With the summer holidays in full swing some families might be planning adventurous getaways and relaxing retreats.
But if you’re not heading away this year it’s worth remembering that the Northern Ireland coastline is full of some spectacular hidden gems that can cater to a wide variety of tastes.
Whether you’re looking for adrenaline-filled water sports, family-friendly entertainment with a bucket and spade, or a romantic stroll with a loved one, we have beaches to suit all of those needs, and more.
1. Whitepark Bay, Co Antrim
Whitepark Bay, near to Ballycastle, is a spectacular sandy beach on the North Antrim Coast and it’s the perfect place for a road trip with friends.
2. Helen’s Bay, Co Down
Helen’s Bay Beach is one of two excellent beaches found in Crawfordsburn Country Park. These beautiful sandy beaches are exceptionally popular, with excellent water quality, making them ideal for dipping toes. The country park provides an excellent back drop to the beach, with wooded headlands, meadows, quality walks, and good facilities.
3. Portstewart Strand, Co Antrim
Maintained by the National Trust, Portstewart Strand is an area of natural beauty and of scientific interest. It holds the prestigious Blue Flag award and is perfect for picnics as well as fun outdoor activities such as surfing, swimming, and horse riding.
4. Tyrella, Co Down
The award-winning Tyrella Beach is a small enclosed beach and dune complex within Dundrum Bay, and is situated alongside the Mourne coastal pathway. The stunning waters invite water sport enthusiasts all year round and it’s the perfect place to spend the day with a friend.
5. Crawfordsburn, Co Down
Crawfordsburn Beach is one of two beaches located within the grounds of Crawfordsburn Country Park and offers wooded headlands, meadows, and quality walking trails, all within a very short journey from Belfast.
6. Ballygally, Co Antrim
Ballygally Beach offers stunning views along the Antrim coastline so groups of friends should be sure to bring their camera to capture selfies with the dramatic scenery.
7. Ballyholme, Co Down
This is a suburb beach in the seaside town of Bangor. Visitors can enjoy long walks on the sand before sampling a delicious ice cream available in one of the many local cafes or restaurants.
8. Cranfield, Co Down
Popular for water sport enthusiasts, Cranfield beach can be found in an idyllic location at the mouth of Carlingford Lough, and with the majestic Mourne Mountains offering a dramatic backdrop, it is a picture perfect beach.
9. Murlough National Nature Reserve, Co Down
Murlough National Nature Reserve is a fragile 6000 year old sand dune system owned by the National Trust and is perfect for walkers or anyone interested in bird watching due to its spectacular location at the edge of Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains.
10. Warrenpoint, Co Down
Warrenpoint Beach is located alongside the Mourne Mountains on the shores of Carlingford Lough, in County Down. A gently sloping beach with a range of amenities that include shopping and a promenade popular with everyone.
11. Benone, Co Derry/Londonderry
Benone Beach is an absolute must-see, with seven miles of glorious golden sand and a magnificent back drop of stunning scenery, making this beach one of the longest in Ireland. Views go as far as Donegal, and visitors can choose from a range of picnic areas and water sports, or even enjoy a spot of fishing.
12. Ballintoy Harbour, Co Antrim
Game of Thrones fans will recognise this beach as the filming location for Pyke and the Iron Islands. Known as the “raised beach”, it sits near Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the picturesque village of Ballintoy.
13. Castlerock, Co Derry/Londonderry
A Blue Flag beach, Castlerock is a 1km long stretch between the sea cliffs of Downhill to the west, and the Lower River Bann estuary to the east. The beach and its dunes are designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).
14. Ballycastle, Co Antrim
Located along the Causeway Coastal Route and backing onto Ballycastle Golf Club, the beach is five minutes from the town centre of Ballycastle, where you will find no shortage of things to do. Approximately 1.2km in length, the beach is predominately sand with some shingle, and has a promenade at the western end.
15. Downhill, Co Derry/Londonderry
Downhill Beach is situated within the Bineveagh area of outstanding natural beauty and is set against a backdrop of cascading waterfalls, towering sand dunes, and the stunning Mussenden Temple. Downhill – part of an 11km stretch of sand and surf – offers a wealth of activities including water sports, scenic walks and family-friendly facilities, making this Blue Flag beach an ideal place to explore.
16. Portrush Whiterocks, Co Antrim
Stunning limestone cliffs and recognisable headlands such as the Wishing Arch, Elephant Rock, and the Lion’s Paw have made Portrush Whiterocks Beach a must-see destination for local and international visitors. With its amazing waves, this Blue Flag beach is a regular hotspot for surfers and body-boarders riding the surf.
17. West Strand Portrush, Co Antrim
West Strand Beach is flanked on one side by the busy harbour port of Portrush, and on the other by a pedestrian and cycle promenade that follows the coastline. With shops, amusements and restaurants nearby, this Blue Flag beach resort is a family favourite throughout the holidays, and is ranked in the Top 10 Northern Ireland Beaches on TripAdvisor.
18. Rathlin Island, Co Antrim
Rathlin Island is the most northerly inhabited island off the Irish coast, and is one of Northern Ireland’s Special Areas of Conservation due to its large bird colony. From its sandy shoreline, visitors are rewarded with breath-taking views of the Causeway Coast, and can enjoy many of the walks the Island has to offer.
19. Waterfoot, Co Antrim
This long strip of sand at the foot of the Antrim Glens is one of the most popular on this stretch of the Co Antrim coast. Despite its relative popularity, Waterfoot beach still manages to retain a fairly tranquil laid-back feel. The backdrop of Glenariff makes for some impressive scenery, particularly the view looking southwards along the beach.
20. Kearney, Co Down
A true hidden gem situated on the Irish Sea coast of the Ards Peninsula, a long narrow road takes you through green drumlins where you reach the charming village of Kearney, with its sandy beach. The village dates back to the early 18th century, and stunning walks will take you along the coastline with rare plants such as yellow horned poppies. On a good day, you will be able to look across to the Mull of Galloway and Isle of Man.
For more information go to discovernorthernireland.com.