The 10 nicest beaches in England you need to visit
Britain has an impressive 31,000km of coastline, that's longer than those of Brazil, Mexico, and Italy. Nestled within the coves and bays across this stretch are some of the best beaches in the world.
Starting with England, we’ll take a look at the most amazing English seaside towns and beaches to add to your list. H2: Durdle Door, Devon
Durdle Door Beach is, for many, the UK's most Instagram-able beach. It's famous for its natural limestone archway carved out by the sea over 10,000 years ago.
Good to know:
- The beach is part of something bigger. It belongs to the sizable Lulworth Estate whose magnificent castle and park you can explore.
- You need steady feet. Access to the beach is via a steep footpath and steps. It's a hike to get down there but it's worth it.
- Durdle Door is important internationally. This stunning pebble and shingle beach became Britain's first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021.
Nearest town: Nearby Wareham is one of the few remaining Saxon-walled towns in the country lying at the meeting point of the rivers Frome and Piddle.
Nearest station to Durdle Door:Wool.
Getting there: Catch the train to Weymouth instead of Wool. Then hop on the X54 bus and you'll be at the entrance to Lulworth Estate just 18 minutes later.
Beer Beach, situated on the Jurassic Coast, is arguably the nicest beach in the UK. This gorgeous Blue Flag shingle beach is still home to a working fishing fleet.
Good to know:
- You'll love how warm it is. The attractive chalk cliffs surrounding it block chilly westerly seas winds from coming in making the bay a sun trap.
- You can make a real day of it here. There's lots to do. But if you want to take it slowly, hire one of the bright beach huts to relax and take it all in.
- Beer's won awards. Beer, the village, won BBC TV's Countryfile Top Picnic Spot award.
Nearest town: Exeter has been around since before the Roman army arrived in AD50. Much of its City Walls still stand as does the breath-taking Norman Cathedral, completed in 1400.
Getting there: The nearest station is Axminster. Catch the 885 bus to get to Beer in about 50 minutes.
Woolacombe Sands, Devon
Our third entry from Devon is Woolacombe Sands Beach. This pristine beach stretches for three miles and there's plenty to do when you get here.
Good to know:
- Popular with families and surfers. They come because of the beach's ample facilities, the high quality of the clear seawater and how clean the beach is kept.
- It's won two awards lately. The town was voted Best British Beach in the Mail On Sunday and it got the "England for Excellence Gold Award" for the best family resort.
Nearest town: Exeter, like Beer above.
Getting there: The nearest main railway station is Barnstaple. Catch the 303 bus from Stand L at Barnstaple bus station.
Holkham Bay, Norfolk
Holkham Bay is an unspoilt beach and a nature reserve all in one. It seems to stretch on for miles, framed by rolling dunes that are rich with wildlife and rare fauna and flora.
Good to know:
- Get close to nature. Much of the beach sits against the backdrop of a pine forest.
- Great beachside cafe. There's a quality eatery at Holkham Bay with inside and outside seating offering drinks and snacks.
- Claim to fame. Gwyneth Paltrow strolled on expansive sands at low tide in the closing scenes of the smash-hit 1998 film 'Shakespeare in Love'.
Nearest town: Considered the most complete example of a medieval British city, Norwich is a modern city whose ancient roots have been superbly preserved. Check out the magnificent cathedral, ancient castle and vibrant market.
Getting there: The nearest stations are Sheringham (19 miles away) and Cromer (25 miles away). Buses to Holkham Bay are more frequent from Norwich though that might be the best option.
Embleton Bay, Northumberland
Many think the best coast in the UK is the wild Northumbrian coast. If you've never been, locals think very highly of Embleton Bay. You'll be sharing this glorious beach and its dramatic sand dunes with families, nature lovers and dog walkers.
Good to know:
- Embletone Bay's beauty is protected. It's part of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- Steeped in history. The evocative ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle are visible in the distance, even on a misty day, from the beach's vast expanse of golden sand.
- The beach won a prestigious award. BBC Countryfile Magazine readers crowned it the UK's best beach in 2017.
- Make time to see the village. A short walk from the beach, its medieval streets offer visitors the chance to step back in time and explore Northumberland's rich history.
Nearest city: Newcastle upon Tyne, ranked by Lonely Planet as the planet's must-visit destination in 2018.
Getting there: The Grade-I listed Newcastle Central Station has a direct connection with Chathill, the nearest station to Embleton Bay. There are more frequent buses from Berwick so consider getting off the train there.
Bamburgh Castle Beach, Northumberland
If you go to Northumberland, make sure you visit Bamburgh Castle Beach. This is the ideal spot for long, unhurried seaside walks. Bamburgh beach is popular with local families, surfers and history enthusiasts and you'll see why when you get here.
Good to know:
- It can be bracing but in a good way. You'll feel invigorated on your stroll, even when the often biting winds come ashore from the North Sea.
