With its manicured Italian gardens and pristine sea front, Eastbourne is a grand dame among English seaside resorts. There are plenty of attractions for the kids and plenty of space on the beaches to soak up the rays – Eastbourne claims to be the sunniest spot in the UK and its Grand Parade beach stretches for three miles and shelves gently into the sea. A fun seaside spot for the family.
A hop from the beach at the eastern end of the seafront on the Royal Parade you’ll find Fort Fun, which has an aqua splash water park with its slides, showers, tunnels, and tipping buckets, as well as an indoor play area and a gentle amusement park. An all-in-one entry wristband to Fort Fun costs between £11.99 and £16.99. Further along the beach you’ll find Treasure Island, an imaginatively designed pirate themed adventure park for under 12s. There’s a life-size shipwreck to clamber on, with slides, bridges, and netted walkways, a sandpit and paddling pool, plus an indoor play area.
Smaller children will love riding the cartoon-like Dotto Train, which also saves little legs the slog between seafront attractions. Day tickets (adult £6.50, child £3.25, family £15) allow unlimited travel all day on these trackless trains, so you can hop on and off at key spots all along the coast. At one end of the line is Holywell, a great place to head at low tide with a shrimping net for perfect rock pooling terrain – and a great spot to stop for ice creams.
For the more active, there’s the Cuckoo Trail, a flat 13-mile cycle path along a disused railway; Beachy Head national park where you’ll find stunning views and perfect kite-flying ground; and Knockhatch Adventure Park where there’s rowing boats, crazy golf, go-karts, laser quest, and toboggans.
For culture, head to Pevensey Castle where kids can explore dark dungeons and buy a sword and shield for your own battle re-enactments when you arrive back home. There’s also the Observatory Science Centre with workshops and night time star-gazing. For toddlers, head to Drusillas Park, which has a cool zoo, play areas, and Thomas the Tank Engine rides.
Stay just a mile from the seafront at Ocklynge Manor, a hit with history lovers, it’s a former Commandery for the Knights of St John and one-time home to artist Mabel Lucie Attwell. B&B from £45 per person, per night.
The Waterside Hotel is luxury accommodation on the seafront: opt for a suite with an in-room telescope for night time star-gazing. Rooms £60-175 per night.
Wilmington Priory is a 13th century home of William the Conqueror’s mother, featuring a vaulted medieval entrance porch, mullioned windows and stair turrets, and kids are encouraged to wander the monastic ruins. The house sleeps six and a four night stay costs from £428.
Get together with another family or two and rent Silverbeach. Right on the beach, it has four double bedrooms and two dormitory rooms for three and four kids for the ultimate sleepover. A one week stay costs from £1,195 – £1,895, depending on the season and school holidays.
Travel time: It will take 2 hours to drive from London to Eastbourne, and 1 hour 30 minutes by train.
How to get there: The key approach to Eastbourne from London is the A22. Alternatively, head down the M25 and take the M23/A23 and onto the A27, which is also the main route from the West, by-passing Brighton. From the Newhaven, Dover or Folkestone Channel Ports take the A259. If you are travelling from the North and East use the M25 and the Dartford Tunnel.