If you’re in search of the best beaches in Cork, you’ve landed in the right place.
So, as you can probably imagine, picking the best of the bunch is no easy task. But we’ve given it a crack!
From the breath-taking Barleycove Beach and the very popular Inchydoney, to the often-missed Allihies Beach, there are beaches in Cork below to tickle every fancy.
Our Favourite Beaches In Cork
The first section of our guide to the best beaches in Cork is filled with our favourite sandy stretches in the county.
Below, you’ll find everywhere from the magnificent beaches of Barleycove and Inchydoney to Warren Beach and much more.
Water safety warning: Understanding water safety is absolutely crucial when visiting beaches in Ireland. Please take a minute to read these water safety tips. Cheers!
1. Barleycove Beach
Barleycove Beach was formed when an earthquake hit Lisbon on November 1st, 1755. 15ft waves were experienced as a result of the tsunami Barleycove Beach was born.
This is one of the larger Cork Beaches and it’s backed by sand dunes which are partially eroded but protected by the European designated Special Areas of Conservation.
Access to the car park runs along a narrow causeway that bisects the beautiful Lissagriffin Lakes. The beach is close to the majestic Mizen Head and lifeguards are present at times during the summer months.
2. Inchydoney Beach
The expansive golden strand and shimmering blue water might give the impression you are on a desert island. The sea vistas are phenomenal and the Blue Flag beach is ideal for bringing the whole family.
There is also one of several Cork beaches that’s home to a surf school (Inchydoney Surf School) where you can get booked in for a lesson.
Another draw to this beach is the scenic looped walks between the beach and car park, there is a few picnic tables along the route if you want to take a moment to stop and admire the wonderful views.
3. Garrylucas Beach
The next of our favourite Cork beaches is the mighty Garrylucas. This is one of the best beaches near Kinsale and it was one of 8 beaches in Cork awarded Blue Flag status in 2020
You’ll find Garrylucas Beach next to Kilconman Marsh and the Old Head of Kinsale. This white sandy beach has grassy dunes scattered in some parts and there are rocky cliffs on either side of the beach.
There is a public car park and toilet facilities conveniently nearby. It’s accessed by both ramps and steps and during bathing season the beach is lifeguarded.
4. Warren Beach
I’d argue that our next sandy spot of one of the most overlooked of the many Cork beaches. You’ll find Warren Beach situated at the mouth of Rosscarbery River.
It is one of several beaches in Cork that’s home to a designated Natural Heritage Area and it has a car park and toilet facilities.
During bathing season, Warren Beach is lifeguarded (further information can be found on the notice boards close to the beach). There’s plenty of things to do in Rosscarbery when you’ve finished.
Mighty beaches in West Cork
As we have a guide dedicated to the best West Cork beaches, I’m only going to give you a quick overview of the beaches in this corner of Cork (full guide here).
Below, you’ll find the gorgeous Silver Strand on Sherkin and the popular Crookhaven Beach to a couple of fairly hidden gems.
1. Silver Strand on Sherkin Island
Silver Strand on Sherkin Island is arguably one of the most overlooked Cork beaches. And the only reason for this is that it’s slightly off the beaten path over on Sherkin Island.
Sherkin is one of the most southerly points in Ireland and once had a population of 1000 people before the famine and thus is only really busy during the summer .
There are a few beaches on the island but it’s the Silver Strand that really stands out. The water is clear and sapphire blue, with the sun-kissed sandy beach adding to its allure.
2. Crookhaven Beach
This ever-so-slightly hidden cove on the edge of West Cork is not easily accessible but that’s likely what makes it so beautiful. Crookhaven Beach is a recipient of a Green Coast Award, a national prize for beaches that are well-preserved in Ireland.
The sandy bay lapped by the crystal clear Atlantic Sea offers visitors mesmerising views. The little hamlet of Crookhaven is probably as far down in South-west cork as you can get.
The photogenic fishing village of Crookhaven is an added bonus and a great spot for a post-walk feed (you’ll get some of the best Guinness and Murphy’s in the land at O’Sullivans in Crookhaven).
