7 easy escapes from London near the beach

For our London-based Friends, we know how tempting the thought of escaping the city is, especially on a warm summer's weekend, when all you can think about is breathing in fresh sea air and eating ice creams on the beach.

So we've picked seven easy escapes from London close to the beach that will take you less than 2 hours to reach by car or train - perfect for a weekend escape from the city, or longer if you wish.

You can also view all 36 of our inns near London here >


A striking 15th-century Kentish hall house, lost down lanes high up on the North Downs. The Plough Inn enjoys a sleepy hamlet setting beside the green with far-reaching view across the Swale estuary and the Isle of Sheppey beyond.

Worth finding for a relaxed traditional pub atmosphere, delightful locally sourced food, and stylish, secluded garden rooms. It's close to Canterbury, Whitstable and the North Kent coast, and has wonderful walking from the front door.

The closest sandy haven to this inn is Whitstable Beach (pictured above). Whitstable is a traditional, pretty seaside town, known for its pastel beach huts and oyster shacks. Amble further down the shore and you'll stumble across the more remote West Beach, surrounded by wild flowers.

Another is Hythe Beach, an unspoilt pebbled beach sitting between Folkestone and Dymchurch. It's only a 34-minute drive from the inn. However, if you don't mind travelling a little further, we highly recommend a trip to splendid Camber Sands, a 50-minute drive away.

Travel to the inn from London:

  • By train: London St Pancras International to Charing (Kent) (58 minutes) or London Victoria to Charing (Kent) (1 hour 23 minutes); the inn is a 10-minute taxi ride from the station.
  • By car: About 1 hour 30 minutes.

At the heart of a picture-book village midway between Canterbury and Sandwich, The Dog at Wingham dates back to the 13th-century and embodies period charm. It has yielded numerous local and national awards.

Look forward to innovative modern dishes championing quality produce from Kent-based suppliers, characterful and stylish rooms, and a relaxed feel throughout. Canine pals are allowed in the bar and in all the bedrooms, where treats and bowls are provided.

There are plenty of wonderful beaches to visit around this inn. Botney Bay (pictured above) is one of our favourites; a picture-perfect hidden gem with golden sands and backed by stunning white chalk cliffs. This beach is great for fossil hunting and exploring rock pools at low tide.

For surfing we recommend Joss Bay, home to the longest established surf school on this coastline. Kingsgate Bay (pictured below) offers peace and seclusion as well as fabulous sea caves to explore. Overlooking the Southern end of the beach is Kingsgate Castle which was built for Lord Holland in the 1760s. Dogs are allowed on this beach all year round.

We would also recommend a trip to Margate Main Sands. The drive here from the inn takes 30 minutes, or you can take a 30-minute train from Sandwich station. Although a summer hotspot, there are plenty of wonderful cafes and shops to discover. Plus, if the crowds get a bit too much, you can walk along to peaceful Westbrook Bay and beyond.

Travel to the inn from London:

  • By train: London St Pancras International to Sandwich (1 hour 30 minutes); the inn is a 15-minute taxi ride from the station.
  • By car: About 1 hour 35 minutes.

Nestled in the sleepy village of Stoke-by-Nayland, The Crown Inn, a rustic-chic 16th-century hostelry, is the perfect serene spot from which to embrace quiet village life.

You'll enjoy lovingly nurtured gardens, a top-drawer wine list, and stylishly refurbished rooms with serene pastoral views. Food is taken seriously here, breakfast is a top shout and there are traditional roasts for all the family on Sundays.

Escape to Mersea Island (pictured above) to explore where the world's finest oysters have been harvested since Roman times. Seek out the pastel-coloured beach huts, enjoy fresh oysters in fantastic food havens on the west side of the island, and stroll to the east side for a quieter section of beach.

Another beach haven that's just a 46-minute drive from the inn is The Naze. Just around the corner from Walton-on-the-Naze, it's a wonderfully remote beach set below cliffs. Keep an eye out for million-year-old shark teeth hidden in the sand.

Travel to the inn from London:

  • By train: London Liverpool Street to Colchester (46 minutes); the inn is a 18-minute taxi ride from the station.
  • By car: About 1 hour 45 minutes.

A cracking community pub and dining destination, The Bell in Ticehurst is a fabulous and offbeat place to stay.

There's plenty to delight and inspire: original sagging beams ooze historic charm, modern art beckons from the walls, lampshades are adorned with bowler hats, and books are stacked from floor-to-ceiling. Add to this an array of 1930s suitcases, stuffed taxidermy and vintage typewriters, and you have a quirky aesthetic that's bound to amuse.

For those who visit this inn by train, we suggest a day out to Hastings; a 38-minute train ride from the nearby station. Hastings Old Town, set between the picturesque East and West Hills, is filled with historic charm, winding streets and cosy cottages. The beach is a large stretch of shingle backed by grand Edwardian buildings.

