Planning a beach trip this summer? You won’t need to venture far for the ultimate beach getaway. Check out our guide to 20 of the best beaches in UK to visit – perfect for a family trip!
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Britain boasts some seriously incredible beaches for fabulous family escapes. We’re talking spectacular coastal views, rock pools, fine sand, fossil hunting, brilliant surf for water sports fans, old-fashioned seaside entertainment and even some hidden havens that are nestled amidst the scenery away from the crowds.
Get the buckets and spades ready and let’s take a look at 20 of the best beaches in UK for a family getaway.
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Best Beaches in UK for Families
With dramatic rock formations on both sides, white sand, turquoise sea and exotic plant life, this narrow strip of land couldn’t be more striking – and is definitely one of the best beaches in UK for insta-worth pics. Set beneath the clifftop Minack Theatre, this is arguably the county’s most beautiful bay.
Easily accessible, it is very popular with families. It’s best at low tide when you can walk to other beaches in the bay (heads up – one of these beaches is nudist) and sit on sandbars beneath the ancient cliff fort of Treryn Dinas.
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Swanlake Bay, South Pembrokeshire
The only way to get to this hidden gem is to walk down the Pembrokeshire National Park Coastal Footpath. Although it takes some effort to get here, it is more than worth it for those who make the journey.
Most of the beach is made up of shingle, but at low tide you will see a long expanse of sand. The beach is actually separated into two sections, an eastern side which is lined with golden sand and sits in the shade of high cliffs and a western side which is covered with rock pools. There is also plenty of birdlife to see with species here including curlew, whimbrel, redshank, and godwit.
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Blackpool Sands, Devon
This award-winning Blue Flag beach is one of Devon’s most popular attractions set in an unspoilt, sheltered bay amongst evergreens and pines. Blackpool Sands is a shingle beach located only 3 miles west of Dartmouth on the beautiful South Devon heritage coast in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
With safe swimming for children, sand pits, a bathing raft, kayaks and paddle boards for hire, a range of delicious hot and cold food and a beach shop, it has something for all the family.
West Wittering, Sussex
There are no crazy golf courses or amusement arcades here – just a wide, sloping beach with shallow tidal pools and clean, calm water. This beach has sweet colourful bathing houses, as well as an unspoilt sandy beach and a wonderful view of Chichester Harbour and the South Downs beyond.
The natural and unspoilt sandy beach of West Wittering has been a favourite destination for a family day out for generations. The highest water quality and excellent facilities have made it one of the premier Blue Flag beaches in the country. The sea is popular with wind and kite surfers, and the whole area is internationally recognised for its wildlife, birds and unique beauty.
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Peel, Isle of Man
The west coast beach of Peel is one of the finest on the island and one of the best beaches in UK to visit with kids. A good stretch of golden sand protected by a large breakwater make this beach a family favourite. With Peel Castle and the historic fishing port as a backdrop this spot is brimming with history.
Sometimes referred to as “Sunset City”, Peel is a great place to watch the sun going down behind the ruins of the castle. In the distance you can often pick out the Mountains of Mourne across the water in Ireland. If you are feeling brave, Peel Bay is also home to the Peel Dip, an annual New Year’s dip in the sea in support of a number of charities.
Holkham Beach, Norfolk
Named beach of the year 2018, the beach at Holkham is one of the most unspoilt and beautiful stretches of sand in the country. Behind the shoreline lies a semi-circular basin, which, at very high tides, rapidly fills to form a spectacular shallow lagoon.
With pine woodlands, long runs of sand dunes and rock pools galore, this beach is brilliant – it’s also ideal for a bit of kite flying, sandcastle building and wildlife spotting.
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Set on the edge of the Lake District National Park, this gently shelving shingle beach extends in both directions as far as the eye can see. With five miles of sand and shingle, there is plenty of room for exploring on this beach. There’s also water sports, fishing, canoeing and water-skiing all available.
