Sun lovers looking for the best beaches in the English Riviera are spoiled for choice: the southwestern county of Torbay alone has 20 beautiful options to choose from. As Britain’s premier seaside destination, it offers from charming little coves to sparse sandy stretches with substantial swells.

    What makes the English Riviera great? Well, it’s wonderfully pristine – the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy recognized 10 English Riviera beaches at the National Seaside Awards. And of those, 6 upped the ante by nabbing the prestigious Blue Flag award, which is given to only the most well-preserved marine areas. To help you plan your next seaside holiday, we’ve put together a list of the best beaches on the English Riviera.

    1

    Breakwater Beach

    A delightful little pebbly beach in Brixham

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    Breakwater Beach resides just outside the picture-perfect Brixham Harbour, making it a popular choice for holidaymakers visiting the quaint port town. The small, pebbly beach has a gentle slope into calm, deep-green waters, an idyllic and safe spot for families to frolic in the sea.

    Despite its proximity to the marina, the Blue Flag-awarded beach remains remarkably pristine. Seahorses and schools of fish can readily be seen swimming through the bay, ideal for exploring with a scuba tank or snorkel set. The lovely Shoalstone Seawater Pool is within a 10-minute walk from the beach. The pool is free to visit and has a scenic picnic area for an open-air lunch.

    Location: Berry Head Rd, Brixham TQ5 9AG, UK

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    2

    Meadfoot Beach

    Rock fishing and water sports a mile out of Torquay

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    Meadfoot Beach is among the most popular spots in Torquay. Expect to encounter plenty of fellow sunbathers in the warmer summer months. But don’t worry, the site has an abundance of deck chairs sprawled over its charming shale surface, so you won’t have to jostle for space. Head to the technicoloured chalets on the southern end if you fancy more privacy.

    Keen fishers make a beeline for the beach’s beautiful rock pools at low tide, where scores of mackerel and garfish are ready to be snapped up. Kayakers, paddleboarders, and divers also frequent the place – grab your equipment from one of the rental shops by the beach. Meadfoot has paid parking on both ends, wheelchair access, and well-maintained public washrooms.

    Location: Meadfoot Sea Rd, Torquay TQ1 2LL, UK

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    3

    Oddicombe Beach

    Among the oldest Blue Flag Beach in Britain

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    Oddicombe is one of the oldest Blue Flag beaches in England, having received the award back in 1987. And upon arriving at its clear blue waters lined by vibrant red sand, it’s easy to see why the pristine spot is so beloved among visitors and locals. Colourful beach huts, public bathrooms, a mini-store, and a Mediterranean-style bistro add to the appeal.

    Getting there is half the fun – Oddicombe is accessible via the charming Babbacombe Cliff Railway funicular. Once you’re done basking in the sun, take a stroll down the wooden walkway to the adjacent Babbacombe Beach to soak up those gorgeous English Riviera views.

    Location: Babbacombe Downs Rd, Torquay TQ1 3LS, UK

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    4

    Torre Abbey Sands

    The primary beach in Torquay

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    Blue Flag-winner Torre Abbey Sands is Torquay’s main beach, a wonderful stretch of fine red sand lined by sleek restaurants, cafes, and bars. Stop by the city’s iconic seafront bridge for an obligatory photo op of the white spiral structure and surrounding scenery. Don’t miss the winding cliff-side Rock Walk at the Royal Terrace Gardens.

    A gentle soft surface and calm waves make Torre Abbey Sands a must for young children, especially ones who adore building castles in the sand. Grownups might like to try their hand at windsurfing or watch the sunset at one of the numerous oceanfront bars. Plenty of parking is available in the area, although you’ll need to arrive early in peak season.

    Location: Torbay Rd, Torquay TQ2 5DG, UK

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    5

    Anstey's Cove

    A secluded spot for some serious R&R

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    Anstey's Cove is ideal for tranquillity-seeking holidaymakers looking to escape the midsummer crowds. The gorgeous hidden gem lies wedged between Torquay and Babbacombe, accessible via a hilly path winding through birdlife-rich woodlands. The rugged setting of limestone cliffs and crustacean-filled rock pools form part of the UNESCO-listed English Riviera Global Geopark.

