Things to do in Eastbourne, UK: Ultimate guide

Things to do in Eastbourne: Ultimate Travel Guide
Things to do in Eastbourne: Ultimate Travel Guide

Eastbourne has to be our favourite place to visit in East Sussex, we always make a point of visiting at least once a year. We love wandering along the beachfront during the summer, and in the evening eating fish and chips. You can’t get better than that! But there are so many more things to do in Eastbourne, and we go to discover them, in our ultimate travel guide. 

You could easily sit back, and relax on Eastbourne’s Beach during a hot sunny day, or just explore the town and its Victorian architecture. But if you are looking for more of an adventure, why not hike the famous South Downs National Park, which includes hiking the Seven Sisters. Let’s go, as we explore Eastbourne and everything it has to offer. 

History 

This seaside town has become known as the stairway to heaven, due to its growing elderly population. Many people come to Eastbourne to retire, and we can see why, with its beautiful seafront, rolling cliffs known as the Seven Sisters, delicious fish and chips, what more could you want in your retirement.  

Prior to the Roman invasion, it is believed there were small stone age settlements in Eastbourne. Artifacts from the stone age period have been found in the surrounding countryside which could support this.  

A Roman bath has been discovered buried beneath the town between Eastbourne Pier and the Redoubt Fortress.  

Skeletal remains of a woman believed to be from or around the Roman period have been located near Beachy Head. Her genetic origin is thought to originate from Africa, below the Saharan regions. What is unusual is, that the Roman Empire only extended as far as North Africa. So how did she end up in Eastbourne? And what took her here is still a mystery. 

During the Victorian era, seaside towns around the country became a popular holiday destination. Eastbourne flourished, with tourists flocking from the big smoke of London, for a short holiday in this lovely seaside town. Victorian buildings and architecture would have been grand, but sadly not much remains due to the bombing in World War II that would have destroyed or damaged many of these buildings. One prominent structure that does remain and can be admired is the famous Eastbourne Pier, standing strong along the seafront. 

When to visit 

Eastbourne is seasonal, with four seasons. Winter, spring, Summer, and Autumn.  

In our experience, the best time to visit Eastbourne would be during the shoulder months of March to May and September to October. It’s much quieter, with reduced crowds, but you would expect cooler climates.  

The summer months are the best time to travel for the weather, with the hot sun beaming down on you. But with the lovely weather, comes increase number of tourists hitting the coast at the same time.  

During the winter months of November to February, it’s considerably colder, with the advantage of very little tourists. 

It would also be practical to visit during the weekdays, when most children and adults will be at school or working. Weekends will see an influx of visitors. 

Before travelling to Eastbourne, there are just things you should know before you go.

Currency 

The Currency used in Eastbourne is the £ (pound). 

We would advise purchasing the £ prior to your intended travel, although you can use debit/credit cards, and cash machines. Please note, you could be charged for the use of your debit/credit card, and cash machines whilst traveling in Eastbourne. Please check with your bank or card provider before you travel. 

Things to do in Eastbourne 

There are a number of things to do in Eastbourne, other than relaxing on our beaches: 

Eastbourne Pier 

Cost: Free 

Location: Grand Parade, Eastbourne 

How to get there: Train, bus, walk, Car 

Built in the late 19th century, with much of the Victorian period still in tack today. Over the years it has experienced bad weather, and attacks during World War II, but luckily it still stands today in all its grand glory. 

Eastbourne Pier
Eastbourne Pier

Amusement arcades at the seaside are popular among families and tourists, keeping the little ones entertain for hours. Eastbourne Pier has a few amusement arcades, for enjoyment, putting in a couple of pennies and trying to win a cheap toy. You really should try it, when visiting Eastbourne.  

If your feeling hungry, then there’s a fish and chips shop, café, and restaurant, but more on that later. 

We enjoy walking along the calm pier, wandering into the amusement arcades trying to win their little toys as souvenirs of our trip to Eastbourne. The piers architecture still has the period features. Once we have reached the end of the pier, its lovely looking back at the town centre watching the world go by. You really wouldn’t want to miss this iconic place from your things to do in Eastbourne. 

Beach 

Cost: free 

Location: Eastbourne seafront 

How to get there: Train, Bus, Walk, Car 

The beach at Eastbourne is a shingled beach running from Sovereign Harbour to Beachy Head. Many locals or tourist enjoy laying back on the beach during the summer, enjoying picnics and barbeques on the beach.  

