From London, it’s easy to hop on a train for a taste of the sea. Promising fun for all ages, our round-up of seaside day trips explores the highlights of the south-east English coast, from sandy beaches and Victorian piers to thought-provoking artworks and delectable coastal cuisine. What’s more, it’s all just 90 minutes or less by train from the capital.
Visitors can start a trip to the south coast city of Brighton with a 15-minute walk to the Royal Pavilion, which was first built as a pleasure palace for King George IV more than 200 years ago. After taking in its mix of Regency and Indo-Gothic architecture, they can browse the diverse works on show at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, found in the Royal Pavilion Gardens.
Foodies can tuck into traditional fish and chips on the seafront for lunch, before enjoying the rides and amusements at Brighton Palace Pier or taking in the views from 450 feet up aboard the British Airways i360. Afterwards, they can spend the afternoon in the world’s oldest operating aquarium at SEALIFE Brighton or stroll the independent shops and coffee houses of The Lanes. Here, they’ll find everything from chic boutiques to hand-crafted jewellery and antiques, as well as a plethora of small galleries and designer fashion.
For a spot of evening fine dining, they can try etch., a 12-table tasting menu restaurant from Masterchef: The Professionals winner Stephen Edwards. Alternatively, they can sample a menu packed with meat, fish and vegetarian options at the Coal Shed Brighton, all centred around its specially imported coal-fired Josper grill.
If staying for more than a day, visitors can hire a bicycle from the BTN BikeShare scheme for a slow cycle along the Undercliff Path from Brighton Marina to the village of Saltdean. Alternatively, a more strenuous route takes them into the striking greenery of the South Downs National Park for views of Devil’s Dyke and an abundance of wildlife. There’s also a plethora of city cycling tours to pick from, or more relaxed walking options including Piers and Queers, a journey through the city’s LGBTQ+ history.
Getting here: Direct trains from London Bridge and Victoria take 60 minutes.
Places to stay: The city has a range of different accommodation options to suit all budgets, some of which can be viewed at Visit Brighton, including:
Margate’s sandy beach and seafront provides a taste of traditional seaside Britain, but the town on Kent’s northern coast is also awash with trendy cafes, retro shops and vibrant independent stores. Visitors can take in the region’s artistic past by browsing the ever-changing exhibitions on show at the Turner Contemporary. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2021, the gallery is named after JMW Turner, who was often inspired by the spectacular stretch of Kent coastline. Following this, visitors can immerse themselves in the mysteries of the Shell Grotto, a captivating subterranean complex first discovered in 1835. Covered with 4.6 million shells, its exact origins remain unknown.
After all that sightseeing, visitors will have built up an appetite, and they can savour lunch in one of Old Town’s many cafes or seafront eateries, before spending the afternoon enjoying the fun of the fair at Dreamland Margate. A new addition to its vintage ride collection for 2021 is a lovingly restored Ghost Train, joining other classics including the Waltzer and Gallopers. Some rides, including the 101-year-old Scenic Railway – Britain’s oldest rollercoaster – are yet to reopen, but are set to return in 2022.
For dinner, Angela’s of Margate features a menu packed with ethically sourced seafood and vegetarian dishes, while Buoy and Oyster puts the focus on some of the best meat and seafood that the region has to offer. Alternatively, visitors can enjoy intimate dining at the 18-seat New Street Bistro, or take the experience outdoors into their courtyard garden restaurant New Street Al Fresco, which can be found opposite.
If they have more time in Margate, visitors can explore the Dicken’s and Turner Trail, a four-mile accessible walking route linking the Turner Contemporary Gallery with Broadstairs, a popular holiday haunt of writer Charles Dickens. Colourful mosaics document the pair’s connections with the region along the route, while regular buses operate between the two locations for those not wishing to walk both ways. Visitors can also set foot in Bleak House, where Dickens penned David Copperfield, or venture north along the coast to discover the golden sands, rock pools and chalk stacks of Botany Bay.
Getting here: Direct trains from St Pancras International and Victoria take 90 minutes to two hours.
