Beach Bums: Our top picks for the best beaches in the UK
They might not have palm trees or piña coladas, but beaches in the UK are some of the most lovely in the world - at least we think so! In fact, with so many nice UK beaches, they’ve got to be up there as one of our favourite days out. In the winter you could pull your wellies on for a spot of crabbing or take the dogs on a windy walk; come summer, expect picnics and epic rounds of French cricket.
Whatever you do beside the seaside, it’s always going to be a winner with kids so take a look at our top 19 best beaches in the UK. We’re shore (!) you won’t regret it.
Durdle Door Beach, DorsetLet’s begin with a beauty: Durdle Door Beach is one of Dorset’s most iconic landmarks and, in our humble opinion, is possibly one of the prettiest beaches in England. The water here is lovely and welcomes bathers - that is if you dare dip a toe in the nippy English channel - while a national trail runs over the cliff tops. It’s also sat right on the Jurassic coast which makes it perfect for fossil spotting along the pebble shoreline and was even recognised as England’s first natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001. Our final fun fact? The surrounding area was featured in kid’s favourite film, Nanny McPhee!
Best for: It’s got to be that iconic view. The natural limestone arch has been formed over years of erosion by the waves and has even given the beach its name. The name Durdle is derived from an old English word ‘thirl’, which means to drill or pierce. Who knew a trip to the shore could be so educational? Oh, and by the way, did you know you could go fossil hunting in Dorset? An a archaeological beach adventure - sounds exciting!
Bamburgh Beach, NorthumberlandWe’re all about teaming two days out in one and Bamburgh Beach offers lots of seaside fun, with added castle! The brooding Bamburgh Castle is sat just behind the shore making it the most dramatic entry on our list. It’s also simply a jolly spot with views of the Farne Islands, horse riding and the occasional kitesurfer. Families will love the fact that there’s cracking rock-pooling here so be sure to bring buckets and spades, as well as a camera to get a snap of your gang by the magnificent white-painted stag painted on the rocks nearby.
Best for: With its ancient backdrop, this the best location for staring out to sea and imagining enemy hordes on the horizon. You could even draw swords and battle for victory amongst the dunes.
West Wittering Beach, West SussexWest Sussex is known as one of the warmest places in Britain which is always good news when stripping down to your swimmers! West Wittering Beach itself is internationally recognised for its local wildlife and spectacular views along the flat sands; you could swim in the clear water, set up shop with a picnic or have a go at wind or kite surfing! The latter might not be best with young kids though so instead why not watch more daring folk take to the seas while you dig a big hole or create your very own castle? During the summer months, you do have to pay to enter but we think it’s worth it.
Best for: Swimming. The warm climate, soft sand and shallow water are all great for introductory swimming lessons. Or you could simply sit in the surf and let the waves gently rock you and your mini merpeople.
Holkham Beach, NorfolkThere are loads of nice beaches in England but that’s not what this list is about. We’re searching for spectacular, and Holkham Beach more than fits the bill. Expect miles of flat, white sand which stretch as far as the eye can see, as well as a semicircular basin behind the shoreline. This actually fills with water at high tides to create a shallow lagoon, ideal for splashing and stomping around in. This site is also part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve which is one of the largest in the country and creates a home for many rare species of flora and fauna.
Best for: Getting back to basics. This is one of the most unspoilt beaches in the country, which is probably why so many rare creatures and plants love it here. We think it would be perfect for a long family walk.
Bournemouth Alum Chine, Dorset
White, clean and wonderfully sandy, Alum Chine is a proud Blue Flag winner, and a great example of the quality of beaches in Bournemouth - the #1 Seaside Town in the UK, according to our recent study. This local Bournemouth favourite offers amazing features for families, including a playground, baby changing facilities, lost children centres, and ice cream kiosks. Plus, if you’re after additional entertainment, you can explore the beautiful Tropical Garden or go for a walk along the promenade.
Best for: Pirate adventures! Alum Chine has its own pirate-themed adventure playground for your tiny seafarers to explore. It doesn’t get any better than this!
Brora Beach, BroraFancy escaping the crowds? Brora Beach is quite rural with a rugged unspoilt charm. There’s a 2-mile long sandy stretch at your disposal, so get your spades ready and get down to building the biggest sand castle of the summer! A bit windy? Just bring your kite along and make the most of it. Brora Beach also has Jurassic rocks and plenty of fossil to find, in case you fancy playing archaeologist with your little explorers.
