Helen’s Bay Beach near Bangor (and Belfast!) really is a beaut.
One of the busier beaches in Down, it’s backed onto by the wooded headlands, meadows and pleasant trails of Crawfordsburn Country Park.
Below, you’ll find info on everything from parking and swimming to what to see while you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Helen’s Bay Beach
Although a visit to Helen’s Bay Beach near Belfast is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Helen’s Bay is located on the northern County Down coast, just to the west of the town of Bangor. It’s only a 20-minute drive from Belfast, while there’s also a handy direct 22-minute service to Helen’s Bay Beach from Belfast on NI Railways.
Helens Bay Beach Car Park And Garden is just a short walk from the beach and has toilet facilities too. There is also disabled parking and there’s a path suitable for wheelchair users leading from the car park to a path running adjacent to the beach.
Helen’s Bay is excellent water quality and has been awarded a Green Coast award. Though while popular in the summer, there are no lifeguards on duty so bear that in mind. The beach is occasionally affected by the wake from high-speed ferries heading to and from Belfast.
4. It gets busy
Helen’s Bay Beach is one of the more popular beaches near Belfast, so it can get extremely busy when the weather’s fine. It’s worth arriving early on warm days.
About Helen’s Bay
Helen’s Bay Beach has been a popular slice of County Down coast since the days of the Victorians, though lofty plans for it to become a luxury holiday resort never quite made it to fruition.
Still, its gorgeous sandy beaches are arguably the best within the Belfast area and, as such, make Helen’s Bay a grand spot to visit at any time of year.
Its name actually comes from Helen, Lady Dufferin (née Sheridan), mother of Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, first Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, and owner of the Clandeboye Estate in Bangor.
The local area is also a haven for wildlife. Seals and porpoises can sometimes be spotted off-shore over Belfast Bay, while during the summer months eider ducks and terns can be spotted in the surrounding area.
The beautiful beach is around 5km in length, and is backed onto by the wooded headlands, meadows and pleasant trails of Crawfordsburn Country Park.
Things to do at Helen’s Bay Beach
There’s plenty to do in and around Helen’s Bay Beach if you’re on a mini day trip from Belfast. Here are some suggestions:
1. Grab a coffee from the Woodlands Cafe
Speaking of Crawfordsburn Country Park, that’s where you’ll need to head if you want a little caffeine hit or an indulgent sweet treat before visiting the beach!
Sat in the heart of the park and surrounded by green forest is the excellent (and aptly-titled!) Woodlands cafe. And alongside their coffee and cakes, they also serve heartier dishes like homemade lasagne and lightly-battered hake and chips that are perfect for a winter visit.
In the summer they also put out tables and chairs for eating, and their woodland location is much more preferable to the usual roadside cafe al fresco dining!
2. Then hit the beach for some views and walks
Once you’ve got your coffee sorted, make your way through the park down towards Helen’s Bay Beach!
It’s only a short walk and you’ll be greeted with some deadly views across Belfast Lough towards Whitehead and the pretty Blackhead Lighthouse.
If the weather’s nice then don’t hesitate to kick your shoes off and go for a paddle in the Bay’s clean waters.
Helen’s Bay is also home to a cracking coastal path that’s an easy ramble with fine views the whole way. Start from Crawfordsburn Beach and make your way past Helen’s Bay, finishing up at Grey Point Fort and its unique gun emplacement built in 1904.
Places to visit near Helen’s Bay
One of the beauties of Helen’s Bay Beach is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Down.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Helen’s Bay!
1. North Down Coastal Path (5-minute walk)
So, the coastal path I was just talking about is actually part of a much longer coastal path! Running from Holywood in the west to Orlock in the east, the North Down Coastal Path passes Helen’s Bay so feel free to jump on here or begin at either end. If you’re going to do it all, then be warned that it’s a long old hike at 16 miles, but the beautiful views and wind in your hair makes it totally worth it!
2. Cairn Wood (10-minute)
One of Down’s most serene spots is just a 10-minute drive from Helen’s Bay. Full of tall conifers, the hilly forest of Cairn Wood is a perfect escape from the coast and features several well-marked trails. And with some lovely views back towards Bangor and Belfast Lough, Cairn Wood has a bit of everything!
3. Belfast (20-minute drive)
There’s always loads going on in vibrant Belfast and the Northern Irish capital is just a twenty-minute drive from Helen’s Bay. As well as all the great bars, pubs and restaurants, the fantastic Titanic Belfast museum is very accessible when heading in from the east coast and will make for a brilliant afternoon if you’re with kids.
FAQs about Helen’s Bay in Northern Ireland
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where’s the train station?’ to ‘Can you 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 there toilets at Helens Bay?
Yes, there are toilets at Helen’s Bay Beach near Bangor. There’s also a cafe/restaurant, picnic sites and tourist information.
Can you swim in Helens Bay?
We’ve tried to find official information about swimming Helen’s Bay Beach, but we can’t find any. We’d recommend checking locally when you arrive.