The 12 Best Things to Do in Eastbourne, England

Belle Tout lighthouse
Paul Thompson / Getty Images

Just an hour by train from London, the town of Eastbourne on England's southeast coast makes for a compelling city escape. Located along the English Channel, this Victorian resort town is a great home base if you want to spend time by the sea and catch a glimpse of the Seven Sisters cliffs. Eastbourne's seafront is comprised of old Victorian hotels, many of which are now in disrepair, but the town is beginning to revitalize itself with new spots, like the design-driven Port Hotel. There's a lot to do (and eat) around Eastbourne, especially if you enjoy being outdoors. While the beach is rocky, rather than sandy, it remains a popular destination during the summer, especially for families and couples. Here are the best things to do if you're planning a visit.

01 of 12

Visit Eastbourne Pier

Eastbourne Pier at sunrise.
Tolga_TEZCAN / Getty Images
Eastbourne Pier Grand Parade, Eastbourne BN21 3EL, UK
Phone +44 1323 410466

The impressive Eastbourne Pier opened in 1872 and has since become the seaside town's most iconic landmark. The pier was renovated in 2014 following a fire and features a pub, several stores, a nightclub and fish and chips shop. Its Victorian Tea Rooms are particularly impressive and make for a nice spot for afternoon tea. Be sure to stroll all the way out to the end of the pier, where fisherman typically set up their rods, and visit at sunrise or sunset for beautiful views of Eastbourne.

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Stroll on Beachy Head

Beachy Head cliff in Eastbourne, England

Dominic Whisson

Beachy Head, Eastbourne BN20, UK

Beachy Head is the highest chalk cliff in Britain and can be accessed by foot, bus or car. It's a few hours walk (with some steep inclines) from Eastbourne, or you can opt to park at the top and stroll over to the cliffside. The cliff overlooks the English Channel and offer views of the famous red and white-stripped lighthouse. Beachy Head is accessible by wheelchair, making it a great pick for those with limited mobility. After seeing the sights, head to Beachy Head Pub for lunch. The dining room and outdoor terrace has amazing views and the hearty dishes are perfect for those who decided to cliff to Beachy Head from town.

03 of 12

Dine at the Beach Deck

The Beach Deck in Eastbourne

The Beach Deck

Royal Parade, Eastbourne BN22 7AE, UK
Phone +44 1323 720320

There's nothing like fresh seafood right on the beach, which is what you'll find at The Beach Deck, a casual spot on the eastern end of Eastbourne. Opt for one of the outdoor tables, which have views of the sea, and be sure to try the mussels or the fish and chips. On busy days there can be a line (The Beach Deck doesn't take reservations), but it's worth the wait. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and keeps things going until 10 p.m. every day except Sunday.

04 of 12

Rent a Kayak

Two Kayaks on the Beach and Eastbourne Pier at Low Tide

Tim Grist Photography/Getty Images

Because the seafront at Eastbourne is relatively calm, the waters invite lots of kayakers and paddle boarders. There are several spots to rent a kayak, including Buzz Active, which offers single and double kayaks, as well as windsurfs and stand-up paddle boards. Eastbourne's beaches can get very crowded on weekend days, so aim to arrive early and take advantage of quieter waters before everyone else shows up. Heading towards the western end of Eastbourne's beach can also help you avoid crowds. Be sure to check the weather and take all safety measures when using a kayak.

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05 of 12

Hit the Beach

Eastbourne Beach in Eastbourne, England

Dominic Whisson

Eastbourne Beach, 23 Royal Parade, Eastbourne BN22 7LH, UK
Phone +44 1323 410611

England's south coast isn't exactly known for its sandy beaches. Instead, Eastbourne (and its neighbors) have shingle beaches, which means they are very rocky. Still, Eastbourne is popular for sunbathers and swimmers during the warmer months of the year, and most people come prepared with blankets, chairs and even small tents to make the most of the rocky terrain. Eastbourne Beach is extremely long, at nearly three miles, with lots of concessions and toilets available along the boardwalk. Where you set up your towel to lay out depends on what sort of experience you're looking for, although anywhere on the beach brings some fun. Families should head to the Main Resort beach area, where lifeguards are standing duty.

