Things to do in Eastbourne
In a relatively short period of time, Eastbourne became one of the best seaside resorts on the south coast of England. Located around 30 km from Brighton, Eastbourne is an excellent base for exploring the region.
It is the gate to Rye, the Seven Sisters, or other towns in East Sussex. It was William Cavendish, the future Duke of Devonshire, who created Eastbourne. The plan was entrusted to the architect Henry Currey.
Nowadays, Eastbourne has a very unique mix between modern Victorian hotels and a traditional feel. So if you’re planning a tour to Eastbourne, here are the top 22 things to do in Eastbourne.
1) The Helen Gardens
Located 1.5 miles South-West of Eastbourne pier, The Helen Gardens are a British natural gem. The famous gardens overlook the sea where King Edward’s Parade meets Duke’s Drive.
The Helen Gardens ownership has passed through the hands of several private owners. Among those personalities, I can mention the Duke of Devonshire and Mrs Helen Reid Stewart Hornby Lewis after whom the garden is named. Shortly after Mrs. After Helen died in 1930, the gardens were conveyed to the council.
In 1935, the council landscaped and opened it to the public. Helen Gardens host a beautiful show of spring daffodils and plenty of seating.
Additionally, you’ll find in the gardens a children’s playground and an 18 hole putting course. Moreover, in the summer, you can enjoy ice cream and light refreshments at the garden’s kiosk.
2) Holywell Tea Chalet
The Holywell Tea Chalet is a unique location at the base of the cliffs overlooking the sea. During a lovely walk along Eastbourne’s seafront, I stopped in for an afternoon snack. This location can be quite crowded, but in my opinion, it is well worth the wait.
The service was cheerful and welcoming. I recommend you try their delicious Eccles cakes. Personally, they kept me full for the rest of the day.
You can find seating areas inside or outside. They offer a good menu with lots of options. I highly recommend to never leave your food unattended if you’re sitting outside in summer, the local craws are very quick on the draw!
You can find more information here: https://www.holywellteachalet.co.uk/
3) Italian Gardens
Just below the Helen Gardens, you’ll find the mesmerizing Italian Gardens. They were created in the early XIX century when an old chalk quarry was landscaped. In 1922, the famous British landscape was redesigned in the Italianate style by unemployed men returning from the 1st World War and the structures they remain today.
Moreover, the Italian Gardens host two pergolas and a protected platform with a wonderful view of the sea. Additionally, there is a treetop walk above the location with views across to the pier.
Unfortunately, in 2018 the protected platform was seriously damaged. Thankfully in 2019, the government decided to renovate the Italian Gardens. Firstly, all the structures were repaired.
Secondly, all self-seeded trees were cut back making the spot more visible to passers-by and less vulnerable to anti-social behavior. Thirdly, the government planted climbers on the structures. Nowadays, the Italian Gardens are as beautiful as ever, so I highly urge you to add them to your to-see list.
4) Holywell Retreat
Another place to visit for nature lovers and one of the most original things to do in Eastbourne is the Holywell Retreat. The place was originally located in the west cliffs of the Beachy Head. In the early XIX century, a small fishing community managed to settle there.
The community’s main livelihood was catching crabs and other shellfish. Moreover, the Italian-style ornamental garden distinguishes the Holywell Retreat.
Furthermore, in 1935, Holywell Retreat enjoyed Royal patronage from King George V and Queen Mary when they stayed at Compton Place. Nowadays the Holywell Retreat provides a little oasis for tourists looking for a place away from the bustling seafront.
Furthermore, the gardens host the Shakesperian dramas staged by the Rude Mechanical Theater Company.
5) Walk along the Eastbourne Promenade
When visiting the town, I encourage you to add walking along its promenade to your things to do in Eastbourne. With a length of 3.3 miles, the Eastbourne promenade is a medium-level walk.
Moreover, it offers panoramic sea views that won’t leave you indifferent, with views across the English Channel towards France.
6) Wish Tower
The Wish Tower is one of 103 cannon towers built on England’s south and east coasts in the early 1800s to defend against a possible invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte army.
It was constructed when Eastbourne had four or five small settlements and, along with the Redoubt Fortress about a mile to the east, is most likely the oldest surviving resident of Eastbourne’s seafront. I urge you to take advantage of the view of the sea from the summit of the tour.
7) Western Lawns
Leading down to the seafront, Western Laws host plenty of seats to relax and enjoy the sea breeze. The famous location is a beautiful park with a lake that serves as home to ducks and swans.
