Golden sands and azure seas in sunny Cornwall, or windswept vistas in Wales. Homely and warm pubs on picturesque shingle beaches in Kent, or vibrant party town beaches in Sussex. Whatever British seaside holiday vibe you’re looking for, these are the best beaches to visit in the UK in 2023!
For the best of everything the British Isles has to offer, including some fantastic coastal or seaside spots, try our guide to the 11 Best Regions in the UK to Visit.
Situated on the most southerly section of the British Isles, Cornwall’s fantastically named Lizard Peninsula, Kynance Cove is one of the UK’s most scenic beaches. However, due to its relatively isolated location it retains the feel of a somewhat hidden gem. This small but picture-perfect beach is a sunny dream over the Summer months.
However, watch out for the tides that can come quickly into the many inlets. You won’t find any lifeguards on this beach, so swimmers and explorers should be careful among the crags and rockpools.
Aside from the beach, there’s the Kynance Cove Cafe. This scenic spot serves locally sourced fish dishes, as well as hot and flaky Cornish pasties, and cool Cornish ice cream too. In the Summer months, check out Ellie’s Soul Kitchen just a few miles away. There you’ll find a cute outdoor set up around Ellie’s food van, offering hearty and tasty vegan food at good value.
Whitby Sands Beach
The county of Yorkshire is well known for a lot of things – but beaches aren’t necessarily one of them. The beautiful coastal town of Whitby though, is definitely an exception. This is a gorgeous broad beach, with panorama views of clifftop hotels and rugged Yorkshire hills behind. That makes it well worth the fairly steep descent to get to it. There’s also a lift for those who need it.
Whitby also has two other beaches as well. A rockier beach by Tate Hill, which is equally picturesque surrounded by rows of traditional houses. Upgang Beach is a much quieter and smaller sandy option, but it’s more difficult to access as you have to descend winding clifftop paths to get down to it. Exciting though, if you’re up for it!
Outside of beaches, the town of Whitby is a fantastic place to stay. There’s loads of accommodation options, eateries and sights to see here. When we say fantastic though, we really mean it. The original 19th century vampire story, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, saw the villainous count take up home in Whitby for a while – and there’s also the awesome ruins of the Gothic Whitby abbey to take in too.
To extend your UK visit from Whitby and it’s lovely beach, while staying in the North of England, try one of these 8 Best Hikes in the Lake District.
With it’s stunning golden sands and azure blue seas, west Cornwall’s Porthcurno is one of the UK’s top beaches. Each side of this mile long beach is bookended by 60 metre cliffs, meaning it’s sheltered from the strong English coastal winds too. This means visitors to Porthcurno in the summer months can take advantage of the famously sunny Cornish weather, for prime sunbathing conditions!
For more active beach goers the South West Coastal Footpath runs along the cliffs at the top of the beach. This stunning afternoon walk takes you past several sweeping viewpoints above smaller tidal beaches in the Porthcurno area. Such as Green Bay and the mysteriously-named Pedn Vounder.
Porthcurno Beach is about 6 miles away from the lovely resort town of Penzance. Here you’ll find mainline train services heading to major UK cities, as well as loads of accommodation options and amenities.
Porthcurno is also about 2 miles away from the UK’s most westerly point, Land’s End. Intrepid explorers can walk there along the South West Footpath – or you could take a shuttle bus from Porthcurno village.
If you prefer your beaches a little wild and rugged, you won’t find many better beaches in the UK than Rhossili Bay in Wales.
This 3-mile stretch of soft, golden sand and powerful Atlantic waves is situated on the Gower Peninsula in the southwest of Wales. An area that became the very first designated Area of Natural Beauty in the UK, way back in 1954. And it hasn’t got any less awe-inspiring since!
Rhossili Beach itself has been voted among the best beaches in the world several times. You won’t find it packed with tourists partying at any time of year, but in the summer months you will see plenty of people relaxing on the sand, surfing the waves or strolling along the clifftops. The huge open space and general quietness also makes it one of the most dog-friendly beaches in the UK too!
Rhossili Beach is about 45 minutes scenic drive away from the busy city of Swansea. There are also hourly buses that head to Swansea and back from the village of Rhossili, about 10 minute’s walk from the beach. Sadly, this is not a great beach for less mobile visitors as there are fairly steep and rough paths down to the shore itself.
Many seaside towns in England owe their status as tourist spots to the patronage of various monarchs over the years. Weymouth in Dorset is one such beach. The town was frequented so regularly by 17th century King George III, that he ordered a mile long beachfront promenade walkway be built here.
This wide and long beach, with shallow and calm surf, has been a popular destination for traditional beach holidays ever since. Over the summer months, all the old-school seaside attractions can be found here. From sand sculptures or donkey rides to trampolines, ice cream carts and fish and chip shops. And all with the picturesque backdrop of Weymouth’s Victorian seafront architecture.
Weymouth is the third-largest settlement in Dorset too. This means lots of places to stay, amenities and good transport links! Trains run on the mainline to London Waterloo, as well as other regional cities like Bristol or Cardiff. The unique Cheshil Beach, listed further along in this guide, is not far away either.
Mention Camber Sands to anyone above a certain age living in the south of England, and they’ll definitely have heard of it. One of the long-time seaside destinations on the South Coast, Camber Sands is today more known for the two rough-and-ready holiday parks nearby – the famous Pontins and a second owned by Parkdean Resorts.
Fred Pontin and his Pontins parks were a UK staple for many years. But come 2023, there’s only a few left – including Camber Sands. The UK’s Darts Championships are still held her every year!
