Eastbourne is a popular and traditional sea-side resort on the south coast of England, about 110 km from London and has a population of just under 100,000, making it the second largest town in Sussex. It lies at the eastern end of the South Downs range of chalk cliffs and hills: its most famous topographical feature is Beachy Head, the highest chalk cliff in Southern England. To the east it is bordered by the low-lying flood plains of the Pevensey Levels and beyond. It has one of the highest recorded days of sunshine per year in Britain.
Part of the town's charm is its largely undeveloped seafront, devoid of the amusements and loud activity associated with Brighton, its bigger and brasher western cousin. Eastbourne's front remains composed mainly of Victorian hotels, as much of Eastbourne has traditionally belonged to the Duke of Devonshire, who retains the rights to these buildings and refuses to allow them to be converted into shops.
Eastbourne has a reputation as a retirement town, and is also very popular with elderly day trippers on coach outings. The local council,however, perhaps aware of this dated image, have in recent years tried to persuade potential visitors to "take another view", with some success. Plans are afoot to regenerate the town centre, improving shopping facilities and access.
The lovely 1935 bandstand remains, and traditional seafront concerts still take place every day in the holiday season for those content to listen and laze in a deckchair. The relative peace is only shattered in mid August by the biggest event of the year for the town, "Airbourne". This justifably and proudly claims to be the South Coast's biggest free air display, and takes place over the sea attracting visitors of all ages during its four days. Many come just to see the world famous RAF Red Arrows who are regular visitors, but there are many other attractions at ground level too.
Southern Railway is the principal train company serving Eastbourne. It is linked by train to the west with Brighton, and to the east with Bexhill, Hastings and Ashford International (for Eurostar services to France and Belgium). There is direct line to London with trains running twice-hourly, journey time around 1 hour 25 minutes.
Fare and timetable information is available from , or National Rail Enquiries- tel. 08457 484950 (local rate call, UK only number)
Services within Eastbourne borough are mainly operated by Stagecoach Buses Ltd, which is the successor of the company to the world's first municipal bus operator. Stagecoach Buses also operate country services to Tunbridge Wells, Heathfield, Uckfield, Willingdon, Polegate, Pevensey Bay, Hailsham, Bexhill and Hastings.
Hailsham, Pevensey Bay, Polegate, Willingdon and Hailsham are included in the local Eastbourne fare zonal system. Within the fare zone system there is an unlimited day rover ticket for £3.00, while single fares can be £1.90 as far as Polegate, rising to a higher price if continuing to Hailsham. A weekly ticket is available from the driver for £11.50 to cover this zone.
Town services are covered by services 1, 1A, 2, 3, 5, 5A and the LOOP, while out of town services are covered by services 1X, 51 (251), 52 (252), 54, 98 and 99 (as at 28 November 2010).
To Hailsham: 1X, 51, 52, 54, 98; To Bexhill and Hastings: 98, 99; To Heathfield: 51 and 52; To Tunbridge Wells: 251 and 252 (same buses as for Heathfield, which are then prefixed with a 2 from Heathfield); To Pevensey Bay: 99
Brighton is served by Brighton and Hove Buses on services 12 and 12X. Brighton and Hove offer an excellent value all-day ticket for just £5.00 from the driver, or £3.50 if purchased in advance on the Internet, which includes the return journey between the two towns and unlimited travel in Brighton and Hove. Those travellers who also wish to use local services in Eastbourne as well as wanting to go to Brighton for the day with unlimited travel, may wish to purchase an Explorer ticket on a Stagecoach bus for £5.50, which then gives total unlimited travel on most services in Kent and Sussex for one day, including all Stagecoach, Arriva and Brighton & Hove. Beware, if purchasing the same explorer ticket on a Brighton and Hove Bus, it costs £7.00, so the same ticket from Stagecoach is better value.
Services 12 and 12X serve East Dean, Seaford, Newhaven, Peacehaven, Rottingdean and Saltdean en route to Brighton from Eastbourne.
Eastbourne's art deco bus station closed some years ago, but almost all services now stop in a buses-only area of the main shopping precinct at Terminus Road, near the railway station. There is no formal bus office in the town centre, but information and timetables are posted at all stops in the central area. Limited bus information can be obtained from the Tourist Information office in Cornfield Road.