Eastbourne Town Centre
View of Eastbourne Town Centre

After a long day sightseeing, having some quality time by the beach is a fantastic way to relax. We like walking along the promenade of an evening, as the sun is setting and the bright colours dance across the sky. With a small box of fish and chips in one hand, and the other fighting off the seagulls from stealing our chips. Very romantic, with a loved one or spouse by your side! 

Holywell Retreat 

Cost: Free 

Location: King Edward’s Parade, Eastbourne 

How to get there: Train, Bus, walk, Car 

Located at the furthest point of Eastbourne, in a quiet secluded spot for relaxing sunbathers. Many families come here with their children, enjoying a picnic or barbeque.  

visiting the luxury beach huts at Holywell are just one of the things to do.
The luxury beach huts in Holywell, are just one of the things to do.

What draws us to this area is the lovely public garden, tea chalet and the beach huts. But these are no ordinary beach huts, these are luxury beach huts that are rented out annually. One was even reserved for King George V and Queen Mary during their visit to Eastbourne.  

Beach huts tend to be wooden, small and brightly coloured, with enough space for a small kitchen and to store your beach equipment. These luxury beach huts are larger, made from brick, and located in a secluded area of Holywell, making it a private location for family and beachgoers. 

Sovereign Harbour 

Cost: Free 

Location: Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne 

How to get there: Bus, Car, Walk 

Another one of our favourite spots, which has to go onto the list of things to do in Eastbourne. At the furthest eastern point, is Sovereign Harbour. This is where expensive yachts, boats, or house boats are kept, surrounded by houses, apartments, and restaurants. The views from some of the apartments are magnificent, and an ideal location to stay or live.  

During the summer months, it is a hive of activity, people from far and wide just wandering around the harbour, stopping at a restaurant for food or a drink. If you are lucky and know someone with a boat, based at Sovereign Harbour, then why not let them take you out to sail on the open sea.  

It is an easy walk from Sovereign Harbour to Eastbourne Town Centre via the promenade. 

We could only but dream of owning a house here. 

Seven Sisters 

Cost: Free 

Location: South Downs 

How to get there: Bus, Car, hike 

The Seven Sisters fall under the South Downs or South Downs National Park, formed of seven cliff peaks and dips running from Eastbourne to Seaford. The cliffs were formed in a similar way to the creation of the Alps, and with time, and a helping hand from the erosion from the sea, what is left are these Seven peaks.  

The view of the Seven Sisters near Eastbourne.
The view of the Seven Sisters near Eastbourne.

If you love hiking or walking trails, then completing the Seven Sisters while exploring Eastbourne is a must. The wind rushes through your hair, while you admire the sublime views from the Seven Sisters out across the ocean and in land.  

There are various routes you can take. The one hike we took recently was from Exceat, (which is between Seaford and Eastbourne), over the Seven Sisters to Birling Gap. It is only a short hike, taking about 3 hours, and is suited for all levels.  

If you are looking for longer routes, then you could start your hike in Seaford, hiking Seaford Head Nature Reserve, down to Cuckmere Haven, before challenging yourself over the Seven Sisters, before the last push over Beachy Head and into Eastbourne. The longer route, should take about 6-8 hours, depending on your ability. 

You can stop along the route for refreshments at Birling Gap. 

As you stop for a breather, you can admire these awe-inspiring views, take in the relaxed atmosphere, admire the nature, and enjoy a peaceful hike as you go.  

A warning of Cliff Edge on Beach Head in Eastbourne
A warning of Cliff Edge on Beach Head in Eastbourne

Beachy Head 

Cost: Free 

Location: Beachy Head Road, Eastbourne 

How to get there: Bus, Car, Walk 

Beachy Head was formed at the end of the last ice age, when the cliffs uplifted and sea eroded to what we see today. The Cliff is at a height of about 162 meters above sea level, and the cliff is known to break away and fall into the sea due to erosion. 

Hiking the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head are just one of the things to do in Eastbourne.
Beachy Head in Eastbourne

The attractive Belle Tout Lighthouse appears to topple the edge of Beachy Head. But to prevent it from falling into the sea below, it has had to be moved back a number of times. It was last moved in 1999. 

We have a few favourite spots in Eastbourne and this happens to be another of ours. We love the view overlooking Eastbourne Town Centre, with the pier jutting out from the beach. While on the other side, are views of the bright white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, and the farm land surrounding the area.  

