The Best Beaches in England

England may not be the first place that comes to mind when you're brainstorming a beach vacation. But if you're looking for a change of pace, the destination just might surprise you.

Porthcurno Beach
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England's beautiful coastline is a perfect palate cleanser after a few days in London or castle-hopping in the countryside. Whether you’re hoping to cool off with a dip, sample incredibly fresh seafood, or just enjoy long walks on the shore, these English beaches offer something for everyone.

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall

The clear green waters and pristine sands of Porthcurno are the next best thing to a Mediterranean vacation. Rocky cliffs jutting out into the surrounding sea shelter the beach itself from swells, making it a haven for swimmers and snorkelers. Keep an eye out for the dolphins and seals that occasionally visit the area. And once you’ve reached your daily limit of sun and sand, be sure to catch a show at the Minack Theatre just up the cliffs — no set design can beat the backdrop of a full moon over the ocean at this open-air theater.

Durdle Door Beach, Dorset
(c) Chris Hepburn

Durdle Door, Dorset

This strip of England's Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers the perfect spot for an off-season beach getaway. Even when it’s too chilly to swim, you can stroll along the cliffs and take in unmatched views of Dorset’s craggy coastline. Pause for a clifftop photo-op of Durdle Door, the limestone arch that’s appeared in the television show Dr. Who, the movie Far From the Madding Crowd, and the music video for Tears for Fears' Shout, then hike down to the pebble beach for an oceanfront picnic.

Fistral Beach
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Fistral Beach, Cornwall

If you’re hoping to hang 10, Fistral Beach is one of the best spots in England for catching a few waves. With plenty of rental facilities and surf schools, and lifeguards on duty all summer, Fistral is a first-rate location for rookies and experienced surfers alike. Not up for a swim in the bracing waters of the Atlantic? Come during one of the many surfing competitions throughout the year — a wide expanse of sand offers prime real estate for blanket lounging and picnicking as you watch the pros ride the waves.

Mersea island beach huts
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West Mersea Beach, Essex

The sleepy haunt of Mersea Island draws day trippers from across Essex with its unblemished saltwater marsh landscape and laid-back beaches. And it’s worth a detour even if you’re not in the region: coastal charm abounds at West Mersea Beach, where rows of colorful pastel beach huts lining the shore ensure plenty of Instagram opportunities and a picture-perfect setting for long walks. After you’ve worked up an appetite with your walk, stop by the Company Shed, an unpretentious seafood shack where you can toss back all the oysters and freshly-caught fish you want.

England, Isles of Scilly, St Martin's. Children playing on the beach at Great Bay.
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Great Bay, St. Martin’s, Isles of Scilly

Some 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, with their clear blue waters and white sand beaches, are reminiscent of the Caribbean. And on the island of St. Martin’s, Great Bay is a particular standout for beach-goers in search of solitude. With fewer than 150 inhabitants on the isle, you’re almost guaranteed to have a quiet strip of shore to yourself. Start with a pit stop at St. Martin’s Vineyard & Winery on the south side of the island to snag a bottle of wine, then spend the afternoon sipping and sunbathing on the sand at Great Bay.

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