Planning a beach holiday on home soil this summer? If you live in the capital, you don’t have to travel far for sand between your toes and the smell of fresh sea air, as the beautiful coastlines of Kent, Sussex and Essex can be reached in just under 2 hours.
From the quintessential English charm of Whitstable to the vibrant shores of Brighton, get ready to escape the daily grind with our guide of the best seaside towns near London.
How to get there: Catch the train from Liverpool Street station (1h), or drive (2h).
Best beach: Just a short drive away is Dovercourt Bay, a tranquil sandy beach perfect for sunbathing and sandcastles.
Best activity: Visit North House Gallery, an art gallery that displays an impressive collection from national and international artists and regularly hosts exhibitions too.
Best pubs: The Red Lion is the oldest pub in town, pop into this cosy boozer and try one of their local East Anglian ales. The Skinners Arms is a proper local that serves up hearty pub grub. Then there’s The Crown, step through its doors and be greeted by a warming, friendly atmosphere.
How to get there: Get the train from Liverpool Street Station (2h 10m), or go by car (2h).
Best beach: Lined with colourful beach huts, Walton-on-the-Naze Beach is a Blue Flag Award beach with beautiful golden sands.
Best activity: Enjoy amazing panoramic views and some afternoon tea from the 86ft tall Naze Tower.
Best pubs: The Victory is a traditional pub in a cosy 18th-century building, dine al fresco and enjoy their fresh, seasonal dishes. Love steak? Stop by The Bath House for steak for two and a bottle of red. And if you’re after a refuelling lunch, The Queens Head is the place to be.
How to get there: Trains run regularly from Liverpool Street Station (1h 15m), or drive and it’ll take you just under 2 hours.
Best beach: Given a Blue Flag Award for its pristine waters, Shoebury Beach is perfect for a paddle in the sea.
Best activity: Play crazy golf, grab a bite to eat or even go fishing on Southend Pier – the longest pier in the UK!
Best pubs: One of the oldest pubs in Southend-on-Sea, catch some rays and enjoy a wine or two in The Peterboat’s beer garden. At The Alex, you’ll top quality ales and an affordable food menu. Fancy something a little more upmarket? Check out Mangetout, a bistro-style pub serving burgers, grills and more.
How to get there: The train from Fenchurch Street Station (47m), or by car (2h).
Best beach: If you love a relaxing stroll along the beach and the fresh sea air, a visit to Chalkwell Beach is a must.
Best activity: Explore the town’s quirky cafes, craft shops and art galleries.
Best pubs: The Crooked Billet has a charming character and is the oldest pub in town. Ye Olde Smack serves iconic English dishes and pub classics. Or soak up the buzz of Leigh-on-Sea’s bustling Broadway at Mariners Court.
How to get there: You can take the train from London Victoria (1h 30m), or drive there in around 2h.
Best beach: Whitstable Beach is a shingle beach full of quintessential English charm.
Best activity: Take a walk around the majestic Whitstable Castle.
Best pubs: Book a table at The Sportsman for fresh seafood and delicious tasting menus. The Pearsons Arms is situated on the seafront with a friendly pub atmosphere. Catch some rays in The Old Neptune’s beach beer garden.
How to get there: 1h 20m on the train from London St. Pancras International or 1h 40m by car.
Best beach: Herne Bay Beach is the perfect family-friendly shore for grabbing a portion of fish and chips.
Best activity: Get out on the water on a paddleboard.
Best pubs: The Hampton Inn offers uninterrupted views on three sides – perfect for watching the sunset over the sea. The Smugglers Inn is a family-run pub situated in the heart of Herne Bay. Or grab a pint of some of the best beer in town at the Prince of Wales.
How to get there: Get there by train from St. Pancras International in 1h 30m, or drive there in 2h.
Best beach: Named one of the best seaside towns and beaches in the UK, Margate Sands is a picturesque beach with a traditional charm.
Best activity: It’s not an English seaside holiday if you don’t try your luck in the arcades!
Best pubs: If you’ve got a penchant for real ale, try The Harbour Arms – a former fisherman’s hut. You could watch the sunset over the beach at The Two Halves, or enjoy some live music down at The Lifeboat.
How to get there: It’s 1h 40m by train from London’s St. Pancras train station or around 2h by car.
Best beach: Joss Bay is a surfer’s haven and a beautiful sandy beach for enjoying an ice cream on a summer’s day!
Best activity: Splash the cash at Broadstairs’ quirky boutiques and independent shops.