Places to stay: A selection of places to stay in Margate, Broadgate and Ramsgate can be found at Visit Thanet, including:
Eastbourne, on England’s southern coast, mixes history and culture with striking outdoor landscapes. Visitors can start the day by exploring the town’s wealth of independent shops before browsing contemporary art at Towner Eastbourne, the south-east’s largest purpose-built gallery. Here, visitors can discover an internationally renowned collection of 5,000 works, as well as a wealth of exhibitions which change every few months.
Foodies can sample fish and chips on the town’s Victorian pier for lunch, before an afternoon stroll along the promenade. Visitors can pass the Wish Tower, a historical Martello Tower dating back to the Napoleonic era, and the Eastbourne Redoubt, a fascinating coastal fort and museum which is due to reopen in 2022. They can also try their hand at mini golf, or venture out onto the water for a kayaking or paddle boarding adventure.
The town offers a range of evening meal options, from exquisite fine dining at the Mirabelle Restaurant at the Grand Hotel, to Turkish delicacies at Meze and Indian cuisine at Malayalam.
A second day in Eastbourne could be spent exploring the vast green spaces which surround the town. To the west, a four-mile scenic coastal hike takes visitors to Beachy Head, where they can admire the chalky white Seven Sisters Cliffs and the luscious Seven Sisters Country Park. Those fancying a longer excursion could opt to continue west along a section of the 90-mile South Downs Way, a National Trail through the heart of the South Downs National Park which links Eastbourne with the historic city of Winchester. Alternatively, visitors could venture north from Eastbourne along the Cuckoo Trail, a 14-mile cycling and walking route packed with natural wildlife. It follows a former railway line to the small market town of Heathfield, just inside the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and offers striking views of the Sussex countryside. Several of these routes also feature in the annual Eastbourne Walking Festival, a celebration of the outdoors which usually takes place in the autumn.
Getting here: Direct trains from Victoria take 90 minutes.
Places to stay: Visit Eastbourne lists numerous seafront hotels and guest houses for visitors to pick from, including:
An area steeped in history, Hastings has a rich fishing heritage and is home to Britain’s steepest funicular railway, which offers incredible views across the English Channel.
While the town of Hastings gives its name to one of the most significant battles in British history in 1066, the historic conflict’s actual location can be found a few miles to the north at Battle Abbey. Visitors can start the day by heading on a 15-minute train journey to trace the events surrounding William the Conqueror’s victory, wander around the battlefield and enjoy spectacular views from the Abbey roof. The remains of Britain’s first Norman castle can also be explored in Hastings, with The 1066 Story exhibition taking visitors on a journey from the point of conquest to the modern day. The castle is a short walk from the top of the West Hill Lift, a funicular railway dating back to 1891 which maintains its original wooden Victorian coaches.
Visitors can grab a spot of lunch from Maggie’s Fish and Chips along the seafront, before taking in the views and amusements on Hastings Pier. History lovers can stop off at the Shipwreck Museum to see its collection of rare artefacts from sunken vessels and to learn more about the region’s maritime past, before browsing the eclectic mix of exhibitions and modern art at Hastings Contemporary. Found among the net huts in Hasting’s Old Town, the gallery overlooks the continent’s largest beach-launched fishing fleet.
For a spot of evening dining, visitors can tuck in to a mix of seafood and British cuisine at No. EIGHT Restaurant, or sample contemporary Italian delicacies made with East Sussex’s finest local produce at La Bella Vista.
Those with more time in Hastings should head to the East Hill Lift for access to Hastings Country Park Local Nature Reserve. Found in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the reserve includes a number of coastal paths and other routes which meander through ancient woodland glens, providing numerous opportunities to spy birds and other wildlife.
Getting here: Direct trains from London Bridge, or from St Pancras International with one change at Ashford International, take 90 minutes.
Places to stay: A selection of accommodation in Hastings can be found at 1066 Country, including:
The White Rock Hotel: overlooking Hastings Pier, the White Rock Hotel is home to 40 guest rooms which cater to both leisure and business guests.
For more information contact:
VisitBritain Media TeamPressandpr@visitbritain.org