There’s many more beautiful beaches in England that you could explore!

Where to stay 

Where you stay is important, there are a few factors you need to take into account before booking that place, these are:  

  • Price – This always has to be within our budget  
  • Location – how easy will it be to get around Eastbourne  
  • Transport links – where are the transport links to get us to and from the airport, and to different locations within or outside of the town.  
  • Reviews – what are the reviews from other travelers who have stayed here  

Here are just some of the places to stay in Eastbourne with a budget in mind, but also taking into account the above factors. 

The Cavendish 

Cost: £70.00+ 

The Cavendish is a lovely hotel in the heart of Eastbourne, making this an ideal location to get around. Our stay at the hotel was over New Years, so the price was quite reasonable for the time of year. Hotel prices are likely to increase during peak season, while off peak will see prices drop considerably. 

A reasonable service was provided throughout our stay. We were let down a little when it came to the evening meal. Our stay was during New Year’s Eve, with a dinner and dance event, in the evening. However, they hadn’t provisioned in for guests staying at the hotel, that can’t afford to pay extra to attend the dinner and dance. So they offered us a meal ticket of £10.00 but we had to order within 10 minutes. This was a little bit of a let down, but luckily, we knew the area, and had delicious fish and chips instead.  

The rooms, where a good size, clean, tidy and had everything we could have needed. The views of the seafront from our room where great. But the first thing we noticed were the dirty windows as we looked out. Or at least hadn’t been cleaned in sometime. Someone prior to our arrival had written ‘I’m dirty, needs cleaning’ in the dirt. I have no idea how long it had been like that! 

Would we stay again, possibly, it wasn’t unpleasant, just minor mistakes which could easily be resolved.  

The View Hotel 

Cost: £70.00+ 

We have heard only great things about the View Hotel.  

The Hotel is in a great location, and most rooms have sea views. The prices are competitive for the area, and one we will certainly stay at in the future.  

How to get around 

Getting to and from Eastbourne is very easy, and very simple to navigate, there’s plenty of public transport.  

We have detailed above some of the modes of transport to get to each site in Eastbourne, but here is some further detailed information: 

Air 

The Closest airport to Eastbourne is London Gatwick at a distance of nearly 50 miles away. International and domestic flights arrive at Gatwick, but most tourist arrive at London Heathrow. You could consider arriving at Gatwick Airport, as flights are a little cheaper. But most tourists first stop in England is London, so you must factor in travelling distance, cost and time to get to London.  

There are direct train services from London Gatwick to Eastbourne. If you have arrived from London Heathrow, you need to take the tube to Victoria Station, and catch the Southern Service to Eastbourne. 

Most tourists will spend a few days in London before taking day trips to the coast. 

Bus 

A bus service provided along the coast from Eastbourne can take you to Brighton by bus 12 which includes stopping at Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters. While in the opposite direction you can take bus 99 to Hastings. 

This makes Eastbourne an ideal location to stay for a few days as you explore the coastline of Sussex. 

Train 

The Southern Train service provides connections with Hastings, Brighton, and London Victoria Station with Eastbourne. 

With regular train services between London and Eastbourne, making this an ideal day trip from London. 

Car 

In our opinion, driving is one of the better ways of getting to and around Eastbourne. There is plenty of parking, either on street parking or in a designated car park.  

Having a vehicle will be ideal when exploring the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head, although a bus service does stop at these locations for tourists to explore.  

Both at Beachy Head and Exceat, parking is available if you happen to drive. Please note that parking is pay and display. Parking in and around Eastbourne is relatively cheap and reasonable. 

For the best places to park, you might want to park along the seafront near Sovereign Harbour, alternative free parking can be found on residential areas near Holywell, at the western end of Eastbourne.  

Walk 

Eastbourne town center is relatively flat. Walking around Eastbourne is the cheapest, healthiest and better for the environment, and would recommend this as the best way to get around.  

As soon as you head out onto Beachy Head or the Seven Sisters, the terrain is a little more uneven, however it is still manageable to walk/hike. 

