Though the sunny Victorian seaside town of Eastbourne in England is best-known for its breathtaking coastline and characterful pier, don’t let its old-fashioned charm fool you into thinking your stay will be just like any other beach break. The curious traveller can find no end of bizarre and quirky ways to spend a day or two in this surprisingly off-beat holiday spot. Here’s our guide to marching proudly off Eastbourne’s beaten track.
A ghost tour of the Royal Hippodrome Theatre
Theatres are the ideal spooky spot to indulge your superstitious side. With bizarre traditions, rumours of paranormal activity and stories to chill even the most cynical souls, this tour of the Royal Hippodrome is an out-of-the-ordinary option for your seaside visit. Guides Jack and Nancy introduce you to parts of the building not usually open to audience members and share stories of haunted theatres up and down the country.
Royal Hippodrome Theatre, Seaside Road, Eastbourne, England, +44 1323 802020
Clubbing on Eastbourne Pier
Who parties on land these days? Regular nightclubs are all well and good, but wouldn’t you rather dance the night away in a venue just metres above the crashing waves of the English Channel? Luckily Eastbourne’s Atlantis Nightclub provides this very opportunity. With space for 900 sweaty partygoers, this super club gives you the chance to show off your best moves to a considerable crowd.
Atlantis Nightclub, Eastbourne Pier, Grand Parade, Eastbourne , +44 1323 748710
Visit a medieval gaol
Pevensey Court House Museum and Gaol is a unique spot to discover the fascinating history of East Sussex. With two medieval jail cells still preserved and an original Tudor window recently uncovered, the museum is a charming place to while away an hour or two just outside Eastbourne. The dedicated volunteer staff will be pleased to show you a handmade replica of the Pevensey landing scene, when William the Conqueror brought his fleet to England before the Battle of Hastings.
Drink from a (possibly) holy well
Eastbourne’s Holywell Beach may well have got its name from the nearby spring which some believe to be a ‘holy well’. Though we can’t promise the water has magical or curative properties, it’s surely worth a try. Located near Holywell Beach, at the foot of Beachy Head cliffs, you’ll have to decide whether the spring water or the salty sea air did more to lift your mood.
Study the stars from the Redoubt Fortress
Eastbourne’s popular historical museum also offers the chance to spy on the moon and planets through an astronomical telescope on many nights of the year. Check out the constellations, learn more about the moon and inspect some of the planets of the spectacular Milky Way.
Redoubt Fortress, Royal Parade, Eastbourne, England, +44 1323 410300
Live your wizarding fantasy at the Bothwell School of Witchcraft
For the ultimate magical experience, sign up for a four-day stay at Bothwell School of Witchcraft. Based at the magnificent Herstmonceux Castle, the experience includes potions lessons and falconry with students sorted into one of four houses (Boyeswick, Wisenforth, Tabwen and Macnewthorn) and encouraged to hand-make their own wands.
Herstmonceux Castle, Wartling Road, Hailsham, Eastbourne, +44 1323 833816
Walk around Beachy Head Lighthouse
This rare opportunity arises when a low spring tide allows walkers to follow a path around the iconic red and white lighthouse, usually surrounded by the swirling waves of the Channel. Originally organised to raise funds for the much-needed repainting of the beloved lighthouse, the event now spends money donated to walkers to support local charities.
Get tattooed with a postcard-perfect scene
Based at the bright and airy Higgins and Co studio in a lovely refurbished Victorian building in Eastbourne town centre, Valeria Marinaci (@momotattoos) creates adorable, unique tattoos, including pretty framed designs showing famous scenes from Sussex.
Let one of her delicate black and grey vistas – perhaps of the Beachy Head cliffs or rolling South Downs – become a timeless memento of your visit. Her colleagues Elliot, Chris and Dan do beautiful work too, if tribal designs or traditional colour are more your style.
Higgins and Co Tattoo, 69 Terminus Road, Eastbourne, England, +44 1323 301973
Bare all with Eastbourne Naturist Swim Club
You haven’t truly experienced a swim in the English Channel until you’ve done it completely naked. Skinny-dipping is a popular pastime in the southeast, and with naturism growing in popularity across the country, what better way to initiate yourself than by joining Eastbourne Naturist Swim Club for a clothes-free dip? If the thought of the chilly ocean puts you off, the club meet weekly at Motcombe Pool for a naked swim – great for shaking off those body hang-ups judgement-free.
Motcombe Pool, Motcombe Road, Eastbourne, England, +44 1323 410748
Spend the night in a lighthouse
The famous Belle Tout lighthouse is Eastbourne’s other gem. Whitewashed and triumphant on the cliffs not far from its red-and-white striped sister at Beachy Head, the Belle Tout Bed and Breakfast offers a quirky opportunity to spend a night overlooking the dramatic sea.
Belle Tout Bed and Breakfast, Beachy Head Road, Eastbourne, +44 1323 423185
Follow a murder mystery treasure trail
Family-friendly trips around Eastbourne with a scandalous twist – someone’s been murdered! And it’s your task to find out who on earth ‘dunnit’. To be completed at your own pace, the Eastbourne Treasure Trail is 1.8 miles long and should take roughly two hours to complete. A unique way to get to know your surroundings and bring out your inner Hercule Poirot.
Paraglide over the South Downs National Park
Daredevils can take in the glorious greenery of the English countryside from a less-than-typical angle in Eastbourne. Airworks Paragliding Centre offers tandem flights, where newbies are partnered with an expert to guide you soaring effortlessly across spectacular landscapes.
Airworks Paragliding Centre, The Old Station, Glynde, England, +44 1273 434002
Feed the meerkats at Drusilla’s Animal Park
The Close Encounters deals at Drusilla’s Animal Park in Alfriston grant you 30-40 minutes with either the cheeky meerkats, playful penguins, adorable beavers or long-tailed lemurs. Help feed the animals and shadow the zoo-keepers by helping them with their daily tasks. A real treat for animal-lovers.
Drusilla’s Animal Park, Alfriston Road, Alfriston, England, +44 1323 874100