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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 - finding the best sandy beaches in Sussex, and some of the best beaches near London
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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, I’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, whether you’re four or forty-something, 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

If you’re looking for great places to stay in Camber Sands, check out my review of Salt Bay cottage

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.

There’s also a pay and display car park right next to the beach – it fills up quickly, especially on sunny days, so best to get there early to find a space.

Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round, except from May 1 to September 30 when they can’t go within Zones F to H – there are still areas where they’re welcome during the summer months though.

For more ideas of things to do near Camber Sands apart from the beach, check out nearby Rye as well as Bodiam Castle

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 here though. 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).

There’s also free parking near the beach. Dogs are welcome between October and April, or on a lead in the marked zones from May to September.

For ideas of the best beach activities with kids, check out my tips

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 this one’s 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.

No dogs allowed on the beach between the pier and harbour arm from May to September.

Check out my tips for visiting the Blue Reef Aquarium in Hastings during a holiday in East Sussex with a preschooler

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.

West beach is also one of the best dog friendly beaches in Sussex, where they are welcome all year, and there’s a big car park right near the seafront.

For my beach essentials with kids, check out my top picks for fun on the sand

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 – like Littlehampton, East Beach has its own little tourist train that kids love, plus 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 if you’ve got your heart set on sandcastles.

From May to September, dogs are not allowed on the stretch of beach between Park Road and Gloucester Road, but the beach is dog-friendly at other times and outside this area.

For places to stay near Bognor Regis with kids, check out my review of the Beachcroft Hotel, Felpham

West Sussex beaches: West Wittering

Another of those endless wonderful stretches of sand that Sussex specialises in, looking out to Chichester harbour, as well as the South Downs, there’s a reason cars used to queue to get into the car park in summer time – happily prebooking means that for now, you can guarantee your spot.

Don’t try to turn up if you haven’t prebooked a space though as you’ll be turned away: click here to book

A Blue Flag beach, it’s a favourite with kite surfers (and kite flyers) while there are plenty 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.

No dogs are allowed in the Blue Flag bathing area (the area in front of the beach huts, between groynes 14a to 18) from May to September, but are welcome elsewhere and on the whole beach outside these times.

For more things to do in Sussex with kids, check out my top picks, as well as ideas for more day trips from London with kids

*First published 2018, updated 2022*

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.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission. All opinions on the best sandy beaches in Sussex are mine (and my daughter’s)

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

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6 Comments

  1. I’m a huge fan of Sussex beaches – they’re not too far from London and there are so many to explore. You’ve mentioned a few of our favourites. Climping is also a lovely Sussex beach.

    1. I could happily have spent a lot longer at Littlehampton – seems inexplicable that I haven’t been before. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of sandcastles, but fish, chips and kites are all good too.

    1. Admittedly not ‘near’ by the standards of someone living on the coast, but near enough for the day when I need a beach fix 🙂

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