13 of the Best Things To Do in Rye East Sussex

Rye is one of my favorite towns in East Sussex if not all of England, it’s full of historic stone buildings, winding cobbled streets and plenty of fun things to do! In fact, I have to be honest I first visited Rye to get some photos of famed Mermaid Street but quickly fell in love with the rest of the town. We visited Rye from the quirky seaside town of Brighton (where my husband is from) – about 2 hours away by train!

Some of my favorite things to do in Rye include having my favorite hot chocolate from Knoops, hopping on a wine tour to nearby East Sussex and Kent and catching the sunset at Camber Sands beach. For families there’s loads of fantastically unique activities – there’s a School of Wizards and Witches (big Harry Potter vibes) and a Detective Mystery Trail, which requires some serious problem-solving skills!

In this blog, I list 13 of the very best things to do in Rye East Sussex!

What are the Best Things to do in Rye East Sussex?

  1. Cast some spells and become a a Witch or Wizard at the interactive School of Witches and Wizards
  2. Spy some rare British birds at Rye Harbour Coastal Reserve
  3. Visit Camber Castle – Henry VIII’s former home
  4. Go on a boutique wine tour through East Sussex and Kent
  5. Be a detective for the day on the Rye Detective Mystery Trail
  6. Join in the celebrations at Bonfire Night, held in November
  7. Climb the Bell Tower at St Mary’s Church for the best view of Rye
  8. Try some yummy hot chocolate at Knoops
  9. Spend the night at the historic (and haunted?) Mermaid Inn
  10. Test your speed at Lydd Karting
  11. Satisfy your inner photographer at pretty Mermaid Street
  12. Go for a walk on the golden sands of Camber Sand Beach
  13. Pay a visit to Lamb House – the former home of writer Henry James

Most popular Things to do in Rye with Children

sunset mermaid street rye
Sunset on Mermaid Street – how pretty!

There’s loads of kid-friendly activities in Rye – the best things to do with children include becoming a Witch or Wizard at the School of Wizards and Witches where kids will learn spells and solve a magical mystery. Also, a lot of fun for the whole family is the Detective Mystery Tour a self-guided tour in which you will have to solve a smuggling case. Of course, Knoops Hot Chocolate is always a treat and a firm favorite with kids.

1. Become a Witch or a Wizard at the School of Wizards and Witches

school of wizards and witches rye
The School of Wizards and Witches!

The School of Wizards and Witches is a theater experience where your little ones will be taught how to make spells and all the other ins and outs of being a magical Witch or Wizard! As a group (typically group sizes of 12) the children will be tasked with solving a bunch of magical mysteries to save the magical world. On their quest the children will come across dark forests, dungeons and castles. This unique experience is led by actors and all the masks, puppets and scenes used have been created by professional movie and prop makers. Of course this exoerience isn’t just for kids – adults can join in the fun too.

The School of Witches and Wizards is located at The World of Legend, 55 The Mint. You can book your magical experience here. Please note this experience may be closed due to Covid restrictions, please check before booking!

2. See rare British birds at Rye Harbour Coastal Reserve

rye harbor east sussex
Rye Harbor on a sunny day (photo via Canva)

At the Rye Harbour Coastal Reserve spot amazing wildlife like the Marsh Frog and more unique species like the Spangled Button Beetle and the Medicinal Leech along this long coastal path which also has five bird hides where you can truly get up close to the native birds. The most common birds seen here are Terns (Little, Common & Sandwich),, Oystercatchers, Redshank, Lapwing and many more.This area is known to be one of the most important nature reserves in the country and is home to  approximately 4,355 species of plants and animals including 300 that are rare or endangered.The walk begins from the Discovery Center, which also contains a shop and Cafe with fabulous views.

3. Visit Camber Castle

camber castle rye uk
Camber Castle on a hazy Summer day! (photo via Canva)

Camber Castle once the home of Henry VIII is one of the most important historic sites in Rye. It lies within the nature reserve between Rye and Winchelsea. It is an unaltered artillery fort which was built in 1539 to protect Rye Harbur. You can’t drive to the Castle, instead it is reachable only by a mile-long footpath from Rye.