Best for: Brora Beach is a great spot for wildlife watching. Grey and common seals, dolphins, and minke whales are regularly spotted hanging around by the beach, so don’t forget to bring your binoculars!
New Brighton Beach, MerseysideNew Brighton Beach has been popular since the mid-19th century and with good reason. There are brilliant views of the Liverpool city skyline, a Grade II listed fort and ships sailing out of the Mersey estuary into the Irish Sea. It’s actually this industrial backdrop that won New Brighton a place on our list, that and it’s a popular dog walking location where you can watch all sorts of canine cuties leaping into puddles and hunting down scents. Plus if you want to learn a little on your trip, the Aviation and Archaeology Museum is sat just along the coast.
Best for: A city break with a glorious day beside the sea all rolled into one. After strolling along a 3/4-mile stretch of golden sand, take a look at our things to do in Liverpool page for activities in the city centre.
Seaton Carew Beach, County DurhamWe’ve got great news: donkey rides are once again all the rage at Seaton Carew Beach after a quarter of a century. It really has been too long! After meeting and greeting their faithful steed, kids under 12 can enjoy a gentle trot along the shore; these fluffy fellas are a friendly bunch and would make a wonderful companion for your day at the beach, especially for tiny tots. Afterwards, we suggest giving your four-legged friend a brush down or going sand dune jumping.
Best for: What else could it be besides those adorable donkeys? It’s such a classic seaside activity that it’s worth travelling a little further to have a go.
Brighton Beach, East SussexAs far as our list goes, Brighton Beach is perhaps the most quintessentially British and has made appearances in pop culture for many a long year. The beach itself is peppered with pebbles - 614,600,000 to be exact - and is popular with sports fans for kayaking, volleyball and more. The surrounding area is what really makes it though with loads of traditional fare at Brighton Pier. Kids can play arcade games or try to win a pocket full of coppers on the slot machines before flying down and around the helter-skelter. Both Sea Life Brighton and British Airways i360 are also just up the road, branding it one of the busiest beaches on our list.
Best for: Anyone with a short attention span! From the seaside itself to the rides at Brighton Pier, this is without a doubt one of the most actioned-packed beaches in England.
The Lizard and Kynance Cove, CornwallIf you like a little rough and tumble on your days out, The Lizard and Kynance Cove is the place for you - even the name sounds wild! It’s the most southerly part of the British mainland and as such has been a tourist destination for centuries, even way back when it was the site of several infamous shipwrecks. Today colourful cliff faces frame what is thought of as one of the most scenic beaches in England where you can watch ships in the distance and go searching for some of the rare local flora and fauna, including the bright pink Thrift or slippery, slidey adders.
Best for: A history lesson, and not the ‘boring’ kind. The cove is renowned as the birthplace of modern communication where Guglielmo Marconi undertook some of his pioneering radio experiments. Learn all about his story at the Marconi Centre at Poldhu and the Lizard Wireless Station at Bass Point, both of which are just a short walk from Lizard Point.
Porthcurno Beach, CornwallWe couldn’t resist popping another Cornish location on the list, and Porthcurno Beach is really special. We’ve heard tell of it being described as a ‘paradise’ and its got the awards to prove it. With white sands, turquoise waters and impressive cliff faces, it’s got all the classic hallmarks of a traditional beach but with something a little special too… The Minack Theatre which was built into the cliffs by theatre fan, Rowena Wade, way back in the 1920s. Explore a slice of history before taking tots for a paddle in the stream or to see the enormous Logan Rock nearby.
Best for: For any little luvvies in your company, you can still see shows performed at the Minack Theatre which would make for a truly unique day at the beach.
Sunny Sands Beach, Kent‘The air is delicious, and the breezy hills and downs, carpeted with wild thyme and decorated with millions of wildflowers are, on the faith of a pedestrian, perfect.’ We would say we’re poets and we know it, but those are actually the words of one Charles Dickens. He was a fan of Sunny Sands Beach and we’re sure you will be too. This is one of the closest seaside locales to London and every summer families escape the scorching city streets to enjoy the fresh air and an ice cream or three. It’s also fully kitted out with all the essentials like cafés and beach shops for easy family fun.
Best for: Battling it out at the annual sandcastle building competition. See if your skills are up to snuff or just come along and see what the pros have been cooking up. Your sprogs could even get a bit of inspiration for their next creation, moats and all.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, LancashireWe picked this as our lucky number 13 as it’s not exactly a beach, rather the super speedy, action-packed icing on the top! Sat smack bang on the coast, Blackpool Pleasure Beach is arguably Britain’s most famous theme park with an award-winning mix of all things fun. Did you know that ‘The Big One’ is the UK’s tallest rollercoaster with speeds of up to 87 mph?! Then there’s Nickelodeon Land which has 12 character-themed rides with Dora the Explorer, the RugRats' Lost River and Wallace & Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic. It’s a truly souped up day beside the sea.
