For me, there’s a beach for every season and every reason. I’m lucky to live in a country that has a lot of coast, and we make the best of that proximity to the sea. Don’t just be a fair-weather friend to the coast. It’s stunning when the waves are crashing, there’s a blustery wind, and your ramble on the shore is followed by a steaming mug of something to warm you from within. I’ve conducted considerable research – ahem, hung out at the beach a lot – over my advancing years. Here are some of the best beaches in England to explore.
Best Beach for a Majestic Backdrop: Bamburgh, Northumberland
You don’t find too many beaches backed by a Norman Castle, so this makes Bamburgh a rather special place. The castle itself has a big collection of arms and armour to investigate in its twelfth century fortifications. Offshore, you’ll spot the Inner Farne Islands, home to hermits and monks until Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries.
The beach itself gets good surfing waves, and there are lessons available along with surf hire. Even in summer, it’s a bit bracing for a full swim, but wading or paddling is definitely on. There are dunes at the aptly named Sandy Hills, and plenty of flora and fauna makes this area a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Walk north on the beach to explore Stags Rocks and the rock pools that are created there. There’s also a small lighthouse, said to be the most northerly of its kind in England. This example of our best beaches saw the testing of the world’s first ever lifeboat.
Best Beach For a sandy bay: Saunton Sands, Devon
Take the road from Barnstaple via Braunton to the coast in North Devon, and you’ll find a steep lane heading down to Saunton Sands. Here you have three and a half miles of beautiful sandy bay, with dunes to the left and rock pools to the right at the headland. This is a great spot for bodyboarding and the bay is often full of longboarders and families.
You can hire a beach hut here, complete with chairs and windbreaks, and settle in for the day. There’s a cafe in which to enjoy lunch or a cream tea while watching the waves from its massive balcony, and also a shop for every essential from suncream to beach toys to chips. This is a dog-friendly beach, and if you didn’t bring a dog with you, you may find yourself adopted by one during the day. It’s made my list of best beaches for its ability to melt away any stresses.
Best Beach for something unusual: Crosby, near Liverpool
Take the local train from Liverpool out to Crosby, and a short walk from Hall Road up past the lifeboat station will bring you to Crosby beach. Its a nice flat sandy expanse, but be aware that those aren’t swimmers that you’re seeing. They’re models of the artist Antony Gormley. Another Place is an installation of 100 lifesized Mr Gormleys, all staring out to sea. Some of them are dressed for the occasion; when we last visited one sported a bikini and sarong. They make for a spectacular skyline.
Depending on the tides, some of the figures are partly or fully submerged, and some are now homes to sea life. Because of the fast moving tides along this part of the Mersey estuary, you should not consider swimming here. Be alert too to the potential for quicksands, and it is recommended that you stay within 50 metres of the promenade.
When you’re there, check out the fine houses of Liverpool’s merchant sea captains along the shore road. There’s a Coastal Path with plenty of opportunities for ship-spotting. To the north, you’ll also find the submerged forest (a mere 4000 years old) of the River Alt where there are lots of seabirds.
Best Beach for Wildlife Encounters: Formby, Lancashire
Also not far from Liverpool is the flat sandy expanse of Formby Beach. Despite its proximity to a lot of civilisation, it’s surprisingly wild. At low tide you can see plenty of prehistoric mud; as this is being eroded, you might be lucky enough to spot ancient animal tracks at the water’s edge.
Back behind the dunes, in the pine woods beyond, you might spot a more recent animal visitor. Here lives one of the few remaining red squirrel colonies. You can also find a group on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour.
Best Beach for a day out at the seaside: Broadstairs, Kent
Deep in the family photo albums, I have a picture of my mum, in a fab 1950s bathing suit, enjoying the sandy beach here at Broadstairs. It was always a coastal treat for people from London, and today Broadstairs is still full of that family beach experience.
All the bays at Broadstairs – Viking Bay, St Mary’s Bay and Stone Bay – are linked by a promenade. As this is classic British seaside, you also get beach huts, sandy bays and rock pools to explore. Dogs are welcome before 9am and after 6pm in the summer.
