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13 Balmy Beaches Near London for a Sunny Day

When you picture London, you probably have a clear image in your mind. What is it they say in the movie Snatch? Oh that’s right: “London. You know – Fish, Chips, Cup o’ tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary ****ing Poppins, London!” Okay, maybe that’s not what you see in your mind’s eye… mine’s a bit more Big Ben, pints in the pub, daffodils in bloom. (To each their own.)

One thing I’m fairly certain nobody imagines when thinking of London is beaches and sunny weather. But London is full of surprises, so it shouldn’t shock you that you can also find this kind of experience in the grand old English capital city – especially (and perhaps obviously) in the summer months.

If you like the idea of discovering some of the beaches near London – and a few actually within London proper – read on. I’ve collected a baker’s dozen of the best beaches in Southwest England that you can easily visit as part of your London itinerary. Best of all, you can reach any of them within two hours; I’ve ordered the list from closest to Central London to furthest away. Read on to start dreaming of the tan you’ll come home with from your London vacay… never thought you’d hear that, am I right?

1. Bankside Beach

Best Beaches Near London-bankside beach
  • Distance from London: within Central London!

Bankside Beach is one of the hidden beaches in London locals visit when they want to sunbathe. I know it sounds too good to be true. In addition to being a fascinating city, London also has beaches? Well, before you let your imagination run wild, let me tell you, Bankside Beach isn’t a beach per se. There’s no white sand and turquoise water, but pebbles and the River Thames waters. But hey, is there anything better than enjoying summer by the Thames?

This river beach sits near major London landmarks, such as Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. So expect unbeatable views. There’s a high chance you might not find it at all when you look for it. Why? Because the beach only emerges twice a day at low tide times.

2. Bermondsey Beach

Best Beach in London Bermondsey Beach
  • Distance from London: within Central London

Travelers can also visit London’s second secret beach, Bermondsey Beach. The lovely thin strip of beach sits near Tower Bridge on the south side of Thames Path and is only five minutes from Bermondsey Underground station. The pebbly beach is a secluded spot to lay out some towels and enjoy a sunny day. 

Once again, the view from Bermondsey Beach is gorgeous, providing unobstructed views of South London’s skyline, including the Shard and Tower Bridge. Like Bankside Beach, you can also arrive at Bermondsey Beach when the tide is high. By the way, while walking along the Path, make sure to stop by The Angel for a pint. The lovely pub sits on the edge of the river and offers fantastic views of London’s skyline. 

3. Fulham Beach

Best Beaches in London - fulham beach at Neverland London
Photo Courtesy of Neverland London
  • Distance from London: 30 minutes by tube

As the proverb goes, “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain,” and that’s exactly what Neverland London has done with Fulham Beach.

Nestled alongside the Thames, Fulham Beach is a seasonal pop-up beach that recreates a perfect tropical atmosphere. Every summer, the company ships golden sand to create its signature beach. Add to that a few huts and daybeds, two pop-up restaurants, two bars, a live DJ, and voilá! You have a perfect tropical beach in the middle of London. 

While everybody is welcome, Fulham Beach is one of the beaches near London I recommend for young travelers looking for some fun. 

4. Brighton

  • Distance from London: One hour by train

As coastal towns go, Brighton has consolidated as the number one seaside resort Londoners go to searching for sea breeze and sunny days. The quirky town has five of the most visited beaches near London: Brighton Beach, Kemp Town Brighton, Brighton Naturist, Hove, and Ovingdean Beach. 

Brighton Beach is the most popular of the five. It is a pebbly beach where locals and tourists sunbathe and enjoy water sports, such as windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and wakeboarding. The beach is also home to the Palace Pier, a Grade II Victorian pier full of fairground rides, bars, restaurants, and deckchairs. 

Unsurprisingly, Londoners flock to Brighton on Bank Holiday weekends or summer days. So expect to find lots of company. 

5. Camber Sands

Best Beaches in London camber sands 2
  • Distance from London: One hour by train

Camber Sands is a proper beach with fine, golden sand! Located in East Sussex, the gorgeous beach stretches for two miles and is home to the only sand dune system in East Sussex. For many, Camber Sands is, without a doubt, the best beach in England. The sand is soft, and the water is warm and shallow, perfect for kids.

On sunny days, you’ll see children building sandcastles, young Londoners lying under the sun, and adventurers enjoying windsurf sessions. You can also take a dip in the water with caution– beware of the fast-rising tides at this beach. There are a few shops and eateries and parking lots nearby. 

6. Ruislip Lido Beach

Londons best beaches Ruislip Lido Beach
  • Distance from London: One hour by tube

Head out to Ruislip Lido Beach for a complete outdoor experience, a manmade sandy stretch with a 60-acre lake. Ruislip Lido Beach sits inside Ruislip Woods National Nature Reserve. It is a perfect place for sunbathing or walking and has plenty of space if you want to indulge in some solitude. You’ll also find playgrounds and picnic spots near the lake area. The gorgeous nature reserve governs 726 acres of ancient woodland and features stunning woodland trails, a picturesque coffee shop, and a miniature train ride for the kids.

