Beaches near Belfast: Six best beaches to visit from Belfast

Looking for beaches near Belfast? The good news is that you won’t have to go far. Belfast isn’t exactly the Algarve, but the city has a great coastal location and lots of beaches to visit.

You may want to drive the short distance to Bangor, one of Belfast’s closest coastal towns. Here you’ll find stunning beaches like Ballyholme, which is understandably popular with locals. Alternatively, stay close to the city centre and enjoy a spot like Holywood Beach.

I’ve compiled a guide to the six best beaches near Belfast to narrow down your choices. Browse through these options and take your pick!

Holywood Beach, Belfast

A beach at sunset.
Holywood Beach via Unsplash.

Best for: Proximity to city centre, family atmosphere, spacious beach

Address: 11-17 Ballymenoch Park, Holywood, BT18 0LL

Holywood Beach is your best choice if you want a convenient beach near Belfast. You can drive to Holywood Beach in just fifteen minutes from Belfast City Centre – so no long and uncomfortable journeys covered in sand.

The beach is located in Holywood Sea Park, a recreational area popular with families and dog walkers. Visitors have access to a play park, coffee van, an ice cream van. There is plenty of green space to roam, sunbathe, and picnic. Just be prepared to share this space with dogs, children, and large groups of friends. This is a community spot.

The beach is huge, with lots of space and length to find a quiet spot. The water conditions are well-suited to swimming, with minimal waves and current. Any brave swimmers fancying a dip while visiting Belfast, Holywood Beach is a good place for it.  

*Extra tip*

If you love a fitness challenge, I’d recommend hiking the coastal path from Holywood Beach to Bangor. The ten-mile route follows the coastline east, and you can jump on the train at the end to return to your starting point. Bangor is a real coastal town with a lovely, weathered seaside atmosphere.

Helen’s Bay Beach, Belfast

A dog runs in the waves.
A dog enjoying the beach via Unsplash.

Best for: Scenery and swimming 

Address: 22 Grey Point, Helen’s Bay, Bangor, BT19 1LE

If you don’t mind driving five minutes further, Helen’s Bay Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches near Belfast. The beach is natural and pristine; some lucky visitors may even spot porpoises and seals from the shore.

Swimming is fantastic at Helen’s Bay Beach. You’ll want to pack a wet suit if you have one to maximise the time you can spend in the water! The conditions are calm nearly all year round, and the water is clear enough to make snorkelling a worthwhile endeavour.

Helen’s Bay is not short of facilities. The beach has a visitor centre with tourist information and public toilets. You’ll also find many cafés and restaurants nearby. Does it get busy? Yes, in the summer months. But Helen’s Bay Beach is one of those spots that are popular for a good reason, and the local council ensures that it remains clean and unruined by visitors.

Helen’s Bay Beach is also dog friendly, but keep your dog under close control if you decide to bring them along for the day. Nearby, Crawfordsburn Country Park is full of meadow and woodland tracks where you can walk dogs further and burn off any extra energy.

Crawsfordsburn Beach, Belfast

Crawfordsburn via Unsplash.

Best for: Scenery, swimming, and beach walks.

Address: Crawsfordsburn Beach, Bangor, BT19 1ZJ

Crawfordsburn Beach is just further along the coast and is situated in front of Crawfordsburn Country Park. The beach is backed by the country park’s woodland and has a remote, relaxing feel despite being very easy to access.

Like Helen’s Bay Beach, Crawfordsburn Beach is fantastic for swimming. The sea is relatively shallow and gradually deepens – so there are no sudden drop-offs. The waves are mild, and the current is usually non-existent. These factors are good news for less confident swimmers too, as long as they are swimming inexperienced company.

The only thing to note is that the sea rises very high up the beach during high tide. If you want a spot to sunbathe all day, Crawfordsburn Beach isn’t it. But, for a quick dip and a few hours on the beach, this spot is a great choice just outside of Belfast. I’d suggest combining the beach with a visit to the country park. You’ll have all the park’s facilities to use as well and Woodlands Café.

Newtownabbey Bay Beach, Belfast

A crab hid under a rock.
A crab in a rockpool via Unsplash.

Best for: Rock pooling and swimming.

Address: Hazelbank Park, Newtownabbey, BT37 9SH

To set your expectations, Newtownabbey Bay Beach is more of a tidal beach than a dreamy, never-ending stretch of sand. The beach changes drastically throughout its tides, so it is best to time your visit with low tide and choose it when you want just a few hours on the beach.

