Our capital city is full of surprises. You probably wouldn’t expect to hear that within this sprawling urban cityscape lie London’s hidden beaches, just waiting to be found.
Before you grab your bucket and spade, it’s worth noting that London is far too cool for ‘normal’ beaches, with their dunes and sand and sea. These are secret riverside spots that offer a blissful escape from the neighbouring tarmac.
They’re also a great way to get up-close-and-personal with the cleanest metropolitan river in the world: The Thames (yes, really!)
However, as tempting as it may be, don’t jump in the water. The Thames is beautiful, but very powerful – its currents can quite easily sweep you downstream, which can ruin someone’s day a bit.
So, before you shell out on a train ticket to the coast to catch the last of the summer sun, check out these secret beaches closer to home, and some nearby points of interest.
Bermondsey Beach/Hidden Beach
The first on our list of London’s hidden beaches is the aptly named Hidden Beach, which could have chosen a better name if it wants to remain a secret.
Along with the neighbouring Bermondsey Beach, this is a little stretch of paradise in the centre of London with panoramic views of Tower Bridge and the spectacular canopy of the Square Mile’s skyscrapers.
If you happen to work up a thirst, ‘The Angel’ is a delightful riverside pub where you can sit on the deck and watch the boats go by. Talk about idyllic.
Nearby attractions: ‘Dr Salter’s Daydream’ is a poignant group of statues depicting the Salter family (including their cat), unsung heroes who strove for better conditions for Bermondsey residents in the early 20th century.
Nearest tube: Bermondsey – Jubilee Line
Nestled between Blackfriars Bridge and Millenium Bridge sits Bankside Beach, which at low tide is the closest thing to a traditional sandy beach that London has to offer.
Situated in the heart of bustling South Bank, this is one of London’s hidden beaches that comes alive in summertime. However, when the promenade above becomes overwhelming, a walk along the beach offers the perfect shortcut when walking between Bankside and the Oxo Wharf.
Quiet and convenient? It has our vote!
Nearby attractions: Bankside Beach is a cultural hub. With the imposing Tate Modern looming in the background and the historic Shakespeare’s Globe a short walk away, you’d be hard-pressed to be bored around here.
Nearest tube: Blackfriars – Circle and District lines
For those of you with a penchant for the macabre, may we present Wapping Beach in East London.
Accessible only through a small alleyway, this example of London’s hidden beaches is near to the original site of ‘Execution Dock’. If you were in any doubt as to the purpose of this place, the large wooden noose which hangs over the river should give you a clue.
Thankfully, the last execution here took place in 1830, so you’re free to go about your day without fear.
Nearby attractions: the alleyway to access this beach runs alongside ‘The Prospect Of Whitby’, widely regarded as London’s oldest riverside pub. When you walk in here, you’re stepping on an original 400 year old stone floor which has seen the boots of sailors and smugglers alike pass through.
Nearest tube: Wapping – Overground line
This example of London’s hidden beaches is steeped in history.
If the River Thames seems busy now, it’s nothing compared to what it used to be. Rotherhithe was a teeming dockyard, so packed with ships that it was said you could walk from one side of the river to the other by stepping across their decks.
In 1620, Rotherhithe was where the Mayflower ship took the first English settlers over to the ‘New World’ (it had been there for ages, they just hadn’t found it), and also where it was dismantled 4 years later.
Because of this, Rotherhithe Beach is a popular spot for Mudlarking; the hobby of searching the shoreline for pieces of history, trinkets, treasure… and probably quite a few bottles.
Nearby attractions: The Brunel Museum is a short jaunt away, which houses the original Grade II listed tunnel it’s built on and an impressive theatre. They also do guided tours on weekends!
Nearest tube: Rotherhithe – Overground Line
Seeing as all of these beaches sit on the Thames, the Thames Beach has to be something special. As well as being the most central of all of London’s hidden beaches, it’s also the most spectacular in terms of views.
For an extra special experience verging on romantic, visit after sundown to marvel at the dazzling lights of the city reflected on the water.
With the sounds of the South Bank, the rhythmic ripples of water dashing across the pebbles and the mesmerising flickers of light illuminated by the river, it’s enough to turn anyone into a poet.
Nearby attractions: where to start? The National Theatre, BFI Imax (England’s biggest cinema screen), the Oxo tower, Royal Festival Hall, as well as enough bars, restaurants and awesome venues to keep you going for months.
Nearest tube: Waterloo – Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo, and Waterloo & City lines
Folly House Beach
You’ll find Folly House Beach on the somewhat drab-sounding Isle Of Dogs, near the even worse-sounding area of Mudchute.
But don’t let the unfortunate place names put you off: Folly House Beach is an East-End oasis with some impressive views of the O2 Arena.
Lovingly referred to as ‘Little Brighton’ by the locals, you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled across one of London’s best-kept secrets, a perfect spot to relax after work or a show.
Nearby attractions: far from being as unattractive as the name suggests, Mudchute has its very own beautiful park and even a 32 acre farm where you can see some very cute rare breed animals.
Nearest tube: Crossharbour or Mudchute – DLR
Of London’s hidden beaches, Ratcliff is probably the easiest to miss. Accessible through a tiny gap in some railings, your curiosity will be rewarded by an expansive pebble beach.
Thanks to its skill at hiding, Ratcliff Beach is one of the quieter ones on this list and has some impressive views of Canary Wharf – like Thames Beach, this is especially spectacular at nighttime.
Nearby attractions: a walk down the Thames Path brings you to the King Edward Memorial Park, a riverside haven with greenery, sports courts and playgrounds for the kids.
Nearest tube: Limehouse – DLR
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, London has more tricks up its watery sleeves. Soak up the rays this summer and take in some local history by exploring the best of London’s hidden beaches – be sure to let us know your favourites!