Overflowing with world history and enchanting scenery, the small yet mighty country of England boasts a bounty of beautiful beaches and seaside towns that can rival its other United Kingdom neighbors - Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Not particularly well known as a beach vacation destination, most tourists to England don't really take into account its sandy shores and picturesque coastal towns, instead favoring famed tourist traps on the beaten track.
However, in lieu of giving all one's attention to this charming British nation's national parks, rolling countryside, historic towns, and world-famous cities, popping to enjoy a day out at any of its exquisite oceanfronts are guaranteed to enrich any Anglophile's holiday to England, notably, in summer. So, give the sought-after likes of London, Harry Potter, and Buckingham Palace a rest, and check out these stunning shorelines on the road less traveled instead, all of which are just as worthy of holidaymakers' time as England's globally-famed and most visited treasures.
10 Holkham Beach, Norfolk
Holkham Beach is widely cited as one of the best in Norfolk, and even more impressively, England. The divine golden and white sands are seemingly endless, with the sea feeling like a world away at low tide. Despite its popularity and an esteemed reputation, visitors can find their very own tranquil spot at Holkham Beach, even in summer. And even when bored of the dog-and-kid friendly sand and sea, beach-goers have a wealth of photogenic scenery and nature-riddled spots to explore amidst the golden sand dunes, intriguing salt marshes, and the Holkham Pines, which is a huge area of pine trees full of wildlife. Managed by Natural England and the Holkham Estate, this whole 11-mile area on Norfolk's coast is part of a National Nature Reserve, and hosts lots of habitats for rare animal and plant species.
Bizarrely though, Holkham Beach has suffered a dose of strange controversy over it being a naturist beach. Indecency was indeed banned previously, though the ban was challenged and lifted after British Naturism threatened legal action. However, the ban is still in place in the sand dunes behind the beach, so visitors not in any hurry to see Brits in birthday suits will find solace in knowing their eyes are safe in the small sandy hills (though who would want to be in the buff at a chilly British beach anyway?)
Changing the subject to something more heart-warming, Holkham Beach's wild, raw beauty, and appeal have been noticed many a time by the movie industry. It was used in the final scenes of Shakespeare in Love, where Gwyneth Paltrow walked across the sands at low tide and has also appeared in numerous other films and TV series, including The Avengers, The Eagle Has Landed, and Kingdom to name but a mere few.
9 Filey Beach, Yorkshire
One of Yorkshire's favorite traditional seaside resorts is Filey, with its peaceful atmosphere and lush scenery that lacks the commerciality of many of its neighboring East Coast towns and beaches. Filey Beach is glorious for playing, sandcastles, walking, kite-flying, and horse riding, with its lengthy five miles of golden sands stretching from Filey Brigg - a brilliant birdwatching spot - to Bempton.
The seafront promenade also showcases a series of artworks inspired by local natural heritage - much of which is fishing-oriented. Visitors can still observe fishermen on the job here, mending nets and casting them into the sea from their traditional coble boats. Furthermore, when the tide goes out at Filey Beach, a larger section of sand appears, which exposes an array of fun rock pools where kids can enjoy exploring and critter hunting. In terms of doggies, many parts of the beach do welcome four-legged friends, but there are signed parts where they're not allowed from May to the end of September.
8 Birling Gap Beach, East Sussex
Birling Gap is nestled between the famous and popular seaside resorts of Eastbourne and Brighton, though despite, it is in fact one of the south coast's longest lengths of undeveloped shorelines, made even more magical by its position right at the base of impressive sheer chalk cliffs - known as the Seven Sisters - towering up to 162 meters above the English Channel in some parts. Staggering and mighty, these stupefying cliffs with their stacked sedimentary layers are actually eroding fast by up to a meter a year, which also puts the enchanting cottages atop at risk of being swallowed by the sea.