Did you know – Camber means safe haven (you could safely anchor a vessel behind the castle). The word is derived from the French word ‘chambre’, which means bedroom.

The Castle was abandoned in 1637 and is now managed by English Heritage who have made updates to the structural work of the Castle. You can visit the outside of the Castle any day of the week – here’s where the walk to the Castle starts but guided tours of the Castle’s interior usually occur on the first Saturday of the month in Summer. On a tour of Camber Castle you can expect to see the flower like shapes on the curtain wall and the brick-vaulted tunnels.

4. Go on a Wine Tour

A wine tour may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of England but believe me this full-day wine tour is worth booking. On the tour you will get to visit two small wineries set among the glorious East Sussex countryside. Here, you will learn all about the wine-making process |(in this unique climate for wine-growing) and of course get to taste the wines. Towards the end of the tour you will visit a local brewery and try some craft beer and cider

Pick up and drop off for this tour is available from Rye Train Station.

Book the wine tour here

P.S. another very popular tour in the East Sussex area is this Seven Sisters and South Downs Tour which departs from Brighton! The tour is approximately 6.5 hours in duration.

5. Become a Detective for the day on the Rye Detective Mystery Trail

On this self-guided Detective Mystery Trail you will be searching high and low through historic cobbled streets for clues. It looks as though smuggling is still rife in Rye and the latest crimes have baffled local police – they can’t find the offender but think that the crimes are related to a well-known gang of 18th century smugglers! Can you help the police to find their culprit?

The self-guided tour starts at the Heritage Center and is great fun for the whole family (believe me 0 this will test your thinking skills). You will also learn loads about the history of Rye along the way.

Book the Rye Detective Mystery Trail here

6. Have fun at the Bonfire Night Celebrations in November

The Annual Bonfire Night Celebrations in Rye are typically held around the 13th of November. Part of this event is the naming of the year’s Rye Fawkes (a play on Guy Fawkes whom Bonfire Night in England is in commemoration of). The title of Rye Fawkes is awarded to the highest bidder and has been since 2009 prior to that it was given to a range of Celebrites including Spike Milligan and Vic Reeves.

On the night – huge crowds of people will process through Rye with flaming torches, drum bands and floats eventually ending at the Salts where an enormous bonfire is lit, followed by a spectacular firework display.

Other popular annual events in Rye include the Bay Scallop Week held in February and the New Mayor Making Ceremony held in May.

7. Climb the Bell Tower for the best view of Rye

aerial shot rye east sussex
An aerial view shot of Rye town! (photo via Canva)

The bell tower is located at St Mary’s Church in Church Square and it offers the best view in all of Rye. In fact, I’ve been told it’s a very popular spot for marriage proposals – the views are that stunning! On the way up you will see the 8 church bells, which weigh a shopping combined weight of 5 tons. These are not the original church bells, these ones were re-cast in 1775. The original bells were in fact stolen in 1377 by French invaders and brought to France – thankfully they were recovered the next year.

There is a small fee to access the bell tower.

8. Have the best hot chocolate in East Sussex at Knoops

knnops hot chocolate rye
Knoops Hot Chocolate – it’s delicious!

If you see a large queue snaking down Tower Forge you’ve found Knoops. One of the best chocolate shops in the country.

The Knoops concept is based on a carefully curated percentage menu which offers chocolates to suit every taste and mood. In store, try out the different % chocolates and flavours in a process the staff call ‘Knoopology’. This process is simple; choose your chocolate %, milk, and extra flavours like sea salt, orange zest or chilli to be made into a hot chocolate, milkshake or iced chocolate. Delicous!

There are now 6 Knoops Stores in the country – one in Brighton and several dotted throughout London. You can buy your own Knoops chocolate in store to bring home and try to make yourself.