Best beach for a world heritage site: Lulworth Cove, Dorset
Lulworth is a pebble beach secluded in that beautiful horseshoe shaped cove you see above. Coastal erosion over some 10,000 years is responsible for that memorable shape. This is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
Be aware that this beautiful spot sees around half a million visitors a year, with a third in July and August. So if you want a more peaceful visit, choose your date accordingly. In the summer there are boat trips available to Durdle Door and Mupe Bay. Durdle Door is a natural limestone arch on the coast. You can walk to Durdle Door via the hill from Lulworth.
If you think you recognise this beautiful spot, you may have seen in in Nanny McPhee, and also in the video for Tears for Fears Shout.
Best Beach for rugged rocks: Kynance Cove, Cornwall
You’ll find Kynance Cove two miles north of Lizard Point, not far from Helston. This is a really deep sandy cove, accessed by steep steps. Here you’ve got spectacular and unusual serpentine rocks, the absolute epitome of the rugged Cornwall coast.
The cove has seen some famous visitors including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, plus the poet Tennyson. The South West Coastal Footpath provides access to the cove, and there’s a cafe on site. If it looks familiar, you should know that it was used as a location setting for Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It’s also a location for Poldark.
Best Beach For natural beauty: Blakeney, Norfolk
This is a beach to really get your nature on. Part of Norfolk’s Heritage Coast, and an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this area is full of coastal wildlife. The North Norfolk Coastal Path travels the quayside of the tiny village of Blakeney (population less than 1,000) and onwards to salt marshes and sandy beaches. There are over 100 species of birds nesting here.
Blakeney Point nearby is full of salt flats, shingle spits and reclaimed farmland. It’s a great spot for birdwatching and is home to around five hundred seals.
Blakeney itself has a depth of history that belies its size, including reports of piracy in the fourteenth century when men from the village boarded vessels from Flanders. There’s a friary, a windmill and a lot of historic pubs with proper beer.
Best Beach on a Small island: Tresco, Isles of Scilly
Tresco is situated in the Scilly Isles off the coast of Cornwall. It’s a car free island, with most goods being moved by farm tractor and trailer. The south coast of the island has beautiful sandy bays backed by dunes. Pentle Bay in particular is full of dunes and then heathland, creating a beautiful environment. Here you can indulge in full your fantasies of island living.
You’d expect somewhere so stunning to be a film location, and you can spot Tresco in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Proving that Debbie Harry is a woman of enduring good taste, the video for Blondie’s Island of Lost Souls was also shot here.
For a look at life on the islands, I heartily recommend reading The Life of A Scilly Sergeant by Colin Taylor, a police sergeant formerly stationed there. His humour totally encapsulates the idiosyncracies of island life, and it made me laugh until my eyes went damp.
Best Beach for wild waves and surfing: Fistral Bay, Cornwall
A mere half mile west of Newquay, Fistral has a reputation as the UK’s best surfing beach. It’s split into two halves: North and South Fistral, with most of the big waves coming from The Cribbar reef at the north end. These are reckoned to be the biggest waves in Cornwall, reaching 40 feet. With all that big water, you’ll be pleased to know there’s a lifeguard service.
Fistral also has the International Surfing Centre, which hosts all kinds of businesses including surf hire. Boardmaster, Europe’s largest surf and skate festival, takes place here in August. With so much surf action going on, this has to be one of our best beaches.
best beach for getting away from the world: Man o’War, Dorset
I make no apologies for including this lovely neighbour of Lulworth Cove as one of our best beaches in its own right. Even the name is so majestically nautical. It’s very popular here in summer, but far more peaceful out of season. The beach itself is a mixture of sand and fine shingle, and is accessed by a long steep swirl of steps. This is not the place to realise you left something essential behind in the car.
The beach is adjacent to the South West Coastal Path and is part of the Purbeck Heritage Coast and the Jurassic Coast. You can see the ancient history of coastal development here, and maybe even spot a fossil or two.
