Time to share the best seaside day trips from London. Whether you’re driving or travelling by train, all of these offer everything you could want from a day at the beach.
There’s nothing more quintessentially ‘English’ than a day trip to the seaside. Escaping the city and enjoying the squawks of seagulls, the smell of salty sea air and a familiar package of battered fish and chips smothered in salt and vinegar. We’ve saved up our 20ps to waste in the arcades, got excited for ice cream in an old-fashioned cone, and shouted ‘I can sea the sea’ the minute that slither of blue on the horizon comes into view.
For me it all started with Brighton. Each summer, my Dad would drive us the hour and a bit to the coast. My sisters and I would skim stones on the beach, eat our body-weights in ice cream, enjoy mammoth portions of fish and chips (under the beady eyes of the patrolling seagulls) and spend a whopping £2 on the pier, attempting to beat the arcades.
One year, I played a game on the pier and won a stuffed panda that was bigger than me. I carried it around for the entire day, feeling proud of my achievement. A week later, its polystyrene ball stuffing was pouring out of its armpit and he was looking rather sad.
Yet, it’s fond memories like these that last a lifetime. The adrenaline rush as you see the sea, the scents associated with it – it’s just lovely. Thankfully, there are LOTS of great seaside day trips from London, so you can make some memories of your own. From the old-fashioned charm of towns like Aldeburgh and Deal, to the beautiful sandy beaches of Camber and Bournemouth, and the bustling resort towns of Southend, Hastings and Weymouth, you’re bound to find somewhere you fancy visiting.
All of these are within one to three hours of London, by train or car. Timings are calculated from Central London but will vary depending on where you’re starting your journey from. I’ve divided them up according to their direction from London, but they span the coastline from Suffolk, through Kent, East and West Sussex and Dorset. There’s even a surprise entry right here in London!
Seaside Day Trips North East Of London
One of the most popular beach destinations in Suffolk, Felixstowe has four miles of sand and shingle beaches, stretching all the way from the Felixstowe Ferry to the Landguard Peninsula. It’s the perfect family day trip from London.
Head to Felixstowe South Beach where kids can splash in the sheltered bay or build a giant sandcastle on the shore. When you fancy a break from the beach, you can stop by one of the shops on the seafront and pick up an ice cream or some fish and chips! It’s great for photography too, with lots of colourful beach huts to snap photos of.
Drive from London: 1 hour 58
Train journey from London: Just over 2 hours
Train route from London: London Liverpool Street – Ipswich – Felixstowe
Aldeburgh has that traditional English seaside feel and is full of charm. Wander the old-fashioned promenade taking in views of the pastel coloured houses, in shades of yellow, blue and pink. Then watch the fishing boats coming and going from the shingle beach. The town itself is famous for its music and arts festival which takes place in June each year, and this is arguably the most cultural of all the seaside day trips from London.
Drive from London: 2 hours 20
Train journey from London: Over 3 hours
Train route from London: London Liverpool Street – Ipswich – Saxmundham, then a bus.
One of Essex’s premier seaside resorts, Clacton-on-Sea has everything you could need for a seaside day trip from London. There’s Clacton Pier, which has arcades, rides and plenty to keep little ones entertained. There’s a large sandy beach, which is spacious enough to spread out for a nice sunbathing session. Plus, the town has plenty of shops and restaurants to keep you entertained.
It’s fair to say that like many English seaside resorts, Clacton-on-Sea was bustling at the turn of the 1900s, and while it has grown a little tired over the years, there’s a lot of regeneration going on.
Drive from London: 1 hour 48
Train journey from London: 1 hour 26
Train route from London: Direct train from London Liverpool Street to Clacton-on-Sea
Mersea Island, Essex
How about visiting an island for seaside day trip from London? Mersea Island in Essex is eight miles square and sits within the Blackwater Estuary. The beaches on Mersea Island are a mix of sand and shingle. One of our favourite things to do on a day trip is walk along the Victoria Esplanade which is lined with colourful beach huts.