For a breezy, invigorating beach walk, head to magnificent Camber Sands near Rye and let your dog run wild as the expanse of sand is vast at low tide (pictured above). It's the only sand dune system in East Sussex and lies east of the estuary of the River Rother at Rye Bay, stretching some 3 miles (4.8 km) to just beyond the Kent border, where shingle and pebbles take over again.

Travel to the inn from London:

  • By train: London Charing Cross to Stonegate (1 hour 11 minutes); the inn is a 6-minute taxi ride from the station.
  • By car: About 1 hour 15 minutes.

Run with charm and dedication, the 16th-century Griffin Inn is the real deal - a proper Sussex bolthole with a traditional interior, packed with wooden beams, oak panels and real log fires - four in total.

The garden is the jewel in The Griffin's crown. The grassy green space looks out over glorious Sussex countryside, and there are plenty of tables on which to nurse a pint or tuck into something tasty while you soak up the view across the 'Sussex Serengeti'.

Not far from the inn you'll find beautiful Cuckmere Haven below the Seaford Head Nature Reserve, with views towards the Seven Sisters Cliffs (pictured above). The quiet, pebbled beach sits at the mouth of the Cuckmere River and has been used as a filming location in a number of classics, including Harry Potter and Robin Hood.

Sitting above the beach is Cuckmere Valley, a flower-rich grassland with wonderful views of the Cuckmere River and the Seven Sisters beyond; a special spot that is great to explore on foot or by bicycle.

On this beautiful slice of the south coast you'll also discover the Birling Gap at the foot of the Seven Sisters cliffs. This beach is the perfect haven for an afternoon of rock pooling and fossil hunting, and there is a National Trust cafe perched on the cliff above which serves delightful homemade treats; the perfect pick-me-up after exploring the coast.

Travel to the inn from London:

  • By train: London Bridge to Uckfield (1 hour 15 minutes); the inn is a 12-minute taxi ride from the station.
  • By car: About 1 hour 30 minutes.

You can't miss this stylish bar-cum-restaurant with rooms in the heart of Chichester - it's housed within a striking bow-fronted Georgian building on North Street, just a short stroll from the impressive cathedral.

The walled rear terrace is a special place to drink and dine alfresco, replete with olive trees, soft lighting, heaters, chill-out sofas and intimate covered dining areas. The five super bedrooms (opened May 2020) are the icing on the cake, making Purchases a chic city bolthole.

Discover West Wittering Beach just a 20-minute drive away. The highest water quality and excellent facilities have made this sandy treasure one of the premier Blue Flag beaches in the country. The beach is popular with wind and kite surfers and is an obvious venue for lots of general recreational activity, including long, scenic walks.

Cycling enthusiasts can cycle from Purchases to West Wittering dunes along the scenic 11-mile Salterns cycle route, crossing wheat fields and pretty cottages.

Travel to the inn from London:

  • By train: London Victoria to Chichester (1 hour 30 minutes) or London Waterloo to Chichester (1 hour 38 minutes); the inn is a 4-minute taxi ride from the station or a 11-minute walk.
  • By car: About 1 hour 40 minutes.

A stone's throw from picturesque Pagham Harbour, this seashore inn has resided here for an amazing 350 years - and it certainly looks the part of a historic seaside hideaway. With an exterior boasting a whitewashed facade and classic Sussex tiles, you'll feel like you've stepped back in time.

Despite its strong historic legacy, the Crab & Lobster embraces the 21st century - its stylish rooms and innovative menu exude a contemporary feel whilst still maintaining a sense of authenticity.

Just a stone's throw from the inn you'll find Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve, a world of breathtaking coastal scenery and evocative marshes. There's the chance to walk for miles, enjoying the views and birdlife, and savouring the salty tang of the sea. Seek out Church Norton Beach hidden amongst the marshes; one of the wildest beaches on the south west coast.

West Wittering Beach is just a 18-minute drive away; a paradise of golden dunes and glistening waters.

Travel to the inn from London:

  • By train: London Victoria to Chichester (1 hour 30 minutes) or London Waterloo to Chichester (1 hour 38 minutes); the inn is a 12-minute taxi ride from the station.
  • By car: About 1 hour 40 minutes.

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Last updated: 06.08.21

Photo credit: Shutterstock (Michalakis Ppalis - Whistable Beach/Sarah-Jane Kennett - Botney Bay/Darrell Evans - Kingsgate Castle/Chris Lawrence Travel - West Mersea/LMIMAGES - Cuckmere Haven/Alexandra Glen - West Wittering Beach/JRLPhotography - Pagham Harbour); Unsplash (Chris Mitchell - Camber Sands)