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A Guide To Garretstown Beach In Cork (Parking, Swimming + Surfing)

A Guide To Garretstown Beach In Cork (Parking, Swimming + Surfing)

The beautiful Garretstown Beach is arguably one of the best beaches in Cork.

While this extensive sandy beach is quite popular during the summer months, you can visit during the quieter months and have the whole place to yourself.

One of several Blue Flag Beaches in Cork, Garretstown Beach caters to just about anyone; there is a scenic path for walkers, great waves for surfers and excellent water quality for bathers.

In the guide below, you’ll find out everything you need to know if you plan on visiting Garretstown Beach in 2022.

Some quick need-to-knows before visiting Garretstown Beach

Garretstown Beach surfing

Photo by Fabiano’s_Photo (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to Garretstown Beach is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows. In particular, please take notice of the safety warning.

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. Location

You’ll find Garretstown Beach not far from the Old Head of Kinsale and just down the road from the village of Ballinspittle (4-minute drive). At 15 minutes away, it’s also one of the most popular beaches near Kinsale.

2. Parking

Garretstown is well-equipped for beach-goers and it boasts a decently sized car park (this can fill up quickly on warm days), toilet facilities and lifebuoys provided at the beach.

3. Swimming and surfing

During bathing season, the beach is lifeguarded and there is a surf school at the beach, which has been open for 3 years and where you can get a few wee lessons in or just hire a kayak or a paddle board. 

4. Safety and warning (please read)

In April of 2021, a horrific accident took place at the cliffs near Garretstown Beach. A young man fell into a blowhole and tragically lost his life. If you visit Garretstown Beach and happen to walk near the cliffs, please, please be careful. 

About Garretstown Beach


The sandy Garretstown Beach faces south, gently sloping towards the sea and boasts gorgeous views of the Old Head of Kinsale.

It’s flanked on both sides by rocky cliffs which breaks the beach up into two separate strands. One section (Garylucas Beach) comes from the Old Head while the smaller section (Garretstown) is closer to Ballinspittle.


At the time of typing, Garretstown has Blue Flag status, which makes the area a popular spot for swimming.

Now, please not that lifeguards are only on duty during the busier summer months, so caution is required if entering the water.


Garretstown Beach Surf School has been rocking around since 2014 and offers everything from lessons and kayaking camps to surf camps and stand-up paddle boarding.

If you’re in search of things to do in Cork with a group, a surf lesson followed by food in Kinsale is a solid day out!


North of the beach is the Garretstown Marsh and at the end of the parking area is a scenic trail along the cliffs.

The walk is around 1km one way and it’s challenging in places as the path is very narrow so a lot of caution is required.

As mentioned previously, there’s also a blowhole here that remains unguarded – please be careful and stay vigilant as you walk. 

Things to do near Garretstown Beach

what to do near Garretstown Beach

Photo by TyronRoss (Shutterstock)

One of the beauties of Garretstown Beach is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Garretstown Beach (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Kinsale

kinsale town

Photo left: Borisb17. Photo right: Dimitris Panas (Shutterstock)

Conveniently located at the start of the Wild Atlantic Way, the picturesque little town of Kinsale is full of colourful streetscapes and narrow winding roads full of secret spots.

If you hop into our Kinsale restaurants guide you’ll find some fine places to eat or, if you fancy a pint, our Kinsale pubs guide is packed with great traditional pubs.

2. Walks galore

walks and hikes

Photo by TyronRoss (Shutterstock)

There are several brilliant walks near Garretstown Beach. Our favourite is the Scilly Walk in Kinsale which takes you from the town out to the Bulman Bar.

You can also extend it to include Charles Fort. The Old Head of Kinsale walk is a stone’s throw from the beach and offers mighty coastal views.

3. Inchydoney Beach

inchydoney beach

Photo left: TyronRoss (Shutterstock). Photo right: © The Irish Road Trip

Located south of the dreamy Inchydoney Island, Inchydoney Beach is well worth a saunter along at any time of the year.

Separated into two sections thanks to a rocky peninsula known as the Virgin Mary Headland, the sandy beach has some of the bluest of blue waters you could ever find.

4. Clonakilty

Clonakilty village

Photo by Marcela Mul (Shutterstock)

While a small town, Clonakilty greatly benefits from flocks of tourists every year. There is a wonderful secret spot for peace and quiet at Fernhill House & Gardens.

There’s plenty of things to do in Clonakilty and there’s several great restaurants in Clonakilty if you fancy a bite to eat.

4. Cork City

cork city

Photo by mikemike10 (Shutterstock)

Cork City is like the bohemia captial of Ireland; there endless art, music and culinary treats to explore (especially at the English Market).

The city is also very walkable and there’s plenty to see and do (hope into our guide to the best things to do in Cork City to discover more).

FAQs about visiting Garretstown Beach in Cork

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from where to park at Garretstown Beach to whether or not it’s OK to swim.

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.

Is it easy to get parking at Garretstown Beach?

Yes – there’s plenty of parking at Garretstown Strand. The only time you’ll have trouble getting a spot is during the summer months or at the weekends when the weather is fine.

Is it safe to swim on Garretstown Beach?

With clean Blue Flag awarded waters, Garretstown Beach is excellent for swimming. However, lifeguards are only on duty during the ‘bathing season’, so cation is required at all times!

Is there much to see near Garretstown Beach?

Yes! You have everything from the Old Head and Kinsale Town to Clonakilty and much more a short spin away.

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