It’s claimed that on a clear day Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and 14 counties of England can be seen from the summit of nearby Black Coombe. The beach is quite popular with locals and day-trippers, and sea-anglers can often be seen at the shoreline.
Alongside the beach is an area which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to Natterjack toads spawning in the area in springtime. Local and migratory birds (including swallows, oystercatchers and gannets) can also be spotted in the skies.
Bamburgh Castle Beach, Northumberland
This award-winning beach on the Northumberland Coast has a vast expanse of golden sand that is ideal for families. There is also the vision of Bamburgh’s imposing castle in the distance, which can be seen for miles around.
Bamburgh Castle beach is a perfect place to go for long, wind-swept walks at any time of year. The water temperatures don’t really get particularly warm even in the height of summer, but in the milder months of the year children enjoy playing in the waves and the sand is good for building sandcastles and playing beach games.
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Barafundle Beach, Pembrokeshire
Barafundle has been ranked among the best beaches in the world. This Blue Flag beach was listed as one of the Top 12 beaches in the world in 2004, then in 2006 The Good Holiday Guide described it as “the best beach in Britain”. In the same year, Country Life magazine dubbed it “the best place in the UK for a picnic,” and in 2012 it again won the accolade “The UK’s Top Picnic Spot”. The only drawback is that the lack of road access and the uneven terrain of its approaches make it unsuitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Scattered with sand dunes and a host of rock pools and hidden caves, Barafundle also has the UK’s highest award for water quality, so children can happily brave the chilly water for a paddle once you’ve packed the picnic away.
Seacliff, East Lothian
Not far from North Berwick lies the hidden gem of Seacliff Beach, which is ideal if you want to avoid the crowds. Perfect for a day trip from Edinburgh, this beach is a low-key, laid-back kind of place that’s ideal for building sandcastles, exploring rock pools or playing a spot of beach tennis.
This private beach is largely unspoilt and attracts surfers, dog-walkers and picnickers all year round, while car entry to this area is controlled by a coin-operated barrier.
Discover the tiny sandstone harbour thought to be the smallest in the UK, and enjoy the splendid views of Bass Rock and the ruins of Tantallon Castle.
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Portstewart Strand, Northern Ireland
A favourite with locals and tourists alike who come to enjoy the clean sand, magnificent views and unique wildlife, Portstewart Strand is cared for by the National Trust.
The magnificent two-mile beach and extensive white dunes of Portstewart Strand are home to rare birds, insects, butterflies and exotic orchids. There are herb-rich grassland verges behind the beach and excellent family facilities, including a children’s play area, a nature trail and a designated water sports zone.
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Rhossili Bay, Swansea
Awarded the best beach in Europe 2017, breathtaking Rhossili bay is a three-mile long sandy beach. It is also overlooked by the Old Rectory, the most popular National Trust holiday cottage. Visible on the beach at low tide are the remains of the Helvetia, a ship wrecked in 1887.
The beach is a walker’s dream with routes in all directions, including the Welsh coastal path. The beach is also dog-friendly all year round and the whole area is beautiful, whatever the weather.
West Sands, St Andrews, Scotland
This is a popular beach in the university town of St Andrews, offering clean bathing water and an expanse of sandy beach. Famous for the opening scenes of the film Chariots of Fire, West Sands extends for almost 2 miles of uninterrupted sand backed with dunes and the world-renowned golf course. With a reliable sea breeze, it’s the perfect place for the little ones to try their hand at flying a kite for the first time.
West Sands is a short walk from the town centre, and there is plenty of car parking available. Shops and restaurants are close by and there are plenty of wet weather alternatives.
Porthmeor St Ives, Cornwall
An idyllic seaside town with lovely small beaches. Porthmeor is ideal for kids ready to brave staying on their feet in the waves. There’s also St Ives, considered to be the ‘jewel of the South West’, a bustling town with lots to keep everyone happy.
The harbour area is ideal for a buggy promenade, with sights and sounds to mesmerise babies. The sandy shoreline of Porthmeor is a haven for surfers and a firm favourite with families looking for a fun day out by the sea.