For your coffee fix visit – Cafe des Fleurs on Station Road,

9. Stay at the historic Mermaid Inn – a former Smugglers pub

The view from outside Mermaid Inn of Mermaid Street!

Seeing as there’s so much to do in Rye why not extend your stay there with an overnight stay at the 600 year old Mermaid Inn. The rooms here have sloping ceilings, creaky floorboards and the hallways in the hotel have several winding staircases – all adding to the unique-factor! It is also believed the hotel is haunted – so keep an eye out for ghosts or other supernatural occurrences! Some people love that sort of thing and traveler specifically book into the Mermaid Inn in the hope of seeing a ghost! The Mermaid Inn is extremely popular and tends to sell-out quick so book early!

Not only is this a hotel it’s also a very popular Restaurant and Bar. One of the best seats in the house is at the Giant’s Fireplace Bar – it’s full of history as a local gang of Smugglers in the 1730’s frequented the bar.

There’s a secret passageway into the bar – can you spot it?

Book your stay at The Mermaid Inn here, rooms start from  £130 per night

The owner offers Guided Tours through the 600 year old Mermiad Inn, providing a walk through time. These tours are held on the last Sunday of each month, commencing at 4pm and 5pm. Book the tour on the website.

10. Try go-karting at Lydd Karting

A 20 minute drive from Rye is Lydd Karting, the ideal activity for the petrol-head in your life! The 1040 meter circuit here is the fastest in the region and one of the fastest in the country.

The hire kart fleet here ranges from Bambino karts through to senior twin engined prokarts. And prices start at just £20 for 15 minutes. You can choose from a 15 minute; 30 minute; 45 minute and 60 minute session. All safety equipment is provided and the activity is suitable for children from the age of 6.

Lydd Karting also hosts many National Karting Events like the F100uk and RetroRacer 

11. Take a stroll along Camber Sands beach

sunset on brighton beach
Enjoying a bright orange sunset at Camber Sands!

A 3 km walk from the center of Rye will take you to one of the best golden-sand beaches in the country. Camber Sands is 5 miles long and can get quite windy, so, it’s very popular for wind surfers and kite surfers. The Western End of the beach next to River Rother is the most popular section of the beach with locals and is especially pretty! It’s safe to swim at Camber Sands but beware of fast-moving tides that can drag you out to the deep very quickly.

If you can catch a sunset here even better, the sky sure did put on a show for us when we visited last in October.

12. Take lots of photos of pretty Mermaid Street

mermaid street Rye
How beautiful is Mermaid Street!

The poster child for Rye is Mermaid Street with its storybook charm. Mermaid Street is a winding cobbled street with great views and slightly wonky stone & timber houses. Sort of Harry Potter-ish if you’re into that sort of thing. The best spot for a photo on Mermaid Street is to stand in the middle of the cobbled street just outside The Mermaid Inn (like I have done in the photo below). The best time of day to photograph Mermaid Street is at dusk – because little lights light up the houses down the street making it seem very magical (and a little like Diagonal Alley from the Harry Potter movies). It’s also quieter at this time of the evening, beware it does get very busy here during the day and is especially busy at weekends.

Be sure to pop in to the cosiest pub in prime position on the street – The Mermaid Inn for a pint or some afternoon tea.

13. Visit Lamb House the former home of writer Henry James

LAMB HOUSE RYE
The Lamb House in Rye!

Once home to writer Henry James as well as E.F Benson – Lamb House is now owned by the National Trust. And is a must visit for any literature fans. To the rear of the house is one of the largest gardens in Rye – filled with lillies and roses and even contains the graves of Henry James’ dogs. Inside the house there’s a varied collection of unique art works and sculptures. When visiting Lamb House you will learn all about its history as well as its famous past occupants.

It costs £8 to visit Lamb House and is open Friday – Tuesday every week, 11am-5pm. 

How to get to Rye East Sussex

Getting to Rye from London – Rye is located 76 miles (122 kms) southeast of central London. The easiest way to get to Rye is to drive the A21 road which passes Royal Tunbridge Wells. There are also regular trains that head to Rye from Charing Cross in London – you will need to change trains at Ashford International Station. I highly advise spending a couple nights in London before coming to Rye – there’s loads of amazing things to do in London!