"Black cabs" are rarely seen on Eastbourne's streets, but taxis licensed by the local authority are readily available at all times from ranks either side of the railway station. 01323 720720, 01323 726726.
For Pre Booked Journeys try:
- The world-famous seafront Carpet Gardens
- The Victorian pier, adorned with shops and traditional amusements, fast food cafes, a bar and night club and a "Camera Obscura" offering a different perspective on the town.
- The "Redoubt Fortress", now housing a military museum but built to defend the area during the Napoleonic wars.
- Enjoy the views from Beachy Head - at 162m, the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain. See the century-old red and white lighthouse at the foot of the cliffs, and an earlier forerunner the Belle Tout lighthouse, built to warn shipping of the treacherous rocks in the vicinity.
- Enjoy the Miniature Steam Engine Railway (www.emsr.co.uk) a real great place for kids and children to hop onto a mini Steam engine
- Walk the South Downs Way long distance footpath, which starts on the Western edge of the town and runs through the South Downs National Park as far as Winchester to the west.
- Take the 12 bus from the town centre to Seven Sisters and Cuckmere Haven Country Park at Exceat, about 8 km west of Eastbourne. The park has cycle hire through the Friston Forest, a cosy cafe-restaurant and a visitor centre. The estuary of the River Cuckmere winds through here in a distinctive meander to the sea and can be walked either side of the A259 road.
From the country park, take a 4 hours walk on top of the cliffs back to Eastbourne. Don't forget to take a picnic, though Birling Gap is a pleasant beauty spot on this part of the coast, which looks particularly nice in Spring and has an excellent pub, restaurant and hotel.
While it does not perhaps offer the same range as other more fashionable shopping areas like Brighton or Tunbridge Wells, Eastbourne has a good mix of the familiar "high street" names and unusual retailers. The Arndale Centre is the main shopping mall, located in Terminus Road which itself has a wide selection of shops. Everything from books to bakeware, candles to coffee can be bought in the mall which has a light and airy feel thanks to its atrium layout allowing in plenty of natural light. This is a popular area at all times, but particularly with children at school holidays when activities and an enchanting tableau are usually laid on in the central area between Boots and BhS.
The Enterprise Centre next to the station is another often forgotten treasure. Although it has a feel of faded glory and better days hopefully more visitors will take it back to the vibrant place it once was because it is a gem. Under one roof is everything you might need - fresh fruit and veg, a butchers and a fishmongers. Plus an amazing bookshop which has thousands of new and secondhand books plus a great ordering service for any book. There is a shop full of Wedding Dresses with service second to none (there are other wedding services there too) and a fair trade shop which is excellent. There are also opticians, complimentary therapy, a hair dressers and a beautician. A pet shop. A wonderful cafe called Jocelyn's where you can get gorgeous cakes, delicious soup and service with a smile!
For those with more eclectic tastes, "Little Chelsea" is a good area to visit. While it's hard to ignore the several funeral directors in South Street and Grove Road, reflecting the higher than average proportion of aged residents of the town, there are many shops for those who want to live life to the full, whatever their age. Particularly recommended is Camilla's second-hand bookshop with books on just about every subject imaginable, Mr & Mrs Doaks Bumper Bookshop selling children's books including a child-friendly teashop, a Belgian chocolate emporium and a Bang and Olufsen hi-fi and TV specialist dealer.
The 2 km long road known as "Seaside" (somewhat confusingly, just inland from the seafront) is like a mini-town in itself, with two bank branches, post offices, convenience stores, antique and curio shopping, furnishers, kitchen and carpet suppliers. This is the main A259 road, and leads northwards to Langney, where there is a district shopping with a Tesco Metro, Iceland, Family Bargains and several other smaller stores.
Admiral Retail Park houses a large Tesco Extra store, Pets at Home, Homebase, Argos, Vokins, Wickes, McDonalds Drive-thru and Pizza Hut.
Crumbles Retail Park comprises Asda, Next, Boots, Matalan, Harvey's, Brantano, Cineworld Cinema, Blockbusters and Frankie & Bennys, which adjoins the man-made Sovereign Harbour development, which also houses a number of small shops, bars and restaurants.
Sainsbury's Retail Park in Hampden Park houses a Sainsbury's Superstore, Comet and a Currys/PC World, adjacent to which is the David Lloyd Centre and Lloyds Lanes Bowling Alley. Not barely a stone's throw away are also B&Q, Dunelm Mill, Maplin's, Halfords and Mothercare.