If you’re an adventure lover, you could go on a boat trip, try your hand at stand up paddle boarding, hire a kayak or learn how to sail. If you’re feeling peckish, you can’t beat the fresh seafood from The Company Shed in West Mersea.
Drive from London: 1 hour 41
Public transport from London: 2 hours 14 (trains and buses)
Public transport from London: London Liverpool Street – Colchester, then two buses. Drive if you can!
Seaside Day Trips East Of London
With the world’s longest pleasure pier, a vibrant seafront, and plenty of beautiful beaches, there are plenty of fun things to do in Southend-on-Sea. It’s another iconic seaside town, that was a popular holiday spot in Victorian times for upmarket city types.
In recent years, Southend has experienced a mini renaissance. It’s now a bustling seaside town with some excellent restaurants and a thriving local arts scene. Spend a few hours screaming on the rides at Adventure Island, head to the golden sands of the beach, enjoy a gourmet dinner at one of the town’s top restaurants or walk the Thames Estuary Path.
If you’re looking for the closest seaside day trips from London by train, then Southend is a great option, with direct trains taking under an hour. You can find out more about visiting in our guide to the top things to do in Southend.
Drive from London: 1 hour 15
Train journey from London: 51 minutes
Train route from London: Direct trains from London Fenchurch Street to Southend Central
Seaside Day Trips South East Of London
This cute town in Kent is one of the most popular seaside day trips from London. Part of the reason it’s such a favourite is how accessible it is. You can catch a direct train from London Victoria to Whitstable in under an hour and a half.
This adorable pebble beach town has lots to shout about. Famed for its fresh oysters, independent shops and photogenic beach huts, it’s a great spot to visit when the sun is shining. When you get peckish head to The Lobster Shack, Wheelers or The Whitstable Oyster Company for some of the best oysters in town.
Drive from London: 1 hour 34
Train journey from London: 1 hour 21
Train route from London: Direct train from London Victoria to Whitstable
One of my new favourite seaside day trips from London, Margate is full of surprises! I visited last year on a sunny day and enjoyed a day being a big kid at Dreamland – one of the UK’s oldest amusement parks, which has been lovingly restored in recent years. I screamed my way around the rollercoasters, yelped as I was dropped from dizzy heights, and enjoyed some great food in a colourful setting.
Margate has a huge beach too, and it’s another English seaside resort which feels like it’s on the up. Trendy vintage stores and antique shops share adjoining walls with hipster cafes and chic seafood restaurants.
On sunny days, you’ll find the beach packed with kids building sandcastles and paddling in the chilly English waters, while the grown-ups feast on fish and chips and read their latest holiday novels. For something a little more cultural, there’s Turner Contemporary – the town’s cultural hub, which showcases the best in modern art.
Drive from London: 1 hour 53
Train journey from London: 1 hour 38
Train route from London: Direct train from St Pancras International to Margate
Botany Bay, Kent
This incredible beach on the eastern corner of Broadstairs in Kent is home to some seriously surprising views. Wander the sandy beach at low tide and enjoy views of the impressive chalk stacks and epic white cliffs. When the tide is out, rock pools are revealed – which provides lots of fun for kids to explore.
At this time, you can also take a walk across to Joss Bay which is popular with surfers. It’s worth noting that some of the beach gets cut off at high tide, so check the timings before you venture off too far.
Drive from London: 1 hour 54
Public transport from London: 2 hours 8
Public transport route from London: Train from London St Pancras – Broadstairs by train, then catch a bus
Ramsgate is a pretty harbour town in Kent, and has a buzzy atmosphere, with lots of restaurants, cafes and bars dotted along the waterfront. The town has plenty of cute gift shops, as well as a lovely sandy beach. We love walking around the harbour, choosing our favourite yachts and imagining life on the high seas.
The chalk cliff coastline in this region is stunning for photography. It’s also a great place for water sports, with kayaking, sailing and kitesurfing all popular.