Forget about the doom and gloom for a moment though, for beach guests have the lovely National Trust café to indulge in a sumptuous snack, let go of their woes, and look out at the spectacular shore and ocean that invites for swimming, surfing, kayaking, and kite-surfing. Accessed via a tower staircase from cliff level and mostly made up of pebbles with the odd sandy spot, the beach is also a prolific fossil hunting spot, and additionally, its low tide provides rocky platforms full of exciting rock pools ripe for exploration and creature spotting.
7 Bamburgh Castle Beach, Northumberland
Like many of the gorgeous shorelines in this list, Bamburgh Beach boasts soft sands superb for sandcastle building, sunbathing, playing beach games, and rock pool exploration - the best area at which to do the latter is the beach's north reach where a small lighthouse marks the spot. Overall, those who relish long, windy, and scenic strolls and dog walks will love visiting all year round, while summer is the best time for swimming, paddling, and getting wet. The beach also offers surf hire and lessons thanks to its excellent waves and is considered one of the most consistent surfing zones on the region's coast.
Behind the beach, Sandy Hills dunes are prime for photography and wildlife watching, and where interested beach-goers can enjoy scoping out myriads of diverse fauna and flora, as well as a number of rare insects. As such, it's really no wonder that this area was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest. But what truly sets Bamburgh aside from its sandy sisters is the majestic Bamburgh Castle - once a Norman stronghold tower, the notable structure overlooks the wide and far-reaching expanse of unspoiled, sandy beach complemented by a darling backdrop of sand dunes.
Dating back to the 6th century, Bamburgh Castle gives visitors their fascinating fix of English history, and even kids are kept intrigued by its extensive collection of historic arms and armor. Further history is just opposite the beach, where the Inner Farne Islands lie and were once home to the hermits and monks of the 7th century right up until the 16th century when the monasteries were dissolved. Still not enough history? Well, another noteworthy fact about Bamburgh Beach is that it's where the world's first-ever lifeboat was developed and tested.
6 Brancaster Beach, Norfolk
With its flat golden sands and vast areas of pristine beach, Brancaster's miles upon miles of extraordinary unspoiled shores are a year-round favorite. Perfect for hikes, sandcastles, kite-flying, and paddling no matter the season, singles, couples, and families with kids alike all rate this seaside treasure highly. Aside from the huge amounts of space available, Brancaster Beach is also popular for its kitesurfing, windsurfing, and sand buggies, which make for a brilliant day at the coast. It also has fantastic facilities, such as a beach kiosk and no lack of parking, all made better by the fact that it's one of Norfolk's most dog-friendly beaches - Fido is welcome year-round here.
As part of the Brancaster Estate, which is owned by the National Trust, it's no surprise that this extremely well-maintained beach with its tidal salt marshes of Scolt Head is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It's even also home to historic attractions such as the shipwreck of the SS Vina, which is buried in the sand and becomes partly exposed at low tide - sounds awesome, right? However, it does present danger; to boats due to it resting near a channel; and to beach visitors who often walk out to inspect it but then get stuck once the tide comes racing in.
5 Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Situated two miles north of Lizard Point and only a ten-minute stroll from the National Trust car park, this seaside gem is a unique one, because aside from its shimmering turquoise sea and almost-white sands that put it in the realms of even the most jaw-dropping paradisiac beaches in the tropics, it features amazing serpentine rock formations unseen anywhere else in the country - so bringing a camera on one's day out here is an absolute must.
If swimming and sunbathing here are far too much zen, the area also offers thrill-seekers the chance to take up surfing, after which a hearty English meal at the cafés or restaurants nearby will definitely complete the trip. Plus, dog walkers can rejoice as well: man's best friend is allowed at Kynance Cover outside of the spring/summer season from the beginning of October until Easter.
