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Think of the British seaside and your first thought might be a seagull nicking your chips on the prom. But, it may surprise you to learn that England and Wales are home to miles of golden sand, turquoise sea and hidden coves that could rival any tropical paradise.

With many of them off the beaten track, Britain’s hidden coves and beaches are waiting to be explored, even if you have to dig a little to uncover the best of them.

Take a look at our top picks of picturesque hidden coves and beaches in England and Wales.

Church Doors Cove, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Cliffs overlooking sea cove

Starting off with a hidden gem, Church Doors Cove is something of a geological wonder. A small sand and rocky cove with stunning towering cliffs cut by the forces of the sea into a colossal ‘door’ – sounds magical doesn’t it? When the sun is shining, the sand golden, and the waves are glistening, the view is out of this world, so make sure to capture the natural beauty in your memory.

There is only access to the beach with low tide, so it’s worth checking the tide times before you visit.

Closest hostel: YHA Manorbier, 0.3 miles away.

Nanjizal Bay, Penwith, Cornwall

Sea cave in Cornwall

Enclosed by craggy cliffs and huge boulders, Nanjizal Bay isn’t your usual sandy beach but rather an idyllic cove full of natural splendour. Located near Land’s End, this hidden treasure isn’t somewhere you would stumble upon on your beachside walk but its definitely worth the find.

You can have a paddle in the turquoise rock pool, then snorkel through the sea tunnel, admiring the amazing coralline pink walls. Make sure to keep an eye out for the seal pups.

Closest hostel: YHA Land’s End, under a 20-minute car journey away.

Cuckmere Haven beach, East Sussex

White cliffs overlooking sea

You may recognise this secret beauty spot from the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire film. Cuckmere Haven is a tranquil pebble beach in East Sussex, overlooked by the white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. This special place boasts 360-degree views of nature – the seas, cliffs, wildlife, and the magical South Downs countryside.

This beach is ideal for those looking for a little peace and quiet with nature this summer. You can also take a ramble in the footsteps of the smugglers who used the beach in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Closest hostel: YHA South Downs, under a 20-minute car journey away.

Sugar Sands beach, Northumberland

Wire fence on beach

The pleasant name of this secluded beach makes a visit here enticing enough, before you hear about the golden sand, crystal sea, and little rocky hiding places which give this hidden gem a tropical feel when the sun is shining.

Perhaps one of the reasons why this area tends to be quiet is because it takes a little while to get to – but — trust us — it’s worth it. Sugar Sands is a stretch of pretty coves and sandy bays. The sense of peace engulfs you when you admire the wonderful surroundings and hear the waves crashing against the shore.

Closest hostel: YHA Alnwick, 4.5 miles away.

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Images: Martin Valigursky / Darryl / Alison / 4kclips / coxy58 / Adobe Stock

Written by Ruby Higton

Here is Ruby and she is a digital marketer at YHA. She looks after all things social media, as well as content writing for livemore.yha.org.uk and SEO. Her favourite YHA is YHA Perranporth.

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DestinationsThe best coves and beaches in England and Wales