As would be expected of a seaside resort, Eastbourne offers food to suit all tastes, budgets and time demands. There are plenty of fast food outlets including McDonalds and Wimpy in Terminus Road. However, for those wanting something a little more traditional, the best fish and chip restaurants include Seaquel and Qualisea, both around the junction of Terminus Road and Seaside Road, or the Dolphin fish bar on Seaside. Fresh seafood and shellfish can be obtained from Perrywinkles http://www.perrywinkles.co.uk just east of the pier or if you are in self-catering accommodation, why not buy and cook local catches as fresh as can be from the wet fish shops alongside the fisherman's boat stores on the seafront walking east towards Princes Park. Many different cuisines are also on offer in Terminus Road, the main street for restaurants. If you like a sea view along with good food and drink, try the Cafe Belge at the seaward end of Terminus Road, which offers around 80 Belgian beers along with a menu reflecting the culinary traditions of Belgium. Development on the seafront itself is limited, but the hotel restaurants are always worth a try, as are the cafes and kiosks on the lower promenade, including some recently opened in former seafront shelters. Eastbourne seems to be trying to follow the lead of Brighton in making more of its beachfront for food and entertainment and several cafes and restaurants now open into the late evening on the shoreline.
There is also a good choice of bars and restaurants available in the Sovereign Harbour Marina development.
Plenty of good eating places in Eastbourne
Eastbourne has plenty of pubs ranging from the traditional to the trendy. Particularly recommended for those who love- or want to try- the best local "real ale" are The Marine on Seaside, which also offers an excellent restaurant and bar menu- all day on Sundays. The Marine  is always a friendly and comfortable place, but is at its best around Christmas time, when an extraordinary array of festive lights turns it into a fairyland to enchant young and old alike. Also recommended are The Terminus, a recently refurbished Harveys of Lewes pub in the town centre, and The Lamb , the oldest pub in Eastbourne in the Old Town area. Most nightclubs are situated in Langney, Pevensey and Terminus Roads though the pier with the Atlantis nightspot is something of a honeypot for language students and other smart young things.
If you're looking for something refreshing but not intoxicating, there are plenty of stops for a cuppa and the usual coffee chains. The Pavilion Tea Rooms, east of the pier, are recommended for afternoon tea when a piano player often adds to the polite, typically English ambience of the place.
- Dolce Vita Ristorante, 117-119 Seaside Road BN21 3PH, ☎ . Italian Restaurant Pizzeria
Most of the town's 4 and 5 star hotels are, unsurprisingly, located on the seafront and generally to the more rural-looking and higher Western end of the seafront.
- The Hydro. once featured in a TV Agatha Christie adaptation
- The Grand Hotel. which is a classical five star hotel, yet run in a friendly atmosphere
- da Vinci Hotel & Art Gallery. which claims to be the UK's first art hotel.
For those on more modest budgets, there are plenty of family-run, welcoming small hotels such as
- The Atlanta Guest House (located on the seafront close to the pier).
- Devonshire Park Hotel (near the main theatres).
- New Wilmington Hotel (near the main theatres).
or "bed and breakfast" establishments such as The Sea Breeze Guest House . There are self-catering flatlets such as "Beachside Guesthouse and Self-Catering Apartments " and there are also campsites on the edge of town. The town's Youth Hostel is in a very picturesque spot on top of the Downs going out of town westwards, near one of the golf links.
Other places of interest in the Eastbourne area
- Eastbourne Miniature Steam Engine Railway www.emsr.co.uk. A great place to sit atop a mini Steam Engine!
- Drusilla's Zoo, Alfriston, tel: 01323 874100, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open daily all year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Open 10:00-17:00 in summer, 10:00-16:00 in winter. The best small zoo in England, located in the countryside just outside Eastbourne near the village of Alfriston. Admission: Adults £9.99, Children £9.49. http://www.drusillas.co.uk/
- The Long Man of Wilmington, near Eastbourne. Car park is open all year, 24 hours a day. A prehistoric chalk representation of a man carved into the side of a hill. Admission to the site and car park is free. Walking on the figure or the surrounding vegetation is not permitted. http://www.sussexpast.co.uk/property/site.php?site_id=13
- The Cuckoo Trail a cycle path from Eastbourne to Heathfield through the Sussex Weald