Is there anything better on a warm day than a trip to the seaside? That was a rhetorical question, because of course there isn’t – and fortunately for those of us who live in Surrey, we live within easy driving range of some of the best beaches in the country.
Although our county doesn’t have any coastline of its own, a short trip south provides a huge range of options. From the crowded pebbles of Brighton to the golden dunes of Camber Sands, we’re never more than a quick car journey away from dipping our toes in the English Channel.
Places like Kent and Dorset have plenty of coastal gems to explore, but for the sake of this list we’ve limited ourselves to places that are within 50 (ish) miles of at least some part of Surrey. That means our list contains places in Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex.
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Warm weather is on the way, so it’s time to throw on some shorts, dig out your bucket and spade, and start planning your day out at one of these ten beautiful destinations:
1. West Wittering Beach, West Sussex
Rated by website The Beach Guide as the best beach in the country, West Wittering really does have it all. A glorious sandy beach complete with colourful beach huts that are available to hire, it also benefits from 5,000 parking spaces to help make it easily accessible by road.
Besides sunbathing, there are plenty of activities to keep the family entertained including snorkelling and surfing. The area is also popular with bird-watchers during some of the year, because waders and wildfowl visit in large numbers while migrating.
2. Camber Sands, East Sussex
This one only just squeezes into our 50-mile radius, but it would be mad to leave it out. Unlike most Sussex beaches, Camber Sands includes what the name suggests – sand!
The western end of the beach, by the mouth of the River Rother, is particularly sandy – but there are more than five miles along which you can choose to plant your deck chair. Surprisingly, the crowds often aren’t too bad even in the summer, and there are plenty of activities including donkey rides, windsurfing and kite surfing.
3. Lepe Beach, Hampshire
Part of the stunning Lepe Country Park, the beach here is a mixture of sand and shingle. Situated just a short drive from Southampton, the park also includes some beautiful forest walks.
For history buffs, the beach also displays the remains of structures that were used to help launch ships for the D-Day landings in World War Two. It’s a fascinating and varied day out, which we cannot recommend enough.
4. Climping Beach, West Sussex
A must for Doctor Who fans, Climping Beach was a filming location for the popular BBC show during a couple of episodes in the show’s early years. Found between Littlehampton and Bognor, the beach is mostly pebbly but there are some sandy areas when the tide is out.
Wooden groynes stretch out into the sea at regular intervals to keep the pebbles in place and prevent erosion, but this doesn’t detract too much from what is otherwise a tremendous Sussex beauty spot. In fact, the nearby sand dunes have been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
5. Milford-on-Sea Beach, Hampshire
A beautiful little spot just outside the New Forest National Park, the pebble beach at Milford-on-Sea is a great place to visit. As well as a play area next to the beach, additional facilities include two cafes and an ice cream kiosk.
There are great views of the Isle of Wight from the beach, and you can also visit nearby Hurst Castle, which was built by Henry VIII. It costs less than £5 to tour the old building, which was once one of the most advanced artillery fortresses in England.
6. Birling Gap, East Sussex
Found between the seaside towns of Brighton and Eastbourne, Birling Gap is the starting point for a beautiful hike along the tops of the chalk cliffs known as the Seven Sisters. The beach itself is mostly pebbles, and there are plenty of rock pools to explore at low tide.
There is ample parking at the car park by the National Trust cafe, and the beach is a good spot for kayaking or even surfing when the weather conditions are right. On a nice day with blue skies, the view of the sea and the cliffs here really is a sight to behold.
7. Littlehampton Beach, West Sussex
For those who are less interested in a remote stretch of beach and more attracted to the full seaside resort experience, Littlehampton may just be the best bet. The beach itself is a mixture of sand and shingle, and is perfect for sandcastles when the tide pulls back.
But there’s much more to see and do, too. A theme park, amusement arcades, crazy golf courses – Littlehampton delivers everything you expect from the quintessential English seaside town.
8. Hill Head Beach, Hampshire
Directly across the Solent from the Isle of Wight, Hill Head is one of the best places to just sit and watch the boats passing through one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. It’s also another great spot for bird-watchers, thanks to the nearby Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve.
A popular fishing spot, the beach also offers an array of water-sports including sailing, kitesurfing and windsurfing. The beach is just west of Portsmouth, making it an easy drive down the A3 from Surrey.
9. Brighton Beach, East Sussex
An obvious choice perhaps, but still an essential one to include: even more than Littlehampton, Brighton Beach is the place to go for those looking to do more with their day out than simply sunbathe. Of course it gets busy, especially during the summer, but there’s a reason why: from the endless seafront fish and chip shops to the world-famous pier, there is never a dull moment in Brighton.
Sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, wakeboarding and paddle-boarding are all readily available activities, but for those who want to look at the water rather than be in it, there’s also the Sea Life Centre, which dates back to 1872 and is believed to be the oldest aquarium in the world.
10. Stokes Bay, Hampshire
Found close to the village of Alverstoke, one of the advantages of Stokes Bay is that it has a grass area just next to the beach that is perfect for barbecues in warm weather. It’s also a popular choice for swimmers and for anyone wishing to go sailing, canoeing or other water sports.
Found in Gosport, just across the harbour from Portsmouth, it is within easy reach of plenty of shops and restaurants. It’s also next to picturesque Stanley Park, where you can watch an array of wildlife including many species of birds.