More Best Beaches and sea Experiences
You’ll have realised by now that I’ve been permanently affected by sea fever. Here’s my guide to the best beaches in Wales and to more beaches to explore. We also have a fabulous collection of the best boat trips experienced by travel writers. If you’d like more time on the ocean, you can read our experiences cruising in the Baltics.
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79 thoughts on “The 11 Best Beaches In England You Must Visit”
Cool places Bernadette! Just visited Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove last week but I could easily explore more beaches!
You lucky person! What a fab place to spend time, and I hope you loved it. I’m hoping you got to see lots of Dorset; I was excited to spend a whole summer there once housesitting (such a hardship 😉 ) and could see entirely why Thomas Hardy loved the place. Gorgeous towns and villages and such stunning countryside too.
Wow! What an awesome list! I have to say, when I think of England, I certainly don’t think of amazing beaches. This was really eye opening.
I grew up not far from the coast, so it’s always been dear to my heart. What I really love is how diverse our shoreline is, from broad sandy bays to rugged coves. It’s very much worth your time when you next visit.
When I think of England I don’t immediately think beaches but now I will. These look like wonderful places to visit. I especially love the statues. I’l have to add a few beach days the next time we get to visit. Thanks for the great article.
It’s always worth spending time at the coast. We’re a nation of seafarers as well as shopkeepers 😉 and there’s so much to see on the beach. The Gormleys are truly amazing; in fact there are quite a few beaches with art installations, now I come to think of it.
Lovely! I’ve been to that Norfolk beach but not for fun. Twas for an A-level Geography field trip and sample collection. Lol. I’d love to do Devon and Cornwall when next I’m across the pond.
Ah, the field trip. 🙂 I spent a lot of time drawing medieval ruins around the Lancashire coast for uni, so I get you completely. So you’ve seen Blakeney from a very different angle! Definitely squeeze in a trip to Devon and Cornwall if you can. I have to admit to bias, being a Devon lass at heart, but those are places to make your soul happy.
Who would have though there are so many beautiful beaches in England. Even after living there for over a year, I must admit, I didn’t get a chance to visit any of these. You have really captured my imagination with Crosby and the submerged forest and quick sands. Although having views to a majestic castle like in Bamburgh would be great for photos too! Fantastic list and a must read for anyone visiting!
Bamburgh is breathtaking when you find that castle, just casually loitering by the beach. Crosby’s not conventionally beautiful. But the Gormleys make it just perfect. Each one is numbered, and they all have varying amounts of sea life nestling around the ankles and between the toes. The imagination to put something like that just there makes you smile at how wonderfully creative humans can be.
I never knew England had such varied and interesting beach spots! I guess when people think of beach they just think of places like Florida or somewhere in the Mediterranean. Love those steps at Man O’War!
We don’t always have the best beach weather – although wuthering is a great experience in its own right – so I guess the coast can get less attention. But I’ll always be found heading to the sea when I can. I love those places that are less easy to reach too, so Man O’War had to make the list. 😉
Wow, I had no idea there are so many amazing beaches in England! All pictures look great but my favourite one is definitely Lulworth. Thanks for sharing.
Lulworth is most definitely stunning. Whether it’s something about the way the beach shelves or just the light, I don’t know, but the colour of the water is incredible.
Wow, I’ve never given much thought to England as a beach destination before but these pictures are beautiful! That cove in Dorset looks unbelievable! Adding to my list for next time we are out your way =-)
The coast here is absolutely stunning. It may not always be swim weather – without a drysuit anyway! – but all the coastal paths and the shores themselves make for brilliant walking and exploring. Lulworth’s truly gorgeous, and so very worth a detour.
Thanks so much for sharing these, Bernie! I love love love Britain’s beaches, and I haven’t been to any of these yet! I’m especially keen to get to Lulworth as I’ve wanted to visit the Jurassic Coast since I moved to the UK 7 years ago but still haven’t managed it. I also love Cornwall and love that you have included all the famous shows that are filmed in some of these places like Poldark (a personal favorite of mine – have you been to Charlestown?)