Getting to Rye from Brighton – it’s quite a long distance from Brighton to Rye so we recommend driving if you can. The quickest way via public transport takes about 2 hours – catch the train from Brighton to Hastings & change here for the train to Rye.

Getting to Rye from Hastings – Hastings is the largest closest town to Rye at just a 30 minute drive away. You can drive the 12.5 miles via the A259 or catch the train direct which takes 20 minutes.

Where to Stay in Rye

  • Of course the historic (and haunted?) Mermaid Inn is top of the list with its quirky rooms – book this one early!
  • With river views, a large patio and a central location (just a few minutes walk from Camber Castle) the Heart of Rye is a stylish three-bedroom house ideal for families
  • Extraordinary Huts is a quirky hut-style accommodation that still has all the features of a comfortable hotel room. This is one of the most unique properties in Rye!
  • A Grade II listed building in the center of Rye – Whitehouse Rye is top of my list for a luxurious stay in Rye. There’s a restaurant and award-winning bakery onsite.
  • Just 4 miles from the center of town this large Grade II Georgian building is one of the biggest properties in the area. Flackley Ash Hotel has a spa, restaurant, heated indoor swimming pool, sauna and more!

There’s over 100 accommodation options in Rye and surrounding area, you can check them all out here!

Is Rye worth visiting?

In short yes, Rye is definitely worth visiting! Not only is it undeniably pretty and photogenic – just look at Mermaid Street but there’s lots of unique family-friendly things to do like the School of Witches and Wizards; go-karting in nearby Lydd and a self-guided detective tour. There’s also lots of free things to do in Rye too – like walking the golden sands of Camber Sands beach, exploring Mermaid Street and Rye Harbor Coastal Reserve to see some native birds. I recommend spending at least a couple hours in Rye, ideally spend the night at one of the many great hotels in Rye to truly get a feel for this fairytale-like town!

Thanks for reading my blog, Aimee x

brighton pier view

Brighton: A Weird & Wonderful Travel Guide

In this blog, I bring you the ultimate Brighton Travel Guide. It’s filled with weird & wonderful facts, the best places to stay, the best things to do (according to my husband Paul who was born and raised here) as well as the best places to eat.

The seaside city of Brighton has been enticing travelers for centuries. It is also called ‘London by the Sea’ because it’s the closest seaside resort to London. Brighton is a little bit weird and a lot wonderful!

Don’t have time to read it now, PIN IT for later here!

I bring you the ultimate Brighton Travel Guide filled with weird & wonderful facts, the best places to stay; things to do and restaurants.

Weird & Wonderful facts about Brighton

I told you this isn’t just any old Brighton Travel Guide – I’ve done heaps of research and come up with some very weird facts about this city. Some of the facts even a local won’t know!

Brighton is a weird & wonderful city by the sea, here are some super interesting facts about the city.

  • The first Body Shop was opened here in 1976
  • England’s first ever casino was opened here in 1962 at The Metropole Hotel
  • The Brighton Sea Life Center on Marine Parade us the world’s oldest aquarium. It first opened its doors way back in 1872
  • Hitler had his eyes set on setting up home at the Royal Pavillion. He wanted it as his holiday home after taking over the U.K (which never happened, thank god)
  • Brighton has the most restaurants per capita than anywhere else in England – there’s approximately 1 restaurant per 250 people
  • The city was the first place in the country to open a nudist beach in 1979
  • Brighton Pier is made up of over 60,000 light bulbs – imagine their electricity bill
The colorful beach huts on Brighton seafront

A locals tips for Brighton

After spending lots of time in Brighton (my husband is born and raised here) I’ve come up with what I think is the perfect day in Brighton. It includes excellent coffee shops, the best restaurants as well as awesome sunset spots. Plus, a whole lot more!

