Sandy Retreats: Exotic Beach Destinations Conveniently Close to London

Whether you want to build an epic sandcastle or simply kick back and relax, the UK’s shoreline is within reach. The capital is less than two hours from some of the country’s finest beaches – ideal for a day trip when you need a break from London life and to soak up the rays.

From wild shingled stretches to seaside-town beaches complete with pier walks and ice cream, here are some of the most exotic beaches near London.

The white chalk cliffs of Cuckmere Haven are drop dead gorgeous, drawing in countless artists over the years. Unlike some of the other nearby beaches, this one is quiet and perfect for a day out with family. Bring your painting gear, or just pack a picnic and enjoy the sunset over this heavenly spot.

One of the most beautiful beaches in Kent, this Kentish charmer is a favourite among locals and a top spot for a day trip from London. Take a stroll alongside the colourful fishermen’s huts on the shingle beach at Tankerton before heading to Whitstable Harbour for a delicious meal of fresh oysters or lobster at Ossie’s or fish and chips from the famous Fenchurch Street fish market. A 10-mile-long Crab and Winkle Way walking trail also runs past the beach so you can make it a full day out and about.

A favourite holiday destination for Charles Dickens and a hipster hotspot these days, Margate’s curving beach and brightly painted buildings ooze seaside appeal and are some of the most unique beaches near London. The promenade and harbour pier attracts sun worshippers and families, while vintage clothing and antiques shops entice shoppers into the town’s streets.

Dubbed Shoreditch-on-Sea, this quirky coastal retreat is a hub of creativity and an arts centre in its own right. The gently sloping sand dunes and 79 acres of shingle are a real treat, while the rickety beach huts and washed up fishing boats offer a more secluded vibe that’s perfect for a relaxing day out. Dogs are welcomed all year round.

A popular spot for surfers and kitesurfers, Camber Sands is a south coast gem that’s been described as ‘Arabia without the camels’. The sand is kept in place by marram grasses and chestnut fences and the shoreline has been used as a backdrop for many desert films. It’s also a great place for exploring the tidal creeks, salt marshes and mudflats that are part of the Camber Sands Nature Reserve. Getting there: one hour 40 minutes train journey from London St Pancras International to Rye and a short bus ride; approx two hours by car.