England, UK, Wanderlust

Beaches near London: the best sandy beaches in Sussex

There’s one thing about living in London that I’d change: the total lack of coastline. Whether it’s a sunny day that’s made for sandcastle building or a clear blue winter day for walking by the waves, when the craving comes over me, the only decision is which of the beaches near London I should drive to.

Girl making sandcastles on Camber Sands beach in East Sussex - spending a weekend in East Sussex with my daughter before the start of school, to explore the history and coastline

Heading to the Kent beaches is always a favourite option, including Whitstable, Herne Bay and Broadstairs, while I love the Isle of Wight too. But closer and just as tempting is Sussex – both East and West Sussex beaches.

And although I never say no to a day trip to Brighton, there’s just one drawback; no sandcastles on that particular stony beach. So instead, we’ve tracked down the best sandy beaches in Sussex for a family day out.

East Sussex beaches: Camber Sands

When I wanted a last seaside holiday before my daughter started school, we headed to gorgeous Camber Sands where the sand seems to go on and on for ever – especially at low tide. Backed by dunes which beg to be scrambled up and down, especially when you’re four, there are also tide pools for non-swimmers to splash in (or if you don’t want to walk out to the waves).

a view of the beach at Camber Sands in East Sussex - spending a weekend in East Sussex with my daughter before the start of school, to explore the history and coastline

And while it’s understandably popular, five miles of beach means there’s always a spot to make your own, along with lifeguards in the summer months. It’s worth checking out the tide times if you want to swim – it’s quite a walk to the waves at low tide.

As well as cafes in Camber itself (and Rye just a few miles away), there’s one right on the beach which is open year round. And dogs are allowed year-round, although on a lead and in restricted zones from May to September.

East Sussex beaches: Broomhill Sands

Broomhill sits just east of Camber Sands – and while it isn’t as well known, or have quite the same picturesque setting in the dunes, it also means it tends to be quieter.

Another sand and shingle beach which stretches off into the distance at low tide, there’s no lifeguard facility. There is a kitesurfing centre, and it’s often popular with sand buggies too but has fewer facilities than Camber (you might find an ice cream van but no cafe unless you walk up the beach).

A view to Hastings and its beach and pier - the best sandy beaches in East Sussex

East Sussex beaches: Hastings

You need to time your visit right to get the sand here, with shingle at high tide – but as the waves recede, there’s space for sandcastles among the stone. Pelham Beach is Hastings’ family beach, with eight colourful sea creature signs to help children locate their parents.

Take a wander along the front towards Rock-a-Nore beach and you’ll find the Blue Reef Aquarium too, or wander towards the pier where there are activities for families during the year. The beach is right in the heart of the town, so best if you’re looking for more to do than sandcastles – perfect if you want an hour or two on the sand between exploring, but don’t expect to be able to spend all day enjoying the sand.

West Sussex beaches: Littlehampton

A mix of shingle and sand, Littlehampton is a beach of two halves. On the eastern end, the classic British seaside, groynes separating the banks of sand and souvenirs, doughnuts and ice cream stalls lining the front – not to mention a little train which tootles up and down.

Warm enough for an early September paddle, my daughter splashed delightedly before we built a sand fortress and slowly retreated up the beach as the tide came in. Home to the UK’s longest bench, part place to sit, part art sculpture with its bright colours and swirling loops, you can also treat yourself with a glass of wine over lunch at the family-friendly East Beach Cafe.

My daughter plays on the beach at Littlehampton, with the groynes in the background - one of the best sandy beaches in West Sussex

The building is sculpted to look like a piece of driftwood. Or a shell, we thought. But either way a talking point before you tuck into anything from fish and chips to crab linguini (plus there’s a takeaway).

Across the river Arun – hop over with the ferry during the summer or take a harbour tour – it’s also a mix of sand and shingle, but with sand dunes that have seen it named a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It’s also one of the best dog friendly beaches in Sussex, where they are welcome all year.

West Sussex beaches: Bognor Regis

The big question is which of Bognor’s beaches do you fancy? The long expanse of shingle and sand is divided into sections, so whether you’re looking for a quieter stretch or the cafes and Butlins on the doorstep, you can pick your stretch.

In the centre, East Beach and West Beach run either side of the pier – East Beach has its own little tourist train that kids love, like Littlehampton, and several cafes selling fish and chips or ice cream, right on the water. At high tide, you’ll only see the shingle but there’s sand at low tide.

Further west, Aldwick Beach, not far from Marine Park Gardens, is much quieter – you’ll find beach huts and it’s popular with dog walkers, especially during summer when there are restrictions on other stretches of the coast here. There’s more shingle than sand here though.

West Sussex beaches: West Wittering

There’s a reason cars queue to get into the car park in summer time – another of those endless stretches of sand that Sussex specialises in, looking out to Chichester harbour, as well as the South Downs.

A Blue Flag beach, it’s a favourite with kite surfers (and kite flyers) with more dunes and tide pools to explore between paddling and digging in the sand. Settle down with a windbreak or wander for miles along the flat sand, imagining that you own one of the sought-after beach huts

There is a cafe on the beach, albeit with limited opening times outside summer, but if you’re looking for a proper treat, head to the The Crab & Lobster inn, on the edge of nearby Pagham Harbour, with fabulous local crab on the menu.

PIN FOR LATER: THE BEST SANDY BEACHES IN SUSSEX

Discovering the best beaches near London with six great sandy beaches in Sussex, UK - among the shingle coast of East Sussex and West Sussex, there are some gorgeous sandy beaches from unspoiled natural reserves to traditional English seaside towns. #sussexbeaches #eastsussex #westsussex #englishseaside #englishbeaches #ukbeaches Discovering the best beaches near London with six great sandy beaches in Sussex, UK - among the shingle coast of East Sussex and West Sussex, there are some gorgeous sandy beaches from unspoiled natural reserves to traditional English seaside towns. #sussexbeaches #eastsussex #westsussex #englishseaside #englishbeaches #ukbeaches

Images: Hastings/West Wittering shots courtesy of Depositphotos, all others copyright MummyTravels

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