Holywood Beach in Belfast is a peach of a spot.
And, while it gets packed at times (it’s on of the most popular beaches near Belfast, after all) it’s much quieter outside of the summer months.
Below, you’ll find info on everything from parking and where to grab coffee to what to do while you’re there.
Some quick need-to-knows about Holywood Beach Belfast
Although a visit to Holywood Beach is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Holywood Beach is located to the northeast of Holywood town itself, and feels slightly separate due to the presence of the Holywood Bypass (though there is an esplanade along the seafront to the beach). It’s around a 15-minute drive from Belfast city centre (depending on traffic) and there’s also a train running to Holywood Train Station with a similar journey time (without the traffic, of course!).
There’s room for around 30 cars at the main car park on the north side of Ballymenoch Park and there are a couple of disabled parking bays too. There’s also a smaller car park on the corner of the road, but it fills up quickly especially at weekends and in the summer.
While the beach is popular and does attract bathers, it’s hard to find official information about how safe it is/isn’t to swim at Holywood Beach. The proximity to the large ferries leaving from Belfast doesn’t help either, so we’d caution against swimming (there’s no info on the presence of lifeguards either).
About Holywood Beach Belfast
The first thing to know is that the beach is also known as Sea Park (though I’m pretty sure either name will work here!).
The reason is that the area around the beach is also a recreation ground, with a children’s playground, tennis courts, a bowling green and a putting green.
So basically, there are a bunch more things you can do here than at your usual beach!
The sandy beach itself is a popular spot for locals and offers lovely views across Belfast Lough towards County Antrim and the unmistakable shape of Carrickfergus Castle.
It’s also just a few minutes’ walk from the colourful parade of independent shops on Holywood High St! Covering all bases, you’ll find fancy interiors stores, cafés and bars in painted period buildings.
And don’t forget that Holywood is the start of the lovely Holywood to Bangor Coastal Path (but we’ll have more on that later!).
Things to do at Holywood Beach Belfast
There’s a handful of things to see and do in and around Holywood Beach in Belfast. Here are some suggestions:
1. Grab a hot drink or a sweet treat from Percy’s
The conveniently-placed Percy’s Picnic Pitstop is far more than your average ice cream van!
Located at the recreation ground, Percy’s bright green van is easily recognisable and is at the beach every day from 10:30 to 20:00.
So if you’re in the mood for a milkshake, slushy, smoothie, popcorn, candy floss or a good old-fashioned ice cream, then Percy is your guy. Of course, most of these options are aimed at the kids but don’t pretend you’re not tempted when you’re there!
2. And stroll down to the beach
It’s an easy walk down to Holywood Beach and it’s a great spot to soak up the cracking views across to the rising hills of Antrim across the water.
When the tide goes out, the beach reveals a more pebbly side and becomes a mix of sand and stone. It’s also dog-friendly, though I’m sure your four-legged friends don’t really mind what kind of surface they scamper around on when they’ve got all that room!
If the weather is good, then don’t hesitate to kick your shoes off and go for a paddle in the water (though take a bit more caution when walking across the pebbles).
3. Then take on the Holywood to Bangor Coastal Path
Stretching 10 miles (16 km) along rocky shores, fine sandy beaches, quiet coves, country parkland and busy promenades, the Holywood to Bangor Coastal Path is one of the finest and most accessible walks in Ireland.
Though, of course, taking on a walk of this length is quite different in nature to a leisurely beach ramble! So, if you’re in the mood for a hike, then prepare in advance as it’ll take a solid three hours to finish.
But the views and landscape are well worth it and, while it’s linear, there are excellent transport options for returning and loads of places in either Holywood or Bangor to enjoy a pint and feed afterwards!
Places to visit near Holywood Beach
One of the beauties of Holywood Beach is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Belfast.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Holywood (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Ulster Folk Museum (5-minute drive)
A recreated bygone era of farms, cottages, traditional crops and local breeds of livestock, Ulster Folk museum tells the fascinating story of life in rural early 20th century Ulster. Remember, however, that all visitors to the museum must pre-book a time slot on the website.
2. Cairn Wood (10-minute drive)
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 bustle of popular Holywood 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’s attractions (12-minute drive)
There’s endless things to see and do around Belfast, from the Cathedral Quarter and the Cave Hill walk to the Belfast Black Cab tours and the endless restaurants in Belfast, there’s plenty to keep you busy.
Holywood Beach Belfast FAQs
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Where do you park?’ to ‘When’s the tide out?’.
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.
Can you swim at Holywood Beach?
We’ve tried our best but couldn’t find any official information about how safe it is or isn’t to swim here, so check locally when you arrive.
Where do you park in Holywood?
There’s room for around 30 cars at the main car park on the north side of Ballymenoch Park and there’s a smaller car park on the corner of the road, but it fills up quickly.