The sun often shines on Eastbourne, which goes some way to explaining why it’s such a popular choice for resident and visiting retirees. But the town’s starting to shed its genteel, old-fashioned image as an influx of students and a sizeable Portuguese and Polish expat community stamp their mark on the place.

    The jewel in Eastbourne’s crown is undoubtedly the miles of beaches that, thanks to the south of England’s mild climate, are lined with palm trees. Nearby, the countryside has the wow factor, with spectacular headlands and bays carved out of the chalk cliffs and the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park on the doorstep.

    What are the best things to do in Eastbourne?


    Eastbourne Pier

    One of the town’s most popular attractions

    • Families
    • Food
    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    As with many of England’s seaside pleasure piers, Eastbourne Pier has had a chequered past. Work started on the structure in 1866 and though the pier was formally opened 4 years later, it wasn’t until 1872 that it was properly finished. Storms damaged the pier only a few years later and an exploding mine made a direct hit during World War II. A couple of fires partially destroyed it in the post-war period.

    Today, thanks to an injection of cash and an owner prepared to invest in its future, a restored Eastbourne Pier is one of the town’s most popular visitor attractions. A Victorian-style tearoom, traditional fish and chip shop, jazz lounge and several event spaces make this a popular spot for locals and visitors.

    Location: 3 Grand Parade, Eastbourne BN21 3EL, United Kingdom

    Open: opening times of each venue vary

    Phone: +44 (0)1323 410466


    Sovereign Harbour Marina

    Take a boat trip along Eastbourne’s coast

    • Photo
    • Adventure

    Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour Marina serves the yachting and motor cruiser communities. All the facilities you’d expect from a marina are present, from fuel, electrical hookups and pump-out stations. In addition, there are cafés, restaurants and shops.

    Full Throttle Boat Charters run thrilling boat trips in RIBs (Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boats). The ride is bumpy and rough, but a lot of fun. Before its iconic lighthouse was planned for dismantling in 2020, you could take a trip along the coast from Sovereign Harbour Marina towards Beachy Head and see this landmark structure rise from the water. Even so, the scenic cliffs are worth the trip. Wear waterproofs – you’ll get wet!

    Location: Midway Quay, Pacific Dr, Eastbourne BN23 5BJ, United Kingdom

    Phone: +44 (0)1323 470099


    photo by Jeff & Brian (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Wish Tower

    A seafront landmark rich in history

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Britain constructed Eastbourne’s Wish Tower in the early 1800s as part of a series of coastal fortifications. They were designed as a defence against an incursion by Napoleon Bonaparte. Around 100 were built, but only 43 survive. The Wish Tower is one of only 2 that remain in good condition and in public hands. Today, volunteers lead guided tours through the tower and its dry moat to help pay for the maintenance of this piece of Eastbourne’s heritage.

    Nearby, the Lifeboat Museum, housed in an old boathouse, tells the story of sea rescues and the lifeboats that have helped keep the area’s residents safe since 1822. At the other end of this seafront garden, stands a statue of Spencer Compton, Duke of Devonshire, who held office as Mayor of Eastbourne, Leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the House of Lords in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

    Location: 5 King Edward's Parade, Eastbourne BN21 4BY, United Kingdom


    photo by Tanya Dedyukhina (CC BY 3.0) modified


    Eastbourne Redoubt

    An icon of Eastbourne’s seafaring past

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Eastbourne Redoubt was one in a string of coastal forts built in the early 19th century to repel an attack from Napoleon’s armies. By the time it was finished, however, the threat had passed. Its guns were only fired once at a perceived enemy, a French warship, though they missed. For many years the Redoubt was a garrison; today, as a result, a military museum tells the story of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars and the Royal Sussex Regiment.

    The sculpture at the entrance to the Redoubt is a nod to Eastbourne’s seafaring past. The Azimuth sculpture consists of sections of reclaimed sea defences. Depending on your interpretation, they can represent a mythical sea creature or the bones of a shipwrecked vessel. Look closely, the artist has carved tales of historical events into the wood.

    Location: Royal Parade, Eastbourne BN22 7AQ, United Kingdom

    Open: Saturday–Sunday 9.30 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1323 410300


    photo by Jhsteel (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Miniature Steam Railway

    Ride on mini trains through a beautiful park

    • Families
    • Photo

    The 1/8th scale locomotives of Eastbourne’s Miniature Steam Railway loop a country park on a meandering course of around a mile. Among the 10 locomotives owned and used by the railway are a model of an LMS Royal Scot Class Locomotive in its distinctive burgundy livery, and a GWR class 38XX in forest green. The oldest locomotive in the collection is a scale replica of the LNER A1 Class ‘4472 Flying Scotsman’.