Best pubs: Chapel turned bookshop turned pub, The Chapel is a quirky little venue that serves real ales and a Kentish menu. If you love seafood, The Tartar Frigate serves some of the best in Kent. Or there’s The Charles Dickens, a gastropub with amazing views over Viking Bay.
How to get there: Take the train from St. Pancras International (1h 40m) or drive there (around 2h).
Best beach: Ramsgate Beach has a long stretch of sand perfect for coastal walks and beach games.
Best activity: Take a tour of a WW2 underground tunnel network at Ramsgate Tunnels.
Best pubs: The Crown is a proper local pub with a cheery and welcoming atmosphere. Located right next to the Royal Harbour, grab some pub grub at the Horse & Groom. If you love sinking real ales in old-fashioned pubs, head to the Artillery Arms.
How to get there: 1h by train from St. Pancras International or 2h by car.
Best beach: Once rated as one of the best seaside towns in the UK, Deal Beach has everything you need for a traditional seaside escape.
Best activity: Pick up some freshly baked cakes and local produce at the Deal Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
Best pubs: The Kings Head is the perfect afternoon pitstop by the sea. The Ship Inn is situated in the heart of the town and serves up traditional pub dishes. Enjoy panoramic views over the English Channel at The Port Arms.
How to get there: Catch a train from St. Pancras (1h) or drive there (2h).
Best beach: The family-friendly Folkstone Beach is the local’s favourite pebble beach.
Best activity: Go dolphin-spotting at The Lighthouse Champagne Bar with a glass of fizz in hand.
Best pubs: A mouth-watering food menu and a sun-trap for a beer garden, it’s no wonder The Pullman is one of the most popular pubs in Folkestone. Located on the seafront you’ll find the vegan-friendly The Harbour Inn. Dine at The Mayfly and enjoy a traditional menu, real ales and a great wine selection.
Location: East Sussex
How to get there: Take the train from St. Pancras (1h 10m) or drive there in 2h.
Best beach: Camber Sands has a long stretch of sand and beautiful unspoilt views out to sea.
Best activity: Take a day trip and discover the wildlife at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
Best pubs: Relax by the roaring fire or dine al fresco at The Globe Inn. Supporting local breweries, The Ypres Castle Inn stocks some of the best ales in East Sussex. Then there’s the Rye Waterworks Micropub, a cosy venue offering beers and bar snacks.
Location: East Sussex
How to get there: Get on the train at London Bridge (1h 30m), or take your car (2h).
Best beach: Find fun for all the family at Bexhill Beach with seaside attractions galore.
Best activity: Wander the charming cobbled streets of this historic town.
Best pubs: First In Last Out has its own microbrewery and is a haven for beer lovers. The Crown is your source for locally produced food in the heart of Hastings. And The Stag Inn is a 16th-century pub with a charming rustic feel.
Location: East Sussex
How to get there: 1h 20m by train from London Victoria or 2h 20m by car.
Best beach: Set against a backdrop of beautiful white cliffs, Holywell Retreat is perfect for escaping the bustle of the town centre.
Best activity: Come rain or shine,, Treasure Island Amusement Park provides the whole family with plenty of fun!
Best pubs: The Rainbow is a warm and family-friendly pub whipping up all the traditional classics. The Pilot Inn is a stylish pub with amazing views over the countryside. And The Crown & Anchor serve a mean Sunday lunch!
Location: East Sussex
How to get there: Direct train from London Bridge (1h) or drive from London (1h 40m).
Best beach: It has to be Brighton Beach. It’s an iconic pebble beach with a pier and a bustling promenade full of independent shops and cafes.
Best activity: Brighton is known for being a hotspot for shopping, wander the high streets or Brighton Lanes for a little retail therapy.
Best pubs: The Black Lion is a lively pub on the weekend full of people having a good time! Sample award-winning beers at Brighton Bierhaus. For something a little different, catch the rays on The Walrus’ two-storey roof garden with a cocktail in hand.
Location: West Sussex
How to get there: The train runs from London Victoria (1h 20m), or drive from London (2h).
Best beach: You’ll always find a quiet spot to lay your towel at Worthing Beach, with its seven mile-long stretch of shingle and sandy beach.
Best activity: Watch a film at the Dome, one of Britain’s oldest working cinemas.
Best pubs: Enjoy locally-sourced beer, wine and food at The Corner House. Situated the foot of the South Downs National Park, The Cricketers is perfectly located for exploring the nearby countryside. The Goose is a quirky craft beer and wine bar located on the seafront.