4 Woolacombe Beach, Devon
The award-winning Woolacombe Beach is unsurprisingly known as one of the UK's very best beaches. It's nestled on the north coast of Devon between Croyde and Ilfracombe and consists of a three-mile sandy length attracting both surfers and water sports fans, and relaxation-seeking beach-goers. Set right by the village of Woolacombe at the northern end of the beach, it benefits from being perfectly situated, with nearby cafés, restaurants, traditional pubs, cute shops, and quintessentially British B&Bs just a stone's throw away. Dogs are allowed on the beach in specified areas all year too, however, they are banned from some of the zoned areas from May to October.
Previously owned by the Chichester family for over 800 years, Woolacombe Beach has been privately owned by Parkin Estates since 1848, who continue to manage and maintain it exceptionally well - it boasts world-class services including many beach huts for rent, lifeguards, and is even cleaned daily. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking, jet skiing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing here too once they're tired of swimming, strolling, and enjoying the sensational scenery of sand dunes and Lundy Island in the distance. Interestingly, the beach was used as an amphibious landing training spot for US soldiers in World War II, who practiced and prepared for the Normandy Landings here. Visitors can search for and inspect the stone memorial dedicated to the soldiers, which rests on a grassy headland at the north end of this golden bay.
3 Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall
This is a simply stunning beach surrounded by epic picture-postcard rocks and cliffs, and it's easy to see why it has won so many awards. Clear sky blue water perfect for swimming and surfing, and golden-white powdery sand that joins with two other sandy stretches at low tide, creating an inviting sun-colored seaside expanse extending the entire length between the Minack Theatre and Logan Rock.
Accessed from a large car park, the attractive Porthcurno Beach - that wouldn't look out of place in the Caribbean - is the ultimate place in England for sunbathing, strolling, picnicking, swimming, and beach games, drawing in everyone throughout the seasons with summer being the most popular time to visit. It's also a brilliant site for dog walkers, though dogs are only permitted from around October to April's Easter time.
2 West Wittering, West Sussex
West Wittering at Chichester Harbour's mouth comprises a picturesque sloping sandy beach, which lies within a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Along the soft sands and undulating sand dunes are characterful beach huts for rent, where sunbathers and swimmers can seek refuge from the sun and wind. Facing the Solent and the Isle of Wight, this spot is immensely scenic and perfect for photography, so don't forget a camera - no matter what. Dogs are allowed on the beach, however, pet owners should note that there are dog-free zones set up from May to September.
Despite being fairly undeveloped, the beach has superb facilities, such as showers, deck chair hire, parking, a café, and even surf lessons on offer. And with lifeguards on duty in summer, there's no excuse not to try out surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing in between sunbathing, swimming, and paddling. Plus, kids always love the beach's shallow lagoons of water ideal for playing and splashing in when the tide retreats. Not just for beach bunnies either, West Wittering is also a fantastic spot for bird-watching, with many interesting bird species visiting the area during their migratory season.
1 Shell Bay, Dorset
Sitting at the tip of the National Trust-owned Studland Peninsula, the enticing Shell Bay is one of the area's most breathtaking sandy beaches. Summer often brings crowds who flock to enjoy this seaside's alluring beauty, temping water, and fabulous facilities, however, the rest of the year sees it as its crowd-free opposite: a peaceful, tranquil retreat evoking a sense of being in the English wilderness, where long extensions of mesmeric sand dunes decorate the coastline of Shell Bay - named after the abundance of pretty shells that used to be found often here (and still are with a little effort involved).
When finished paddling, sunbathing, swimming, fishing, windsurfing, and picnicking, the Shell Bay Seafood Restaurant is a sublime way to end the day. This Michelin-listed establishment not only offers hungry beach-goers mouth-watering food (including some comforting English favorites), it also delivers unbeatable views out over Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island. Lastly, Shell Bay's title as one of England's best beaches is solidified further: it's one of Dorset's most canine-friendly. Dog lovers rejoice, for all dogs are welcome from 1st October to 30th April without restriction, followed by a mandatory on-leash rule from 1st May until 30th September.