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Best beach cover-ups: holiday dresses, sarongs, kaftans and trousers to wear this summer

Whether you’re hitting the coast in the UK, relaxing poolside or heading abroad this summer, stay cool and comfy with our pick of the best beach cover-ups.

By Poppy O'Neill | Last updated Apr 19, 2023

Best beach cover ups

We’ve got everything crossed for an uneventful summer this year, with swimsuits and bikinis ready to go. But even when temperatures are high, we're not all super comfortable swanning around in what is, essentially, underwear. Enter the beach cover-up - a versatile and multifaceted wardrobe item that takes many forms. 

So what elevates a normal piece of clothing to a beach cover-up? It needs to be comfortable, low-maintenance and roomy: think slouchy, think breathable, think shove-it-in-the-beach-bag. A good beach cover-up will not only offer stylish coverage, it'll also enable you to go straight from the beach to a restaurant or to see the sights. 

We've combed the Mumsnet Talk forums for pearls of wisdom and recommendations for the best beach cover-ups, and here’s what we found. 

Here are the best beach cover-ups to buy. 

1. Best overall beach cover-up: Monsoon Cami Maxi Tiered Dress

Monsoon cami dress

Price: £85 | Buy now from Monsoon

"Another vote for Monsoon beach - and they have lots of pure cotton too. Bought a few things I'm really pleased with, and the sale is also worth a look" - recommended by Mumsnet user, mrssmiling

Mumsnetters know white is the classiest and most tan-enhancing colour for wearing on the beach, and this floaty number from Monsoon ticks all the boxes. Made from 65% eco-friendly viscose, Monsoon has designed this dress especially for wearing on the beach. It’s got a low v-neck to allow your swimsuit to peek through and a cinch-able drawstring waist to go from casual to dressed-up in moments.   

2. Best budget beach cover-up: Banana Beach Black Sarong

Banana Beach sarong

Price: £4 | Buy now from Amazon

"I take a big sarong/scarf round my neck - does for laying on, covering food, quick wrap up after jumping out of the sea if a bit self conscious, makeshift shade - a big sarong/scarfy thing is a must" - recommended by Mumsnet user, CustardoPaidforIDSsYFronts

At less than a fiver, this versatile sarong is a bargainous, hard-working piece to chuck into your beach bag. It works just as well tied around your waist as worn halter-style, and it folds up nice and small too. This one's quite see-through, but generously sized and just right for giving a little extra cover in the sunshine or as a shade for the buggy.

3. Best beach cover-up sarong: Lestoff Hammam Towel

LeStoff Turkish Hammam Beach Towel

Price: £23 | Buy now from Amazon

"They're great - use mine on holidays as a sarong, towel, picnic rug, to bundle up laundry in. It's got softer with each wash, dries in the sun super quick - they make brilliant travel towels" - recommended by Mumsnet user, bingohandjob

Chic, versatile and available in two sizes and 32 colours, this hammam towel from LeStoff is a multitasking holiday hero. Super-absorbent and breathable, a hammam towel is a great way to save packing space - we recommend getting the larger size to maximise its wearability. 

4. Best beach dress: H&M Broderie Anglaise Dress

H&M Broderie Anglaise Dress

Price: £35 | Buy now from H&M

"H&M - a simple cotton sundress and white linen shirt are classics and don't need to be expensive" - recommended by Mumsnet user, JW13

H&M is our go-to for simple summer dresses, and this cute broderie Anglaise mini is set to be a beach-day staple for summer. Its flirty hemline and oversized cutwork make it perfect for showing off your swimwear without feeling too exposed. Wear with flat sandals and a massive raffia bag.

5. Best lightweight beach cover-up: Aspiga Inca Abaya Kaftan

Aspiga Inca Abaya dress

Price: £110 | Buy now from Aspiga

"That Aspiga one is lovely and I would justify it by thinking much I've saved on holiday clothes over the last two years" - recommended by Mumsnet user, StCharlotte

We think this gorgeous abaya would look just as good soaking up the sun poolside as at a fancy restaurant. Aspiga specialise in sustainable fashion, and Mumsnetters love the brand's statement, holiday chic pieces. Made from a super-soft and lightweight cotton and polyester blend, this dress offers maximum coverage while remaining cool and eye-catching. Pair with gold accessories and oversized shades. 

