Belfast & Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's Best Beaches

30 Mar 2021
With over 300 miles of stunning coastline incorporating Counties Derry, Antrim and Down, beautiful beaches are always within easy reach. Here's our line-up of nine of the best, award-winning sandy expanses.

1. Tyrella Beach


This golden crescent backed by dunes and lapped by the Irish Sea is crowned with picture perfect views of the Mountains of Mourne, making it one of Northern Ireland's most iconic beach scenes. Look out for ponies trekking along the soft surface for that classic touristy Insta moment. Find it at Dundrum Bay, Co. Down. 

2. Benone Strand


Seven miles of Caribbean-quality sand provides NI's most scenic car park, so drive up, jump out and brace yourself for a wave-splashed soak at this North Atlantic wonder. Mesmeric Mussenden Temple clings for all its life atop a nearby cliff, while beguiling Donegal beckons in the distance. Get your timing right and enjoy a cheeky Mr Whippy beachside treat. Head north to Portstewart then west towards Limavady and you're there.

3. Cloughey Beach


You can still find lesser explored beaches if you know where to look, and this beauty on the Irish Sea side of the Ards Peninsula absolutely fits the bill. Just south of the fishing village of Portavogie, get there before the crowds discover this bucket and spade gem.

4. Groomsport Bay


Whitewashed fishermen's cottages and a quaint harbour mark the start of a gorgeous beach where silky sands and rugged rocks combine to create a feast for the senses. Explore the rock pools and paddle in the Irish Sea before lazing on the sands and watching the boats bob by. Then peruse the bijou selection of cafes and pubs at this equally charming Co. Down village just east of the neighbouring marina town of Bangor. 

5. Whiterocks


Another local stunner whose name pays testament to its impressive limestone cliffs. Like its North Atlantic neighbours, its waves beckon adrenalin-seeking surfers in their droves. And its proximity to the Giant's Causeway makes this dramatic coastal stretch a walkers paradise. 

6. Cranfield Beach


Back in Co. Down, and this sandy scene showcases its Irish Sea setting with 19th century Haulbowline Lighthouse marking the entrance to Carlingford Lough and the south east point of NI. Families flock to its shores to enjoy shallow dips and fish 'n' chips with their caravan park chums. Join them for fun in the sun or bracing off-season coastal walks before hopping on the Carlingford Ferry for a sea shanty jaunt to that bustling Irish town popular in equal measure with stags, hens and family daytrippers.

​​​​​​7. Brown's Bay


This sheltered cove at the tip of Islandmagee, a small Co. Antrim peninsula accessible by car north of Whitehead, overlooks the port town of Larne and, beyond, picturesque Glens of Antrim. A trip here feels like you have truly escaped the crowds, yet it is a mere 24 miles from Belfast along the signposted Causeway Coastal Route. 

8. Helen's Bay and Crawfordsburn Beach


Separated by a rocky headland, these adjoining Co. Down beaches are close to historic Crawfordsburn village and key spots on the North Down Coastal Path which runs from Holywood to Bangor. Both sandy crescents are popular with walkers (both two-legged and four), wild swimmers and nature lovers who combine their trip with a trot round neighbouring Crawfordsburn Country Park with its woodland trails, large stone viaduct, romantic waterfall and visitor centre with cafe. History buffs should check out the early 20th century Grey Point Fort whose brace of 23ft-long guns were placed to protect Belfast from sea-bourne attack. 

9. White Park Bay

Another North Antrim stunner, the sweeping pale arc of White Park Bay has been under the protection of the National Trust Northern Ireland since 1938. Swimming is unsafe due to the Atlantic Ocean's strong currents, but the spectacular view, including the Elephant Rock geological formation, and feeling of splendid isolation more than makes up for it. Cattle occasionally graze along its stretch, keeping the delicate dune system flourishing and providing a unique photo op. White Park Bay Youth Hostel sits right at the edge of the bay, providing exceptional views of this remarkable seascape just a few miles east of the Giant's Causeway.

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