What to do in Brighton in the AM

Stroll through the Lanes early in the morning to catch these narrow quirk-filled lanes at their finest. Pop by Snoopers Paradise at Kensington Gardens in the North Laines – a quirky treasure filled department store that you can easily whisk away a few hours. Also, worth a visit is The Duck House on 4 Union Street – in this fun store you’ll find over 300 different types of imaginative rubber ducks.

Are you a coffee fiend – I recommend grabbing a coffee at Pelicano on Sydney Street or Bond St in the North Laines. In Brighton you are spoiled for choice for great coffee. A good indicator of how hipster/yuppie a city is how many independent coffee shops it has, it’s no surprise then that Movehub’s Hipster index ranked Brighton as the most hipster city in the world!

Other great coffee spots in the city include the very popular Small Batch at 17 Jubilee Street; 44 Poet’s on Poets Corner and Twin Pines in Kemptown.

brighton pier
Brighton Pier sign

My Brighton lunch recommendations

Take a long walk along the seafront and try your luck at the slot machines on the Pier. Waste away an hour playing the aforementioned slots, riding the dodgems/ bumper cars at the permanent funfair here and spoil your lunch with a head-sized stick of candyfloss. Then, take a stroll to the Madeira Lift at the seafront in Kemptown – a creaky, very old Victorian lift that brings you up the cliff which links Marine Parade with Madeira Drive. There’s even a lift attendant.

Tired out from all the fun, grab some amazingly authentic wood-fired pizzas at Fatto o Mano in Hove (or London Road). Other excellent lunch spots in Brighton include Trollburger under Brighton Station; Cin Cin in North Laine and 64 Degreees at Meeting House Lane.

After lunch, take the 78 bus to Stanmer Park about a 15 minute drive from Brighton. It’s well-worth a visit, mainly just to explore a little on foot and take photos. There’s also a little tearooms here if you fancy a snack. 

brighton pier view

Where to eat dinner in Brighton

Hit the Marina for dinner – did you know it’s the largest marina in the UK. Popular restaurants here include Chez Mal; Cafe Rouge and Malika Indian Restaurant. Or if you want to stay in the city for food –  try Casalingo on Preston Street (the hubby’s favorite restaurant) for authentic Italian food.

Where to watch the sunset in Brighton

Okay, I love sunsets. In fact, on vacation I make it my mission to watch the sunset every night. In Brighton I advise ending the day watching the sunset over the West Pier. The best spot for a photo of the sunset is from the Brighton Bandstand, it can get very busy here though.

Stunning sunset over Brighton Pier

Some other best sunset spots in Brighton are:

  • Walk to the top of Bear Road for a lovely view over the city. It’s a short steep walk up to this hillside grassy area.
  • Hove Beach – before sundown snap some photos of the very cute, very colorful beach huts
  • Cuckmere Haven – a riverfront beach about a 30 minute drive from Brighton. One of the most iconic photo spots here is the Coastguard cottages overlooking the Cuckmere River, with the Seven Sisters in the background. Walk just above the cottages on the path to get the best shot.

Where to stay in Brighton

We loved The Grand if you fancy splurging, or The Old Ship Hotel for great-value-for-money, both are on the seafront. Ask for a sea-facing room in both hotels. 

If you fancy an airbnb for a few nights, we love this unique cottage a 15 minute bus-ride from Brighton or this charming house conveniently located in Hove.

Is Brighton worth visiting?

Brighton is a city of extremes from its crowded stony beach, to the tourist trap that is Brighton Pier to the quirky hipster-filled North Lanes. On first look,  it may seem like a typical English city but it’s filled with the weirdest characters.  People you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world. But that’s why we love it. The restaurants are cool, the bars are cool (even the ‘old man’ bars are cool),the coffee shops are cool. Cool.

If you’re spending a few days in Brighton, why not consider visiting the quaint town of Rye – a 2 hour train ride away. It’s so photogenic there and there’s loads of fun things to do in Rye!

Brightly colored houses in Brighton

How many days do you need in Brighton?

