“A Sussex seaside town without a promenade is like a teacup without a saucer.”
A day trip by the sea is a real tonic, a break for the soul. Even if you live down the road from the beach, you can sometimes forget that something as simple as a walk along the shoreline can be an invigorating and life-affirming experience.
If you live in London or one of the home counties, then the Sussex Coast is one of the easiest destinations for those looking to break out and spend time by the sea. With miles of open, uninterrupted beaches, it’s easy to see why the city of Brighton and the towns of Hastings, Eastbourne and Bexhill-on-Sea are so popular with day trippers. The sandiest beach is at the far eastern edge of the county at Camber Sands – the beach for those who love outdoor pursuits and extreme exercise.
If you are planning to stay longer than a day, why not stay in a self-catering holiday cottage?
Sussex on sea
Nowhere else in England does the ‘promenade’ quite like Brighton and the seaside towns in Sussex. All four towns mentioned below share a long hemline of beach at their edge and that’s where most visitors are drawn. It’s almost as if you can hear the mass exhalation emanating from the newly arrived. They’ve come to see an alchemy at work where family fun and entertainment entwines with an archaic Victorian-era template.
Little has changed in 150 years on the coast and the future has barely intruded on the traditional recipe for a day out that is the Sussex coast. That’s not to say Sussex is old hat, but when the delights of a day resting in the sun or playing in the sea are so uncomplicated why change things? The Victorians were far from primitive and much of England’s infrastructure was shaped by them and their inventions. They built the piers, the ornamental lawns, the boardwalks, the portico parades, the handy roads and the iconic townhouses, apartments and hotels that tower above the surf. So many windows take in so many fantastic views.
The main seaside resorts along the Sussex Coast are Brighton, Hastings, Bexhill-on-Sea, Eastbourne and Camber Sands and they are largely characterised by their pebble expanses – although this doesn’t put off the legions of visitors whenever the sun has got its hat on. For a lovely sandy beach, head further west past Rye to the gorgeous Camber Sands.
Read on to find out which Sussex resort has the best beach for you.
Brighton is perhaps the daddy of UK seaside resorts with its Royal Pavilion, Palace Pier, thousands of interesting shops and night time venues for the adventurous. The city’s relative closeness to London and the home counties make it an easy day out by the sea for day trippers. Its popularity as a holiday destination has barely dimmed since the Prince Regent and then George IV became patrons at the same time as the arrival of the railways in the first half of the 19th century.
Brighton once had two piers – the Palace Pier and the West Pier. The latter has all but washed away, the remnants of its metal, skeletal structure can still be seen in the waves. The Palace Pier is one of the best in the UK and offers fun for all the family.
Shoppers and foodies are also in for a treat as the North Lanes and The Lanes are packed with some of the UK’s most interesting shops. Fine dining to gourmet takeaways and great pubs are further reason to extend your day trip into something longer as well.
The Komedia promises an interesting programme of live events and films (in the adjacent Duke of York Cinema) and there is a veritable cornucopia of other music and theatre venues across the city centre too. It’s impossible to see all of Brighton in a day but if you do only have a few hours, make sure you hit the beach.
Hastings looks and feels like Brighton did 25 years ago and has an ever up-and-coming feel to everything you encounter. With its new pier and a hefty diaspora of places for visitors to check out, Hastings is about to lay claim to being one of the South of England’s most happening towns.
Each of the towns has a fanciful pier, this vestige from the Victorian heyday is still a popular draw. Take a long, slow amble out above the water, along an ornate structure that borrows its footprint from the sea. Some of the county’s piers are older than 100 years now, and they are still well-loved. Hastings has seen a full-restoration in the last ten years after being devastated by a raging fire back in 2010. With modern buildings and lots of space to relax and unwind, it would seem that the piers of Sussex are here to stay.
Eastbourne is Brighton’s quieter companion sat 22 miles to the east. With its pretty Victorian pier and ornamental gardens, its reputation as a resort favoured exclusively by retirees has been challenged in a good way. The Beach Life Festival is a relatively recent addition to the annual programme of Eastbourne events, and it is great fun for those that love extreme sporting activities and the beach – it occurs each July. Watch displays of kite surfing, jet-ski hi-jinks, volleyball, bungee jumping and so much more.
Eastbourne is also associated with the beautiful Beachy Head which is the highest point on the Sussex coast. The National Trust-managed chalk cliff can be seen from the town and it’s an amazing beauty spot for all to enjoy. So divide your day between the seafront and a trip up to Beachy Head when you go.
Bexhill-on-Sea has recently planted itself on the map as a go-to town for art enthusiasts – the De La Warr Pavilion on the seafront is a dynamic gallery. Commanding a stirring view across the English Channel, the Pavilion hosts some impressive touring exhibitions.
The town itself is smaller than the other three and has a less grand seafront because of the lack of tall Victorian-era hotels and apartment buildings that jostle for a picture-postcard view. However, it’s more open, greener and laid-back – it’s also a pleasure to stroll around and you feel like you’ve discovered somewhere for yourself, away from the throngs.
Camber Sands is just inside the Sussex/Kent border and is essentially a village that exists for the beach. There’s room for everybody along the shore, and it’s a hot spot for extreme sports fans and swimmers. There’s lifeguard coverage during the warmer seasons too.
There are some other great beaches in Sussex to investigate like The Witterings near Chichester, Pevensey Beach and Pett Level.
If you are looking to stay in Sussex for longer than a day, consider staying in a holiday cottage. Bramley & Teal have a wonderful range of Sussex cottages to choose from. Why not visit their collection today to see if any are close to the coastal town you plan to visit? If you are travelling to the Sussex Coast as a couple for a romantic break or a young family looking for a first beach getaway, there’s sure to be something for you.