The seaside resort of Eastbourne, with a pebbly beach and clean promenade, has plenty of varied things to do, whether you are visiting for the day from London, or planning on spending a few days exploring the area.
Elegant hotels line the seafront with the colourful Carpet Gardens in front. At the western end of Eastbourne seafront is the famous Beachy Head with its high chalk sea cliffs. They are part of the South Downs National Park and Seven Sisters Country Park and make for a great side trip from the beach front.
Things To Do In Eastbourne
1. Eastbourne Beach
Eastbourne beaches are clean and welcoming. The award winning blue flag beaches offer clean waters to swim in (when the weather allows) and are easily accessible.
There are a choice of beaches, with Grand Parade Beach being the main one by the pier. There are showers, toilets, lifeguards, first aid, refreshments and beach hut hire available.
Our favourite beach in Eastbourne is Holywell Retreat, at the foot of the South Downs. It is usually easy to find beach front parking, although warmer days will be trickier. Access to Holywell is down a steep winding hill (remember you will need to walk back up it, so what goes down, must be carried back up!) At the bottom you will find a lovely cafe (Holywell Tea Rooms) serving delicious refreshments and food. There are also toilet facilities.
This area is where the Dotto Train turns around to make its journey back along the seafront to the Marina. You are able to hop on and off at various stops along the way, making it a great way to see the whole seafront, with some great views along the way.
If you manage to coincide your stay at Holywell beach with the tide going out, it is the perfect place to go rock pooling with large expanses of sand also being revealed. Check tide times here.
When at Holywell, if you walk a little further west (away from the main resort of Eastbourne), you will find the Holywell, a well at the foot of the cliffs where fresh spring water comes out.
2. Eastbourne Pier
Sadly, in July 2014 a fire occurred on Eastbourne Pier, destroying the main roof which dated back to the 1870’s. Fortunately the pier was safely evacuated and nobody was hurt. The pier is now reopened following extensive restoration work, with more work still taking place. The pier offers some good views of the town and has the usual pier facilities including refreshment outlets, shops and several benches to just sit back and enjoy the seaside.
3. Redoubt Fortress
If you head east of the pier you will come across the Redoubt and Harbour Reach beaches heading towards the marina. By the Redoubt beach is Redoubt Fortress.
Redoubt Fortress is a historic landmark dating back over 200 years. It was built to protect the South Coast from Napolean – today it is home to the largest military collection in the south of England.
Entry to the actual fortress and Parade Ground is free with a small fee charged for entry to the museum. Lots of events are put on throughout the year including a cinema from May until October.
4. Heritage Eastbourne
Learn about the history of Eastbourne, as well as attend a variety of interesting events that take place at the Heritage Eastbourne.
5. Eastbourne Bandstand
Along the seafront, not far from the pier, is the Eastbourne Bandstand. The bandstand is well maintained and used regularly for events including tribute acts, Prom concerts, kids concerts and 1812 Firework concerts. Tickets can be bought online or on the night, where available.
6. Sovereign Harbour Marina
The marina is pleasant and quiet to wander about, admiring the boats coming and going. There are a selection of restaurants and cafes to stop off for food and refreshments. The marina is a stop on the Dotto Train mentioned earlier. It is located at the far eastern side of the Pier.
7. Royal Hippodrome Theatre
Eastbourne’s oldest theatre dates back to 1883 and has showcased a stream of sought after performers over the years. Today you can visit the Royal Hippodrome Theatre and see popular current day acts, tributes, and the much adored Christmas panto.
8. Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway
It’s full steam ahead with a fun ride at the famous one-eight scale steam railway. Ride aboard the miniature locomotives as they take you around the country park and the 5 acre lake, on a mile long journey.
Other facilities include an adventure playground, maze, picnic areas as well as a tea room and gift shop.
For the latest entry prices and opening hours check the website.
9. Princes Park
The award winning Princess Park is a popular alternative to the beach. The 33 acre park has a boating lake, children’s play areas (with Splash Pad for the summer months), bowling green, cafe and a 18 hole putting green.
The park is situated just in from the seafront, with buses running alongside it from the train station 2 miles away.
10. Beachy Head
The highest chalk cliffs in Britain, standing at 162 metres above sea level. On a clear day, the views from the top are stunning across the English Channel. On a windy day, pack an extra layer or two, it gets a bit breezy up there!
At the top, you can stop for a picnic or head to the Beachy Head Inn serving meals and snacks. There are numerous walks that can be done from here. A good one to start with is the Beachy Head walk, a 90 minute circular walk taking in Birling Gap.
Getting to Beachy Head From Eastbourne
Car – You can drive up to Beachy Head and park in the large public pay and display car park. From Eastbourne Pier, drive along the sea front with the sea on your left. You will pass St Bede’s Prep School on your left. Follow the road up the hill and then the signs to Beachy Head.