My recommendation is at least 5 – 7 days. It’s especially beautiful and buzzing in Summer. If you want a quieter getaway but still want warmer weather – September is a top choice from me.

You could always combine a stay in Brighton with one of these gorgeous towns in East Sussex.

Planning your Brighton trip, this detailed UK Trip Planning Guide will help you in deciding when to go, what to see, how to get around and even what to pack!

What is Brighton famous for?

Brighton is easily the most famous city in East Sussex and maybe the most famous seaside resort in all of Britain. It is a popular weekend haunt for Londoners (as its only an hour from the capital city), stag and hen parties and for couples looking for an escape. 

The city is also home to the UK’s largest LGBT population. In fact its widely known as the unofficial gay capital of the UK.

It’s also famous for the gorgeous Royal Pavillion; its long stony seafront & Brighton Pier as British Airway’s very flashy i360 tower.

the royal pavillion brighton
Royal Pavillion, Brighton

What are the most popular things to do in Brighton?

  • Blaker Street is certainly one of the most colorful streets in Brighton if not the whole country – an entire road of brightly colored houses, every instagrammers dream right?!
  • Brighton’s Victorian Sewers – Southern Water leads tours through these stinky sewers that were still being used for raw sewage up until 1990. The sewers are 7-miles long and lead all the way to the Telscombe Cliffs.
  • The Royal Pavillion – easily one of the most beautiful homes ever built. It took over a 20 years to be built for Prince George IV. It is often commented on how similar it looks to the Taj Mahal.
  • i360 viewing tower – an enclosed glass pod takes you up 450 feet to the top where you can enjoy glorious views over Brighton.

I hope my Brighton Travel Guide will give you some inspiration for your next visit. There’s so much to see and do in this quirky seaside city and being just an hour from London – it’s so easy to get to.

PIN IT for later!

I bring you the ultimate Brighton Travel Guide filled with weird & wonderful facts, the best places to stay; things to do and restaurants.

Best towns to visit in East Sussex

Detailing 6 of the best towns to visit in East Sussex. From flashy Brighton to quaint & photogenic Rye.

Over the years, myself and my husband have spent a lot of time in East Sussex. You see, Paul (said husband) was born and raised in Brighton and so is a fountain of knowledge on the best towns to visit in East Sussex. He helped me put together this list, so the list features some unique local knowledge that the guidebooks won’t have. One of my favorite towns in East Sussex is Rye primarily for the very photogenic Mermaid Street. Whereas Paul is biased and loves Brighton because there is so much to do there!

Is East Sussex nice?

East Sussex is a gorgeous county and is home to many popular places like Brighton; South Downs National Park; Hastings and Ashdown Forest. It combines gorgeous beaches with historic cobbled-street villages. There’s fantastic shopping to be done in the larger towns of Brighton, Hastings & Eastbourne. Plus there’s lots of great places to stay and yummy restaurants to eat in.

Now, let’s explore the best towns to visit in East Sussex.

BRIGHTON

Easily the most famous town in East Sussex and maybe the most famous seaside town in all of Britain. True, Brighton is more city than town. Brighton is a popular weekend haunt for Londoners, stag and hen parties and for couples looking for an escape. Many tourists visit Brighton on a day-trip from London, it’s easy to spend a week or more in the capital city ticking off all the budget-friendly things to do In London so adding on Brighton is a no-brainer!

Brighton is a city of extremes from its crowded stony beach, to the tourist trap that is Brighton Pier to the quirky hipster-filled North Lanes. On first look,  it may seem like a typical English city but it’s filled with the weirdest characters.  People you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world. But that’s why we love it. The restaurants are cool, the bars are cool (even the ‘old man’ bars are cool),the coffee shops are cool. Cool.

A locals tips for Brighton

My husband Paul is from Brighton and I’ve asked him his top recommendations for his hometown. He says stroll through the Lanes; then, grab a coffee in Pelicano on Sydney Street or Bond St in the North Laines. Take a long walk along the seafront and try your luck at the slot machines on the Pier. Then, hit the Marina for dinner, or if you want to stay in the city for food –  try Casalingo on Preston Street (his favorite restaurant) for authentic Italian food. End the day watching the sunset over the West Pier. A great way to try out the best food in the city is on a Brighton Walking Food Tour which includes 4 food and drink tastings!

