7 Best Beaches in Dover, Kent
Situated on Kent's eastern coast overlooking the English Channel, the historic city of Dover features a variety of good options for those seeking to spend a little time at the beach.
Under two hour's commute from London by car or rail, Dover is, in fact, one of the oldest and most storied of Kent's coastal towns. And yet while it's well-known for its port and ferry links to Europe, as well as attractions such as famous Dover Castle, many first-time visitors are surprised to learn that Dover and the surrounding area is home to some of the best beaches in Kent.
From small seafront villages lined with picturesque promenades to secluded bays usually only frequented by locals in the know, Dover's beaches offer something for everyone. Before you venture out, though, spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the area's tides. This is especially true if you're feeling adventurous enough to tackle some of Dover's remoter beaches: Kentish tides can roll in quickly, so be sure to make a note of both high- and low-tide periods.
To learn more about these fun seaside opportunities and experiences, read through our list of the best beaches in Dover, Kent.
1. St. Margaret's Beach, St. Margaret's Bay, Dover
Located five miles and a 10-minute drive north along the coast from downtown Dover, St. Margaret's Bay tops our list of the best beaches in Dover not just for its excellent beach, but also for its extremely attractive setting. Surrounded by those pretty Kentish white cliffs, you can, on a cloud-free day, see clear across the English Channel all the way to France 20 miles away.
Considered one of the prettiest coastal villages in Kent, St. Margaret's Bay features everything you'd expect from a quintessential seaside destination. Highlights include a long, wide seafront promenade; deckchair and beach hut rentals; and easily accessible public washrooms. Refreshments and snacks are also available, and a great afternoon tea can be enjoyed a few minutes' walk away at the clifftop Pines Garden Tea Room & Museum.
While St. Margaret's Beach itself is largely shingle, at low tide some sand is exposed, allowing at least a couple of hours' to enjoy that feeling of soft sand underfoot. Low tide also exposes plenty of rockpools, too. Although rugged, these house a variety of fascinating marine life and are fun to explore for all ages.
Other fun activities include fishing; hiking the St. Margaret's Bay Circular, a nearly five-mile-long looping trail that takes in much of the village; or renting a kayak and exploring the shoreline from the water.
While beachside parking is limited, an early arrival can usually secure you a spot. Also worth noting: dogs are not permitted on the beach during the peak spring and summer months, and no lifeguard service is provided.
2. Dover Beach, Dover
Nestled between Dover Harbour on one side and the town's busy port on the other, Dover Beach is perfect for those who enjoy a busier beach experience. Not only will you be able to enjoy people watching as pedestrians stroll the Dover Promenade, you'll also be able to enjoy watching pleasure craft from the neighboring marina, as well as much larger ships entering and exiting the world's busiest passenger ferry port.
As for the beach, this usually busy stretch of shingle shoreline covers a full square mile and is well worth a visit. Boasting calm waters and protected from strong winds by the surrounding cliffs and harbor walls, the beach is largely unaffected by the tidal currents that affect many other beach destinations on the English Channel. As a result, it's great for families traveling with younger children, as well as for those wanting to enjoy on-water activities.
In addition to sunbathing and swimming, beachgoers can also enjoy a variety of water sports, too. If that sounds like you, head for the modern-looking Dover Sea Sports Centre. This first-rate facility features a variety of fun things to do for all ages, including pirate-themed kids' programs, sailing classes, paddleboarding, powerboat lessons, and Jet Ski rentals, to name but a few.
When you've had enough of all that water-based fun, just take a few steps away from the beach, you'll find facilities including washrooms and snack and beverage kiosks. Cross the promenade, and you'll find yourself in the heart of Dover. Here you can enjoy a host of dining experiences, including fresh, locally caught seafood dishes, as well as plenty of shopping opportunities.
Other fun things to do in Dover within an easy walk of the beach include paying a visit to the mosaics at the fascinating Roman Painted House and seeing the 3000-year-old Bronze Age boat at Dover Museum. Dover's famous White Cliffs are also within easy reach and feature a superb visitor center boasting stunning views over the town, the harbor, and the beachfront.
Address: Marine Parade, Dover, Kent
3. Shakespeare Beach, Dover
Just a few minutes' walk south of Dover Beach and the harbor area, you'll find Shakespeare Beach. Named in honor of the famous English playwright who set King Lear in Dover, it's usually less busy here, as it's not as easily accessible as its neighbor. As a result, the beach tends to be better suited to adults.
Accessible by a short walk on a footpath and across a footbridge from the on-street parking in Aycliffe, as well as a set of some 100 or so steps, it's well worth a visit even if you don't intend on swimming. Looking back from the beach, you'll see Shakespeare Cliff, made famous by the bard in his tragic play.
The beach itself is particularly popular with locals and features a long stretch of shingle, backed by a recently rebuilt seawall. It also just so happens to be the closest part of England to the French coast and is usually where cross-channel swimmers start their adventures. On any given day, in fact, you may see candidates training for their attempt to swim the 20 miles to Europe.
