A short drive from the idyllic town of Kinsale, lies the Blue Flag awarded Garretstown Beach (sometimes referred to as Garrettstown Beach).
As well as being in easy reach from Kinsale, this beach is also one of the closest beaches to Cork City.
Generations of Cork families, not to mention those from further afield, have visited this beach and have spent holidays in the area.
This was one of the favorite Sunday outings for my family and we would visit the beach hail, rain or shine. (We often had picnics in the car when the weather was terrible!)
Today, this beach is still a popular destination, especially during the summer months and it is not hard to see why given its scenic nature and amenities.
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Garretstown Beach Cork
The long, south facing beach at Garretstown is mostly sandy, but also has some pebbly parts towards the rear of the beach. On either end of the beach there are rocky cliffs.
One section of the beach (on the southeast side) is backed by a high stone wall.
To help reduce the impacts of coastal erosion on the shoreline, there are also some concrete blocks at the back of the beach. These are mostly covered in stones and not obtrusive.
Water Sport activities are popular on this beach and there is a lifeguard service on duty here during the summer bathing season.
What to do on Garretstown Beach Kinsale?
The long, sandy beach in Garretstown is a prime amenity for many different recreational activities.
Garretstown Beach Swimming
Garretstown Beach usually has a very high standard of water quality and is an enjoyable location for a swim.
Due to the location and aspect of the beach, it can get a bit wild from time to time (as you can see in our photos!). This makes the beach perfect for surfing, but a little less ideal for swimming.
The Garretstown Beach waves are great for jumping around in and using a bodyboard though!
One important thing to note about this beach is that there are only lifeguards on this beach during the summer months.
During the rest of the year, there is no emergency care.
Official signs at the location warn of rip currents. Water safety should always be of top priority.
For more information about how to stay safe in Irish waters, please check the Irish Water Safety website.
Garretstown Beach Surfing Cork
Garretstown is one of Cork’s best surfing locations.
The best conditions are at low tide when the swell is from the southwest and the wind is from the northwest.
At high tide, there are some submerged obstacles which are dangerous for surfers.
Waves break from both right and left and are best suited towards intermediate surfers, but it is also a good spot to learn to surf.
When the conditions are good, this location can become a bit busy, so best to be prepared.
There are a few different surf schools that operate on Garretstown Beach and cater for beginner and intermediate abilities. These include GTown and Pukana Surf Adventures.
More information about Garretstown surf classes, courses, and summer camps can be found on the websites above.
Garretstown Beach Surf rental options are also available.
Garretstown Beach Walking
When the tide is out, Garretstown Beach is highly suitable for an enjoyable beach walk between the two rocky cliffs.
It is possible to extend this walk and include the neighboring Garrylucas Beach and cliffs, as well.
Please take extra caution on the headlands and cliffs as there are unprotected steep areas.
Make sure you plan your walk to coincide with the low tide times, as it will not be possible to walk along the sandy part of the beach when the tide is completely in.
Garretstown Beach Sauna
In recent years, a mobile sauna has been located at Garretstown. enabling beach goers to avail of the benefits of steam while enjoying the view.
Garretstown Food Trucks
During the busier times, several food trucks are based at the beach serving all sorts of coffees, hot beverages, as well as snacks and light food.
There is also a Garretstown Beach cáfe and wine bar located between the two beaches.
After a day at the beach, who wouldn’t have an appetite to sample some of these tasty treats!
Garretstown Beach FAQs
Where is Garretstown Beach?
Garretstown Beach Directions – how do I get there?
Distance from Cork City: 39 km or 24 miles
Time to Drive from Cork City: ca. 50 minutes
Cork to Garretstown Beach Map
If driving from Cork, take the R600 westwards to Kinsale. Once you reach Kinsale, travel through the town, and continue to follow the R600 as you drive through the town of Ballinspittle.
Take the R604 and follow the signs for Garretstown Beach.
Image via Google Maps (Map Data © 2023). For a larger view of the map, please see Google Map to Garretstown Beach from Cork City.
Note: It is also possible to travel along the R604 from Barrels Crossroads and follow the signs for Garretstown Beach at the turn off for the Old Head of Kinsale.
By traveling this route, you first reach Garrylucas Beach and then Garretstown Beach.
Garretstown Beach Bus
Travel to Garretstown Beach by public transport is not particularly easy, although it is technically possible.
Two bus connections are required from Cork City to get to the beach.
There is a regular bus service that connects Cork City with Kinsale in County Cork. Information about the bus timetable and bus prices can be found on the Bus Éireann website.
Garretstown Beach is located about 15 minutes drive (13 km or 8 miles) from Kinsale, so another bus connection is needed.
A local link bus service connects the communities between Kinsale and Clonakilty.
Roughly three to four buses on this bus route stop at Garretstown and Garrylucas beach each day.
The bus used to connect Kinsale to Garretstown does not have a high capacity.
Relying on this option might be a bit on the risky side, especially in summer and on the return journey from Garretstown to Kinsale.
Cork Beaches by Bus
What is Garretstown Beach parking like?
Garretstown Beach has car parks, as well as some on street parking in some areas. No parking is allowed on the beach.
During the low season, finding parking is not usually a problem here. However, when the weather is fine during the summer months, this beach can get very full.
There are very limited public transport options to the area so as the majority of day trippers come by car, the entire area can get very congested.
On the plus side, Garrylucas is the sister beach to Garretstown and located very close to each other. It might always be worth checking out if there is more space at this beach (which also has its own parking).
If you are planning a day during the summer, then perhaps aim to visit the beach earlier in the day to avoid the worst of the traffic.