6. Best beach trousers: Burkashear Cropped Summer Trousers

Burkashear Cropped Summer Trousers

Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon

Linen is a perfect beach fabric because it's light, airy and quick-drying. These trousers from Burkashear are great for those of us who like to feel a little more 'dressed' on the beach. They're available in five muted colours, and we like the relaxed fit and tulip-style cuffs. Featuring a comfy, stretchy waistband and two roomy pockets, they do crease easily, but who cares? You’re on holiday!

7. Best beach co-ord: Ted Baker Stjarna Long Swim Cover-Up

Ted Baker Stjarna Long Swim Cover Up

Price: £150 | Buy now from Ted Baker

"My friend is rich and her look is Ted Baker swimwear and matching cover ups, lots of jewellery that didn’t look over the top, stunning figure, year round tan, lots of different bags some of which have pom-poms on, healed wedges, Chanel lip gloss. On anyone else it may look too much but on her it’s great" -recommended by Mumsnet user, CrimbleCrumble1

When Mumsnetters discuss how to look expensive on the beach, matching swimwear and cover-ups is a top tip. Pair this stylish feather-print number from Ted Baker with a matching swimsuit for maximum rich friend vibes. Featuring a dipped hem and a tie waist, the quality and attention to detail on this cover-up is beautiful.

8. Best beach kimono: One hundred Stars Opulent Pastel Collar Kimono

One hundred Stars Opulent Pastel Collar Kimono

Price: £68 | Buy now from One Hundred Stars

"I really like the One Hundred Stars ones too, they’re beautiful" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Thistle72

"I love One Hundred Stars kimonos, beautiful fabric and so easy to wear. I feel smart without even trying" - vetted by Mumsnet user, Flowersmakemyday

One Hundred Stars’ gorgeous kimonos have a bit of a cult following on Mumsnet. The UK-based company specialises in short, mid-length and long kimonos in a huge range of beautiful prints. Made from a heavy-grade viscose and modal blend, this isn’t a flimsy, see-through cover-up. Throw it over your cossie, wear it as a dressing gown or pair with your favourite jeans - we think it’s a year-round winner.

9. Best oversized shirt for the beach: Zanzea Long Button Down Cotton Shirt

Zanzea Long Button Down Cotton Shirt

Price: £24 | Buy now from Amazon

"I borrowed a long white shirt-style cover-up from a friend on a beach holiday recently and felt like a queen! It was simple thin soft cotton, ankle-length so not trailing in sand. Wore it with yellow suede sandals, dark blue bikini and plain straw hat. Totally comfortable and classic" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Odoreida

Super simple and super chic, it's hard to go wrong with an oversized white shirt. This one from Zanzea is 100% cotton and features three pockets and a button-down half placket. It’s mid-calf length so it won’t trip you over or drag along the ground, and its cropped sleeves and classic collar give it a relaxed look. 

10. Best beach maxi dress: Audate V-Neck Cotton Linen Dress

Audate V-Neck Cotton Linen Dress

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon

"I think black looks really classy in summer. A black cotton or linen sun dress with tan or metallic sandals, straw or pale coloured leather bag, delicate jewellery and a copy of Bonjour Tristesse. Done" - slipperyeel

Black linen is a low-maintenance alternative to white, and this simple, slouchy dress from Audate would make the perfect addition to your beach bag this summer. Ideal for throwing on over swimwear, or dressing up with silver jewellery and a wide-brimmed hat, it’s also available in a round-necked version and five other colours. 

What’s the best material for a beach cover up?

Cotton, linen or a breathable viscose are all perfect fabrics for a beach cover-up. You want a fabric that’s light and airy, so you don’t overheat; as well as quick-drying, so any wet patches from damp bikini bottoms evaporate swiftly. 

What’s the most flattering style of beach cover up?

A loose, relaxed-fit dress or oversized shirt is comfortable and flattering. Opt for white to show off your tan. 

What’s the best beach cover up to buy?

Monsoon’s tiered maxi dress is the best beach cover-up to buy. We love its chic, simple look and beach-friendly details. 

How we chose our recommendations 

Because we know that there’s nothing like a real recommendation from a real woman, we first headed to the Mumsnet forums to find out which beach cover-ups were rated by Mumsnet users. We compiled a list of the best shirts, dresses and sarongs they loved for fit, comfort and value-for-money.

We then did some research across the wider web, looking at which cover-ups were recommended by expert review sites - and what customer reviews said about them too. 

Having collated all that information, we picked the best beach cover-ups for women that we thought would make the best buys.

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.