Best for: The fact that it’s a theme park on the coast, obviously! You could spend one day whizzing and whooshing on all sorts of rides, the next eating ice cream and paddling in the ocean. It’s the perfect pairing.
West Bay Beach, Kent
According to our recent study which named the top 50 seaside towns in the UK, West Bay Beach is one of three Blue Flag beaches within 10 miles from Margate. We couldn't help but place it on our list of the best beaches in the UK because we simply LOVE sandy beaches! Perfect for tanning, digging, castle building and so much more… it’s plenty of reason to choose the seaside resort of Westgate-on-Sea for your staycation.
Best for: Rock pool exploring! You and your tiny nature lovers will have lots of little creatures to find, so make sure you bring a bucket and a net along.
Kiloran Bay, Isle of Colonsay
Kiloran Bay is a little hidden gem in the Inner Hebrides - it’s accessible by road but it’s not too crowded and has plenty of white sands to go around. The scenery is stunning, you could just sit there soaking in the view the whole day.
If you’re lucky, you can spot dolphins, otters and even whales swimming by, but what’s more interesting is that if the weather’s nice, you are likely to see kettle bathing by the shore. Swimming with cows is not something you do every day!
Best for: Cleanliness. Pristine sand, crystal clear water and a peaceful location make Kiloran Beach great for tots. Also, surfers love Kiloran Bay, so if surfing’s your thing - boards up!
Abersoch Beach, Abersoch
Great view of the mountains, sheltered sandy beach and a lovely family-friendly atmosphere...No wonder Abersoch Beach is one of the most popular in Wales!
Here you’ll get the best of both worlds. Looking for a chill-out family day at the beach? No problem - at Abersoch Beach, your little ones can waddle happily into the water under the watchful eye of the life guards. Into water sports? You won’t be disappointed either. There’s a special area of the beach, exclusively for water sports - from power-boating to windsurfing.
Best for: Some people love remote, quiet and peaceful beach but others just love the buzz of summer fun by the sea. If you’re the latter, you’ll love Abersoch Beach. The lively atmosphere puts it straight on our Best Beaches in the UK list.
Whitesands Bay, Haverfordwest
Whitesands Bay is exactly what the name suggests - a spacious, sandy beach, which spreads for over 3 miles along the coast. It’s a Blue Flag winner, as well, so you’re guaranteed a high standard of cleanliness, life guards and all the facilities you would need as a family with kids.
Just a stone throw away, you’ll find all the sights of the touristic coastal town of St. Davids, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and miles of stunning coastal paths with views across the ocean to Ramsey Island.
Best for: That’s an easy one! Whitesands Bay is considered amongst the best surfing beaches in the UK. Tourists from all over the world flock to enjoy the waves.
Tyrella Beach, Downpatrick
Tyrella Beach is one of Northern Ireland’s best. It’s surrounded by scenic coastal walks and sand dunes in a conservation area. The beach is a car-free area but you can leave your car at a parking facility nearby, so you get easy access without the noise of a busy road. Plus, there are guards on site during the season, so you know the kids can enjoy the water safely.
Best for: Tyrella is multiple awards winner. It’s held the Seaside Award since 1997, the Blue Flag since 2011 and the Green Coast Award since 2008. That’s what we call high standards!
Ballycastle Beach, Ballycastle
If you’re in the county Antrim, you must stop by the Ballycastle Beach! This glorious sandy shore runs for over 1.2km, from the pier at Ballycastle Marina all the way to Pans Rock. There’s a promenade on one end, so you can take a walk and enjoy the views, even if you don’t feel like going into the wild.
Best for: Location, location, location! Ballycastle Beach offers the breathtaking views of the Causeway Coast only 5 min away from the town centre. Convenient, right?
We hope you’ve seen the seaside scenes you were seeking! And if you’re looking for best beaches in the UK near you, take a look at the links below.
Planning a day at the beach? Check out the winning top 50 seaside towns in the UK or read one of our other articles for more summer tips and ideas:
Beach hacks | Susie Verrill's Guide to a Day on the Beach | Best water parks | Best UK Lidos & Outdoor pools near you | Splash parks near you | Things to do with the kids this summer | Best family theme park rides in the UK