Stanmer Park about a 15 minute drive from Brighton is also well-worth a visit, mainly just to explore a little on foot and take photos. There’s also a little tearooms here if you fancy a snack. 

BEST ACTIVITIES IN BRIGHTON – see the spectacular views from the British Airways i360 tower; see the best of Brighton on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour and get out into nature on a Seven Sisters and South Downs Tour.

WHERE TO STAY | we loved The Grand if you fancy splurging, or The Old Ship Hotel for great-value-for-money, both are on the seafront. Ask for a sea-facing room in both hotels.

BEXHILL

Paul’s family relocated to Bexhill from Brighton a few years ago, so, when we go back to the UK for a vacation this is where we spend most of our time. Bexhill is a seaside town, next to Hastings. In fact, you can walk between the two towns on a lovely coastal walking route. Bexhill is famous for the De La Warr Pavillion a very modern building right on the seafront hosting art exhibitions also with a restaurant/ cafe on the top floor with views out to the ocean.

There’s a great selection of yummy restaurants in Bexhill from Picasso Italian Restaurant on Devonshire Road to Bears Bar & Grill also on Devonshire Road. If you fancy some fish & chips then I highly recommend a takeaway from Athena’s on Western Road and eating them on the seafront (just watch out for the seagulls).

We’ve managed to catch some great sunsets on Bexhill beach, so, we highly recommend hanging around for this if you can. To bide your time why not have a few beers or cocktails at The Italian Way on the seafront.

Getting to Bexhill from Brighton | catch the train direct from Brighton train station to Bexhill, the train takes approximately an hour.

WHERE TO STAY | Cooden Beach Hotel in nearby Cooden Beach or The Driftwood on Sackville Road. If you want a luxurious stay close to Bexhill, then I highly recommend one of these gorgeous lodges each complete with a hot tub.

LEWES

A traditional market town just a 20 minute drive from Brighton – Lewes is all narrow alleyways and crooked buildings not dissimilar to Diagon Alley. Lewes is set in the gorgeous South Downs National Park, so there are lots of scenic countryside walks you can take from here.

Lewes is also famous for something a little more unusual its bonfire celebrations on November 5th, people come from all over for the bonfire celebrations and fireworks.

Have a pint in cosy, wood-panelled Lewes Arms hidden down an alleyway. It gets pretty busy here with locals so arrive early in the evening.

A great tour for wine lovers is this small group wine tour which visits wineries in East Sussex and Kent.

Getting to Lewes from Brighton | catch the train from Brighton train station to Lewes, which takes 17 minutes or hop on the 28 Bus which takes 28 minutes.

WHERE TO STAY | The Kings Head on Southover High Street or The Shelleys on The High Street.

ALFRISTON

A tiny picturesque village in the valley of the River Cuckmere about a 30 minute drive from Brighton. There are two historic pubs in the village – The Market Cross a former smugglers haunt during the 18th century and The Star Inn dating as far back as the 15th century.

Alfriston, East Sussex | Day trips from london, Places in england ...
Photo via Pinterest

Also, well worth a visit whilst in Alfriston is Clergy House a thatched and timbered built way back in the 14th century. In fact, the Clergy House was the first building to be acquired by the National Trust in 1896.

Getting to Alfriston from Brighton | the quickest way is to catch the train from Brighton to Seaford and then hop on bus 126 or 26 to Alfriston. This bus leaves from Morrisons in Seaford.

EXTRA TRAVEL TIP | The Seven Sisters are a series of stunning chalk cliffs in the South Downs. It is popular for a number of outdoor activities including hiking, bird-watching, cycling & canoeing. Whilst in the Alfriston area we highly recommend exploring the Seven Sisters.

