Best Beaches in Co Cork

The Sunday Times has a list of the best beaches in Ireland and only listed 3 beaches in Co Cork – Garretstown, Inchydoney and Barleycove. Here is Activity Days more detailed list of Cork beaches with some detail on the best reason to visit. Not all beaches are suited to families or those with young children, as the waves may be too strong. Some beaches are best for swimming, surfing, birdwatching or walking the beach.

In Cork the sea air smells of salt and fresh Atlantic air. The sea is clean, free to enter and on the most popular beaches there are lifeguards, courtesy of the Co Council. We do not have private beaches in Ireland and we do not have a  hire service of sun umbrellas or sun loungers! The weather can be windy, and a windbreaker and a rug are the best things to bring to the beach. Ireland had a tide as well with high variable on some beaches between high and low tide. The tide washes up shells, seaweed after strong winds or a storm. In warm summer weather jellyfish can be a problem on some beaches. Irish people may ask why I have written these details – but having been to a Medeterraine beach gave me a great appreciation of the quality of Irish beaches.

The beaches listed here are not all the Cork beaches – so please send details of any we have forgotten to add! There are some great beach shacks, cafes and restaurants serving food near some of these beaches.

The Fish Basket at Long Strand, near     Owenahincia and Galley Head, serves freshly cooked fish daily









East Cork Beaches



Suitable for

Youghal Claycaste Beach

Youghal Front Beach  is a gently sandy beach with a narrow area of marsh/dunes (part of Ballyvergan Marsh). Ballyvergan Marsh is located to the west of the beach. Beach boardwalk recently upgraded- great for a walk any time of the year

Good place for a bracing swim as waves can be large and there are old wooden wave breaks which need to be avoided.

Redbarn Beach

The coastal resort of Redbarn is located approximately 2 kilometres south west of Youghal and is situated within an area comprising considerable natural and scenic amenities.

Family and Swimming

Ardnahininch Beach

Ballyvergan Marsh, which is located to the north of Redbarn, is a proposed Natural Heritage Area. The marsh is of particular importance as it is the largest freshwater coastal marsh in County Cork, and accommodates important plant and bird species.








Beaches Close to Cork City



Suitable for


Fountainstown beach is located on the South Cork coast, west of the entrance to Cork Harbour and on the northern side of Ringabella Bay. Fountainstown is a traditional seaside resort, some 15km from Cork City. There are actually two beach areas at Fountainstown. Bunnyconellan Bar and restaurant nearby do a range of food with views of the entrance to Cork harbour.

Great for a swim after a days work in the city.


Rocky Bay

Rocky Bay is approximately 300m wide from end to end, located near Minane Bridge, Cork. It is an open beach facing South-South East. The sandy beach area makes this location a popular amenity. Access is via a narrow entrance from a narrow local road. The area is very popular all year round but in particular during the summer season. Parking is very limited so on warm days in the summer the area can get quite congested.


Garrylucas Beach

Garrylucas, White Strand is a sandy beach with sand dunes in part.  It is located beside the R604 road and adjacent to Kilcolman Marsh and the Old Head of Kinsale and within a short distance of Ballinspittle by car.  Public parking and toilets are provided adjacent to the beach and lifeguards are on duty during the summer season.  Access to the beach by ramps and steps.

Swimming and a family day on the beach.

Garretstown Beach

Garretstown is a sandy beach. It is located on the R604 and adjacent to Kilcolman Marsh and The Old Head of Kinsale and within a short distance of Ballinspittle village by car. Public car parking, toilet facilities and lifebuoys are provided at the beach. Life guards are on duty during the bathing season. Access to the beach by ramps and steps. Wheelchair access is provided.

Family beach but great for surfing


East Beach Inchydoney is located 4km from Clonakilty Town.  The beach is popular with bathers and wind surfers.It is on the southeast side of Inchydoney Lodge & Spa Hotel and to the east of Virgin Mary Point. It is a large, expansive, sandy beach. The beach is bound to the north by sand dunes and to the east by rocky cliffs. To the west of Virgin Mary Point is Inchydoney Blue Flag beach.  Restaurant at Inchadoney Island Lodge does lovely food all day.

Family Friendly, Surfing and swimming at the beach.

Lifeguards in Summer.






                               West Cork Beaches – West of Clonakilty



Suitable for


Owenahincha is a sandy beach backing onto sand dunes. The main route to approach the beach is from Clonakilty on the N71, Turn off at Burgatia Cross onto the R598, which leads down to the beach. It is an exposed beach and the sea can be quite rough at times. Public car parking and public toilet facilities are provided at the beach. There is a short pleasant cliff walk between the Warren Strand and Owenahincha.

Family picnic and swimming.

Lifeguards during summer.

The Fish Basket Beach shack at nearby Long Strand does great fish dishes.

Warren Strand Roscarberry

The Warren is a sandy beach located at the mouth of Rosscarberry Bay and accessed by turning off the N71 at Warren Cross. There is a pitch and putt club adjacent to the beach. Public car parking, toilet facilities and lifebuoys are provided at the beach.

Family Friendly beach with parking in carpark at top of beach. Toilets and short path to beach. Lifeguards in Summer.

Ballyrisode Beach, West Cork

Ballyrisode Beach is located 11km west of Schull Town, on an inlet of Toormore Bay. 

Take the Goleen Road  and after the Oska Outlet Shop take the right down a narrow lane to the beach. Drive in as far as the carpark and turn and then find parking along the lane if small carpark is full. There are  2 beaches, each approximately 150m in length with soft sand. The grass area between the beaches is a good place for picnic and watching children when tide is out!

My Favourite family beach with small children. Very safe and shallow beach with rocks to climb on at low tide with fishing nets.

No facilities so bring your own picnic.

Barleycove, Mizen Head, West Cork.

Blue Flag Beach

Barleycove Beach in West Cork near Mizen head Lighthouse is a wide sandy open beach with gentle to large waves breaking along the beach. The access is via the hotel or a designated carpark with toilets and path across dunes to the beach. Popular in summer, with lifeguards for safety, due to its size it never feels too full. Bring a picnic.

Go Surfing or swimming, great beach for a ball or other beach games.

Lifeguards on duty in summer.







                Beaches of Cork – West Coast Headlands



Suitable for

Galley Cove Beach

Galley Cove beach is located on the eastern side of the Mizen Head Peninsula in West Cork, approx. 1.5km south west of Crookhaven. 

Galley Cove Beach is a sandy east facing beach, approx 120m long. The beach backs onto extensive sand dunes.

Small Beach – family friendly. See where Marconi sent his transatlantic signal from.

Also, small beach at Crookhaven for small children while you have food at O Sullivans.

Duneen Pier, Kilcrohane on the Sheeps Head.

The nearest town to the pier is Kilcrohane. It is very suitable for swimming and diving as it is a sheltered pier.  Access to the sea is via steps.  It is very popular for fishing as there are plentiful supplies of mackeral.  The Sheep’s Head Way walking route has over 90 km of marked trails and transverses the headland from Bantry to its tip at a lighthouse. There are walks here for all abilities.

Good swimmers

Good Coffee at Food Truck at the start of Walk to Sheep’s Head Lighthouse.

Garnish Beach on end of Beara Peninsula

At the western end of the Beara peninsula in Allihies is a sandy beach, great for children and families. Parking just beside the beach and beside the picturesque village of Allihies.

Family with young children.          The Mines Museum has a history of Mining in the area and has a lovely cafe.

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