Camping on a beach: Safety, gear and where to pitch

wild camping on uk beaches

Every time we visited a beach, I often wondered about camping overnight. Often looking for the ideal place to pitch our tent. But I was unsure about the laws, safety, and securing our tent in the sand.

Camping on a beach is wild camping; the same laws apply. Be aware of seasonal high tides; avoid being stranded. Camp amongst dunes for security, away from sight, shielding from the wind and being ready for bugs. Use anchor pegs or filled bags with sand and tie guy lines.

We would love to pitch our tent on a beach and stay there for several days, instead of at a campsite. But, of course, beach camping is wild camping. So not only do you have to abide by wild camping laws, but there are also several factors you need to consider that are important to your safety.

Camping safely on a beach and securing your tent

Wild camping amongst dunes
  • Researching the beach and monitoring tidal changes – Firstly, thoroughly research the beach you plan to camp on and monitor tidal changes. Tides fluctuate regularly, so don’t solely rely on local tidal times. Observe how far the sea comes in and be mindful of the fortnightly tidal changes that occur twice daily.
  • Choosing a location and pitching your tent in the dunes – When selecting a camping spot, choose dunes instead of the beach. Camping on dunes offers protection from incoming tides, provides shelter from high winds, and keeps you out of the public eye. Pitch your tent securely on the dunes to avoid any unexpected mishaps.
  • Opting for a small tent and protecting against bugs – Opt for a small tent rather than a large one to minimize attention and ensure a more comfortable camping experience. Protect yourself from bothersome bugs using a hiking tent with a net covering the entrance. Sand bugs, like fleas, can cause discomfort and itchiness, so taking preventive measures is crucial.
  • Dealing with spiders, crickets, moths, and beetles – Encounters with spiders, crickets, moths, and beetles are common on beaches. While they may be bothersome, embracing the sounds of crickets can create a relaxing ambience. If you prefer natural remedies to deter bugs, try using items from your home or food cupboard. Read our article on natural remedies to deter bugs and save you money.
  • Properly securing your tent in windy conditions – Lastly, secure your tent correctly in windy conditions. Ensure you have sturdy anchor pegs. They are longer anchors with ties for your guy lines. Twist and push the pegs into the sand securely or dig a hole about a foot deep for added stability.

Essential gear for beach camping: Be prepared for your coastal adventure

Camping on a beach offers a unique and exciting experience but requires special gear to ensure comfort and safety. Remember to check the weather forecast and any specific regulations or restrictions in the area where you plan to camp.

  • Tent – Choose a sturdy and waterproof tent that can withstand the coastal elements. Look for a tent with proper ventilation to prevent condensation buildup in the humid beach environment.
  • Groundsheet or tarp – Protect the floor of your tent from sand, moisture, and potential sharp objects by using a groundsheet or tarp. This additional layer will keep your sleeping area clean and dry.
  • Sand pegs – More than regular tent pegs are needed on sandy beaches. Invest in sand pegs or long stakes designed for beach camping. These specialized pegs provide a better grip in loose sand, anchoring your tent securely.
  • Shade shelter – Shield yourself from the sun and create a comfortable outdoor space by bringing a tarp. It will protect against wind or rain. Remember, it is wild camping and illegal if you don’t have permission from the landowner. Unless it is essential, leave the additional shelter at home to avoid drawing attention to yourself.
  • Sleeping gear – Opt for a sleeping bag suitable for the beach environment, considering temperature and moisture levels. A lightweight and quick-drying sleeping bag will keep you cosy during the night.
  • Beach mat or blanket- Relax and unwind on a beach mat or blanket, allowing you to lounge comfortably during the evening. Look for sand-resistant and easy-to-clean options. You can also place this underneath your tent for additional protection against the sand.
  • Beach-friendly cooking gear – Choose portable and lightweight cooking equipment suitable for outdoor use, such as a camping stove or grill. Remember to follow any local regulations regarding open flames and cooking restrictions.
  • Beach-friendly footwear: Opt for sandals or water shoes that can handle sandy and wet conditions. These will protect your feet and provide comfort as you explore the beach.

Who Owns UK Beaches? Understanding the legalities

It is essential to understand the ownership and legalities surrounding UK beaches.