Tips 

We want to pass on all our tips and experiences as we travel, here are some tips to make sure you have a quick and hassle-free holiday to Eastbourne: 

  • If you are planning to do any hiking, always make sure you have the appropriate shoes and clothes, this includes good sturdy shoes or hiking shoes, and warm clothing.  
  • During the summer, Eastbourne seafront can get very hot, but if you decide to hike the Seven Sisters from Eastbourne, the weather can change from extremely hot, to cold and windy. Make sure you bring layers which you can add or take off when required. 
  • The English weather is known to change drastically. One minute it can be sunny, when the next it is pouring with rain. Make sure you pack good wet weather clothing that will keep you dry if it rains. 
  • During the summer, make sure you apply sun cream even if you have a darker complexion. Applying sun screen will prevent you from getting burnt. Trust us, we know that feeling after we have got sun burnt, its painful! If you are very light skinned or prone to burn easily, you may need to put sun protection on, even during the spring and autumn months.  
  • If you have purchased new shoes, especially hiking shoes, make sure you have worn them a few times and worn them in. You don’t want to be putting your new shoes on, but at the end of the hike your new shoes have rubbed blisters. Blisters hurt trust us, we know.  
  • Make sure you have packed plenty of plasters, you can even buy blister plasters. We would highly recommend packing a small first aid kit, which has everything you need on a day out travelling.  
  • If you are not familiar with the area your about to hike, make sure you pack a good map. Also make sure you know how to read a map; this will help you navigate your hike over the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head.  
  • Tell friends and family about your trip and where you plan to go. Give them your itinerary and check in with them regularly. If they don’t hear from you, then they can raise the alarm if something has happened to you.  
  • Plenty of snacks and water is a must if you plan to hike. Make sure you have enough in the event of an emergency. We have a water pouch that we have packed when we travel, allowing us to have enough reserved in the event of an emergency. The best thing about the water pouch, is that it is easy to drink from, and stored in the rear of our bag, helping the weight distribution carried on our back. We have a two ltr pouch which lasts us for at least one day.  
  • If you would feel more secure on a tour, or as part of a hiking group, then research good hiking groups or tours in the area. This will keep you safe, as the guide or group will be familiar with the area and terrain. 
  • There are many signs on Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters warning you of the close edge. We would highly recommend keeping away from the edge. It is not possible to know when a cliff edge may fall into the sea below, you certainly don’t want to be caught up in a cliff fall. You can still get great pictures even from a couple of meters away from the edge of the cliff. You need to think of not only your own safety but of the safety of people around you. 
  • During summer in Eastbourne, parking can get very busy. If you arrive early, you should be able to get parking with ease.  

Where to eat 

Food is so important when it comes to travelling, Eastbourne can be expensive depending on where you eat. Here are some of the recommendations, as we explored Eastbourne: 

Harry Ramsden’s 

Being on the coast, you can’t not eat a typical seaside dish, consisting of fish and chips. But what is fish and chips? Well, the fish is battered, some make their own batter recipe such as beer batter. The batter coats the fish, before it is deep fried. It is then served with chunky chips. It isn’t the healthiest of dishes, but you are on holiday after all. 

Fish and chip shops are a plenty in Eastbourne, but who do you choose to order from. We would recommend Harry Ramsden’s. The restaurant is located on the seafront, you have the choice of eating in or taking away, and the price varies on what you order. 

Fish and Chips from Harry Ramsden's
Fish and Chips from Harry Ramsden’s

The staff are very friendly and welcoming, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The customers of the restaurant appear to be content, relaxed and happy about the food.  

We would highly recommend having the haddock or cod, battered fish, with chips, mushy peas, and you can’t leave off the curry sauce to dip your chips into.  

Depending on the type of fish you’ll order, you should expect prices to be around £10.00-£15.00, which is very reasonable.  

Harry Ramsden’s offer a walk-in service to the restaurant, while they offer take away service at their take away shop. The entrance for the take away, is just around the corner.  

The Victorian Tea Rooms 

Located on the pier in Eastbourne, with a large, elegant chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The ambiance in here, make it feel like we have entered a Victorian ball room not a tea room. 

 The Victorian Tea rooms, offer cakes in different flavours, and sandwiches. But if you are stopping for your afternoon tea, then you should order their scone, jam and clotted cream.  

For a pot of tea and scone with jam and cream should set you back about £5.00. While reservations are not required.  

Saltmarsh Rooms & Café 

If you are starting or ending your hike across the Seven Sisters, then you may want to stop for a little snack or afternoon tea at the Saltmarsh Rooms & Café in Exceat.  

This small little café, has outside seating in a small and secluded courtyard, with limited space. The cakes are good, with a wide range on offer. We had a slice of carrot cake, which was delicious, but be quick, as this is a very popular spot, and the cakes go quickly as we found out on one occasion. 

