11 Beautiful Beaches Within Two Hours of London

It’s official: London has entered a scorching heatwave. Cool off by taking a splash at one of these brilliant beaches – all within two hours of the capital.

In case you hadn't already heard, London is in the midst of a major heatwave - and this time, the celsius scoreboard has well and truly surpassed double digits. With temperatures set to soar higher than most of the Mediterranean this week, our makeshift pool (read: bath filled with cold water) just isn't going to cut it.

While we love nothing more than slipping on a colourful cossie and channelling our inner Tom Daley down the local lido, nothing compares to diving into cold, salty seawater on a balmy day. Sure, London might be lacking when it comes to a sun-kissed coastline, but its nearby coastal neighbours are within easy reach. Whether you're looking for a post-work plunge or are planning to swap the stifling gym for a paddle in the channel, you won't want to miss our round-up of the most beautiful beaches within two hours of the capital.

Cool-down o'clock: 11 great beaches near London

Camber Sands

East Sussex

Ask a handful of people what the best beach in the UK is and at least three of them will say "Camber Sands". Located on the outskirts of Rye, Camber's soft dunes stretch some 4km along the coast. Weave along the weather-beaten boardwalk, before securing your spot for the ultimate daycation. Want to make it an overnighter? Check in at nearby hotel The Gallivant for a long, lazy weekend spent flitting from beach to bed.

Botany Bay


The poster child of the Kent coast, Botany Bay takes its name from the area's 19th-century smugglers, many of whom were deported to Australia. Today, however, you'll be more likely to knock elbows with photographers, who get snap-happy around the dramatic chalk stacks, between which you'll find smaller coves, rock pools and, if you're lucky, a fossil or two. Much like Dorset's natural beauty spots of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, Botany Bay draws crowds as the mercury rises. Avoid them by walking 10 minutes' east to Kingsgate Bay, where Thanet's best sea caves are carved into the cliffs. But be warned: it's possible to get stranded by the incoming tide.

Dungeness, Knet



There's an almost post-apocalyptic feel to Britain's only desert. Threaded by boardwalks, Dungeness's vast expanse of shingle is decorated with more than 600 rare plant species, the rusting ribcages of old boats strung with fishing nets and railway carriages repurposed as homes - all overlooked by two lighthouses and a nuclear power station, making for a bleakly beautiful landscape. Nose around the garden of the late filmmaker Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage, before feasting on local-lobster tacos from the nearby Snack Shack. From here, we recommend hopping on the steam-powered Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway to explore further along the Kent coast.

The dunes at West Wittering at sunset

West Wittering

East Sussex

West Wittering is an all-time favourite among beachgoers and it's not hard to see why. Soft sand, shallow lagoons and neat grassy areas beckoning for a picnic rug make it an ideal spot for a day out, while the area holds a Blue Flag award for safety and cleanliness. With wonderful views across Chichester Harbour and the South Downs, and candy-coloured beach huts available to rent, this is a snapshot of proper British summertime. Night owl? Clear your inbox to zero and get down here just after 7pm: the air is fresher and the water remains warm, plus, you'll no doubt be rewarded with one of Wittering's famous sunsets.

Osea Island


Just a 90-minute drive from London, Osea's calm attitude feels world's apart from the capital's stuffy heat and swamped streets. Set in Essex's Blackwater Estuary, the island is backed by centuries-old oak, sycamore and chestnut trees. The 150-hectare island is incredibly remote, being home to only 19 clapboard cottages, with no street lights or traffic. For that reason, we strongly suggest visiting on a weekend, when you'll be able to enjoy the still waters and tranquil atmosphere, minus the risk of getting lost between wild meadows and sprawling salt marshes - a very real possibility if you set off after work.

Tankerton, Kent



Nothing screams pain like arriving at the beach and struggling to find a decent patch of sand that isn't within arm's length of a family of eight. Do yourself a favour and swerve the crowds of Whitstable's West Beach, instead strolling to the neighbouring Tankerton. There, seaweed-clad groynes separate a happy mish-mash of shingles and sand. In the centre of the beach you'll find "The Street", a 750m-long natural spit that emerges at low tide. Wander out to its tip, with the estuary waters lapping on either side, before diving in.

Frensham Great Pond

Frensham Great Pond


Alright, alright. This place hardly qualifies as a beach. But Frensham's clear, shallow waters and golden sands make it a worthy addition to our list. Round up your gang and visit on a midweek evening, when you'll likely have the place to yourself, other than for the odd wild swimmer. Afterwards, swing by local favourite The Botanist for experimental cocktails and succulent hanging kebabs, which taste even better, post-paddle.

Mersea Island, Essex

Mersea Stone

East Mersea

Oyster lovers, take note: this quieter side of Mersea Island is famed for its production of some of the world's best bivalve molluscs. Wander along the shell-strewn beach, before making a beeline for The Company Shed. The family-run seafood restaurant rustles up everything from sea bass fillet to smoked mackerel and green-lipped mussels. Geology nerds will appreciate a visit to Mersea Stone, thanks to the possibility of unearthing centuries-old shark teeth and animal bones. Want to cool down but don't want to get your hair wet? Rent a kayak at Mersea Island Watersports.


Main Sands


Where kitsch meets cool, and home to "the loveliest skies in all of Europe", according to JMW Turner, Margate's Main Sands can get jam-packed when the weather's fair, with city day-trippers setting up camp between Dreamland amusement park and the vintage shops and vamped-up street-food stalls surrounding The Sun Deck. While we're partial to a cup of cockles from Mannings Seafood stall, we suggest walking east, towards Turner Contemporary and Walpole Bay, where the UK's largest saltwater tidal pool offers a more peaceful alternative to that of Main Sands. Quieter still are the cliff-backed promenade, rock pools and no-fuss cafés of St Mildred's Bay, a 40-minute coastal walk west.

Hythe Beach

Hythe Beach


Between Folkestone and Dymchurch, Hythe is more of a quaint rural village than a bucket-and-spade town. Its beach? More than 3km of sloping pebble backed by a wide promenade that's perfect for cycling or walking. Get down early enough to swing by The Lazy Food Company, which stocks fresh-from-the-sea fish and other Kentish produce mere footsteps from bobbing boats. Kippers and coffee always taste better when enjoyed while watching fishermen cast their lines and octogenarians take their morning dip. Fancy a jaunt? A steam railway links Hythe with St Mary's Bay, Romney Sands and Dungeness.

Deal Castle Beach


Bohemian Deal is a magnet for city dwellers seeking a coastal retreat. Between the artisan delis, galleries and indie boutiques is a town saturated in seaside heritage. Julius Caesar landed here in 55 BC, Henry VIII built artillery castles and a once-thriving smuggling trade inspired Daniel Defoe to write of Deal's "barbarous hated name". The 19th-century pier was torpedoed in the Second World War; today's brutalist structure was opened by Prince Philip in 1957. Fuel up in the architecturally inspired Deal Pier Kitchen, before tracing the 10km promenade from Walmer to Sandwich Bay - bikes can be rented from Hut 55. When the sun shines, swimming is pleasant anywhere along the shingle, though more serious swimmers will be happiest around Kingsdown Beach and Sandwich Bay.

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