Drive from London: 1 hour 48
Train journey from London: 1 hour 24
Train route from London: Direct train from London St Pancras International to Ramsgate
I’ve mentioned Botany Bay, which is part of the Broadstairs coastline, but now it’s time to focus on the main town of Broadstairs. This is another fantastic seaside day trip from London, and was even Charles Dickens’ favourite holiday spot!
As well as a huge beach, there are kids rides on the seafront, a mini golf course, a few art galleries, charming cafes, independent shops and even an annual food festival.
Drive from London: 1 hour 50
Train journey from London: 1 hour 30
Train route from London: Direct train from London St Pancras International to Broadstairs
I’ll always remember visiting Deal with my Dad on a seaside day trip from London. The old town has a pier stretching out into the sea, and all the classic gift shops, fish and chip shops and places to buy ice cream. It doesn’t have the holiday resort brashness of places like Margate and Southend, so if you like the simpler things in life, it’s a lovely spot to visit.
If you like a bit of history you can walk along the beach to Deal Castle. Built for King Henry VIII, it’s one of the finest Tudor artillery castles in England.
Drive from London: 1 hour 51
Train journey from London: 1 hour 23
Train route from London: Direct trains from St Pancras International to Deal
Another lovely seaside town that has been regenerated and falls perfectly into ‘underrated’ territory! The town has a buzzy creative quarter filled with colourful stores selling art and gifts you never knew you needed. There’s Sunny Sands – a small sandy beach, and plenty of independent restaurants and quirky cafes dotted around the town.
It’s a town famed for its art scene, with a mermaid sculpture to rival Copenhagen’s and a cast iron statue of a human by Anthony Gormley, which stands looking out from under the Harbour Arm. It’s less of a seaside trip for sitting on a beach with a bucket and spade, but if you’re looking for good food and some creative places to explore, Folkestone is a fab option.
Drive from London: 1 hour 30
Train journey from London: 53 minutes
Train route from London: Direct trains from St Pancras International to Folkestone
Dover isn’t a classic option for an English beach trip, but it’s a great one if you like hiking. It’s a port town, with ferries leaving for Calais throughout the day. The town is famed for its white cliffs and history. Spend the day getting out of London, exploring the beautiful coastal landscapes with a hike over those pearly white cliffs, before taking a tour of Dover Castle.
Oh, and don’t forget to look out, you might just spot France across the English Channel!
Drive from London: 1 hour 58
Train journey from London: 1 hour 14
Train route from London: Direct trains from St Pancras International to Dover
Camber Sands, East Sussex
Unlike many of the beaches in Sussex, Camber is covered in beautiful golden sand, and is also home to some pretty dunes. It’s often referred to as one of the best beaches in the UK, and thankfully, also boasts some of the best weather too! Kids will adore this beach – it’s a great one for building giant sandcastles or having a paddle in the waves.
While the beach is long and wide, it’s known for being pretty windy. In fact, it’s the strong winds that attract top wind surfers and kite surfers to the area. There are a few holiday parks located right on the beach, plus some gorgeous holiday cottages for a longer break.
Drive from London: 2 hours 6
Public transport journey from London: 1 hour 37
Public transport route from London: St Pancras International – Ashford International – Rye then a bus to Camber Sands
Hastings, East Sussex
Hastings is one of my favourite seaside day trips from London. I’ve been twice in the last few years and have loved exploring all the things you can do there. Hastings is like a more rugged cousin of Brighton! It’s got the kooky cafes, street art and independent stores… but it’s got a bit more too!
There’s the old funicular railway going up the cliff, a huge crazy golf course out by the beach, a pier lined with candy-coloured beach huts and an area of fisherman’s huts where you can pick up the freshest seafood in town.
If you’ve visited Brighton a million times, give Hastings a go next! Watch out for the seagulls though – last time I visited one swooped down and plucked my ice cream out of my hand!
