11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Eastbourne
Originally a fishing village and later developed into a large Victorian beach resort, Eastbourne is one of England's most popular seaside destinations. Its elegant three mile-long seafront promenade extends along its wide beaches, and a marvelous holiday atmosphere is found along the Grande Parade. This spectacular mid-19th century avenue is lined with magnificent white and pastel shaded houses and luxury hotels overlooking the brightly colored deckchairs on the beach. At the end of the wide esplanade, Eastbourne Pier projects far out to sea behind the Winter Garden theatre.
Eastbourne also boasts several fine parks and leisure facilities, and sports enthusiasts are well catered to with numerous tennis courts and golf courses. The traffic-free areas around the High Street offer a colorful array of shops and art and antique galleries, and the town's many language schools are famous beyond England, as is the Eastbourne International ladies' tennis tournament, held here annually in June. The South Downs Way, a magnificent 100-mile trail extending all the way to Winchester, begins in Eastbourne.
1 Beachy Head
Within walking distance of Eastbourne, Beachy Head (530 ft high) is a favorite sightseeing spot for tourists due to its spectacular views. This striking snow-white cliff at the end of the South Downs amply justifies its fame, taking its name from the French Normans who called it "beau chef" (beautiful head). The 141 ft tall red and white striped Beachy Head Lighthouse at the foot of the cliff is a pleasing contrast, as is the Belle Tout Lighthouse on the cliff top to the west of Beachy Head (built in 1832, the latter now offers superb accommodations with stunning views).
After soaking up the views, take the three-mile long cliff path passing through Cuckmere, Haven and Seaford, or try one of the Guided Walks hosted by the Downland Rangers. Be sure to visit the Beachy Head Countryside Centre with its interesting Downland Experience exhibit featuring the archaeology, flora and fauna of the area.
2 Carpet Gardens
Well worth a pleasant stroll, the famous Carpet Gardens are the centerpiece of Eastbourne's Promenade. With vibrant displays of bedding plants and fountains, these award-winning gardens are a welcome splash of color between the Western Lawns and Eastbourne Pier. Shrubs and plant species from around the world (including from Mexico, New Zealand and the Mediterranean) thrive in the town's mild climate. Another gardener's delight, tucked away below Helen Gardens at Holywell, is the lovely old Italian Gardens. Located in a wooded amphitheater carved out of the cliffs, the gardens were constructed in 1904 and provide a beautiful setting for open-air theatre productions.
Location: Seafront, Eastbourne
3 Marine Parade Beaches
Eastbourne's most popular beaches are located between the pier and the Wish Tower, a Martello Tower built to keep Napoleon out. Known as the Marine Parade Beaches, they're the area's cleanest and offer lifeguards, safe bathing zones, showers and toilets, as well as refreshment facilities and bathing cabins. Another beach area to check out is Holywell Retreat at the foot of the South Downs, a quaint enclave that boasts a popular café, beach huts and beach chalets.
Location: Grand Parade, Eastbourne
4 Eastbourne Pier
Built in 1870, Eastbourne Pier is a wonderful example of Victorian seaside architecture offering superb views of the town and the English Channel. The structure's boardwalk leads to a number of attractions, including dining opportunities, an amusement arcade, novelty and souvenir shops, as well as an original Camera Obscura, a Victorian projector with a 360-degree view of the seafront.
Location: Grand Parade, Eastbourne
5 Eastbourne Redoubt
Built to keep invading armies out, the 200-year-old Eastbourne Redoubt was part of a chain of fortifications designed to deter Napoleon's forces in the early 1800s. Garrisoned by troops until the early 1900s and again during WWII, the fortress houses three excellent military collections, including artifacts and displays related to the Royal Sussex, the county's regiment for more than 250 years. Visitors can view original artifacts from the 1702 Spanish War of Succession right up to the North Africa campaign of 1942. The Queen's Royal Irish Hussars collection celebrates the history of two famous cavalry regiments: the 4th Queen's Own Hussars and the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars, famous for their part in the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade.
Location: Royal Parade , Eastbourne
6 Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway
Model train enthusiasts (and kids of all ages) won't want to miss the Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway, a mile-long adventure through five acres of quaint gardens and parkland aboard fantastically detailed 1/8th scale miniature trains. In addition to the nine different engines to look for while trainspotting, there's also a nature walk, an adventure playground, model railways, a café and gift shop, and fishing on Southbourne Lake.
Location: Lottbridge Drove, Eastbourne
Just nine miles from Eastbourne, Seaford is famous for its Martello Tower at the eastern end of the promenade as well as its superb views of the Seven Sisters Country Park. Amongst England's most impressive cliff views, the incredible Seven Sisters - Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Point, Bailey's Brow and Went Hill Brow - are just begging to be explored. The best view of these seven chalk hills, which form part of the foothills of the South Downs, can be enjoyed from Seaford Head.
The Sheep Centre is a family-run farm that's especially popular for children who can help with the lamb feedings. The facility also offers cheese making, crafts and shearing demonstrations. Also, be sure to visit the 11th century St Leonard's Parish Church.
Location: Exceat, Seaford
8 Michelham Priory
Set on a moated island near Hailsham eight miles north of Eastbourne, Michelham Priory is considered one of the most impressive historic houses in Sussex. Founded in 1229, most of the original buildings were destroyed during the Dissolution and the remains converted into a Tudor farm and country house. The big draws today include picturesque gardens, a working watermill, sculpture garden, smithy, rope museum, and the Elizabethan Great Barn, which serves as a backdrop for art exhibits and theater productions.
For those seeking a different kind of thrill when in Hailsham, nearby Arlington Speedway features a 1/4 mile-long raceway for hot rod and stock car racing.
Location: Upper Dicker, Hailsham
9 Cuckoo Trail
This nationally acclaimed trail follows the route of the former railroad line linking Polegate, Hailsham, Horam and Heathfield. Ideal for walking, cycling (it's part of the National Cycle Network), horse riding and people with disabilities, this 14-mile long surfaced path is mostly traffic free, and offers superb opportunities to explore the region's beautiful countryside.
10 The Observatory Science Centre
The Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux features an incredible historic astronomy site (once part of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich), astronomy exhibitions as well as many unique displays. The emphasis is on discovery in this Grade II listed monument, an approach to sharing the miracles of science that will entertain kids of all ages.
No visit would be complete without spending time exploring neighboring Herstmonceux Castle, one of the oldest brick buildings still standing in England.
Location: Herstmonceux, Hailsham
11 Bentley Wildfowl Reserve and Motor Museum
Bentley Wildfowl Reserve and Motor Museum offers an interesting combination of attractions: bird habitats and vintage cars. Hundreds of swans, geese, ducks, flamingos, cranes, and peacocks are among the 2,500 birds and 130 species at the park. Also on-site, the motor museum is notable for its numerous Edwardian and vintage vehicles.
Location: Bentley Country Park, Halland