For months now lockdown rules have limited us to little more than walking to our local park and back.
So when rules ease in the coming weeks and allow us to start taking day trips again it’s a pretty safe bet that all the big name beaches within a couple of hours of London will be absolutely rammed.
At the first sign of temperatures getting remotely close to 20C, expect Brighton to be busy, Bournemouth to be busier and Camber Sands to quite possibly be closed due to inevitable trafic gridlock.
It seems smart therefore to hunt out some less well known beaches that are just as pretty but unlikely to be invaded by a small army of day trippers wielding buckets and spades.
And we think we’ve found the perfect beach within easy reach of London to while away a lazy summer day.
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Irlam’s Beach (also spelt Earlham’s on some maps) is a beautiful sandy beach just 80 miles from London on the Essex coastline.
A quick look at a map and you’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve lost the plot.
The beach is in Harwich which is a major international shipping port where you can catch ferries across the North Sea to Holland.
Not the sort of place you’d perhaps expect to find a beauty of a beach.
But it is at the other end of town where there’s not a ferry terminal in sight.
Website The Beach Guide named it as one of the 10 best “secret beaches” in the South East of England.
Its review says: “Whilst Dovercourt Bay in Harwich is a popular spot with its own caravan park, Irlam’s Beach just along the coast is virtually unknown.
“Backed by dunes and marshes this is a quiet spot to relax and take in the views across the sea towards the docks up the coast.
“Whilst this isn’t a spot you’d want to swim off it is good for fishing and spotting wildlife in the marshland and dunes behind.”
On your travels, you might be lucky enough to see water birds, bees and cabbage butterflies.
The beach is also dog-friendly, and anyone with a dog knows how excited they get when they get a whiff of sea air in their nostrils.
While the water at the beach is not suitable for swimming where the marshland reaches the sea, it’s perfect for a bit of mud-larking.
Just be careful of the tides, though.
And for the nautical fanatic in the family its location gives the added opportunity to watch ships trundling not just to Harwich but also to Felixstowe, another even bigger port on the other side of the River Stour.
In fact you might see more trawlers than you see people if you’re lucky enough to be on the beach on a really quiet day.
What is there to do nearby?
If you are going to make the effort of driving up from London why not turn it into a weekend away.
Harwich isn’t far from Constable Country, a beautiful Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Suffolk/Essex border made famous by John Constable. It’s where he painted his most famous works.
Flatford Mill is one of the highlights that most visitors check out but there’s loads of good walks to try out or you might prefer a sedate boat trip along the River Stour.
Harwich also isn’t far from Colchester Zoo, one of the most popular zoo’s in the country that’s home to tigers, giraffes, rhinos and even some aardvarks!
How do I get there?
It’s about a 75-minute drive up the A12 from parts of East London.
By train it takes a little under two hours from Liverpool Street to get to Harwich, changing at Manningtree along the way.
You’ll then have to get a taxi to the beach.
Do you know another secret beach near London worth visiting? Let us know in the comments here.