Discover the best beaches to visit with family. We’ve collected a list that includes the best beaches in the UK, in Europe and the world, focussing on the things kids love to do, including teens!
What makes the perfect beach?
In my view, it is a very personal thing; some like people-watching on crowded seashores, while others do not want to see another soul to spoil their beach reveries. Others want fine, powdery sand so they can share those ideal moments on Instagram while others love the feel of firm pebbles beneath their toes. Some people want to build castles and moats while others are happy to enjoy the shade of a palm tree in which to read a gripping book.
I know my favourites: places like Whitehaven Beach in Australia’s Whitsundays, Covean on enchanting St Agnes in the Scilly Isles, romantic Navagio and its shipwreck on Zante and the near-infinite sands of Wells-next-the-Sea in my native Norfolk.
In addition to these favourites, I’ve put together a list of 20 others around the world that might float your own boat, as it were.
Best beaches in the UK
- Polzeath is a favourite of familiies. It is also one of the safest beaches on the north Cornwall coast thanks to gently shelving sand and lifeguard cover for the main season. You can learn to surf at George’s or Surf’s Up. Polzeath has a Blue Flag, a nature reserve and rock pools to explore too. Looking for a place to stay? Hatteras cottage is a 15 minute walk along the coastal path and has views across the bay to Tintagel.
- Sennen, at the far toe of Cornwall, is quite a journey for most people in Britain but the journey is worth it. It is a great spot for birdwatching; expect to see terns, plovers, oystercatchers and sandpipers. Yet many people come here for the surfing and its crescent shape means the Atlantic rollers are pretty reliable no matter where the wind is coming from. Little Cottage is a Grade II-listed thatched, fisherman’s cottage and has views right across the bay.
- Cornwall doesn’t have the monopoly on great beaches. Teens will love Westward Ho! on the North Devon coast. The sandy beach stretches for miles and it’s a great spot to learn to surf and there are lifeguards on watch in summer in designated areas. It has cafés, restaurants, ice cream vans, beach shops, arcades and go-carting right next to the beach. Stay at The Lookout, within walking distance of the each and with great sea views.
- Compton Beach on the Isle of Wight is a perfect spot for would-be palaeontologists. It is easy to find fossilised dinosaur bones and you can also book a tour to go and see real dinosaur footprints in the sandstone at Hanover Point. The cliff views are spectacular too. 17th century Blake’s Barn is a cosy retreat for a family and is just a few miles from the beach in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- On the mainland, you have the famous Jurassic Coast beaches at Lyme Regis, Charmouth and Seaton where finding an ammonite or belemnite is an incredible thrill for the kids. Take the family, their friends and a couple of dogs and stay at Woodmans Stoup in Seaton, a lovingly restored Grade II listed building.
- Their southerly location means the weather in the Channel Islands is often balmier than on the mainland. The islands all have their amazing beaches but few can match the south-facing arc of St Brelade’s on Jersey, with its golden palm-fringed sands and safe swimming. The Merton Hotel is a great base for exploring this and other Jersey beaches. One of its main family attractions is its FlowRider surf machine where you can learn from qualified instructors.
- Pembrokeshire’s beaches are some of Britain’s best and Barafundle Bay could well be its finest. It is not the easiest beach to reach but the walk through the sand dunes and pine trees is magical. It is a place of true tranquillity. Stay at Ysbryd Y Mor cottage in Freshwater East and enjoy the bracing hike along the Pembrokeshire coastal path from the bottom of the garden.
Best beaches in Europe
- The Algarve has many amazing beaches but Praia Grande must surely rate at the top of the list. This stretch of sand in Ferragudo is great for teens as there is a range of water sports and beach bars to keep them entertained. Casa de Colmeia is a former beekeeper’s cottage that is just a short walk away through pleasant gardens.
- The Mediterranean has more than its fair share of fabulous beaches but Sa Perda Pera in Sardinia is a Med classic. Sa Perda Pera – its name means pear-shaped stone – on the island’s east coast is broad, stretches for eight miles and is backed by forested mountains, making it breathtakingly picturesque. Mark Warner’s Perdepera Beach Resort is right on the beach and is a great choice for families with active teens – it has great sailing, windsurfing, paddleboarding and kayaking facilities.