Sadly I haven’t – although I have been to St Austell. I’ve had a peep, and it’s gorgeous! You have to love somewhere that Georgian, and with an original population of just 9. I’d be fascinated by the tall ships. The Jurassic Coast is amazing, and well worth setting aside the time to see if you can. As far down as Lyme Regis (The French Lieutenant’s Woman) and Chesil beach, there’s so much to explore and you can just casually spot fossils as you wander.
I really did not appreciate the UK until I’d been away for 4 years, but after a camping trip last summer I realised just how beautiful it is. This article makes me even more excited about exploring Britain’s coast even more!
A few years back I realised that there were bits of the UK I’d not yet explored, and started hitting the road. I’d been missing out on so much! I’m lucky to live on such a beautiful island, and sometimes things like one trip ignite your curiosity to explore more. I have some fond memories of camping all over the UK, although my knees prefer a bed now I’m getting creakier.
Sometimes I forget there are so many beautiful places close to home for me to visit – reckon I need to get myself to cornwall and devon!
I’m a West Country lass, so probably biased, but Devon and Cornwall are truly gorgeous. My husband reckons I go native once we get south of Bristol. 😉 It’s definitely a case of so much world, so little time. But I’m hooked on how stunning home actually is.
Oh my God! I didn’t know there were any pretty squirrels left in England!
(And definitely, have to get to the seaside next time I visit. I’ve been three times so far and only stayed in a city or very close to it.)
The reds are hanging on in there! They’ve been reintroduced into a few places as well as in the reserve areas, so fingers are crossed. Do head for the coast when you visit. There are so many different types of beach to enjoy, from party places to sandy bays and the really wild ones, so there’s a beach for every state of mind here.
I haven’t been to any of these so I have my work cut out for me! Since I love Anthony Gormley I have been wanting to go to Crosby. We will see how much I can fit in! Pinned for future reference.
Crosby’s a brilliant trip. And really quick on the train from Liverpool too. You walk up to the lifeboat station, turn the corner, and suddenly there are Gormleys as far as you can see, all against a stark industrial landscape. It’s a picture that will stay in your head forever. Glad to meet a fellow Gormley lover.
I can hear those Dorset and Cornwall beaches calling my name they are just so beautiful and wild looking.
The wild coast here is epic. I’d swear to you that my entire me recharges just visiting.
We really do have some underrated beaches in this country! The ones in the West Country, in particular, are just gorgeous. Thank for sharing, and enticing me to go travelling around the UK a bit more! 🙂
Ah, Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. Thank you for reminding me what beauties I can find just a few hours from home! This is a great list, as a Brit it’s easy to forget what wonderful spots we have on our doorstep and I’m ashamed to say I’ve not visited most of these. I’d better start planning some day trips 🙂
Daytripping is a very fine thing indeed. I resolved that I’d do a lot of it for the early part of this year, and I’m enjoying it no end. Even places near to home are taking on new life now I’m seeing them as a visitor. And Lulworth…words fail me as to just how stunning it is.
So yeah, England is an island -right!??!! So why dont we think of its beaches more? These look amazing the one in Dorset looks tropical! This is coming from coastal NY- we have beaches but we are a summer spot as well.
Oooh, I love coastal NY. It makes me feel sort of Ramones and Lou Reed-esque, although I’m nowhere near that cool. I think our propensity to liquid sunshine in England puts people off our beaches a bit, which is a real shame, because they’re great for more than just sunbathing. There’s nothing like a sea breeze and a big walk followed by hot chocolate and a warm by the fire.
Such a beautiful list, Britain has some wonderful beaches. I was especially pleased to see Kent made the list- many a happy summer spent between St Mary’s and St Margaret’s beaches when my grandparents lived there. Kents beaches hold some of my very favourite childhood memories.