You must have tea and cake has to be on your list of things to do in Eastbourne
Tea and cake

This budget friendly café should set you back about £5.00. 

The Cuckmere Inn 

This lovely little pub has indoor and outdoor seating areas, offering good pub style food, and beer.  

You must always keep refreshed, especially if you have recently hiked the South Downs, making this ideal for anyone who is starting or finishing the hike.  

The indoor seating is cosy on a cool autumn day, while the outside has great views across Cuckmere Haven. On our visit, we decided to skip the main meal, and go for the dessert with tea. The dessert was lovely, with great flavour, and presented well.  

A main meal will cost about £10.00+ depending on what you order, but you do not need to reserve a table. If you do wish to reserve a spot in advance, then you can contact them to arrange the booking. 

Birling Gap Café 

In a prime location for hikers who need to stop for refreshments, offering sandwiches, drinks, ice cream, and snacks. Indoor and outdoor seating is available, with great views of the Seven Sisters and the cliffs.  

We would recommend making your way down to the shingle beach below via the steps and sitting back and relaxing before your final push over Beachy Head into Eastbourne. 

A café in such a location, will be a little more expensive, with something to eat and drink costing about £5.00+ 

The Beachy Head 

We have stopped in on more than one occasion, and would highly recommend the delicious pub food and beer. 

Very popular, and can get very busy at times, especially on a hot summer’s day. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, but if you want to have great views across the farm land and Beachy Head while you eat, then you’ll want to sit outside.  

We ordered Fishcakes which came with new potatoes onions and pepper, and a vegetarian wrap and fries. Neither of us are vegetarians, but sometimes it is good to have something different for a change.  

The food was delicious which was complimented by the views. For what we ordered and the quality, the price was perfectly reasonable, costing just over £10.00 for each main meal.  

Our food from The Beach Head in Eastbourne
Our food from The Beach Head in Eastbourne

During the busy period of summer, you may wish to reserve a table by contacting them. 

The Harvester at Sovereign Harbour. 

Located in Sovereign Harbour, offering good food and drinks. Very family friendly and the price is reasonable.  

There’s indoor and outdoor seating, with great views across the harbour and the boats.  

The food is good, and they offer a small selection of vegetarian dishes.  

Budgeting Tips 

Before any trip to Eastbourne, you will need to set a budget, this is so you do not overspend, you can keep control of your finances and don’t return home with a hefty bill to pay back. 

In our experience, we found Eastbourne to be budget friendly with so many things to do for free. However, accommodation depending on where you stay can be a little expensive especially in the summer time.  

United Kingdom Travel Costs

What to pack 

Packing is essential when going on holiday, but you have to be smart about what to pack. 

Depending on the time of year, you’ll need the right clothes, such as summer, you’ll want nice cool clothing, but in winter, you’ll need warm if not thermal underlayers.  

It isn’t just the clothing you need to consider; you’ll need to pack the correct documents such as passport and visa if this is required. 

Why not head over to our post on What to Pack for the UK. In this, we provide an extensive list of all the important things to pack. You can also download, a check list to help you pack the right things and never miss an item. 

Events 

The biggest event in Eastbourne, is the Eastbourne Airbourne.  

If you love planes, or aircrafts, then you really should make a point of visiting over the four-day weekend during August.  

The four-day event brings millions of visitors to the show. With different aircraft displays daily. The famous Red Arrows perform with their display in front of waited crowds along the seafront. All aircrafts on display such as the Red Arrows, Wing Walkers, Chinook, the Typhoon, BBMF, and many more, fly in across the seafront, put on a display for the visitors to see for a couple of minutes, before flying back to their base ready for the following day if they are performing. 

Other attractions at Eastbourne Airbourne include military exhibitions, rides and attractions, food and drink, film screening, and bandstand concerts. Keeping the whole family entertained, but all of this is for FREE. Bonus! 

Conclusion 

We have covered everything you need to plan for a stress-free holiday to Eastbourne, from things to do with the family by the seaside, to exciting hikes across the Seven Sisters. Surprisingly for a seaside resort this can all be done on a budget.  

We hope that you enjoy Eastbourne as much as we do, and we hope that your drawn back year on year. 

Have you visited Eastbourne? What do you think? Was there somewhere that you visited that we didn’t cover? Or maybe we haven’t included something that you feel we should mention when visiting Eastbourne? We would love to hear about your experience! All you have to do is leave a comment below. 

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