You're never too far from a beach in Dublin. Whether you're looking for a family day out, some cold water immersion in the open sea, or just a long stretch of sand to stroll while listening to a good podcast, the coastal capital has some great options for you.
Sure Dublin's beaches don't provide the epic surfing opportunities that Ireland's west coast provides, but nonetheless you'll find some great swimming and bathing options. There's been a real buzz around sea swimming in recent years with Dubliners ditching the pool for bracing seaside dips in all weather. If you plan on joining them, check the water quality before heading out. If you'd rather a walk or a picnic by the sea, you'll find some really lovely beaches all within reach of the city center.
Best for swimming
Dubliners know Sandycove as the home of the 40 Foot, one of the most popular swimming and diving spots in the city. The rocky outcrop used to be an exclusive male-only bathing spot but now it's open to anyone who wants to swim in the Irish Sea. And plenty of people do, in all kinds of weather. This is where local children learn how to swim and jump off rocks, and the Christmas Day Dip is a much-loved Dublin tradition.
Adjacent to the pool is a tiny inlet that's very popular with families because its sheltered position makes it safe for paddling. When you're there, look out for the Martello Tower. It was part of a network of defence towers built in the early 19th-century to ward off potential Napoleonic invasions but now it's the James Joyce Tower and Museum, where Bloomsday celebrations are held.
Best for photography
Seapoint Beach is located between Blackrock and Monkstown on the southside of the city and is popular year-round with swimmers of all ages. The water in the bathing area is easily accessible with steps and slipways. Seapoint is home to another Martello tower that's now the headquarters of the Genealogical Society of Ireland. With excellent views of Dublin Bay, this is a great beach in which to test your photography skills, especially when the tide is out. Getting to Seapoint from the city center is easy by DART and there are plenty of excellent dining options nearby, particularly in Blackrock Market, if you want to spend the day there.
Read more: How to get around in Ireland
Best for nature walks
Dollymount Strand is a popular spot with dog-walkers and joggers, as well as swimmers, paddleboarders and kite-surfers. Located in Clontarf, the 5-km long stretch is set to the backdrop of Dublin's Poolbeg Chimneys and Howth Head, and is surrounded by the North Bull Island Nature Reserve, which is great for urban wildlife-watching. Just be sure to avoid walking out on the mudflats and sandflats. Bars and cafes can be found along the seafront in Clontarf but most visitors to Dollymount make a pit stop at Happy Out, a container cafe on the beach that serves coffee, sweet treats and toasties (expect queues at the weekend).
Best for escapism
Located in the super-affluent suburb of Killiney, the curving sandy beach of Killiney Bay is where you come for the sort of glittering seaside views that wouldn't look out of place on the Mediterranean. On a sunny day it's a slice of paradise with views of Bray Head, Dalkey Island and the Sugar Loaf mountains, though the best views can be found at the top of nearby Killiney Hill Park. The sea is suitable for swimming and bathing but the stones here can make those endeavours difficult, especially at low tide. At the north end of the beach you'll find the sandier and more secluded White Rock beach. Killiney can be reached by DART and is only a 40-minute drive from the city center by car.
Read more: Dublin's 13 best city parks
Best for long walks
A 40-minute drive from the city center, Portmarnock offers visitors a lovely stretch of smooth sand - hence its nickname 'Velvet Strand'. There are gorgeous views of Lambay Island, Ireland's Eye and Howth Head, and the wind-whipped water is popular with wind- and kite-surfers. Along the beach there is a trail that leads all the way down to Malahide that makes for a long and lovely seaside stroll. The trail runs for about for about 5km (3 miles) but you can it stretch out by joining the Robswell Park Hillside Hike along the way.
The beach is located next to a world-class golf course which has hosted the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington. Fun fact: the first east-west transatlantic flight took off from Velvet Strand in 1930 and is commemorated by the globe-shaped Eccentric Orbit statue on the beach.
Best for a family day out
Skerries is a gorgeous seaside village on the North Dublin coast, with two great beaches, North and South. North Beach is a sweeping cove-like beach that provides mostly tame water for swimming year-round, while the water in South Beach can get a little rough in windy weather. On a sunny day it's a surefire option for a great family day out with amusements, rock pools, a children's playground and coastal walkways to enjoy. Once you've had your fill of sea and sand there are some excellent restaurants near by; the food-critic favorite Potager, the seafood restaurant Stoop Your Head, and the family-friendly Blue Bar. The train station is about a 20-minute walk from the beach, while Dublin Bus will drop you closer with a two-minute walk to the beach from its stop.
Best for avoiding the crowds
Dubliners love making the most of the sunshine and the beaches can get pretty crowded in summer. A quieter option for your beach day is Howth's 'hidden' beach, Claremont. Located on the other side of the railway in the seaside village of Howth, it has front-row views of Ireland's Eye. To get here, go past the semi-industrial area by the West Pier. It's about a 10-minute walk from the train station. Head out early morning when it's at its most serene. When people start to show up in the afternoon, head to Howth village where you're spoilt for choice with great seafood restaurants, harborside bars and Howth Market, which opens on weekends.
You might also like:
10 best beaches in Ireland
The 10 best road trips in Ireland
Introducing Ireland's national parks