We investigate conflicts between wildlife conservation and recreational use that can occur at open-access sites when visitors dislike crowding. A theoretical model is proposed which determines the spatial distributions of visitors to a beach, given their willingness to walk to avoid crowding and the configuration of beach access points. This model is estimated for three sections of coastline in eastern England using data from aerial video photography. Visitor density is strongly and negatively correlated with distance from access points. Willingness to walk has a highly skewed population distribution. We discuss the implications of these findings for the management of conflicts between conservation and recreation at open-access sites.