Despite its name (“lido” typically means a swimming spot), Ruislip Lido Beach does not allow swimming or boating at the lake. 

7. Southend-by-Sea

  • Distance from London: One hour by train

In recent years, Southend-by-Sea, an Essex resort town, has been calling the attention of Londoners looking for a less-crowded seaside location. While most come to the lovely town to enjoy its seven miles of coastline, there’s no shortage of attractions and activities you can try.

Southend is home to the longest pleasure pier in the world – it’s like Brighton Pier on steroids! You can take a ride on the small train to shuttle from one end to the other. There’s also Adventure Island, an amusement park located along the Southend-by-Sea waterfront. Being only one hour away from the city, Southend is one of the most accessible beaches near London. 

8. Broadstairs

Beaches in London - Broadstairs
  • Distance from London: 90 minutes by train

Broadstairs was Dickens’ beloved seaside spot, where he spent British summers and even penned the novel, David Copperfield. The charming coastal town sits on the Isle of Thanet and is only about 80 miles east of London. It boasts a spectacular coastline with seven sandy beaches.

Those with children can take their bucket and spade (or shovel, for us Americans) to Central Viking Bay, which boasts children’s rides and beach huts. Nature lovers will have a lovely day at rural Botany Bay with towering chalk stacks. Finally, Joss Bay has a surf school and untamed waves waiting for the bold surfer. 

9. Margate

  • Distance from London: 90 minutes by train

Not far from Broadstairs, Margaret is another iconic seaside escape for Londoners. Sea-seekers flock to Margate Beach every year via the high-speed trains that connect the seaside town with London’s St Pancras.

While Margaret is popular for its quiet and nostalgic atmosphere, it has experienced a revival, thanks to the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery, which has given the seaside town a reputation as an artist hub. The refurbishment of Dreamland, an amusement park with rides, arcade games, and a roller disco, also has helped attract English tourists to the charming town. The old town has been spruced up, with more small independent shops and cafes opening their doors.

10. Whitstable

  • Distance from London: 90 minutes by train

Whitstable is another of Kent’s charming seaside towns. The lovely town has been famous for its oysters and its annual Oyster Festival –July 22-24 this year. Rumor has it, Whitstable is a sort of foodie’s Mecca, especially for those who enjoy seafood, with iconic restaurants like The Forge. 

Whitstable is also home to gorgeous and family-friendly shingle beaches. Tankerton Beach is a long stretch of beach with many beach huts, grass slopes with benches, and nearby pubs. It is great for swimming as the water is clean and shallow– visitors suggest going at high tide as it is very shallow, making it difficult to swim.

11. West Wittering

  • Distance from London: 90 minutes by train

West Wittering is one of the top beaches in Southwest England. To be honest, this seaside town has it all: history, miles of white sand, and loads of seaside charm. The lovely town is home to West Wittering Beach in Chichester, where dog walkers, families, and visitors flock year-round. The views are impressive, with Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight visible across the water. 

You have to pre-book a parking site to access the beach. The beach itself is very clean and well organized, with lifeguards at all times. Beware that there’s always a stiff breeze blowing, so bring a windbreak or a beach tent to avoid getting covered in wind-blown sand.

12. Frensham Great Pond

  • Distance from London: 100 minutes by train

Located between Farnham and Hindhead, Frensham Great Pond is a stunning beach for a quiet and restful warm day. You can laze about on the sand or take a walk at sunset. You’ll see Frensham Great Pond is popular among families as the water is safe for younger children to paddle. The place can get busy throughout the year and very busy during warm months.  You can bring your dog, although they are not allowed on the beach. 

Frensham Great Pond sits in the middle of a large area of heathland, coniferous and mixed woodland. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go on a hike after refreshing in the lake’s waters. 

13. Birling Gap

Best Beaches in London - Birling Gap
  • Distance from London: Two hours by train and bus

You can’t beat Birling Gap’s scenery. Its towering white chalk cliffs against the pebbly beach create a dramatic landscape you’ll treasure forever. Birling Gap is a charming enclosed pebble beach sit-in in the shadows of the Seven Sisters cliffs. It is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped coastline on the English south coast. 

Birling Gap is mainly farmland and rolling fields other than the national park center selling sandwiches and ice-creams. The National Trust has built metal staircases for visitors to access the beach safely. Always be aware of the tide times and bring comfortable shoes if you plan to take a walk to soak up the coastal landscapes.

Got your sunscreen and sunglasses ready? All you need to do is pick a beach near London and plan your trip. Let me know any questions about these beaches near London in the comments, or join the conversation in my London Travel Tips Facebook community.

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    Valerie fell in love with London on her first trip to the city way back in 2011. Since then, she spent a year living in London and visits as often as she can. Join her to explore my favorite city on earth and learn everything you need to discover the best London has to offer!

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