  • Ownership of UK beaches – In the UK, various entities can own beaches, including The Crown Estate, the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the National Trust, Local Authorities, and private individuals. Knowing the ownership status is crucial to avoid any legal issues during your camping trip.
  • Illegal wild camping in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – Wild camping on beaches is generally illegal without the landowners’ permission. Respecting these laws to maintain harmony between campers and landowners is essential. Make sure to pitch your tent late, leave no trace of your presence, avoid public pathways, and comply with any specific restrictions in the area.
  • Obeying the laws – Pitching late, leaving no trace, avoiding public pathways, and respecting restrictions. Wild camping on beaches in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland is generally illegal without the landowners’ permission. Respecting these laws to maintain harmony between campers and landowners is essential. Make sure to pitch your tent late, leave no trace of your presence, avoid public pathways, and comply with any specific restrictions in the area. 
  • Exploring the alternative of semi-wild camping – If you’re keen on camping but want to stay on the right side of the law, consider exploring semi-wild camping as an alternative. This allows you to experience the joys of camping in organized sites with minimal or no facilities while adhering to legal requirements.
  • Legal wild camping in Scotland: Byelaws and seasonal restrictions – On the other hand, Scotland offers legal wild camping opportunities with its specific byelaws and seasonal restrictions. Read our article for a full breakdown of byelaws, what you can and can’t do and familiarise yourself with these regulations. Ensuring you are camping within the allowable boundaries and respecting the environment is crucial. 

Loving the idea of wild camping but do not want to break the law, have you considered semi-wild camping? Read our article on Semi-wild camping; it is the perfect way to experience wild camping on an organised site with minimal or no facilities.

How to secure your tent on a beach without the correct gear

Imagine you’re on a beach, ready to camp but need the proper gear to secure your tent. We have some helpful tips to ensure your tent stays put without the correct equipment.

  • Making do with available resources – When you find yourself without the necessary gear, get creative with the resources around you. Look for rubbish or food bags that you can fill with sand or rocks. These makeshift weights will stabilize your tent and keep it from being blown away by strong winds.
  • Digging a hole in the sand and using sandbags for stability – Another trick is to dig a hole in the sand using your hands or tools like rocks or wood. Once you have your hole, place sandbags or other heavy objects inside it, and attach your tent’s guy lines to these sandbags to anchor your tent securely. Cover the hole with sand to hide the makeshift anchors and maintain a tidy campsite.

Check local tidal times: Avoid being stranded on a beach at high tide

Beware of beach tides.

It’s crucial to be knowledgeable about tidal times and the behaviour of beach tides to have a safe and enjoyable beach camping experience.

  • Understanding beach tides and their fluctuations – They are influenced by various factors, including the sun, moon, and Earth’s gravitational pull. This gravitational force causes the rise and fall of sea levels, resulting in tidal changes. Understanding these fluctuations is vital to ensure your safety.
  • Importance of being aware of tidal changes and rise/fall patterns – Beach tides are influenced by various factors, including the sun, moon, and Earth’s gravitational pull. This gravitational force causes the rise and fall of sea levels, resulting in tidal changes. Understanding these fluctuations is vital to ensure your safety.
  • Accessing local tidal timetables and considering nearby ports – Always check local tidal times before heading to the beach. Tidal timetables can be found near the beach or on local websites. Remember that these times are based on the nearest port and may vary slightly. Accessing accurate tidal information allows you to plan your activities accordingly and avoid being stranded.
  • Spring tides and their impact on beach camping – Spring tides, occurring during the spring and neap moon phases, can significantly impact beach camping. High tides rise faster during spring and reach further onto the beach. Awareness of this during your planning is crucial to allow enough time to leave the beach safely.
  • Allowing enough time to leave the beach during high tides safely – Consider nearby ports when studying tidal patterns. Ports play a role in influencing beach tides, so understanding their proximity to your camping location can provide additional insight.

Enjoying beach fishing: Camping restrictions and guidelines

Beach fishing itself is perfectly legal and doesn’t require a license. However, camping on the beach while engaging in fishing activities is not allowed.

While you may come across fishermen with their chairs and fishing gear, it is prohibited to pitch tents or camp on the beach overnight. Therefore, you won’t find tents nearby during your beach fishing excursions.

When beach fishing, remember that it is typically limited to a specific time frame. Fishermen usually spend around 5 hours daily on the beach, often changing locations in response to tidal shifts. This movement is necessary to adapt to the changing tides and increase the chances of a successful catch.

Remember, it’s essential to abide by the rules and preserve the natural beauty of the coastal environment for everyone to enjoy.

Managing nature’s call: Toilet tips for beach camping

When planning your camping adventure on the beach, you must plan for when nature calls. It is just like wild camping, you need to consider where you can go. Be aware of your location, covering up and removing any sanitary items or toilet paper.

  • Digging a hole – You need to be away from the water’s edge at least 50m and dig a hole approximately 6-8 inches deep. Remember, children love to play on the beach and dig holes. You do not want to use a popular area or in the middle of the beach.
  • Covering up – When you have finished, ensure you cover it up correctly. It will help to avoid unpleasant odours.
  • Removal of waste – Bag and remove any toilet paper, sanitary items and any other items you may use. You cannot leave them on the beach for others to find or harm the environment. The rules are the same as wild camping, leave no trace.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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