Drive from London: 2 hours
Train journey from London: 1 hour 27
Train route from London: Direct trains from London Bridge or Victoria (slower trains from Victoria)
Seaside Day Trips South Of London
Eastbourne, East Sussex
One of the most popular seaside day trips from London, Eastbourne has it all: a Victorian pier, a three-mile long beach and plenty to do when the sun is shining. If you don’t fancy relaxing on the beach, you could walk to Birling Gap to see the beautiful chalk cliffs at Beachy Head and Seven Sisters (more on that coming up).
Or, you could enjoy some live music at the Eastbourne Bandstand, which has the nickname ‘the busiest bandstand on planet earth (unless you know better)’!
One of the best seaside activities in Eastbourne? Sitting on the bumpy pebbles of the beach, with fish and chips lathered with salt and vinegar, sweating slightly through the paper they’re wrapped in. Nothing beats it! Just avoid the hungry seagulls…
Drive from London: 2 hours 17
Train journey from London: 1 hour 23
Train route from London: Direct trains from Victoria to Eastbourne
Birling Gap, East Sussex
If you’ve always wanted to take in the stunning views of the chalk cliffs at Beachy Head and Seven Sisters, then this is the seaside day trip from London for you. Birling Gap is the National Trust area located on the South Downs coast, and is a great spot from which to start a hike along the South Downs Way or enjoy the nature reserve. There’s a café too, so grab an ice cream and fuel up before your walk.
If you’re craving some beach time, you can get down to Birling Gap Beach. Head down the steps and you’ll feel just how vast the chalk cliffs are as you stand at the base looking up. It’s worth noting the cliffs here are known for occasional rock falls, so don’t get too close.
Drive from London: 2 hours 15
Train journey from London: No direct routes so driving is recommended, or you could walk from Eastbourne
Brighton, East Sussex
The ultimate seaside day trip from Brighton, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to this vibrant seaside town. It’s one of the best seaside day trips from London by train (only takes an hour!) which makes it seriously popular when the sun is shining. In fact, we love it so much we highlighted it as one of the best places to visit on our 10-day England itinerary!
There’s so much to do in Brighton. There’s the pier which is crammed full of terrifying rides, noisy amusement arcades and food outlets wafting the sickly scent of donuts through the air. There’s the mammoth pebbly beach, lined with little art galleries, gift shops and restaurants. There’s the i360 – a tourist attraction which offers great views of the area. Plus, there are some absolutely gorgeous hotels along the seafront, perfect for longer breaks.
Then there’s the main town area, where you’ll find endless wiggly streets with independent stores, quirky cafes and fabulous local restaurants. Shop for vintage jewellery, bohemian clothing and vegan delights in The Lanes and North Laine. There’s a reason everyone loves Brighton, it’s just as great as it sounds, and it’ll have you coming back for more, time and time again.
Drive from London: 1 hour 50
Train journey from London: 1 hour
Train route from London: Direct trains from London Bridge and Victoria to Brighton
Worthing, West Sussex
With its wide promenade and pier, you could be fooled into thinking Worthing is just another English seaside town, but there’s a little more going on than you might expect. It’s home to one of the oldest working cinemas in the UK, has some cool microbreweries and the beach huts here aren’t just used by tourists, some are the quirky studios of local artists.
Head to Warwick Street, Portland Road and Rowlands Road for a range of quirky and independent shops. Or take a walk down Tarring High Street to see the town’s historic architecture.
Drive from London: 1 hour 55
Train journey from London: 1 hour 27
Train route from London: Direct trains from Victoria to Worthing
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
Oh Bognor, how ridiculed you’ve been over the years, but we feel it’s unfair! Bognor Regis is a proper summer holiday town on the south coast of England. Think candy floss, fish and chips, amusement arcades and a great beach. I guess some of its naf reputation has come from the Butlins Resort, located to the east of the town.
We say, leave your expectations in London and head to the coast for a day of out and out fun. Bognor Regis is officially one of the sunniest towns in the entire country, so what better place for a day on the beach!