(Keep in mind the Garretstown Beach tide times too!)
Are there public toilets at Garretstown Beach?
Yes, Garretstown Beach has public toilet facilities.
What facilities are at Garretstown Beach?
Lifeguards are stationed on the beach during the summer bathing season. At other times of the year, there is no lifeguard cover.
Litter bins are provided for waste at the beach, but there are no recycling facilities available.
In summer, these waste bins can quickly become filled.
If there is no more space in the bin, please bring your rubbish home with you and help to keep the beach and its surrounding environment clean.
It is classified as a Natural Sensitive Area as Garrettstown Marsh is located on the north side of the beach.
Access to the beach is via steps and ramps.
Disability access to Garretstown Beach is available via a ramp.
Can you swim at Garretstown?
Yes, Garretstown Beach is one of Cork’s most popular swimming beaches.
Each year many people take to the water to swim or even just have fun splashing around in the waves.
It is important to know that the area does occasionally have rip currents and there are signs at the beach warning about this.
Depending on the water and weather conditions, it is not always safe to enter the water. Please do not overestimate your own swimming capabilities.
Only during the bathing season in the summer months do lifeguards patrol the beach.
For information about the times when they are on duty, please check locally.
What is the water quality at Garretstown Beach?
The bathing water quality at Garretstown Beach is typically of a very high standard.
During the summer months, the regular water quality checks that are carried out on this beach can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency website.
Garretstown Beach Tides
To make the most of your visit to the beach, it is best to visit Garretstown Beach when the tide is out or going out.
When the tide is fully in, it covers most of the beach and makes activities such as walking difficult (or impossible in places).
Information about the tide times at Garretstown Beach can be found on this website.
Garretstown Beach Weather Information
The Norwegian weather site YR.no offers a good weather forecast for the Garretstown area.
It is well worth checking this website, before you pack your sunglasses and sunscreen and head to the beach.
The weather in Ireland is always very changeable, especially near the coast so best to be prepared and informed!
The Garretstown Beach cam comes in very handy to check what the local conditions are like, before you head to the beach.
Are dogs allowed on Garretstown beach?
Officially dogs are not allowed on Garretstown Beach.
Places to stay near Garretstown Beach
Trident Hotel Kinsale
For those of you who want a getaway break with easy access to the sea, combining a trip to Garretstown with a stay in the 4 star Trident Hotel in Kinsale could be a good option.
This award winning hotel is known for its great views of Kinsale Harbour, as well as its gourmet cuisine in the hotel restaurant.
Just sit back, relax and enjoy!
Self Catering Kinsale Coastal Cottages
If you are looking for some spacious self catering accommodation options close to a beach, then the Kinsale Coastal Cottages might be something for you.
The proximity to two great beaches is hard to beat, especially if you have an interest in water sports such as surfing or kitesurfing.
Garretstown Beach Cork Camping
If you plan on a beach break, why not try a bit of camping too. Garrettstown House Holiday Park is located only a short drive from the beach (ca. 5 minutes).
There you will find all of the facilities needed to make the most out of a camping trip.
Kids will also be kept occupied by their on site playground facilities.
Things to Do near Garretstown Beach
Kite Surf at Garrylucas Beach
If you are interested in water sports and fancy trying kitesurfing, Garrylucas Beach, right next to Garretstown Beach is one of the top locations for kitesurfing in the country.
Even beginners can learn to kite surf at this beach. Lessons and equipment are available from the the Kite Sport Centre.
Visit Kinsale Town
After some good quality strand and seaside time, why not explore the town of Kinsale.
With its charming little streets, internationally renowned gourmet food scene, not to mention scenic harbor views and dramatic history, Kinsale is truly a one of a kind place.
Make sure you visit Charles Fort for some superb views of Kinsale and insights into the importance of this harbor town in Irish history.
There are also plenty more beaches near Kinsale to check out!
A Trip to Clonakilty
Clonakilty is another Cork town not too far from Garretstown Beach (35 minutes drive, 30 km / 19 miles) with plenty of character and lots to do and see.
You will feel like a giant in the West Cork Model Railway Village.
Other activities include learning how to make gin in the Clonakilty Distillery or take part in one of the tours of the center.
One can’t forget the product that Clonakilty is most famous for: its black pudding!
This is an essential ingredient in a traditional Irish Breakfast.
For fans of black pudding, there is also a Clonakilty Blackpudding Visitor Centre!
Or if you haven’t had your fill of beautiful beaches, then the stunning Inchydoney near Clonakilty is the place to head to!
Beaches in Cork
If you happen to be in Garretstown, then it is well worth checking out other beaches in Kinsale and the surrounding area.
It is good to know that Cork has many other beautiful beaches scattered along its long coastline.
Whether you fancy a beach walk or a surf there is plenty of variety when it comes to beaches in this county.
(Inch Beach is another favorite of ours!)
We’ve written a guide to some of the best beaches in Cork.
For more Northern Ireland and Ireland travel tips and Irish culture tips, check out our main website.
(Irish Nature Expert and Celtic Enthusiast from Ireland)
Emer Walker, founder of LetsGoIreland.com, is a Cork native with profound expertise in Irish nature and ecology. Holding a PhD in Restoration Ecology and backed by extensive research in ecological sciences, she’s delved deep into Ireland’s natural wonders, from its rugged landscapes to its serene beaches. Emer’s passion also encompasses Celtic art and traditions. As a true authority on Ireland’s natural and cultural heritage, she invites readers through LetsGoIreland.com to immerse themselves in the authentic Irish experience.