06 of 12

Visit the Eastbourne Redoubt

annon protecting England's south coast, at the Eastbourne Redoubt

ronemmons/Getty Images

Royal Parade, Eastbourne BN22 7AQ, UK
Phone +44 1323 410300

The Eastbourne Redoubt has stood watch over the southern coast of England for over 200 years. It was originally built to keep Napoleon's armies out of Britain and now exists as a historic site and museum. The Reboubt is also home to the Redoubt Cinema, a brand new movie theater. Don't miss the cafe, which has a nice outdoor seating area. Family tickets are available for groups planning a visit to the site.

07 of 12

See a Show at Eastbourne Bandstand

View of the Beach, Bandstand and Promenade, Eastbourne

Tim Grist Photography/Getty Images

Grand Parade, Eastbourne BN21 3AD, UK
Phone +44 1323 410611

Built in 1935, the Eastbourne Bandstand has a long history of showcasing live music for the seaside town. Currently, the bandstand seats 1,400 guests and offers 140-150 live musical events each year. The performances vary by style and genre, but expect everything from tribute shows to big band nights to special Christmas shows. Check the calendar ahead of your visit to see what's on. Tickets tend to be very affordable, which makes it a great budget option in Eastbourne. The bandstand also regularly hosts shows for kids.

08 of 12

Walk the South Downs Way

South Downs Way in Eastbourne, England

Dominic Whisson

Eastbourne BN20 8ES, UK

The South Downs Way National Trail stretches for over 100 miles across the south coast of England. It makes its way from Eastbourne through the South Downs to Winchester, but you can walk as much or as little of the trail as you prefer. There are two routes out of Eastbourne, one along the coast and the other through the Downs. Your best bet is to follow the coast, which takes hikers past Beachy Head and Birling Gap before venturing into the countryside. Check the National Trail website for a detailed map.

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09 of 12

Grab a Treat at Fusciardi Ice Cream Parlour

Fusciardi's Ice Cream Parlor in Eastbourne

Emily Zemler

30 Marine Parade, Eastbourne BN22 7AY, UK
Phone +44 1323 722128

It's not a beach day without a delicious ice cream cone, and Fusciardi Ice Cream Parlour is the best of the best in Eastbourne. You'll know it for the long line that snakes out from the shop door, but it's worth the wait. Established in 1967, Fusciardi's makes 18 flavors of ice cream, with specialty flavors available on certain days. They're also known for their indulgent ice cream sundae. It's open daily from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., and there is outdoor seating available. It's also a good place to stop for a morning coffee on your way to the beach.

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Journey to Seven Sisters and Birling Gap

Seven Sisters Cliffs, East Sussex, UK

Tim Grist Photography/Getty Images

Seven Sisters, Eastbourne BN20 0AB, UK

Ah, the white cliffs. While many travelers think of Dover when they see England's chalk cliffs, the Seven Sisters boast some of the best views. The cliffs extend from Beachy Head to Seaford and there are various points for visitors to see the cliffs from both above and below. Birling Gap is the best place to head down onto the beach under the impressive white cliffs, and you can access the beach by foot or by car. There are several paid parking lots above Birling Gap and the area also has toilets, a cafe and a visitor's center.

11 of 12

Explore Towner Art Gallery

Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne

Courtesy of Towner Art Gallery

Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne BN21 4JJ, UK
Phone +44 1323 434670

Showcasing modern and contemporary art, Towner Art Gallery is one of Eastbourne's cultural hubs. The gallery features its own collection, as well as temporary exhibitions, which rotate throughout the year. Towner Art Gallery also hosts events, from film screenings to art talks to tours, and there are often family-friendly offerings for kids. The gallery is part of the 18-mile Coastal Culture Trail along with De La Warr Pavilion and Hastings Contemporary. Visitors can follow the trail by bike, foot or train.

12 of 12

Eat Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips by the sea

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Like many English seaside towns, Eastbourne is notorious for its delicious fish and chips. There are a lot of options for visitors to get a taste of some crispy fish and chunky French fries, but your best bet is to head for one of the takeaway shops rather than a sit-down restaurant. Look for Harry Ramsden's, located near the end of the pier, and Qualisea Fish Restaurant, which serves up several types of fried fish, as well as scampi. On Eastbourne Pier, The Chippy sells fresh portions of fish and chips to go, perfect to carry over to the beach for a picnic. If you prefer to enjoy lunch at a restaurant, The Beach Deck has a particularly delicious take on the iconic British dish.

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The 12 Best Things to Do in Eastbourne, England