Moreover, Western Lawns have two playgrounds making it an ideal location for children. Additionally, the park hosts cafes that supply takeaway through lockdowns and that have excellent customer service.
Furthermore, the parking in Western Laws is free, however, the area is limited. So don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air, the beach, and cliffs. Additionally, Western Laws is a notorious spot for fitness, rollerblading, and skateboarding amateurs.
8) Bistrot Pierre
In case you’re looking for an amazing restaurant to eat in Eastbourne while admiring great scenery look no further. Bistrot Pierre is a French restaurant recognized as a 2021 Travelers’ Choice Winner by Tripadvisor. The place opens from 9AM to 9:30PM everyday and serves fresh French food including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes.
Moreover, I highly encourage you to taste Bistrot Pierre baguettes, wine, and cakes. Additionally, the French restaurant is an amazing location to enjoy a fancy dish while admiring stunning sea views.
9) Eastbourne Bandstand
Built in 1893, the Eastbourne bandstand is a fundamental part of the British city. In this spot, you’ll find a commemorative plaque at the back of the Eastbourne bandstand in memory of John Wesley Woodward.
He was one of the artists playing on the Titanic when it sank in 1912. Moreover, the Eastbourne bandstand was rebuilt in 1935 by Leslie Rosevere. Nowadays, the town’s bandstand is one of the most distinctive views in Eastbourne. It is easily recognizable thanks to its silver finial and blue dome.
Additionally, the Eastbourne bandstand has been featured in numerous television programs. For a few years, the place was shown in the opening sequence of BBC South East News.
Furthermore, Eastbourne Bandstand hosts annually numerous tribute shows, kid concerts, fireworks, and traditional Christmas and New Year’s eve shows.
10) Eastbourne Pier
Opened on the 13th of June 1870, Eastbourne Pier was designed by Eugenius Birch. This British local attraction was completed in 1872. Originally, the pier measured 1000ft long by 22ft wide. After a storm in 1877, the government rebuilt it 5 ft higher and increased its width to reach 52 ft.
The Pier hosts a seaward Pavilion theater and two games pavilions designed by Noel Ridley AMICE. Moreover, in 1901, the Eastbourne Pier was enlarged to accommodate numerous new facilities.
For instance, a music pavilion was added in 1925, a kiosk in 1971, and an entrance building in 1991.
Also, the place offers mesmerizing views of the city and the white cliffs. You can also enjoy the pier’s traditional amusement arcades where you can play on 40 different machines divided into 3 units.
Another important feature of the Eastbourne Pier is its tea rooms. They are located in the middle of the place and are easily distinguishable to their Victorian style. Furthermore, the Eastbourne Pier tea rooms can host up to 70 guests. So you’ll find a space for you to enjoy their tasty cakes and delicious British tea.
11) Carpet Gardens
Located in Eastbourne’s seafront, the famous Carpet Gardens are the focal point of Eastbourne Promenade and should not be missed. These award-winning gardens, with their vibrant displays of bedding plants and fountains, provide a welcome splash of colour between the western lawns and Eastbourne Pier.
Shrubs and plant species from all over the world thrive in the city’s mild climate, including those from Mexico, New Brunswick, New Zealand, and the Mediterranean.
The charming old Italian Gardens are another gardener’s delight, tucked away beneath Helen Gardens in Holywell. The gardens, built in 1904 in a wooded amphitheatre carved into the cliffs, provide the ideal setting for outdoor theatrical productions.
12) Sit by Eastbourne beach overlooking the pier
Another main attraction to add to your things to do in Eastbourne is the pier’s beach. It is a south-coast beach with shingles and pebbles divided up by a series of wooden groins. It runs from the Pier to the Wish Tower. Moreover, the beach is not sandy and its tide is very low, making it a perfect place to relax.
It is also a great place to watch the sunset. Additionally, near the beach, you’ll find plenty of vintage places worth a visit.
Furthermore, the pier’s beach is home to the beautiful Floral Carpet Gardens. Located next to the pier, Floral Carpet is one of the beach’s extensive gardens.
13) Royal Hippodrome Theatre
Opened in 1883, the Royal Hippodrome is a royal theater and opera house. The place has been granted a Royal Patent by the Prince of Wales.
Mr. C.J. Phipps, then, a Londonian architect was asked to draw plans for the Royal Hippodrome and raise funds for it. Moreover, in 1904, the Hippodrome began to showcase different nightly shows.
Among the performers, I can mention the notorious magician Harry Houdini, Ada Reeve, Fred Karno, and Marie Lloyd. In recent years, the Royal Hippodrome witnessed numerous changes to upgrade and improve the building.
