There’s nothing better than packing up the cool bag, getting out the bat and ball and getting ready for a day at the beach. Even better, when the sun’s shining and the ice cream van makes an appearance nice and early on, you know you’re in for a treat.
But with over 1500 UK beaches to choose from (including some of the best beaches in the world), picking one is easier said than done. Don’t worry, though, as we’ve rounded up our 12 favourites to help you to choose the best UK sandy beach for your next staycation.
Best for: Wildlife bingo
Some like to people watch, others prefer to spot wildlife – at Formby, you get the best of both worlds. The sandy dunes are regularly rated as some of the best in the UK and boast a number of family activities and eateries close by. But what really sets this beach apart is its British wildlife. It’s an official National Trust site – home to red squirrels, sand lizards and the very rare Natterjack Toad. Even if you don’t fancy seeking out these smaller friends, there are lots of sunbathing opportunities so everyone will be pleased.
Where? Scilly Isles
Best for: Feeling like you’re abroad
UK staycations are great. But sometimes, all you want is a little slice of European luxury. Pentle Bay in Scilly Isles offers exactly this and you don’t even need your passport. It’s just a short boat ride from Cornwall and the white sands and sparkling waters really could be something out of Italy. The Scilly Isles is actually made up of several islands but Tresco, where you’ll find Pentle Bay, is one of the best. It’s remote, stunning, and dog-friendly! Plus, there’s beautiful gardens, a spa, deli and flying boat club to keep you entertained.
Best for: Insta-worthy shots
We couldn’t not mention the iconic Durdle Door in Dorset on our list of the best beaches in the UK. You might have heard it being referred to as the Jurassic Coast, and it makes up part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In short, this means there’s lots of things to do – as well as opportunities for sunbathing and snapping away at the incredible cliffs. Here, you can spend your days going on walks, taking part in some water sports, sitting back in one of the award-winning restaurants, or even fossil hunting. Rumour has it, some fossil hunters have found shark teeth!
What is the closest train station to Durdle Door? Wool Railway Station is the closest railway station to Durdle Door, located approximately 10 miles east of the landmark.
Where do you park when visiting Durdle Door? Yes, there is a parking area near Durdle Door. The parking area is located at Durdle Door Holiday Park, about a 15-minute walk from the landmark.
Where? West Sussex
Best for: A full day out
Boasting views of South Downs and Chichester Harbour, West Wittering’s natural sandy beaches have been a firm favourite with families for many years. It’s officially a Blue Flag beach – thanks to the high quality waters and, just behind the sands, you’ll find a huge expanse of green fields and a car park. This makes it the perfect place for picnics, family fun and dog walks. The area is also recognised for its wildlife including bird-spotting opportunities. Kids and big kids will be sure to love the range of watersports too and even beachside horse riding. Why not hire out one of the brightly coloured beach huts for a proper day out?
Where? East Sussex
Best for: Unforgettable activities
Camber Sands has a long history as one of the best beaches in Sussex and the UK, for good reason. For starters, it’s beautiful. The sands are golden and there are dramatic dunes to explore with the whole family. Kitesurfing is really popular here but if you prefer to take things slow, Camber Sands is a top spot for catching the most incredible sunsets. We say, pack a picnic with your favourite drinks. Half the group can enjoy a bit of extreme sports while the rest of you sit back and take in the views. Up the road, you’ll find Rye too – a picturesque village that boasts a wildlife-packed harbour.
See the best harbour towns in the UK >
Best for: Being free
Okay, so when we say ‘being free’ we mean being really free. You see, for years, Holkham Beach in Norfolk has been a popular naturist destination meaning people come here for nude sunbathing. But that’s not the only reason it’s a popular spot. There’s a huge stretch of golden sands, surrounded by unspoilt nature – making it the perfect place for a walk. If you are coming for a spot of nudist sunbathing though, you do need to be clothed when you’re not on the sands. Close by, you’ll find gorgeous market towns like Burnham as well as Wells-next-the-Sea – another popular seaside resort.
Best for: Adventures
A tidal beach in Cornwall, Kynance Cove is popular for its sand dunes, crystal clear turquoise waters and rock stacks. Here, you’ll find lots of places to explore – whether in the sea or on foot. Plus, if you want to relax on the shores, you won’t get bored. The cove is said to be one of the most photographed areas on the Cornish coast. Look out to sea and imagine you’re somewhere far, far away, or look up above at the cliffs where you’ll see blooms sprouting flowers in the hotter months. For a postcard-perfect stay or even an unforgettable day trip, it’s got to be here.
