21 best things to do in Eastbourne, East Sussex

Things To Do in Eastbourne

A perfect place to catch the sun rise or set over expansive seas, Eastbourne is bursting with things to do. A stately Victorian seaside town, you can choose between historic attractions, art galleries and museums or fun on the pier or the beach. With some of England’s most spectacular coastline a stone’s throw away, including iconic landscapes like Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters, you won’t be short of what to do in Eastbourne. Whether you’re visiting in summer or at another time of year.

Surrounding Eastbourne too are lesser known things to do, such as the opportunity to sample exquisite local produce, including East Sussex wines and vineyard tours. There are quaint villages with pubs serving delicious food too. 

Read on to discover my handpicked selection of the best things to do in Eastbourne.

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Best things to do in Eastbourne

1. Explore the South Downs National Park – by day and night

The South Downs National Park nudges up against Eastbourne, so it’s perfect to explore from here. Characterised by rolling chalky grassland, cliffs and a surprising amount of woodland and heathland, this is a walker’s and landscape-lover’s paradise.

There are lots of trails, footpaths and bridleways to explore around the park. The South Downs Way – a 100-mile walk starting in Winchester – finishes in Eastbourne.

I really recommend not just visiting the South Downs National Park in the daytime. The park contains one of England’s dark sky reserves. As such, it’s an impressive place to come after dark with a thermos of cocoa to watch the night’s sky put on a display above you. 

South Downs National Park

2. Have fun on the pier

One of the fun things to do in Eastbourne is to pay a visit to the pier. A classic Victorian pier, and indeed one of the finest you’ll find, Eastbourne Pier offers traditional seaside fun.

Walk the boards to grab some fish and chips, visit some tea rooms, or even go to the Atlantis nightclub. 

3. Go to the beach

Eastbourne is perfect for lazy town-styled beach days. The beach is expansive and shingle, right against the town. There are more than three miles of beach here, so there’s sure to be a spot to suit everyone. 

If you fancy a dip in the sea then lifeguards operate at Main Resort Beach which stretches from the Wish Tower to the Pier main area. You can hire deckchairs and sun loungers, and even a beach hut for the day! There are cafés and toilets here too. 

Holywell beach is beautiful and less developed. There’s some rock pooling too if you fancy grabbing a net and exploring.

Eastbourne Beach

4. Gaze at artworks at Towner Art Gallery

You can’t miss Towner Art Gallery. The strikingly coloured building catches the eye. Move inside and you’ll be treated to some fascinating displays and exhibitions.

The works here are Modern British and are thought provoking and inspiring. Eastbourne has lots of other small art galleries, so be sure to check them out if they take your fancy.

Towner Art Gallery Eastbourne

5. Test your head for heights at Beachy Head

Beachy Head is England’s highest chalk cliff and you can park up not far from the headland and go for a stroll. The views over the classic red and white lighthouse and sea beyond are majestic and you can be guaranteed of blowing away a cobweb or two.

Simply by walking along the headland a little, you get views back with the white cliffs in stark relief against the blue sea. Just make sure you keep a good distance from the edge of the cliff. The Beachy Head Pub is perfect for refuelling while you continue to take in the scenery.

Think you’ve been here before? Beachy Head has been used as a film location in films such as Harry Potter, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and James Bond.

6. Get chalky at Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters

When people think of the south coast’s white cliffs, they tend to think of Dover. For me, the most glorious showing of white cliffs is at Birling Gap with the chalky dominance of the Seven Sisters. Accessed from the lovely village of East Dean, you can climb down the stairs against the cliff until you are on the chalk beach itself. From here you can clamber over huge chalk mounds and pebbles, while marvelling at the stark white cliffs behind you. 

The beach at Birling Gap is also very peaceful and tranquil. You can go rock pooling, fossil hunting, or simply indulge in some of the best photography opportunities in the area. 

There’s a National Trust visitor centre at the top of the cliff where you can buy refreshments. Be warned, it gets busy! However, on the beach itself, just walk a little from the base of the stairs and you often feel as if you’re alone. 

Birling Gap Eastbourne

7. Wander amongst the boats at Sovereign Harbour Marina

Opened in 1993, Sovereign Harbour Marina isn’t just a place for motorboat and yacht mooring. This is an elegant area of Eastbourne to simply while away some time.

Come to enjoy a cocktail and some waterside dining, or enjoy a spot of boutique shopping. There’s a splendid mix of restaurants, cafes and bars here and it’s a fabulous place for watching the comings and goings of marina life.

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8. Enjoy a trip to the theatre

Eastbourne has two theatres which are particularly worthy of note. The Royal Hippodrome Theatre and the Devonshire Park Theatre both offer a wonderful night out. 

9. Watch the skies at Airbourne

Eastbourne’s International Airshow, Airbourne, draws the crowds every year for a feast of air acrobatics and flying craft through the years. Many head to the pier for the best views, but you can nab a patch of beach or even head further along the coastline if you don’t mind not being so close to the action.

It’s a free event that lasts for four days in August, and you tend to find that lots of other town events spring up at the same time to take advantage of the increased footfall. There are often pop-up stalls and eateries, as well as displays and demonstrations. 

Eastbourne Airbourne Air Show

10. Get your game on at Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club

If you’re visiting Eastbourne the week before Wimbledon, then you can see some seriously impressive tennis at Devonshire Park at the Eastbourne International Tennis. All year round though, tennis enthusiasts will love a visit to the club. 