My mum’s family are in Kent, so that was a lot of my childhood beach time. Until we moved to Devon, when we became the summer beach hosts. 🙂 I need to go back to make more memories in Kent. That sounds like a fab childhood to have enjoyed.
What a great list, some of my favourites are here. I would add Holkham in Norfolk for vastness.
I was very, very tempted to have Holkham too. It’s one of those places that just made me run along the shoreline for the simple pleasure of being there. And as you say, just an endless stretch of beautiful rippled sand.
WOW! Great article, I didn’t even know most of these beaches existed. Although, to be fair I haven’t traveled the UK…YET! Thank you for the information.
I love that you added the yet. Wherever you end up in the UK, we’re such a small island that you should be able to find a bit of beach somewhere within daytripping distance.
You literally have a beach for EVERYTHING! I love this. I always pictured England to be rocky, but some of these are just so lovely. I really like the beach for odd experience, I bet that is a blast for photos! The World Heritage site is stunning too, I will have to put that one on my list next time I am in England.
A beach for everything – that’s brilliant, and incredibly true! We go from Kiss Me Quick hats and a lot of sunbathing to wildlife, wetlands and art. I think you’ve put my finger on why I love the coast so much; it’s endlessly diverse and always fascinating. And Lulworth…words always fail me. Nature was having a very good day when she carved that one.
I’m terrible, I always equate English beaches with being freezing cold and overcast. I should have spent more time exploring them when I lived in London!
That freezing cold feeling can most definitely happen. 🙂 I have memories of Saunton both just as sunny as it was on the day I took the picture for this post, and on an afternoon when we had a beach brolly wedged in the door of a beach hut while we had a lot of soup!
One of my favourite things about travel blogging is reading all the blogs about the UK. I was so uninspired about the UK when I went travelling and blogs like this have made me so much more excited to go home. I lived in Newcastle for 5 years and I’ve never been to Bamburgh beach… isn’t that shocking?! Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures and helping to reigniting my love for the UK.
With so much of this beautiful world to discover, it’s easy to forget the joy of home, isn’t it? But we have the most gorgeous places here too, and I love rediscovering. Bamburgh will be waiting, and just as spectacularly, when you’re back in the UK. It’s lovely to hear that you’re enjoying the beauty of the UK again through well-travelled eyes.
You know, I never really considered going to England for its beaches, but I guess, since it’s an island, that makes sense. All of these places look amazing.
You’re spot on about island life. 🙂 And we Brits are generally pretty fond of our coast, both to enjoy the space and sea air for walking in the winter, and to hit the road to the coast en masse when it becomes unexpectedly warm. We’ve been known to have a spontaneous flight to the sea, on one notable occasion when the replacement car for a service call was a convertible. That was a gorgeous trip!
We visit Formby beach every time the sun shines (which isn’t very often ha) lovely to bring the dogs and have nice family day out! My dogs love it here
You lucky, lucky person. How brilliant to live so close by! I tried to sneak out there again when I had a couple of spare hours in Liverpool recently, but there just wasn’t time. I can imagine the dogs having a fantastic time. And the humans too.
Thank for continualky changing my perception of England. I never think of England’s beaches but now I will!
They can be, as the saying goes, “a bit nippy”. But layer up, and there’s something magical about the flow of the tide, the treasures brought by the sea and all those wild places.
While I certainly prefer the warm temperatures of Asia’s beaches, there is something about England’s beaches that makes my soul feel alive. Maybe because more often than not we ended up hiking to them, so it could be the endorphins. 🙂
Of the 11 beaches on your list, I’ve only visited one – Kynance Cove. I think this means I need to get back to England pronto and schedule some weekends by the sea!
In those words “makes my soul feel alive”, you’ve exactly captured what I love about the coast in England. Even a wild day at the beach is a good one.
