The Best Beaches Near Manchester

From rustic Victorian seaside resorts, complete with amusement arcades, donkeys and sticks of rock, to wild, untouched coastline framed by dramatic cliffs and raging waters - we're spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches just a short drive from Manchester.

By Ben Brown | June 21st '22

We may not have any beaches in the region (unless you count Gaddings Dam), but we’re never too far away from some amazing sandy stretches and seaside resorts.

Most are perfect for a day trip to the seaside, and have been for over a hundred years – as our Victorian ancestors would happily don their long, frilly swimsuits and head on down to the likes of Blackpool and Colwyn Bay to take in the sea air.

These areas are truly beautiful too, with mile-long stretches of golden sandy beaches, wild craggy coastlines and some often breath-taking views – especially once you start taking in North Wales and Snowdonia National Park.

From the world-famous promenade and tower of Blackpool, with all of its faux glitz and glamour, to tiny fishing villages on the land’s end of Wales – the variety of beaches available within just a couple of hours’ drive is impressive.

So grab your bucket and spade, a pair of Speedos, and the suncream, and head on down to enjoy some of the very best beaches near Manchester…

 

Blackpool

Of course, Blackpool is in here. A firm childhood favourite for most of us, they still offer donkey rides on the beach – which may or may not be controversial depending on how you feel about it. On those hot days when tabloid photographers make all of their money, the beaches of Blackpool can get pretty busy, but it’s not really a sunbathing beach – more of a walk the dog, strolling whilst eating a Fab lolly one. This beach has been popular for hundreds of years, which should tell you something, and with the piers, the Pleasure Beach and slot machines everywhere – there’s a lot of fun to be had in Blackpool.

Car: 1hr 20 mins
Train: 1hr 15 mins

 

Colwyn Bay

The northern coastline of Wales features some cracking little seaside towns, with Colwyn Bay probably taking the prize for the best beach and overall experience. A true Victorian gem, Colwyn Bay has been working hard to reinvent itself in recent years, with a complete multi-million transformation of the beachfront and a rebuild of the original Victoria Pier. The golden sands here are lovely, and there’s no shortage of facilities, shops and activities to keep you entertained.

Car: 1hr 30 mins
Train: 1 hr 50 mins

 

Morecambe Beach

As much of a classic seaside town as you can find in England, much of Morecambe is set around its award-winning seafront promenade that overlooks five miles of sandy coastline. One of the main draws of Morecambe is the wide variety of water sports on offer, with sailing, paragliding, parachuting and windsurfing all going on when the weather permits.

Car: 2 hrs
Train: 1 hr 30 mins (1 change)

 

Barmouth Beach

Nestled between rough, craggy mountains and a tempestuous sea, Barmouth is southern Snowdonia’s most popular seaside resort, and the beach, Abermaw, is a mixture of sand and fine shingle – meaning it’s ideal for bathing and water sports. You get some stunning views of Cardigan Bay from here, and it’s also a great starting point for many walking routes into the surrounding hills and beyond. The beach itself is massive, with loads of space and the small town of Barmouth retains a certain Victorian seaside charm – complete with arcades, donkey rides and little cafes.

Car: 2hrs 40 mins
Train: N/A

Southport

Just a little further down the coast from Blackpool and you’ll be in Southport – with long, sandy beaches that offer panoramic views for miles. The beach here has been awarded the Quality Coast Award by Keep Britain Tidy, meaning that the standards of beach management are of the highest quality in the UK. So you’re not going to find a dirty nappy whilst digging a sandcastle. As well as the promenade, the town of Southport itself is lovely, with plenty of excellent shops, bars and restaurants just a short walk from the sea.

Car: 1hr 20 mins
Train: 1 hr 20 mins

 

Llandudno

Llandudno is Wales’s largest resort, uniquely stuck between the Great Orme and Little Orme – craggy headlands of rugged limestone cliffs that frame this lovely little beach. Also known as the North Shore Beach, there’s a certain Victorian charm and splendour to the place, with a great pier and wide promenade full of shops, ice cream vans and the odd Punch & Judy puppet show.

Car: 1hr 50 mins
Train: 2 hours 10 mins

 

New Brighton

A seaside resort located on the northern tip of the Wirral peninsula on the bay of Liverpool where the River Mersey meets the Irish Sea. It was founded back in 1826 and quickly became a bustling seaside hot spot with a pier, promenade, ballroom and bathing pools. More recently an £80 million leisure and retail venue, Marine Point, was created – and there’s a growing base of independent bars and restaurants popping up all around here. The beach itself is quite nice – with excellent views of Liverpool.

Car: 1hr 15 mins
Train: 1 hr 30 mins (1 change)

 

Aberdaron

A small fishing village right on the end of that little arm that sticks out the side of North Wales, Aberdaron was the last stop for pilgrims on the way to the ‘Isle of 20,000 Saints’, otherwise known as Bardsey Island, now a National Nature Reserve world-renowned for its bird wildlife. A mile-long strip of pristine sand, it’s well-known for the amount of sailing that goes on around here, as well as other water sports such as surfing, kayaking and windsurfing.

Car: 3 hrs
Train: N/A

 

Crosby Beach

Just north of Liverpool is Crosby, home to a rather lovely Crosby Beach, now the permanent home to ‘Another Place‘, the sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist, Anthony Gormley. It consists of 100 cast-iron, life-sized figures spread out along the 3km of shoreline, standing almost 1km out to sea. This beach is a great spot for watching the sun go down in the evening too.

Car: 1hr
Train: 1 hr 30 mins (1 change)

 

Harlech

Another Snowdonian beauty, Harlech is a long uninterrupted stretch of sand with extensive grassy dunes and stunning views of the mountains. During the summer months, leatherback turtles migrate from warmer climes to feed off jellyfish in the waters off this part of the coast. It’s also home to Harlech Castle, just 1km off the beach and once a stronghold for Edward I, playing a key role in The War of the Roses and the English Civil War. When originally built in the 13th Century, it was right next to the sea, but over the centuries, the coastline has shifted significantly.

Car: 2 hr 45 mins
Train: N/A

 

Lytham St Annes

Just a couple of miles south of Blackpool, Lytham St Annes is worlds apart from the notorious seaside super-town, with a more picturesque stretch of coastline, a boating lake and the lovely award-winning St Annes Beach Huts. Often described as one of the most prestigious places in Lancashire, Lytham was the location of the most expensive home sold in the county in recent years – a far cry from the more deprived neighbourhoods further up along the coast.

Car: 1hr 20 mins
Train: 1 hr 30 mins (1 change)