London is the best city in the world, no matter the season – yes, we’re shamelessly biassed. But come summer, we can’t help but dream of beaches, nature walks and a little slice of “somewhere else” to fill our sunny days.
Thankfully, there are countless amazing day trips from London. So even if you have to be in the office the next day, you can still spend a day at the beach and feel as if you’ve just been on holiday.
Every destination on this list can be visited in a day via train or car. We’ve selected 9 spots to explore, but please note that this list is not exhaustive. If you’re interested in a city day trip, options such as Cambridge, Oxford, Bath, or Canterbury might better suit your preferences. Meanwhile, we’ll be enjoying some time at the beach.
Brighton needs no introduction. London-on-Sea, as it’s sometimes called, has been the playground of Londoners looking for some beach time for decades. One of the best LGBTQ+ spots in the UK, Brighton is an indie paradise full of independent shops, cute cafés, and top-notch restaurants and bars. A trip to the pier is a must, and so is a look at the Royal Pavilion, built by King George IV in 1787.
Let’s head east along the coast and explore Hastings. This historic town boasts miles of beach and is renowned for the Battle of Hastings, which took place in 1066 in the nearby town of Battle. Take a tour of the remains of William the Conqueror’s castle and experience a ride on the East Hill Cliff Railway – the steepest funicular still in operation in the UK. Make sure not to overlook a visit to the pier and an opportunity to delve into pirate legends at Smugglers Adventure.
Interested in a trip to the Cotswolds while desiring a coastal stay? Rye is the ideal destination for you. Its cobblestone lanes, vintage shops, and an abundance of delectable seafood will ensure a fulfilling day. Explore the charming Tiny Book Store, discover The Chapel Down vineyard, or relax on the adjacent Camber Sands for a delightful beach outing.
The solitary desert in Britain happens to be a beach! This eerie nature reserve is scattered with shipwrecks, and although it might appear an unusual choice for a day out, it truly is a rewarding experience. Keep an eye out for birds, explore the intriguing “sound mirrors” dating back to the First World War, and savour a meal at the renowned Dungeness Snack Shack.
The charming town of Deal is an ideal destination for a day trip. With its castle, Georgian houses, excellent shops, restaurants, and, naturally, a pier and beach, it offers a well-rounded experience. Its comparative lack of popularity compared to some other locations on this list means you might be able to avoid the crowds often found in Brighton or Margate.
6. Margate / Ramsgate / Broadstairs
Speaking of Margate, the “new Brighton” has witnessed a remarkable surge in popularity in recent years. The iconic indie band, The Libertines, has a pub/hotel located here, and it appears that everyone flocks to Margate Main Sands as soon as the sun makes an appearance. While you’re in the area, it’s worth considering a visit to Broadstairs and Ramsgate. The Dickens House Museum provides an ideal opportunity to embrace some culture before settling down once again on the sandy shores.
If oysters are your desire, Whitstable is undoubtedly a splendid choice. Embark on a leisurely stroll or cycle along the five-mile Oyster Bay Trail by the seafront, indulge in a hearty seafood feast, and enjoy a refreshing beverage right on the beach. Notably, Whitstable boasts one of the scarce beaches in the UK where a pub is conveniently nestled amidst the shingles – an opportunity not to be missed.
8. Mersea Island
The United Kingdom’s easternmost inhabited island, the causeway connecting Mersea Island to the mainland, is subject to flooding, so it’s advisable to monitor the tides closely. The Company Shed attracts visitors from distant places with its enticing seafood platters. Engage in crabbing – a catch-and-release activity – and embark on a boat excursion around the bay to fully embrace the experience.
9. New Forest
If the seaside doesn’t pique your interest, you can still relish a splendid day trip from London. Venture into nature and explore the ponies of the New Forest. Here, you’ll encounter free-roaming Highland cattle and pigs. It’s worth noting that the animals hold the right of way in this area, so be sure to slow down!