Shakespeare Beach is also popular among dog owners, who can bring their pooches for a swim and splash about any time of year. It's also a popular spot for rockpooling, with low tide revealing a large swath of rock brimming with marine life. If fishing's your thing, pack a rod, as the beach is well-known among sea anglers for its abundant mackerel.
4. Lydden Spout: Samphire Hoe, Dover
If hiking's your thing, consider spending an hour or so walking from Dover Harbour to Samphire Hoe to sample yet another unique Dover beach experience: Lydden Spout.
While the same distance can be covered by car in under 10 minutes, you'll miss the stunning scenery from atop Dover's famous White Cliffs. But however you plan on getting here, it will be time well spent. Built up using five million cubic tons of rock and soil from the excavation of the Channel Tunnel, Samphire Hoe is a remarkable achievement.
Once parked, you'll need to walk the trails south to Lydden Spout, but it's well worth the expenditure of energy. Consisting of a long stretch of shingle at the base of the cliffs, it's a great place to visit whether the tide is in or out. If it's in and at its highest, it's well worth waiting a few hours for it to subside. When it does, you'll find yourself with an abundance of rock pools and marine life to explore.
While there are no facilities adjacent to the beach, the short walk back to the parking area will lead you to facilities, including a café, washrooms, and a modest visitor center with plenty of information on this unique attraction and its wildlife. It's worth mentioning that given its location, Samphire Hoe is only open from 7am to dusk each day.
Address: Samphire Road, Dover, Kent
Official site: www.samphirehoe.com
5. Kingsdown Beach, Deal
Located just over six miles north of Dover, the village of Kingsdown offers a great beach experience for those who like a quieter, more secluded setting. Featuring a shingle beach with some sandy areas appearing at low tide, it's a largely undeveloped beach with no amenities apart from a few benches and picnic tables. As a result, it's generally more suitable for couples and groups of adult friends than it is for families.
What the beach lacks in family-friendly features, it certainty makes up for in looks. Behind the widest part of shingle beach is a strip of relatively dense scrubland, which eventually gives way at the narrower southern portion of the beach to those lovely white chalk cliffs Dover is so famous for. This stretch of coast is also popular among sea kayakers, who can often be seen paddling towards the cliffs.
It's worth noting, however, that this picturesque spot is less well suited to casual swimmers than it is for sunbathing due to deep waters close to shore and strong currents at high tide. At low tide, though, numerous rock pools are exposed, allowing for plenty of opportunity to search for marine life as you splash about, including the occasional seal.
It's also a great stop over for cyclists making use of the bike path that leads from here northward to the towns of Walmer and Deal. Head south on foot, and you'll find yourself in the pretty seaside village of St. Margaret's Bay. Limited roadside parking is available, and the few restaurants within the village do offer fresh local seafood dishes.
Address: Undercliffe Road, Kingsdown, Kent
6. Deal Castle Beach, Deal
Travel eight miles north of Dover, and you'll wind up in the attractive seaside town of Deal. Another pretty stretch of Kentish coastline, this pebble beach is easily accessible from the town by a pleasant promenade. Lined with colorful fishing boats winched up onto the sand and leading to and from the town's pier, it makes for a delightful scene.
As much fun as the beach is spending a little time exploring the many fun things to do in Deal. Topping your list should be a visit to Deal Castle. One of the prettiest castles in Kent, this six-sided castle is located on the southern edge of town and was constructed in 1540 to protect the English coast from potential invasion by the French.
Other places to visit in Deal include the famous Deal Timeball. Just a short walk north of the castle, it was used to signal the time to passing vessels. A walk around Deal Old Town is also worth doing and could include a visit to the Deal Museum. Walmer Castle, just a mile to the south, is also well worth a visit, as is Walmer Beach.
Address: Beach Street, Deal, Kent
7. Sandwich Bay Beach, Sandwich
A visit to Sandwich Bay Beach is well worth the 30-minute drive from Dover. This long shingle beach is actually set in a private housing estate and is accessed along a narrow road leading from the quaint medieval town of Sandwich, located a few miles inland. (An entrance fee is charged.)
As pleasant as the shingle beach is, a few sandy areas will reveal themselves at low tide, so try to time your visit accordingly. In addition to sunbathing and swimming, Sandwich Bay Beach is popular for water sports enthusiasts, including kayakers and windsurfers. The beach is also usually quiet, with beachgoers, especially those with children, opting instead for locations boasting more amenities
A highlight of a visit is the opportunity to explore the town itself. Once an important inland port, its riverside setting is enhanced by numerous well-preserved medieval buildings. In fact, Sandwich boasts one the largest collections of half-timbered houses in Southeast England. Also worth mentioning are the many dining and shopping experiences on offer in this picture-perfect town.
Address: Sandwich Bay Beach, Sandwich, Kent
Official site: www.sandwichbay.estate