11. Enjoy a round of golf at Eastbourne Downs

One of the most spectacular settings for a golf course that I’ve seen is at Eastbourne Downs. It sits up on a high plateau directly behind Beachy Head. The views over the fairways are wide, allowing you to enjoy incredible sea views over the English Channel and the rolling South Downs. On clear days you can even see as far as the Isle of Wight!

The course is 110 years old and immaculately maintained. Even as a non-golfer, you can benefit from a visit to the bar and restaurant.

Eastbourne Golf

12. Tuck into seaside fare at The Beach Deck

You have lots of choice when it comes to places to eat in Eastbourne, but one of my favourites is The Beach Deck. This is a restaurant by the beach, affording wonderful views, but the star of the show is the food.

Expect fresh locally sourced fish and other regional fare. The food is exquisitely presented and your only problem is deciding between the different dishes on the menu. 

The Beach Deck Eastbourne

13. All aboard at Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway

One of the most fun things to do in Eastbourne, whether you’re young or old, is to ride the Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway. The track is about a mile long through the forest and the 1/8th scale railway is just a fun thing to do!

You can also enjoy the surrounding country park with its abundance of wildlife and tea gardens at the Railway Café. 

14. Go kayaking or paddle boarding on the Cuckmere

Cuckmere Haven is a spectacularly beautiful flood plain where the river Cuckmere enters the English Channel, and is part of the Seven Sisters Country Park. It is a really lovely place to spend a slightly more active afternoon kayaking or paddleboarding.

It’s a popular place, so book in advance if you need to hire equipment. Once you get paddling you’ll soon feel like there are only birds for company. If you remember your school geography, you will also come across several oxbow lakes! 

Cuckmere Haven

15. Go cycling in Friston Forest

Near to Cuckmere Haven and also part of the Seven Sisters Country Park is Friston Forest. This is a great place to cycle – however energetic you feel – in amongst the dappled sunlight of the beech trees.

There are simple paths and more complicated trails, so you can take your pick. Cycling is definitely one of the best activities to do in Eastbourne and the surrounding area.

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16. Take in the sights by bus

Like many towns and cities, Eastbourne has a popular and enjoyable open-topped sightseeing bus. It takes in the main sights of the town and of course takes you along the seafront.

You’ll get the opportunity to see places like the bandstand (currently closed for refurbishment) and hop on and hop off as you wish. 


17. Grab some friends for escape room exploits

Xcape Station has a few escape rooms to choose from in Eastbourne and you’ll be sure of an action-packed mind-boggling experience. There is one room suitable for families, as well as one for 15+ and one for 18+. So you can expect an adult-friendly escape room experience with challenge and horror (the 18+ one is themed on abduction!).

Don’t worry though, it’s all fun and games. You can even opt for the Extreme 90 minute experience if you really get your thrills from being scared half to death!

18. Take to the water with Maverick Boat Adventures

A little along the coast from Eastbourne is Newhaven and its Marina. From here, Maverick Boat Adventures run boat trips and charters along the coast aboard their Mediterranean Marlin rib boats. It’s probably the best way to really see the white cliffs of the area.

You can cruise along the historic coastline on a 1.5 hour tour. There’s even a chance to take a dip from the boat if you want. Don’t worry, there are blankets aboard to wrap up warm afterwards!

If you’d rather have a private charter then this is available too – I recommend it at sunset with Champagne!

Newhaven RIB Tour

19. Indulge in wine tasting with Fizz on Foot

Between Easter and October, Fizz on Foot offer guided walking and wine-tasting tours of the beautiful downland around Eastbourne. It includes lunch and a vineyard tour, as well as tasting. It’s a fantastic way to explore the area – and taste it too!

20. Discover Herstmonceux Castle and Estate

A little inland from Eastbourne you’ll find the magnificent Herstmonceux Castle. It’s a stately moated castle with beautiful gardens to amble through. Indeed, there are over 500 acres of parklands and gardens here – plenty to keep you occupied and gently entertained.

It’s really lovely to spot the different woodland sculptures, spy the Georgian-style folly and discover the waterlily moat.

Herstmonceux Castle

21. The Lifeboat Museum

The Lifeboat Museum in Eastbourne is actually the first ever lifeboat museum that the RNLI created in the UK. It’s housed in the William Terriss Memorial Boathouse at the western end of the seafront which dates back to 1898.

The museum itself dates from the 1920s. It’s a small museum but it’s bursting with interesting exhibits sharing the tales of rescue endeavours from over the years.

How to get to Eastbourne

Eastbourne is wonderfully accessible from London, making it the perfect place to escape the city. It takes an hour and a half to get to Eastbourne by train from London Victoria.

If you’re travelling from outside of London then it’s easy to get to Easbourne by road. Parking is quite generous in Eastbourne, although it can still get busy during the summer and school holidays.

Most car parks are paid during the day, or there is a number of free street parking throughout the town. Just make sure you check the signs to make sure you’re covered.

Where to stay in Eastbourne

If you’re after a gorgeous boutique hotel, I can wholeheartedly recommend Port Hotel. I stayed here on a press trip and was blown away by the stunning interiors and views out to sea. For other options, discover my pick of the best hotels in Eastbourne or browse hotels in Eastbourne.

For those who prefer the flexibility of self-catering accommodation, discover the very best self-catering cottages in Sussex.

Eastbourne offers many different things to do and interesting activities, and there’s plenty to fill a weekend at the coast or a holiday by the sea. 

Looking for more South East England inspiration? Have a read of my guide to Camber Sands or discover the best things to do in Kent.

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Subscribe to my email newsletter and get exclusive access to my itineraries. My weekly newsletter is filled with luxury travel inspiration, destination highlights and exclusive discounts. Get immediate access to my FREE Edinburgh itinerary when you subscribe. 


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