You’ve included some great beaches here. I know because I’ve been to most of them! I’ve pinned your post so I remember to go to the 3 I’ve yet to see. Oh, and the book you mentioned about Scilly? I recently picked it up in a charity shop. I hadn’t heard of it before, do I’m glad to now I’m likely to enjoy it 🙂
You are in for SUCH a good read! The author’s a master of classic understatement and the whole book has a gently raised eyebrow throughout. He also used to write to a Facebook page, although I think it’s now being updated by his successor. And hello, fellow beach lover. 🙂
There’s so many great beaches here to visit. I went to Formby on a school trip when I was younger and it was so exciting to see the red squirrels!
Now that’s a great school trip! What I remember of mine is mostly getting very wet on Dartmoor.
I haven’t actually been to any of these and I’m english. I love a lot of the Welsh coastline and live closer. Thanks for recommending these places though
Wales is on my radar – just getting my list together. 😉 I’ve been to some absolutely gorgeous beaches in Wales.
Cornwall is absolutely beautiful for beaches. So happy you included Kynance Cove! Great post 🙂
I couldn’t have left out Cornwall. 🙂 So rugged (mostly anyway), so atmospheric, and so full of great memories.
Great! I’m based in London and I never really took the time to explore Uk. I promised myself I was going to make an effort this summer. I’ll keep this list as a reference. I Will try to see as many of this places as possible.
That sounds like a magnificent summer! I started doing more travel in the UK a few years back, and I have to say that I’ve absolutely loved it. There are plenty of fantastic places to explore here, and so many of them can be done as weekenders.
Ooooooh I have so many places to visit now! I have been to a few of these already but so many more to see!
It was difficult to choose a shortlist, there were so many contenders! 🙂
This seem like a really nice list of beaches in England. Your personal experience of these beaches does come across in your narrative, and a few of the photos are nothing short of spectacular. I think I should visit Dorset soon since I loved both Lulworth Cove and Man O’ War.
Give me a bit of beach and I’m always happy. The whole Jurassic Coast is nothing less than spectacular, so I think you’d love Dorset. Inland is great too – lush countryside, pretty villages and towns and a lot to visit.
I have never seen this part of England. This article surprised me a lot. When I think about England first of all I think about London and other cities but not to the beaches. You change my mind.
Although there aren’t so many days when you can swim here (or at least not without a drysuit) the beaches here are still treasured by we Brits. And the coast is great to visit at any time of year – hope you get a chance to try it out for yourself.
These beaches are incredible – forget the Caribbean. But I guess you’ll have the same obstacle like Germany: the terrible, unsteady weather. Germany, too, has beautiful islands in the Baltic and Northern Sea with endless beaches – and endless rain 😉
Tis true. But they’re still beautiful in the rain. 🙂 As are the German versions; we were really taken with the port of Warnemunde – a great combination of sandy dunes and a buzzing harbour with boats selling fish. And when we finally get a few days of sunshine, we enjoy it all the more.
I like how you broke down the beaches by the experience a visitor can have and included useful travel tips. Very handy! Would love to see the one with the red squirrels, heritage site and of course Cornwall. Love all the photos!
There are different beaches for different moods, I reckon. Sometimes you want big sandy bays and sometimes it’s all about the rugged shoreline and exploration. Formby and its squirrels are lovely, and it’s a really easy trip from Liverpool, should you happen to be in the area.
Very useful information on 11 best beaches of England. I always thought England as a cold country and could go to beaches, but your post now intrigues me to visit those wonderful beaches. LulWorth Dorset looks worth visiting as it is a heritage site and a beautiful place.
It’s forecast to be around 23 degrees C here today, and I’m betting that a lot of people living near the coast will be finding a beach to enjoy after work. It can certainly be a bit chilly, but I’d urge you to wrap up warm and visit anyway. The whole Jurassic Coast around Lulworth is spectacular.
I liked the environment of the land where the beach is. They look like beautiful places to take walks!
The coast is definitely one of my happy places for sure. And a great place to walk.
Awesome post, I never knew most of these existed, though I have been to Crosby and Formby and Surfed at fistral!
I must admit to listening to the surf at Fistral and thinking my nerves weren’t quite up to that! 🙂