    Despite its secluded location, there’s plenty to do at the cove. A friendly beach café rents out kayaks, deck-chairs, and stand-up paddleboards; it also runs action-packed coasteering courses on demand. Anstey's Cove is dog-friendly, so feel free to rock up with your 4-legged companion in tow.

    Location: Anstey's Cove Rd, Torquay TQ1 2JB, UK

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    6

    Broadsands Beach

    A tranquil, family-friendly spot between Brixham and Paignton

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    Broadsands Beach is your archetypal English Riviera stretch – lovely fine red sands flanked by rolling green hills and awash with gorgeous coastal views. The picturesque spot, which sits between Brixham and Paignton, is popular among holidaying families for its calm, Blue Flag-awarded waters and the gentle slope into the sea. Sailors and windsurfers flock here too, making the most of the favourable conditions found offshore.

    Grab a deck chair from one of the pastel-coloured beach huts or embark on a stroll across the pretty promenade, keeping an eye out for the steam train that runs the Brunel viaduct en-route. Behind the beach are lush parklands excellent for football or cricket, while an oceanfront 9-hole golf course lies at the southern end.

    Location: Broadsands Rd, Paignton TQ4 6HL, UK

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    photo by Dave Morton (CC0 1.0) modified

    7

    Goodrington Sands

    The busiest beach on the Riviera

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    Goodrington is perhaps the most popular beach in the entire English Riviera, with an army of holidaymakers descending on its red-hued sands each summer. A backdrop of cute brightly coloured beach huts and a lively promenade sits behind, while scores of kayakers, swimmers, and bodyboarders bop between the waves.

    Overlooking the beach is the fun-filled Splashdown Quaywest, a raucous water park packed full of excitable kids and teens. For something more serene, Youngs Park straddles the northern section, home to big flocks of geese and swans. Alternatively, hike north through the Rock Walk Gardens towards Roundham Head for sweeping views of the bay.

    Location: Paignton TQ4 7JR, UK

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    photo by petelovespurple (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    8

    Preston Sands

    A family-friendly beach with a lovely adjacent green

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    Preston Sands is a hit among families for its gentle waves and kid-friendly greens. Sunbathing and swimming are the big attractions here, though there’s plenty of fascinating rock pools to explore if you’re feeling adventurous. When the tide recedes, fishermen cast their lines into the ocean at the northern end.

    Behind the beach is the leafy Preston Green, a safe and scenic spot to let the kids play. A basketball court and an outdoor gym give the grownups an excuse to get active. There’s a walkway down the beachfront promenade towards the neighbouring Hollicombe Beach. Paid parking and public toilets are available by the Green, while the nearby Boathouse restaurant does superb pasta and seafood.

    Location: Marine Dr, Paignton TQ3 2NJ, UK

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    9

    Paignton Beach

    Unlimited kid-friendly entertainment by the sea

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    Paignton Beach has more child-friendly entertainment than one could work through in a day. Crazy golf, donkey rides, paddle boats, bouncy slides, and trampolines offer ample fun in the sun, while a sprawling indoor amusement arcade on the pier has both vintage classics and the latest modern games. There’s a free adventure park called Geoplay within the Paignton Green.

    Adults will have to make do with relaxing on Paignton’s fine, ochre sands. If the sun becomes too fierce, you can seek shelter in one of the charming Victorian-era beach huts that line the esplanade.

    Location: S Sands, Paignton TQ4 6BW, UK

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    10

    Fishcombe Cove

    A quiet little cove far away from the crowds

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    The secluded Fishcombe Cove resides only minutes north of Brixham, yet few holidaymakers venture to the little-known spot. To get there, you’ll need to hike down a steep and windy path from the car park, but it’ll be worth the effort to enjoy a peaceful vibe away from the tourist throngs.

    The petite shingle beach receives plenty of shelter from tall red cliffs circling the cove, making it a safe place to swim with the little ones. If you’re lucky, you might even come across a curious seal or two. The onsite Fishcombe Cove Café does all your favourite seafood dishes and has bathroom amenities for paying guests.

    Location: Fishcombe Cove, Brixham TQ5 8RU, UK

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    photo by Derek Harper (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer

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