Outside of that though, Camber Sands is actually a lovely beach area to visit. They have some of the best sand dunes in the south of England to explore for one, and the picturesque beach itself has been used for locations in TV dramas and films for decades. You’ll find this windswept sandy beach is popular with wind and kite surfers throughout the year too!
One of the most popular and scenic beaches in Cornwall, this small half-mile stretch of golden sand in the town of St. Ives is a true delight. In 2022 Porthmeor was given a Blue Flag Beach award, recognising the council’s hard work in keeping it one of the cleanest beaches in the UK. That’s a high rating for the beach itself, plus its amenities and the water quality too.
This beach is just a few minutes from the lovely St. Ives town center. That makes it a perfect spot for a picnic lunch on the sandy shore, with loads of artisan bakers and other local eateries just a stones’ throw away. There’s also the South West Coastal Footpath for clifftop walks, and the Tate St. Ives Gallery not far away either.
Porthmeor, being quite small and sheltered, can get very busy in the summer months – but it’s still a beautiful beach regardless. Just make sure to pack your sun cream!
Not all beaches need golden sands or sweeping vistas to impress us! Sometimes you just need a great seaside pub with fresh locally caught food on a traditionally British pebble coastline.
Whitstable in Kent, southern England, has all of that and more. This charming town has two lovely stretches of beach, with a small but fully working harbour area in between them.
Whitstable West beach, pictured, is the closest to town and has loads of local shops and stalls lined along the promenade. Chief among them is the legendary Old Neptune Pub, built smack bang on the beach. Try some delicious freshly caught oysters with a pint of local craft ale, sat on the boards literally on the beach!
Tankerton Beach is more traditionally beachy, but still pebbly. You’ll find colourful beach huts along the shore and plenty of wind surfers and yachts flying over the waves. Getting to Whitstable Beach is easy, as it has a mainline train station just 10 minutes walk away.
This one might not be a traditional beach holiday destination – but it certainly is one of the most interesting beaches in the UK! Chesil Beach, near Weymouth Bay in Dorset, is an incredible 18-mile spit of shingle beach that protects the Fleet Lagoon behind it.
This unique combination of rare wildlife in the seaside lagoon and a long, thin beach infront, creates an otherworldly atmosphere quite unlike any other beach in the UK. Adding to the windswept and austere conditions is the real danger this beach has posed to ships over the years!
Take a stroll along the beach itself, although be careful as if you get too far – you’ll have to hike the same way back (or continue to the end). Alternatively, walk up the hilly road above the village of Abbotsbury above the beach where you’ll what has been voted one of the British Isles’ best views.
Getting to Chesil isn’t too hard, with Weymouth and its transport links not far away. The picturesque and tiny village of Chiswell has some accommodation options, but Weymouth will have a much wider range of availability.
One of the most famous seaside towns in the whole of the UK, we couldn’t not put this iconic pebble beach on the list. If you’ve never been, you should!
Although it doesn’t have much on the stunning blue seas and gold sands of Cornwall or the windswept charm of the UK’s wild coastal areas – Sussex’s Brighton Beach has seaside charm by the bucket load.
For one, it’s a great party destination! You’ll find a varied bunch of bars, pubs and even whole nightclubs literally on the beachfront promenade. Many of them are busy with students and arty-folks on any day of the week.
Being a super popular spot for a weekend beach visit, especially from London, there are also loads of attractions on the promenade too. The unmissable and iconic boards of the Victorian Brighton Pier is one, and the towering Brighton i360 revolving tower is also worth a shout. Plus, if the beach gets too busy (or too cold), Brighton is a lovely town to explore in its own right as well!
From one of the most popular beaches in the UK, to one of the most hidden – welcome to Portheras Cove. This delightfully small and hard-to-get-to beach on Cornwall’s sunny coastline is a real gem. Park in a local farmers’ car park (£3 all day) and take the fairly-difficult walk down to the cove.
Soft sand. Crashing blue waves. Solitude and tranquillity. If you come here on an off season day, it’s possible you’ll be the only person around! During the summer months, and on weekends, there’s usually a few locals out and about and maybe some surfers too. But, even then – Portheras Cove is a totally different experience to the popular beaches on this list. Well worth trekking out to if you can!
You can drive here from St. Ives in about half an hour. Take the b3306 towards St. Just, and turn off at the first left after the village of Morvah – which is signposted as Rose Valley. From there the Portheras Cove car park is just down the road on your left.
Norfolk is a beautiful county – but it’s not overly known for its coastlines. However, in keeping with the pristine environments of the rest of the region, it is fitting that one of the best beaches around is also an important nature reserve.
Holkham Beach is part of the wider Holkham National Nature Reserve, which is one of England’s largest. That means Holkham beach is more of a walking, day out exploration vibe. So don’t expect cafes, sun loungers or beach huts. Instead you’ll find amazing wildlife, including rare butterflies and wading birds, as well as incredible views.
You can also walk the wooden footpaths along the edge of the wildest saltmarsh areas. Walking one of these makes for some amazing sights as they twist through the dunes and emerge out onto the beach.
Holkham Beach is accessible from the cute village of Wells-next-the-Sea, which also has a lovely beachfront itself. If visiting for a day, you can get to Wells-by-the-Sea from the city of Norwich, which is about an hour drive away. Public transport isn’t too great though, with infrequent buses to Norwich which take about 2 hours.
Best UK Beaches: A Summary
So there you go! 12 of the United Kingdom’s best beaches. From awesomely wild and windswept shoreline to golden sands and turquoise waves, to seaside party towns and isolated coves of tranquillity. We hope we’ve covered all the beach lovers’ bases with this one.
Don’t forget to pack your sun cream, or maybe a raincoat, and remember to stay Earth Curious!