HASTINGS

Known for the Battle of Hastings, which most of you will remember from history class at school and one of the most crucial events in British history. Hastings is a Victorian seaside resort popular with tourists looking for a cheaper coastal getaway.

Whilst in Hastings, be sure to explore Hastings Old Town for its quirky antique shops and coffee shops. Hastings also has two funicular railways rattling up and down its sandstone cliffs, the West Hill Lift serves Hastings Castle and the East Hill Lift serves Hastings Country Park. If you have more time in Hastings, why not spend some time walking Hastings Country Park and explore its 660 acres of ancient woodland, cliffs and heathland.

Tourists often wonder whether they should visit Hastings or Eastbourne or both. Well, I’ll let you know what I think as to whether Hastings or Eastbourne is better. Hastings is more historic – it’s the home of the famed Hastings battle of 1066. It has castle ruins and an old medieval town. Eastbourne is larger and has more stores & restaurants. Plus, Eastbourne has a lovely long seafront. It’s also closer to the very photogenic Beachy Head.

If you’re planning to visit the 1066 Battle of Hastings site it may be worth purchasing an English Heritage Pass for Overseas Visitors which gives access to over 100 historic sites across the UK.

Almost every weekend during the Summer months there’s an event going on here – from the Seafood & Wine Festival held in mid-September. And the Jack in the Green event held at the beginning of May.

Getting to Hastings from Brighton | catch the train from Brighton train station direct to Hastings, this takes 1 hours & 17 minutes.

WHERE TO STAY | The Old Rectory on Harold Road or Zanzibar International Hotel in nearby St Leonards-on-sea.

RYE

Rye is a quaint market town just a 30 minute drive from Hastings. The poster child for Rye is Mermaid Street with its storybook charm. Mermaid Street is a winding cobbled street with great views with slightly wonky stone & timber houses. Sort of Harry Potter-ish if you’re into that sort of thing. Be sure to pop in to the cosiest pub in prime position on the street – The Mermaid Inn for a pint or some afternoon tea. For a small town there’s loads of cool things to do in Rye!

In Rye, why not stop for a coffee at Cafe des Fleurs on Station Road, or if you fancy the most amazing hot chocolate then you can’t miss Knoops.

If you have more stretch your legs out to Camber Sands a long stretch of golden sand a 20 minute walk from Rye. If you can catch a sunset here even better, the sky sure did put on a show for us when we visited last in October.

For the best view of Rye you need to climb up the Bell tower at St Mary’s Church to see this historic town in all its glory.

Getting to Rye from Brighton | it’s quite a long distance from Brighton to Rye so we recommend driving if you can. The quickest way via public transport takes about 2 hours – catch the train from Brighton to Hastings & change here for the train to Rye.

WHERE TO STAY | The Mermaid on Mermaid Street

OUSE VALLEY VIADUCT

Another good photo opportunity is Ouse Valley Viaduct also known as the Balcombe Viaduct which carries the Brighton-London train. It’s located close to Haywards Heath town and is known by locals as the most elegant viaduct in the whole country. It’s also very instagram-worthy.

woman sitting in the arches of the Ouse Valley Viaduct

Thanks for reading, Aimee

Phew, and there you have it 6 of the best towns to visit in East Sussex. Plus some unique travel facts about East Sussex not found in any guidebook. Where’s your favorite town on the list? Mine still remains Rye – I could spend hours walking up & down quirky Mermaid Street. But Brighton does have the X-factor, there’s so much to do here, so many great cafes & restaurants and a wide selection of fantastic hotels.

We hope you enjoyed our picks, as always if there’s any town we missed be sure to let us know in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading, I also have other articles on cute towns to visit including in West Cork, Ireland; San Francisco and Greece!

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Detailing 6 of the best towns to visit in East Sussex, England. From flashy Brighton to quaint & photogenic Rye. There's a town for everyone in East Sussex.
Detailing 6 of the best towns to visit in East Sussex, England. From flashy Brighton to quaint & photogenic Rye. There's a town for everyone in East Sussex.