Drive from London: 2 hours 5
Train journey from London: 1 hour 45
Train route from London: Direct trains from London Victoria to Bognor Regis
Seaside Day Trips South West Of London
West Wittering, West Sussex
If all you want is a sandy beach close to London, West Wittering is a great option. It’s one of the best Blue Flag beaches in the country, known for the highest water quality and top facilities. Kids will love playing on the sand and running in and out of the water. It’s popular with swimmers too.
There are some great views from the beach areas. You can see Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight across the water, as well as Chichester Harbour and the South Downs. It doesn’t have the fairground appeal of the resort spots around the coast, but it’s one of the best sandy beaches in England.
Drive from London: 2 hours
Public transport journey from London: 2 hours 20
Public transport from London: London Victoria – Chichester then a bus to West Wittering
One of the most popular beach breaks in England, Bournemouth has four Blue Flag beaches – Alum Chine, Durley Chine, Fisherman’s Walk and Southbourne. The area boasts some of the warmest sea temperatures in the UK, so it’s one of the few places you might feel confident taking a dip!
There’s loads to do in Bournemouth too including crazy golf at Smuggler’s Cove, the amusement arcades along the seafront, the Oceanarium, the cliff lift and even the town’s iconic land train. It’s the perfect place for some good, old fashioned seaside fun!
Drive from London: 2 hours 9
Train journey from London: 2 hours 2
Train route from London: Direct trains from London Waterloo to Bournemouth
Located just south of Bournemouth, with easy access to the stunning Dorset coast, Poole has long been one of southern England’s premier tourist destinations.
This classy town sits on the largest natural harbour in the United Kingdom, and is packed with quaint winding streets, beautiful buildings, and great shops. There are so many things to do in Poole, from water sports and walking, to enjoying a lovely meal on the waterfront or enjoying some a play at the world-class arts centre. You can find out more about visiting this great seaside town in our guide to the top things to do in Poole.
Drive from London: 2 hours 22
Train journey from London: 2 hours 13
Train route from London: Direct trains from London Waterloo to Poole
If you’re looking for an upmarket seaside day trip from London, head to Sandbanks. This small peninsula crosses the mouth of Poole Harbour and has boasts some of the softest sand in England. It’s a wealthy area, with lots of luxurious mansions and holiday apartments lining the seafront.
In the warmer months, Sandbanks is the ideal place to spend a day. You’ll find everything you need, including shops selling beach toys and ice creams, as well as companies offering all kinds of water-sports and activities in the bay.
Try your hand at crazy golf or volleyball, or simply lie back on a deckchair and soak up the rays. For lovers of gourmet food, there’s even a Rick Stein restaurant in Sandbanks.
Drive from London: 2 hours 20
Public transport from London: 2 hours 35
Public transport route from London: London Waterloo – Bournemouth by train, then catch the No.50 bus
Weymouth is another great English beach destination, and while it’s a little further away than some on this list, it’s about as far as we’d recommend going for a seaside day trip from London.
If you’re trying to find activities to keep the whole family entertained, it’s a great option. There’s a huge beach, adventure golf course, SeaLife Centre and a pretty harbour area with colourful buildings. When we last visited Weymouth, we hired a kayak and headed out for a paddle. It was lovely to see the start of the Jurassic Coast from another angle!
Drive from London: 2 hours 40
Train journey from London: 2 hours 41
Train route from London: Direct trains from London Waterloo
Seaside Day Trips In London
And finally, a beach right here in London…
Ruislip Lido, North West London
I discovered Ruislip Lido last summer. My sister moved to the area and heard about somewhere with a ‘beach’ nearby. I couldn’t quite believe it when we turned up at Ruislip Lido. It really did feel like being at the beach. Families were scattered on the sand, kids building sandcastles while the adults relaxed and read books.
The reservoir has an artificial beach plus an adorable miniature railway, which goes from the car park to the main beach area. If you have kids this is a great day trip in London.
Drive from Central London: 45 minutes
Public transport from Central London: Around an hour. Catch the Piccadilly Line to Ruislip then the H13 bus.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these amazing seaside day trips from London. Let us know where you decide to go, or if you’ve got any favourite spots that we haven’t mentioned.
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