Bamburgh Castle Beach
Best for: Dog-friendly coastal walks
Northumberland might not be top of your list for a sunny seaside break but this beach is definitely a hotspot. One of the best things about it is that it’s dog-friendly meaning the whole family is invited. When you arrive, you’ll see exactly why we’ve included Bamburgh Beach too. You see, just a stone’s throw away from the shores is an impressive Norman tower. Game of Thrones fans may even recognise it! There’s also plenty of popular walking routes including one that takes you to Seahouses and another along St Oswalds Way.
Birling Gap Beach
Best for: Being a secret gem
Despite being in the middle of Eastbourne and Brighton, two very popular seaside towns, Birling Gap offers that little bit of seclusion. It’s situated at the bottom of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs and is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped coastline around. It’s a National Trust site and there really isn’t much to do except take in the views, breathe in the fresh air and sit back. But, if you’re looking for a beautiful beach scene that few know about, this is the place.
Best for: Its Mediterranean feel
A Cornish holiday really does offer something for everyone – whether you want to try your hand at surfing, prefer to explore new areas via their restaurants or bars, or simply want to sit back with a book as you feel the sand between your toes. And, if you’re looking for somewhere that ticks all of the above, Porthcurno is ideal. The waters are sparkling, the sand is almost white and, if you close your eyes for a minute, you really could be abroad – especially when Cornwall gets one of its staggeringly hot summers.
Where? Isle of Harris
Best for: Unusual views
We know what you’re thinking… Scotland. For a coastal staycation. But hear us out. Scotland is home to some incredible landscapes and, from the golden sands at Luskentyre, you can even take in mountain views. There really is nothing else like it. The beach is a great place to relax, or enjoy a walk, and it’s a secluded haven that has featured on BBC’s Castaway. Plus, if you get bored, the Isle of Harris boasts plenty of arts and crafts activities and a distillery for the grown ups!
Best for: Neverending fun
Again, you might not want to plan a sunbathing holiday in Yorkshire but you can plan an adventurous coastal trip in Yorkshire. One of our favourite things about Filey beach is the wildlife. Sparrows, owls and even dolphins have been spotted in the area. Start your day with a walk along the coast and look out for rock pools dotted along the way. Another family favourite is the sculpture trail along the beach, which is inspired by local heritage, and there’s plenty of cafe pitstops too. Plus, when you’re done, there’s no better way to invigorate your senses than by dipping your toes in the cold Yorkshire waters!
So, there you have it. 12 of our favourite sandy beaches in the UK. Our coastal shores may not have the appealing weather of a trip around the coast on an Ibiza boat hire, but there are some gems for sure. Of course, a great beach is just the start. For a trip to remember you need quality accommodation and that’s where we come in. From dog-friendly homes to family-friendly lodges, party pads to romantic boltholes, we guarantee you’ll find something to suit. Take a look today and start planning your next getaway.
Where are the cleanest beaches in the UK?
- Bournemouth Beach – This beautiful sandy beach is located on the south coast of England and has been awarded Blue Flag status for its cleanliness and water quality.
- Woolacombe Beach – Located in North Devon, this stunning beach has also been awarded Blue Flag status for its cleanliness and water quality.
- St Brelade’s Bay – Located on the south-west coast of Jersey, this sandy beach has been awarded a Green Flag for its cleanliness and water quality.
- Porthcurno Beach – Located in Cornwall, this beach is known for its crystal-clear waters and pristine sand, and has been awarded a Blue Flag for its water quality.
- Tenby North Beach – This beautiful beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales has been awarded both Blue Flag and Green Coast awards for its cleanliness and water quality.
- Croyde Bay – Located in North Devon, this beach has been awarded both Blue Flag and Seaside Awards for its cleanliness and water quality.
- Portstewart Strand – Located in Northern Ireland, this stunning beach has been awarded Blue Flag status for its water quality and cleanliness.
- West Sands Beach, St Andrews – This beautiful beach in Scotland has been awarded Blue Flag and Seaside Awards for its cleanliness and water quality.