3. Red Strand Beach
Situated in a small bay between Galley Lighthouse and Dunowen Head is Red Strand beach – a flat, sandy beach that’s very popular in the height of the summer.
There’s very limited parking here and, based on my last couple of visits, it tends to get packed out on sunny days, so arrive early if you can.
This is one of the more unique Cork beaches as it is, quite literally, right next to the road. So, when you’ve parked up, you’ve only a handful of steps until you hit the sand.
4. Allihies Beach
The entire coastline surrounding the beach is rugged and rocky, making it feel like the beach doesn’t really belong there.
The white quartz strand constantly glistens in the sun, perfect for exploring the tidal pools, beachcombing for gemstones or seashells.
5. Ballyrisode Beach
This beautifully secluded beach is only a 15 min drive west from Schull village and there are two separate strands to enjoy.
One is close to the car park and is the smaller of the two, characterised by the fact that it’s only seen during low tide. The other strand is less sheltered but also much larger, suitable for swimming and ball games.
The beach forms part of a Special Area of Conservation and a National Heritage Area so you will see a variety of wildlife and habitats here. There are no shops nearby so you might want to plan ahead before visiting this little hidden gem.
The best beaches near Cork City
As was the case with the West Cork beaches, we have a guide dedicated to the best beaches near Cork City, I’m only going to give you a quick overview of the beaches in this corner of Cork (full guide here).
Below, you’ll find the gorgeous Fountainstown Beach and the popular Myrtleville Beach along with some other sandy stretches worth strolling along.
1. Fountainstown Beach (27 minutes)
Located on the South Cork coast, on the northern side of Ringabella Bay and roughly 15km from Cork City is the popular Fountainstown Beach.
There are two beach areas in Fountainstown; the first is the Front beach, which faces east towards Ringabella and is sat at the entrance to the village.
The second is the Back Beach, which also faces east, and can be found on a promontory in Ringabella Bay and is more sandy however the water is shallow.
2. Myrtleville Beach (29 minutes)
This is another popular beach amongst Corkians as it’s not too far from the city and maybe also because you can spot sea seals too!
There is no official beach car park, so most visitors tend to use the approach road with plenty of room on either side (make sure you don’t block the road!).
This is a popular spot for swimmers but, as is the case with all of the Cork beaches mentioned above and below, caution is required.
The Myrtleville swimming community have created a fantastic guide instructing you on how to swim safely in the area.
3. Rocky Bay Beach (40 minutes)
Situated in a quiet spot not far from Minane Bridge, Rocky Bay Beach is an open stretch of sand around 300m wide from end to end, facing south-south east.
The beach is popular all year round, it’s always clean (remember: leave only footprints!) and the fine brown sand make it feel like you are walking on warm caramel.
OK… maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get my drift! It’s easy to access via a narrow entrance from a local road. Parking is very limited and it can get congested on warm days in the summer.
4. Garryvoe Beach (35 minutes)
This Blue Flag beach boasts pristine waters to swim in and you’ll hopefully have some sun-kissed sand to stroll along when you arrive.
The beach is perfect for families as it has a lifeguard during the summer months, great water quality and the Garryvoe Hotel nearby offers a wide selection of refreshments.
There is a car park and toilet facilities nearby as well as a pitch and putt course if you fancy a game. If you are looking for some surf lessons, you can find a surf school here, too!
FAQs about the best Cork Beaches
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from the best beaches in Cork for swimming to which ones are best for surfing.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the most beautiful beaches in Cork?
In my opinion, the most beautiful of the many Cork beaches is Barleycove. It’s one of those beaches that just sticks in your mind forever.
What are the best beaches in West Cork?
Barleycove, Ballyrisode Beach, Allihies Beach, Red Strand Beach, Crookhaven Beach and Silver Strand on Sherkin Island are all incredible.
Are there any good beaches near Cork City?
Yes! There are several great beaches near Killarney: Dooks Beach (39 minute drive) and Inch Beach (40-minute drive).
Originally from County Tyrone, Johnny’s yearning for new experiences and cultures has taken from Bundoran to Bangkok and everywhere in between!