Situated in the shadow of the iconic Tate St Ives building, sandy Porthmeor is popular with surfers and swimmers alike in an ideal location just a stone’s throw from the centre of St Ives where you’ll find ancient pubs, trendy cafes and art galleries.
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One of the Isle of Wight’s best kept secrets, Compton offers a two mile stretch of contrasting golden and dark sands, with rolling seas, tumbling multi-coloured sandstone cliffs, and the white chalk cliffs at Freshwater in the distance. This rural and unspoilt stretch of coast is caught between the English Channel and the grassy downs of West Wight.
Compton is a totally natural do-it-yourself beach. Bring all you need, including windbreaks (if necessary), body and surf boards and food and drink – although there is an ice-cream van that also offers beverages, snacks and a few beach toys.
Walk south to Brook Bay at low tide and you may find ancient dinosaur tracks revealed on the foreshore, or spot fossils in the crumbling cliffs (see dinosaurisle.com for details of fossil walks). Access from the clifftop car parks (National Trust) is by steep wooden steps.
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One of only two beaches nominated for the world’s best beaches 2017, Charmouth Beach is great for the family – lots of sand especially at low tide, safe swimming, picnic areas, cafes and beach shops.
Charmouth beach is divided in two by the mouth of the River Char which is often dammed by the beach, forming a lagoon suitable for boating or watching the many ducks and swans. The Jurassic Coast stretches for 95 miles from East Devon through Dorset, and lives up to its name by offering a treasure trove of special rocks for inquisitive young fossil hunters – Charmouth beach is one of the best places for discovering fossils.
There are ample car parks close to the beach and beach huts are available to hire (including the ones featured in Broadchurch).
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A grand sandcastle complete with moat is an accomplishment for any child, and helping to build one is sure to prove irresistible to the whole family. The added bonus here is that Weymouth beach is said to have some of the best sand in Britain for sandcastle building.
There’s plenty of entertainment to embrace from traditional attractions such as Punch & Judy and donkey rides, to lively events such as beach volleyball championships, live music and free summer firework displays. Enjoy a stroll along the promenade or on the sands, take part in the Christmas “Chase the Pudding” race or just relax in the sunshine on a summer’s day.
Watergate Bay, Newquay
Watergate Bay is a large beach, about three miles from Newquay on the North Cornwall coast and a European Designated beach that has achieved the highest standard for UK bathing water.
Two miles of golden sand backed by cliffs and caves, where the Atlantic swells offer surf and peregrine falcons, gulls and fulmars wheel overhead. Spot strawberry anemones and crabs among the rock pools, walk along the clifftop, or book a surfing or traction kiting lesson.
There are lots of events held on the beach during the year, as well as the annual Polo on the Beach. For the more traditional beachgoer there are also plenty of rock pools for the children to play in, as well as designated safe swimming areas in the sea. The beach is patrolled by RNLI Lifeguards during the summer months.
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Pentle Bay, Tresco
Pentle Bay is possibly the finest beach on Tresco, Cornwall. It lies on the southeast coast and is bounded by Lizard Point at its northern end and Skirt Island to the south.
After crossing Tresco Island’s lush interior and walking through sandy grass into a wall of dazzling colour, just wait until you see the bleached white sand, emerald-and-turquoise ocean dotted with islands. It takes a dip in sea to confirm that you are still in Britain.
There are no facilities or lifeguard cover at Pentle Bay and a seasonal dog ban applies between the 1st May and 30th September.
Saunton Sands, Devon
Saunton Sands is a long, straight, sandy beach backed by the impressive Braunton Burrows, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The reserve is one of the largest sand dune systems in Britain, and home to myriad of rare plants and butterflies.
This is a popular beach with surfers and families due to the long stretch of water more suited to beginners and intermediate surfers than the northern Croyde Bay. There are a range of food outlets, toilets and beach shops with easy disabled access. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year.
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What other best beaches in UK should we add to our list? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!