Old Harry's 10 Best Beaches on the South Coast
It's time to start planning the weekend getaways and perhaps the longer trips that span our Summers. At Old Harry we can't wait to get down to our favourite spots in 2017 and we're sure you're all the same. We have put our heads together and come up with our favourite beaches along the South Coast. We're sure you'll have your own opinions on this most contentious of topics, in particular with regard to the the order (you may notice a little OH bias) but we hope you'll agree to some degree and moreover, if you haven't visited any of them perhaps this list can act as your inspiration!
So here is our list in reverse order!
10. Watergate Bay, Newquay
Two miles of golden sand, three miles from Newquay on the North Cornwall Coast partially framed by cliffs and caves, where the Atlantic swells encourage enormous waves providing spectacular natural entertainment as well as a popular surfing and kitesurfing spot. It’s fantastic for the amateur ornithologists among us too, as you’ll see anything from peregrine falcons, fulmars and gulls wheel overhead. The beach is a European Designated beach and has achieved the highest standard for UK bathing water.
Recommended: Head here in late May for the Aspall Polo on The Beach Festival. Catch everything from jousting, to dog shows, the polo of course and follow it up with live music at the end of the day on the Saturday.
9. Saunton Sands
Saunton Sands is a rugged 3 mile stretch of beach in the English village of Saunton on the North Devon coast near Braunton, popular as a longboard surfing location. Its southern end, 'Crow Point', lies at the mouth of the River Taw Estuary. It is part of the Taw-Torridge estuary Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is at the centre of the UNESCO-designated North Devon's Biosphere Reserve, where Braunton Burrows, one of the largest sand-dune systems in Britain, lies at its heart.
Recommended: Why not stay at the marvellous Saunton Sands Hotel, one of the best hotels in North Devon and home to some cracking views of the beach itself.
8. Blackpool Sands
Three miles south-west of Dartmouth you’ll find Blackpool Sands set in a sheltered bay surrounded by evergreens and pines, is one of South Devon's most beautiful natural treasures. It's popular with families, and a great spot for swimming as the privately managed 'Blue Flag' family beach with turquoise blue seas give it an almost Mediterranean feel. The calm waters make it an ideal spot for kayaking and paddleboarding equipment for both of which can easily be located here.
Recommendation: Why not pop into the nearby Venus Cafe for great locally sourced food.
7. Compton Bay
A rural and well preserved stretch of coast situated between the Channel and the verdant downs of West Wight you’ll find one of the Isle of Wight’s best kept secrets… Compton Beach. Reminiscent of the beaches in Cornwall or even on the West Coast of the US, and popular with surfers, Compton is a totally natural do-it-yourself beach. Amenities are scarce so bring all you need including windbreaks (if necessary), body and surf boards and food and drink.
Top Tip: Walk south to Brook Bay at low tide and you may find ancient dinosaur tracks revealed on the foreshore, or spot some fossils in the crumbling cliffs.
6. West Wittering
If you haven’t been before a brief warning: In peak season it can be a slightly arduous journey to the Witterings from Chichester, but that's what gives this Sussex beach its secluded aura. The Solent and Chichester harbour can be viewed across the open range of sand, what is more the beach is immaculately clean and at low tide there are pools for paddling. Out at sea, keep your eyes peeled for the agile windsurfers gliding past. Offering wonderful views of Chichester Harbour and the South Downs beyond, the natural and unspoilt sandy beach of West Wittering has been a favourite destination for a family day out for generations.
Top Tip: Head to the far western end, you can cross a narrow ridge to East Head, a lovely and remote sand-dune spit at the mouth of the harbour.
5. Botany Bay
Scene of a Old Harry shoot, this is the most northerly of Broadstairs's beaches, and in our eyes the prettiest. A very photogenic location, this hidden gem offers stunning views of white cliffs and beautiful chalk stacks and is a great location for fossil hunting and exploring rock pools. At low tide you can walk to Joss Bay, Kent's best surf beach.
Notable legend: It is said that Botany Bay found its name when those found in possession of smuggled goods were deported to Botany Bay in Australia!
4. Porthcurno, near Land's End
We love this place so much and still sometimes find it hard to believe it’s here in Britain. Wonderfully situated beneath the clifftop Minack Theatre, this is in our opinion the most scenic bay in Cornwall: Easily described by as a paradise, it’s easy to see why the Poldark location manager kept returning here. With gorgeous fine soft white sand washed by a sea that turns turquoise in the sun and high cliffs on both sides providing shelter, it’s an oasis of stunning natural beauty.
Top tip: At low tide why not wonder to the other beaches in the bay (one of which is nudist, so you’ll have to carry your Old Harry).
3. Pentle Bay, Tresco
Everyone loves an island, particularly one that’s part of the UK. It’s hard to resist a grin when laying eyes on the paper white sands and Caribbean-like waters and having to remind yourself where you are. You can always reacquaint yourself with your surroundings by going for a dip where you’ll find the sea is actually colder than the Mainland by a couple of degrees or so!
Top tip: Head to the Ruin Beach Cafe for an amazing pizza or some fresh seafood.
This lovely little sand dune backed beach is just across the River Blythe from Southwold, which is within easy walking distance. Clamber over the dunes into the mystical light of the Suffolk coast and you'll begin to see why so many artists have chosen this sandy expanse as their muse. A quainter image of a quintessential seaside town is hard to imagine as you see the children on the wooden bridge clutching their crabbing lines and buckets.
Recommended: A walk in the other direction will take you past the Walberswick Nature Reserve with its mix of marsh and heathland.
1. Studland Bay
Unsurprisingly we’ve opted for our favourite place in the world to complete this list. Four miles of pristine white sand, which shelves gently into milky-blue waters, with a backdrop of dunes and heathland. The northern stretch, most easily reached by chain ferry, has an away-from-it-all, desert-island feel, appreciated by the naturist sunbathers at Shell Bay; the southern Knoll Beach is popular with families.
Recommended: Why not stay at our favourite hotel, The Pig on the Beach which has exceptional views of Old Harry Rocks and the Isle of Wight.