Zig Zag path from the clifftop and you’ll reach Southbourne’s tranquil, sandy stretches of beach. Head west from central Bournemouth for Westbourne’s lovely shops, cafes and beaches.
You can reach Bournemouth in around an hour and 45 minutes from London Waterloo. You can alight at Pokesdown to reach the beaches in Boscombe and Southbourne, or get off in central Bournemouth. There are so many beaches in this area that it makes sense to stay for a weekend – nearby Christchurch and Poole are all part of the same conurbation and each also has miles of golden sands to choose from.
Stay in Bournemouth
My favourite hotel close to central Bournemouth is the Cumberland, an impressive Art Deco property with sea views and an outdoor pool. Right across the road from a sandy beach, yet only around 10 minutes’ stroll into town. To stay here feels like you’re somewhere far more exotic – like the French Riviera or Florida. There’s a lovely bistro serving cocktails too.
If you can’t get into the Cumberland, the Connaught is another great bet. I’ve had a good look around this property for work purposes, and was very impressed. It has bright clean rooms, a lovely spa and the restaurant has a welcoming, laid-back vibe. Central Bournemouth and the beaches are also close by.
Although it’s lesser known than Bournemouth, Poole is one of the best seaside towns near London. It also has miles of sandy beaches, and you can stay on the train from London Waterloo for just a couple of short stops past Bournemouth to reach them.
Heard of Sandbanks? This Poole enclave is renowned for its residences that are snapped up by the super-rich. It also has a fabulous beach. Just taking a wander around Sandbanks gives you a glimpse into the life of the uber wealthy.
Other Poole beaches include Alum, Branksome and Durley Chines. Chines are like coastal gorges or canyons between steep, towering cliffs, and are typical of this area as well as neighbouring Hampshire, East Devon and the Isle of Wight. Canford Cliffs is also a well-heeled area with a good beach, while further west there’s Shell Bay and Studland.
Stay in Poole
You could combine a visit to Poole with nearby Bournemouth or Christchurch – or even visit all three. If you choose to base yourself in Poole, try the stylish Hotel du Vin. There are elegant bedrooms with wine-toned soft furnishings, and the property is right there on Poole Quay – the second-largest natural harbour on the planet (after Sydney).
Or try the Haven Hotel on the upmarket Sandbanks peninsula. Some rooms have balconies overlooking the ocean, and this four star property is close to Poole’s sandy beaches.
Which of these sandy beaches near London will you visit?
Wherever you decide to go in your quest for the nearest sandy beach to London, all of the above come highly recommended. Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat if it’s hot – and a rain jacket even if it isn’t wet. The British climate is very changeable, so you don’t want to get caught out!
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