The water is a stunning light, pastel blue. The water conditions are perfect and calm enough to swim. However, when the tide comes in, you are left with only a tiny bit of beach. You often find a lot of ocean debris washed along the beach as well – purely because of the frequent tide changes.

Of course, the benefits of frequent tide changes are rockpools! Newtownabbey Bay Beach has plenty at low tide, and it is the perfect spot for spotting ocean critters, especially crabs. It is an educational park to visit with children if you want to introduce them to ocean wildlife.

Like many beaches near Belfast, Newtownabbey Bay Beach is situated inside a recreational park. Hazelbank Park has public toilets, outdoor gym equipment, and many paths for walking and cycling.

Ballyholme Beach, Bangor

Bangor coastline.
Bangor via Unsplash.

Best for: Seaside town atmosphere, facilities, entertainment

Address: Bank’s Lane, Groomsport Road, Bangor, BT20 5EG

Fancy a proper seaside beach? Ballyholme Beach is your classic suburban beach, backed by lines of seaside terrace houses and a busy promenade.

At 1.3km long, the beach is spacious enough to find a spot in peak seasons and a decent length for a beach walk. Swim, sunbathe, or wrap up in a million layers for a windswept walk – it is your choice.

Ballyhome Beach has public toilets and a children’s play area. You’ll also usually find a café van in the Ballyholme Beach car park. But, if not, it is just a short walk into the centre of Bangor, where you can make the most of lots of cafes and restaurants. If you are stuck for choice, my favourite is The Bearded Goat. The café makes incredible coffees and has lots of delicious brunch and breakfast deals.

Groomsport Bay Beach, Bangor

Groomsport Beach
Groomsport Beach via Ards and North Down Borough Council.

Best for: Quiet seaside experience, rock pooling, and swimming.

Address: Donaghadee Road, Groomsport, Bangor, BT19 6JP

Groomsport Bay Beach is the furthest beach from Belfast on this list. However, it is arguably the best beach for balancing a quiet seaside experience with a generous choice of hospitality venues and facilities. The beach is quite small but, thanks to the lack of crowds, you won’t feel cramped when visiting. The water is ideal for swimming, plus there are always rockpools to spot ocean creatures during low tide.

Groomsport is a seaside village just south of Bangor. Don’t let the village status put you off, though, as Groomsport has cafes, restaurants, pubs, and even a museum called Cockle Row Cottages. Groomsport Harbour is also a cute spot to overlook with a takeaway coffee.

Overall, if you want to have a seaside experience near Belfast but don’t like the crowds in Bangor, Groomsport Bay Beach is a brilliant choice.

Belfast beaches FAQs

A section of rocky coastline.
Northern Ireland’s coastline via Unsplash.

Now we’ve covered the best beaches near Belfast, let’s answer some common FAQs.

Is there a beach in Belfast?

Yes, there are multiple beaches in Belfast. You will have to tear yourself from Belfast City Centre, but if you head to Belfast’s eastern coast, you’ll have multiple choices of beaches to visit.

Is it worth going to beaches near Belfast?

When you think of beaches near city centres, you often think of pollution and cramped sunbathers. However, it is definitely worth going to beaches near Belfast.

The weather means that beaches are mostly quiet (of course, things tend to get busier on the odd boiling day) apart from the odd dog walker or two. The beaches near Belfast are also kept impressively tidy and are pleasant spots for wildlife. Going to the beach is a relaxing thing to do in Belfast.

What is the closest beach to Belfast?

The closest beaches to Belfast are Newtownabbey Beach and Holywood Beach.

Both beaches are within a fifteen-minute drive of Belfast City Centre and are great spots to visit. Holywood Beach is best for a full-day visit, and Newtownabbey Beach is best suited for a few hours of relaxing on the beach.

Exploring beaches near Belfast is always fun. Rain or shine, you’ll usually spot some header going for a freezing swim, and the beaches on this list all have great nearby cafés, restaurants, or pub facilities. I’d highly recommend going for a dip if you are brave enough.

Belfast itself is a fantastic holiday destination in the United Kingdom. If you need more inspiration, you can check out my existing guide on things to do in Belfast and a guide to visiting the Giant’s Causeway. Northern Ireland is compact enough for you to explore attractions in nearby towns and cities, so leave enough time for a road trip or two if you can. You could head north to a place like Portrush on the Causeway Coast or south to Newcastle and the Mournes

Have you visited some of these beaches near Belfast before? Feel free to drop your advice and recommendations in the comments below for other readers. 

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