- It's got a big, imposing well-preserved castle. Nestled on top of a hill right next to the beach, look down from a height at the local cricket team's exploits on a Sunday.
Nearest city: Newcastle upon Tyne. The city is home to Grey Street, an elegant Georgian curving thoroughfare and a street once voted the finest in England.
Getting there: Like Embleton Bay, the nearest station is Chathill. Catching the train to Berwick and the bus to Bamburgh will give you more flexibility with travel times.
Pentle Bay, Isles of Scilly
Tresco, a family-owned island off Cornwall, is a strong contender for the nicest beach in the UK. It's home to the secluded and crescent-shaped Pentle Bay with its beautiful white sand.
Good to know:
- Stand on top of the sand dunes. From there, you get a real glimpse of the diverse landscape of this very pretty and tiny island.
- It's Britain but not Britain. It's part of the county of Cornwall but its weather and clear turquoise sea make the place feel a bit tropical.
- A nature-lover's paradise. There are few better places in the UK for spotting birds and marine life.
Nearest town: Hugh Town is a boat ride away on the Island of St. Mary's. Big is, of course, relative to the Isles of Scilly, as the town has a population of just over 1,000 people.
Getting there: Get on the train at Penzance and catch the ferry or plane.
Morecambe Beach, Lancashire
Much loved by tourists, Morecambe is a classic Lancashire seaside town that's not quite as ostentatious as its closer, more famous neighbour Blackpool (read more on Blackpool in the honourable mentions section below).
Good to know:
- Morecambe Beach is big. At five miles long, this is one of the longest sand beaches in the UK. It's not all sand though as the beach contains plenty of mudflats too.
- The promenade has never looked better. Recently significantly renovated, it stretches the length of the beach. Hire one of the pretty beach huts along it, take in a few of the independent shops that line it and have afternoon tea at the art-deco Midland Hotel.
- There's a play park nearby. Take the kids to the nearby Happy Mount Park. They'll love its zip-wire, splash park, miniature train and more.
Nearest big town: Lancaster, the county capital. Lancaster's a very pretty town with distinctive architecture, a vibrant shopping scene and a very well-preserved imposing castle.
Getting here: Morecambe has its own train station and it's just a 10-minute walk away from the beach.
Whitby Sands, North Yorkshire
For beach games, water sports and sunbathing, Whitby Beach (also known as West Cliff beach) is ideal. A stand-out beach destination in the UK, make sure you hire a windbreak, deckchair or one of the colourful beach huts to make your experience of this magnificent shoreline even better.
Good to know:
- Take a stroll on the promenade. From there, you'll see the town's historic Abbey, harbour and distinctive architecture.
- It's got lots of beaches. It's worth a walk to check out the two sandy bays of South Bay Beach. For dog lovers, South Bay is your best bet.
- Go and see the town. The beaches are beautiful but the town itself has this old British seaside look and feel. The people are lovely too.
Nearest big town: Middlesbrough.
Getting here: Whitby has its own train station which is just a 10-minute walk away from Whitby Sands.
Tankerton Beach, Kent
Tankerton Beach is a popular beach destination for seaside lovers. The beach is part sand, part shingle and is on a number of coastal walks enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
Good to know:
- Home to "The Street". This is a long shingle ridge where, at low tide, visitors can see crabs, oysters and other marine animals.
- Great for beach sports. Sailing, windsurfing and kayaking fans will like it here too.
- Visit Whitstable when you're here. Tankerton Beach is part of this laid-back and sometimes slightly Bohemian seaside town. The Victorian and Edwardian architecture is first-class.
Nearest big town: Canterbury, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is where the past comes alive through its stunning cathedral, extant ancient walls and history-lined streets.
Getting there: Whitstable has its own train station a 15-20 minute walk to the beach.
Honourable mentions for the best beaches in England
Ten destinations just aren't enough. So, below, we share our worthy runners-up.
South West England beaches
Fistral Beach, Cornwall
The golden sands of Fistral beach are the home of British surfing. There's always a great mix of people and activities here. Be sure to check out Fistral Beach Bar which has its own sun terrace for a wide selection of drinks and snacks.
Fistral beach is in Newquay, one of the leading beach destinations in the UK. It's the self-styled party capital of the West Country with great nightlife, highly-rated restaurants and family-friendly attractions.
Getting here: The beach is a 1.7-mile walk from Newquay train station.
Watergate Bay Beach, Cornwall
Adjacent to Newquay Bay, enjoy Watergate Bay's two miles of golden sands at low tide. Popular with families and kitesurfers, the famous Watergate Bay Hotel overlooks the bay and is home to four restaurants.
Getting here: The beach is a 15-minute drive from Newquay train station.
Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall
For a laid-back experience, visit the beach at Porthcurno, a traditional Cornish seaside village. Swim or surf in the turquoise sea or find time to relax on the beach's beautiful white sands.
Getting here: The beach is a nine-minute drive from Penzance train station.
Blackpool Sands Beach, Devon
This crescent-shaped shingle beach is located on the South West Coast Path. The beach itself is set against the stunning backdrop of the rolling South Hams countryside and abundant evergreen and pine trees.
Popular with watersports enthusiasts, you could try a bit of paddle boarding or kayaking while you're here.
Getting here: The beach is a 30-minute drive from Totnes train station.
Burgh Island Beach, Devon
Burgh Island, opposite Bigbury on Sea Beach, is stunning. When you see it, you'll appreciate how it fully deserves to be part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Only accessible via a strip of sand at low tide, the area is popular with fishers, water sports enthusiasts and families.
Check out the many rock pools when you make the walk across. Third-generation hydraulic steel tractor fans will be in heaven as Burgh Island is home to the last of its type in the world.
Getting here: The beach is a 30-minute drive from Ivybridge train station.
Bournemouth Beach, Dorset
The only city beach to make our list, its appearance might remind you of Nice, France, with how the sandy shore seamlessly just merges into the city and its promenade. Bournemouth has five Blue Flag sandy beaches, a famous pier and a unique microclimate which keeps the sea gloriously warm in Summer. And just a short walk away are dozens of visitor attractions, restaurants, bars and shops, just as you'd expect from a city.
Getting here: a 25-minute walk from Bournemouth train station.
Weymouth Beach, Dorset
Weymouth's shallow waters and gentler tides make it a safer option for families if your little ones want to play and swim in the sea.
The beach is overlooked by a mixture of well-kept, beautiful Georgian properties and pastel-coloured homes. You'll find plenty of attractions in the town itself including a land train and pedalo boats.
Getting here: an eight-minute walk from Weymouth train station.
South East England beaches
Camber Sands Beach, Sussex
Camber is home to a stand-out sandy beach in the UK in a county that's actually famous for having pebble beaches. Here you'll find East Sussex's only sand dune system and it's five miles long.
Camber Sands is particularly popular with kite buggies, kiteboarders and kitesurfers. Two large holiday complexes (Parkdean and Pontins) are located in Camber village. Getting here: a 13-minute drive from Rye train station.
West Wittering Beach, Sussex
Situated on a peninsula, West Wittering's sandy beach is popular with horse riders, dog owners and watersports enthusiasts.
Getting here: a 21-minute drive from Bosham train station.
Compton Bay beach, Isle of Wight
Compton Bay Beach is on the western side of the Isle of Wight. You'll have two miles of sandy beach to explore and you might spot the occasional dolphin and seal when you're here.
Take in the scenery on one of the many popular coastal walking routes that pass historic attractions along the way. You may even unearth a rare fossil on your journey. Getting here: the nearest station Lymington Pier then a hop on the ferry.
Beaches on the eastern coast of England
Holkham Beach, Anglia
One of the finest beaches in Anglia. It's part of a 25,000-acre agricultural estate that's also home to a National Nature Reserve and a holiday park. Holkham Beach is so big that it feels like its golden sands go on forever. This is a great destination for family days out and longer holidays.
Getting here: a 27-mile drive from King's Lynn train station.
Beaches on the western coast of England
Blackpool Beach, Lancashire
A much-loved and popular seaside resort, Blackpool is packed out with tourists during the summer months.
It's famous for its sandy coastline, trams, Tower, rock and donkey rides. Did you know the train from London Euston to Blackpool takes just 3 hours?
Getting here: a 19-minute walk from Blackpool North train station.
Formby Beach, Merseyside
For something a little more laid back, try family-friendly Formby Beach.
Formby Beach has 500 acres of sand dunes which are home to multiple rare species including natterjack toads. Owned by the National Trust, you do have to pay an entry charge.
Getting here: a seven-minute drive from Formby or Freshfield train stations.
The best UK destinations for beaches
Of course, great UK beach destinations are not limited to England.
A Scottish highlight is Luskentyre beach in the Outer Hebrides. Even on a cloudy day, Scarista Beach is a real sight. Scottish beaches are world-beaters. North Wales has amazing coast walks to offer, not to mention the Three Cliffs Bay Beach on the world-famous Gower Peninsula.
Benone Beach in Northern Ireland is a magnet for surfers, definitely a contender for one of the top ten UK beaches.
Enjoy England's greatest beaches by train
For a fun day out with family and friends, it's hard to beat the British seaside. The only thing that's better is spending a weekend away at the British seaside. We hope our suggestions above inspire you to explore more of our country's beautiful beaches.
You can get to the nicest beaches in the UK by train. Book your train tickets well in advance to get the best savings so you have more to spend when you're away. To save even more, buy a Railcard or book as a group.