Bantham Beach is the icing on the cake of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Sitting where the mighty River Avon meets the English Channel, the beach looks out at Bigbury across the bay. The bay’s low tide maximises the sight of Burgh Island, which connects to Bantham at low tide. Gentle sand, shallow rock pools and an abundance of facilities combine to make this beach in the South West ideal for families. During peak times, a lifeguard service is provided. Surfers flock here from across Devon for some of the best waves in the region and the beach has its very own surfing academy.
Beaches in the South West
The South West is one of the first places people turn to for a staycation brimming with beach experiences. It’s easy to see why, with the coastline in this part of the country unrivalled in beauty.
Each South West county brings its own amazing set of beaches into the conversation. From the wealth and wonder of Dorset’s south coast all the way down to some of the country’s most untouched shores in Cornwall, this list of beaches welcome visitors with open arms all year round. Uninterrupted Atlantic waves crash against the region’s shores, generating a water quality that rises above the rest of the country. Here is our guide to the beach in the South West.
Burnham-on-Sea's tiny pier wins the hearts and minds of everyone that visits. It retains its Edwardian style and charm to this day, hosting gaming and refreshments undercover. Built-in 1911, it was the first building of its kind in Europe. Its size allows the beach to dominate the coastline, making the town’s seaside spacious and free from too much activity.
The beach is a much easier and quieter alternative to the famous Weston-super-Mare down the road. Lively but never too busy in summer, it's also great for a walk in the winter. The sea is generally calm and great for dipping your toes in. When you look out to sea, you’ll often spot jet skiers, with huge ships also dotting the horizon in the distance.
Brean Beach is a seven-mile long oasis of sand just up the road from Weston-super-Mare. The sand is so vast that parking is allowed on certain sections of the beach, making it easier than ever to bring your essentials with you. It’s unsurprising that this is known as one of Europe’s longest constant sandy coastlines. The spectacular Brean Down stretches out to sea and acts as a natural pier. It's great on a clear day for a photo of this special area of Somerset’s seaside. You’ll see remnants of the area’s history too, with what’s left of a 19th-century fort on the down’s southern end. A Roman Temple has also been recovered in the area, making this beach arguably the best in the South West for history buffs.
Chesil Beach is arguably the most unique in South West England. The beach is detached from the shoreline in many places by a picturesque fleet – a rare piece of geography in mainland Britain. The pebbly foundation stretches for a massive 17 miles, sitting between Weymouth and West Bay. It’s unique make-up hasn’t gone unnoticed. It joined the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2001. Going back further, it played its part in the struggles of World War Two, functioning as a test sit for the ‘bouncing bomb’ developed by the allies.
Durdle Door Beach
If you had to find a picture that represented the beaches of the South West, you’d probably go for the sight of Durdle Door. The natural archway is Dorset’s most iconic site. Its peculiar shape formed by millions of years’ erosion from the choppy waves that crash against natural land defence. The beach itself is quaint and ideal for an afternoon picnic. On a clear day, the sunset is spectacular. If you fancy paddling, look out for the rocks underneath. These prove popular with snorkelers who navigate the water round the arch to Man’o’War Bay.
A beach that is one of the most talked about in the English county that is most talked about for beaches is a sure-fire winner. Perranporth’s supporters will say it’s Cornwall’s finest. We’re inclined to agree. Golden sand reveals itself as the Atlantic Ocean tide washes away, stretching out for an incredible two miles. The surfing here is great, and when you’re done exercising, head for the aptly named Watering Hole pub that sits right on the beach. Perranporth village is only a stone’s throw away and is a lovely snapshot of Cornish coastal life. You’ll be craving an authentic pasty and some ice cream for dessert.
Porthcurno is at one of Britain’s most south-westerly points, just a short drive from the famous Land’s End. Pristine sand and clear blue waters create an exotic feeling in this corner of Cornwall. Porthcurno benefits from some of the longest summer days in the country, and an evening spent on the beach is a real delight as the sun goes down. The cliffs stand tall here and offer perfect protection from the wind. There won’t be any sandstorms here, even if the wind gathers strength and the temperature is Baltic! Before you leave, check out the wondrous open-air Minack Theatre, which has welcomed audiences for over 80 years.
Studland – Shell Bay
Studland Beach sits at the very end of the Studland peninsula, just across a narrow bay from the far more built-up area on Bournemouth’s outskirts. This can be reached via a short ferry ride. On Studland’s side of the water, the atmosphere is very much untouched. The beach is at the heart of the National Trust-owned land and is backed by long grassy dunes. The drive here by land is simply spectacular. Lush scenery encompasses you on all sides, and there is always the option to hop across the bay for a refreshment or two. Calm waters make the swimming experience blissful, and the sand is nothing short of golden.
Another Cornish wonder, Watergate Bay is only a couple of miles away from widely talked about Newquay. What it misses in noise it more than makes up for in experience. The vide here is relaxed, with masses of space met by rolling hills to bring every visitor a breath-taking day out. The beach benefits from the choppy Atlantic, with waves attracting surfers from far and wide. Easy parking and nearby amenities make getting down to the sand as smooth as it comes, and refreshment is never far away. The wind can really gather pace here, making it a great spot to bring your kite.
Woolacombe Beach, Devon, England
Woolacombe Beach is one of the most star-studded in the country, let alone the South West. The three-mile stretch of sand has been consistently recognised for its position in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Unbroken Atlantic waves that have gathered strength for thousands of miles wash up on Woolacombe’s shore and create a mecca for surfers. Whether you take a dip in the water or not, the views are beautiful. You’ll see the remote Lundy Island in the distance from both the sand and the South West Coast Path that straddles the beach. Woolacombe played its part in history as a base for the US Army to prepare for invasions from sea in the Second World War. A memorial plaque pays fitting tribute.