No trip to the English seaside is complete without a stroll to the end of the pier, ice cream in hand (weather conditions irrelevant). Eastbourne’s gorgeous Victorian pier, built between 1866 and 1872, makes a great focal point for a morning spent at the town’s picturesque beach. Enjoy some old-school arcade games, stare out to sea or opt for lunch with a view at one of the pier’s charming eateries. Head to The Chippy for a traditional cod-in-batter feast. The Victorian Tea Rooms do a top-notch cream tea if you’re after something sweet.
Eastbourne Pier, 3 Grand Parade, Eastbourne, England, +1323 410466
A bracing walk along the coastline at Beachy Head is essential in Eastbourne. The pretty red-and-white striped lighthouse is a lovely view to top off the stunning sights across the sea and plunging white cliffs. Look west and you’ll also see the impressive white Belle Tout lighthouse not too far away.
This independent theatre venue opened in 2015 and is proof that Eastbourne’s alternative scene is on the up. Located on the understatedly cool Grove Road, Printers Playhouse, with its glowing stage lights and cosy interior, is a must-visit on your trip. The venue plays host to comedy nights, contemporary theatre and live music from local bands.
Printers Playhouse, Grove Road, Eastbourne, England, +1323 301333
For a taste of England’s history, brick-built Herstmonceux Castle, located just outside Eastbourne, makes for a magical day out. Dating back to the 15th century, the castle and its stunning gardens combine the grandeur of medieval England with the romance of the European renaissance. You can also watch a falconry display in the castle’s beautiful grounds.
The modern marina complex at Sovereign Harbour has bars, restaurants and shops worth pencilling in a day for. But there’s also the chance to book various mini excursions from the spot, including fishing and diving trips, water sports or a boat tour.
While Eastbourne remains popular with retirees who put their long lives down to the cheerful community and fresh sea air, the town also has an up-and-coming alternative scene, at the heart of which is Grove Road. From boutique record shops to second-hand book stores, independent burger bar Half Man! Half Burger! and a vegetarian pottery-painting café, this street and much of the surrounding Little Chelsea district prove Eastbourne is young at heart.
Half Man! Half Burger! Grove Road, Eastbourne, England, +1323 301515
The striking white Towner Gallery makes an impression on first glance. This modern building is an eye-catching contrast to the town’s Victorian seafront architecture, but it’s the exhibitions within that make the space so memorable. Be sure to check out the collection of watercolours by Eric Ravilious, whose unique style captures the South Downs and his home county of Sussex in sweeping shapes and uplifting colour.
Towner Art Gallery, College Road, Eastbourne, England, +1323 434670
Known for hosting more live events than any other in the country, Eastbourne’s bandstand combines new and old, with its traditional architecture making a splendid backdrop for wild rock ‘n’ roll gigs, joyful choirs and haunting acoustic performances from local singers. With the sea swirling behind it, the 1, 400-seater venue makes a dramatic spot to watch your favourite act.
Eastbourne Bandstand, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, England, +1323 410611
Recent recipient of a hand-sewn replica of the Pevensey landing scene from the Bayeux Tapestry, this museum provides wonderful insights into the history of Eastbourne and its surrounding towns. With a medieval jail preserved inside, the building itself is evocative of years gone by. Staff are knowledgeable and passionate, ready to guide you through Sussex’s history with an expert eye.
If you want to add some action to your seaside stay, make the most of the waves by heading over to Buzz Eastbourne where you can sign up to classes in sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and paddle-boarding among others. Located conveniently on Eastbourne’s beach, there’s also the option of practising on the shallow Prince’s Park lake, if you’re a beginner or the sea is rough. The town is also host to Eastbourne Extreme Festival, which is a celebration of adventure sports on land and sea guaranteed to get your pulse racing.
Buzz Active, Royal Parade, Eastbourne, England, +1323 417023