    The park centres on a large lake which is a haven for wildlife and birds. For children, there’s a maze and adventure playground. Enthusiasts will also appreciate the model railway layouts and railway-themed gift shop.

    Location: Lottbridge Drove, Eastbourne BN23 6QJ, United Kingdom

    Open: Daily 10 am to 5 pm from April until November

    Phone: +44 (0)1323 520229


    photo by Justin Foulger (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Eastbourne Beach

    Take in the coastal view

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Like others in the area, Eastbourne Beach consists mostly of shingle but is wide enough to be usable even on a high tide. There are around 3 miles of beaches in the town, some of them providing opportunities for water sports. At low tide, in some places, the waves retreat to leave little rock pools and the promise of ancient fossils.

    A short distance from the centre, Holywell Retreat is a quaint stretch of beach in a Marine Conservation area with quintessentially English beach huts, a café and the cliff-hugging Italian Gardens. Those in search of solitude will enjoy the peace and quiet of King Edward Beaches, from which the views along the coastline’s chalk cliffs are excellent.

    Location: Eastbourne BN21 3EL, United Kingdom


    Treasure Island Adventure Park

    Take the kids for a fun day out

    • Families

    The Treasure Island Adventure Park is a popular indoor-outdoor theme park in Eastbourne. Wannabe pirates and buccaneers will love the nautical theme. Summer’s perfect for a visit to Long John Silver’s Outdoor Adventure. Kids will love climbing and playing along the shipwreck’s slides, bridges and netted walkways. There's even a zip line and plenty of hidden treasure to find in the sandy beach.

    If the British weather is being too British, head inside and experience the Buccaneers Indoor Adventure. This soft play area has ball pits, slides, and zip lines, with a separate area for the smallest members of the family.

    Location: 5 Royal Parade, Eastbourne BN22 7AE, United Kingdom

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1323 411077


    photo by Kevin Gordon (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Beachy Head

    A spectacular spot where land meets the sea

    • Photo
    • Budget
    • Adventure

    Beachy Head is a headland close to Eastbourne and at 162 metres tall is Britain’s highest chalk cliff. As a result, suicides are relatively common, making this one of the UK’s most notorious coastal locations. The base is continually pounded by the English Channel waves, its relatively soft rock no match for their power. Rockfalls are common; occasionally, after periods of heavy rain and cold weather, frost shattering can blow sections of the cliff face apart with dramatic consequences.

    Visitors can stroll along the clifftop path, enjoying views from Dungeness to Selsey Bill. The highlight for many is the Seven Sisters, which take their name from the 7 chalk hills that collectively make up this part of Sussex. They’re a picturesque sight, featuring in movies such as Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (1991) and Atonement (2007).

    Location: Eastbourne, United Kingdom


    Congress Theatre Eastbourne

    Enjoy a theatrical night out

    • Couples
    • Nightlife

    The 1,700-seat Congress Theatre is Eastbourne’s premier theatre venue. This Grade II-listed venue is the largest theatre on the south coast. Purpose-built and recently refurbished, it’s a popular destination for a night out in Eastbourne.

    The wide variety of productions and shows staged here caters to all tastes. Big names in the world of comedy such as Michael McIntyre, classical music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and touring musicals such as Beautiful: The Carole King Musical give you an indication of the calibre of artists that light up the stage.

    Location: Carlisle Rd, Eastbourne BN21 4JR, United Kingdom

    Phone: +44 (0)1323 412000


    photo by Theolimeister (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    The Beacon Eastbourne Mall

    Shop and dine at Eastbourne’s shopping centre

    • Families
    • Food
    • Shoppers

    Eastbourne’s shopping centre, The Beacon, occupies a prominent location in the town centre. Most of the usual names on the British High Street are represented, including Marks and Spencer, Boots and Next.

    In common with other similar retail centres, there are also several food outlets, among them Millie’s Cookies, McDonald’s and Nandos. Tiny tots can burn off some energy in the soft play area.

    Location: Eastbourne BN21 3NW, United Kingdom

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm, Sundays from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1323 643431

    Julia Hammond | Contributing Writer

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