- Corfu’s Kalamaki beach (sometimes known as Apraos) is great for toddlers – the water is shallow and warm and the sand is just gorgeous. You can also hire pedalos here or just jump in off the jetty. Scattered along the beach are some wonderful tavernas too. There are some very special villas in the area, including Mimosa House on the Kardaki Estate.
- Another great beach for families with toddlers is Glaros Beach, just outside Chania in Crete. It is gently shelving so warms up earlier in the season and stays warmer longer in the autumns, it is sandy for maximum bucket and spade action, and there are plenty of loungers and parasols for shade. You can stay right on the beach at the Hotel Ammos which has a kids pool, spacious rooms, and a playroom.
- Halkidiki in northern Greece is known for its sandy beaches and sheltered bays. The views over the Toroneos Gulf from the Danai Beach Resort are spectacular and the beach is private to the resort, meaning you don’t have to fight off the crowds. It is a great spot for snorkelling, kayaking and water-skiing.
- Puglia has natural beach beauty in swathes. Torre Guaceto is a rugged beach stretching several kilometres in a protected marine area and nature reserve. The contrast with the over-touristed beaches near Brindisi could not be greater. There are vivid coral reefs where you can spend hours snorkelling. This is a get-away-from-it-all location so you will need to bring a bag of fresh Puglian produce to munch on throughout the day. Stay in Villa Trullo, built in the traditional local style with conical roofs.
- Europe isn’t just about the Med. Grande Plage, is a classic Atlantic beach, right next to the Spanish border on the west coast of France. The beaches elsewhere at Saint-Jean de Luz offer great surfing but Grande Plage is protected by a trio of sea walls, which makes for some very placid waters great for swimming with the family. Stay at La Rhune, an eight-person villa with pool at the foot of the Pyrenees.
Best beaches with kids in the world
- Many visitors to Australia miss out on some of its best features, simply because they choose to go south and east. Western Australia is home to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. Bell’s Bay in Coral Bay, in the Ningaloo Marine Park, is a beach of brilliant-white perfection and is ideal for snorkelling – fish swim around your ankles in the shallows. Just off-shore, on the Ningaloo Reef, you will see a dizzying array of fish, turtles and corals, with the odd manta ray for excitement. Fleewinter’s West Coast Explorer is a wonderful way to see this beach and the wider region.
- For the perfect beach getaway, it is hard to resist the lure of a private island. Denis Island in the Seychelles has only 25 private cottages sharing 375 acres of this coral –fringed outcrop. The waters around the island teem with fish, turtles, rays and sailfish.
- Kenya’s Diani Beach, south of Mombasa, is a 25-kilometre-long stretch of white between the clear waters of the Indian Ocean and a palm-fringed natural reserve that is home to wild elephants and colobus monkeys. Kinondo Kwetu, right on the beach front, is the perfect place for both families and honeymooners to enjoy this Kenyan paradise
- Malaysia is a great place to escape with the family (here’s why!) and the east coast is particularly stunning for beachlovers. The uninhabited island of Pulau Tengah sits in the Johor Marine Park in the South China Sea, just a short crossing from the port of Mersing. The island has eight, deserted white beaches and the vivid coral that circles the island is home to both reef sharks and clownfish. Batu Batu resort is the only accommodation on the island and has a clutch of jungle villas, built in traditional Malaysian style.
- If you want to take the toddlers away somewhere exotic but worry about the beaches, try Nai Tang on Thailand’s Phuket. The sea is calm and shallow and there are plenty of toddle-friendly restaurants along the beach, which is fringed with casuarina trees. The Slate mixes contemporary Thai design with design-focused luxury and also has a well-regarded kids club.
- You might not have heard of Xpu-Ha but that’s probably because those that do make it here to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera want to keep it a secret. It is just south of the more touristy Playa del Carmen and offers powder white sand and laid-back fun with few crowds. As well as the beach, Mayan ruins and the Xcaret eco-archaeological park (where you can swim with dolphins and snorkel) are close by. The Hotel Esencia is a great family choice.
Mark Frary is family travel editor of 101 Holidays (www.101holidays.co.uk).
What’s your favourite family beach — nearby or far-flung? Tell us in the comments!