Nowadays, when visiting the Royal Hippodrome, you’ll find more internal spaces and a better theatrical experience.
14) Hop on a Eastbourne Sightseeing bus
One of the best ways to explore Eastbourne is by hopping on one of the city’s sightseeing buses. These vehicles offer a tour to discover the town.
By opting for this activity, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Eastbourne’s Pier, Bandstand, Birling Gap, Italian Gardens, Warren Hill, Beachy Head, Little Chelsea, and many more. So don’t hesitate to buy your tickets and experience an unforgettable journey.
Cost: £7.5 for an adult ticket (24h unlimited travel).
15) Towner Art Gallery
The Towner Gallery, founded in 1923 and housed in its current modern installations since 2009, has an impressive collection of over 4000 oil paintings, aquarelles, sculptures, and drawings.
The gallery exhibits a variety of works by Sussex artists who have a special connection to the county, including traditional and contemporary works of art.
Numerous “Very Famous” artists are also represented in this enthrallingly eclectic collection.
It is especially true of Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, and Eric Ravilious, who was a student and later an instructor at the Eastbourne School of Art. There are educational tours and programmes available.
Official Website: www.townereastbourne.org.uk
16) St Saviours church
Eastbourne hosts numerous iconic tourist attractions. Among these places, we find the St. Saviour Church. It is the 7th Duke of Devonshire who came up with the plan to construct the religious institution. Helped by Harriot Manby and George Whelpton, the St. Savior Church was built in the XIII century.
This Anglican worship place has a colored tiled floor with a vaulted chapel. It also has a sacrament house dating from 1920 and a chancel arch vaulted with the ribs from Devon marble. In short, St. Saviour Church will delight architecture and history lovers.
17) Eastbourne Town Hall
Designed in 1880 after a competition organized by W. Tadman-Faulkes, Eastbourne Town Hall is a local landmark. Its foundation stone was laid in 1884 and the public building opened two years after.
Moreover, in 1892, an off-central 130 ft clock in free Renaissance style was added. Additionally, you’ll be amazed by the building’s brick decorations and the original Council Chamber.
18) Little Chelsea
It is impossible to write about things to do in Eastbourne without mentioning Little Chelsea. This district is one of the UK’s coolest places to live in. With its gently buzzing atmosphere, Little Chelsea is centered around South Street and Grove Road.
It is the trendier part of Eastbourne and is home to a cluster of charming cafes and independent shops.
19) The Beacon Shopping Centre
Formerly known as the Eastbourne Arndale Center, the Beacon Shopping Center quickly became a must-visit attraction in the city. Opened under a name design and name in Christmas 2018, The Beacon is one of Eastbourne’s top retail destinations. The name’s choice is to remind the local population of their coastal history and Beachy Head Lighthouse.
Moreover, the Beacon hosts numerous top cloth brand names and a wide selection of cafes and restaurants. It is undoubtedly an excellent destination for shopping maniacs.
20) Enjoy Eastbourne Urban Street Art
There is no doubt that Urban Street Art is a fundamental part of Eastbourne. Recently, the movement took a whole different level.
Wherever you go in the city, you’ll find urban street art. From the famous Together sign by Will Mower outside the former TJ Hughes building to the You Are Part of The History sign painted on the town’s center building, Urban Street Art brightens Eastbourne’s avenues.
21) RNLI Museum and Shop
One of the most original museums in the world is the RNLI. It is characterized by its two boats. The first one was provided by Mr. John Fuller, when he died in 1833, he left the boat to Eastbourne’s inhabitants.
In 1924, the second boat was added and in 1937, Eastbourne opened its first permanent lifeboat museum. The RNLI is built on a lifeboat house built in 1898 in memory of William Terriss, a famous actor. Moreover, the RNLI hosts a shop with a wide selection of gifts, clothing, books, and postcards.
22) The Kiosk Cafe
What better way to end the list of things to do in Eastbourne than to write about the Kiosk Café. Although a kiosk, it does have uncovered and covered seats. It is also an ideal location to eat ice cream and homemade cakes.
Moreover, Kiosk Café is a dog-friendly place and a convenient spot with bike spots. So go enjoy the best breakfast in Eastbourne while getting ready to begin your Seven Sisters cliffs walk.
Visiting Eastbourne is a delightful experience that will make you discover the UK’s hidden beauty. I hope you enjoyed the list of things to do in Eastbourne. Please, don’t hesitate to let me know what is your favorite activity from the list.
I look forward to reading your comments and experiences!