Walk – Walk up from the foot of Beachy Head below (past Holywell and St Bede’s Prep School.)
Bus/Tour – The hop on hop off bus also takes you up to the top of Beachy Head (covered later on in this article.) The 13X Coaster Tourist Trail Bus takes you to Beachy Head from Eastbourne Pier. It also goes onwards to Birling Gap, Seven Sisters Country Park and Brighton. One day Discovery fares are available, allowing you to explore the area by bus in an economical way.
11. Belle Tout Lighthouse
The Belle Tout Lighthouse is a wonderful building that has a varied and unique past. It was originally built in 1832 and has since served as a tea-shop, a home, a film set and now today as a wonderful unique place to stay. It was also significantly damaged during WW2 and then repaired, as well as moved in 1999 due to coastal erosion.
The lighthouse now opens up it’s rooms as a unique bed and breakfast with 360 degree views of the English Channel and of course the beautiful surrounding landscape.
12. Birling Gap
Part of the world famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, Birling Gap makes up one of the longest stretches of undeveloped coastline along the south coast of England.
Birling Gap is run by the National Trust who have a cafe, shop and visitor centre on the cliff top. The views from the cliff tops of the Seven Sisters are incredible, so don’t forget your camera! The dramatic landscape and never ending sea is really rather breath taking.
You can climb down the steps (be careful, they are steep) to the beach below with lots of areas perfect for rock pooling and picnics.
Getting to Birling Gap from Eastbourne
Car – Birling Gap is 5 miles west of Eastbourne. It is signposted from East Dean on the A259. Parking is available at Birling Gap for £2 for half a day and £4 for a whole day. Parking is free for National Trust Members.
Bus – The hop on hop off bus also takes you up to Birling Gap (covered earlier on in the chapter.) The 13X Coaster Tourist Trail Bus takes you to Birling Gap from Eastbourne Pier. It also goes onwards to Seven Sisters Country Park and Brighton. One day Discovery fares are available, allowing you to explore the area by bus in an economical way.
13. Seven Sisters Country Park
Within the South Downs National Park is the 280 hectares of chalk cliffs, river valley and open grassland that make up the Seven Sisters Country Park.
The coastline along the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs is simply stunning and offers incredible views on a truly natural coastline.
A great easy walk is along the mile long track beach trail, through Seven Sisters Country Park, following the Cuckmere River. The track will take you to the shingle beach which is ideal for a picnic whilst you admire the amazing white cliffs.
Once you’ve completed the 2 mile round trip, The Cuckmere Inn not far from the car parks, serves great food and drinks with fantastic views. If you want eat it might be an idea to book ahead at busy times as it is a popular spot.
Other fun activities that you can take part in are bird watching, cycling, canoeing and paddle boarding.
Getting to Seven Sisters from Eastbourne
Car – The car park at the start of the walk is about 15 miles from Eastbourne and should take no longer than 15 minutes to drive it via the A259. The postcode is BN25 4AD. There are two pay and display car parks.
Bus – The 13X Coaster Tourist Trail Bus takes you to Seven Sisters from Eastbourne Pier. It also goes onwards to Brighton. One day Discovery fares are available (see info under Birling Gap above).
14. Tour of Eastbourne
Eastbourne Sightseeing Tours – A great way to get around Eastbourne is on the hop on hop off open top bus. With 16 stops to get on and off at including Eastbourne Pier, the Bandstand, Beachy Head (the foot of), Beachy Head (the top), Birling Gap and the Marina.
Getting To Eastbourne From London
Car – Eastbourne is about 75 miles from central London with a journey time of just under 2 hours via the A27/M23. There are plenty of parking spaces in Eastbourne, mainly in pay and display. If you head to the seafront you will find pay and display parking bays on the street and within car parks. On beach worthy days the journey can take longer!
Train – Southern Railway have direct trains going from London Victoria directly to Eastbourne and take just under 90 minutes. The station is about a 10 minute walk from the seafront.
Coach – National Express run coaches from London Victoria Coach Station to Eastbourne. Journey times are around 3 hours.
Other Places Of Interest In the Area
Middle Farm – If you are travelling by car from London (via the A27) Middle Farm makes for a great stop off. They have a fantastic farm shop stocking over 80 British cheeses and an incredible selection of meats, including 20 different varieties of sausages. Also popular with visitors is the cider and perry tasting, from a range of over 100 different draught ciders and perries. The fresh apple juice which is pressed daily is also delicious!
Drusillas Park – A popular zoo and family day out aimed at children aged 2 to 10 years. There is a zoo, various play areas and small amusement rides – allow for a whole day to fully experience everything it has to offer. Drusillas is about 6 miles from Eastbourne, just off the A27 close to Alfriston.