Finally, the school holidays are here and despite some unseasonal weather I have high hopes for some glorious days spent on the beach with the family. We’re so lucky to have easy access to a range of beaches here in East Sussex – with Seaford, Eastbourne and Brighton all offering the epitome of a traditional bucket and spade seaside experience complete with fish n’ chips, deckchairs and Mr Whippy ice creams. But what about those places slightly off the beaten track? I’ve put together a selection of Sussex beaches which offer a slightly different coastal experience. These are places you might rather take your paddle board, litter picking equipment or fossil hunting tools rather than your windbreak & deckchair! Most locations take a little more effort to reach, and you may have to bring your own lunch but you’ll be rewarded with space, rugged beauty and stunning views in return.
Norman’s Bay, Pevensey
Situated between Eastbourne and Bexhill, Norman’s Bay is a peaceful shingle beach great for paddling. The area is thought to be named after the Norman Conquest back in the period of 1066. Features include a number of Martello Towers used as Napoleonic defences, coastal wildflowers and pretty beach front houses decorated with driftwood. There’s even a campsite right next to the beach so you can stay over-night and watch the sunset.
Best for: Families, picnics, easy access.
Holywell Retreat Beach, Eastbourne
Holywell Beach is found at the foot of the South Downs to the west of Eastbourne. The beach offers a vast expanse of limestone with fantastic rock pools to explore. There’s even a gorgeous natural spring area (the Holy Well!) that has been decorated with painted rocks and pretty wind chimes. Parking is available on King Edward’s Parade with easy access down to the promenade. There is quite a steep hill but there is a tea room where you can take a breather or buy refreshments.
Best for: Rock pools, push chairs (as long as you are okay with hills), family day out.
Cow Gap, Eastbourne
Cow Gap is a stunning spot just around the headland from Beachy Head. If you’re planning to explore this area it is a good idea to check tide times, wear sturdy foot wear and to take enough food and clothing to see you through the day. It’s worth putting in the effort though as the beach at Cow Gap is often deserted making it all the more likely you’ll make some amazing discoveries in the rock pools and along the shore line. Time it right and you can walk around the headland the lighthouse but please make sure you know when the tides are due to head back in.
Best for: The more adventurous, taking photos, rock pools, fossil hunting, older children.
Southwick Beach, Portslade
Southwick Beach lies just east of Shoreham Harbour and is accessible by road from Hove. The surrounding area is a working port so feels quite industrial – however, Southwick Beach has an unusual beauty and is a great spot for water sports such as paddle boarding and kayaking. The beach drops away quite suddenly so please paddle with caution. Parking is available right next to the beach and there is also a café on the seafront.
Best for: Water sports, sunbathing, families with older children.
Cuckmere Haven, Seaford
Cuckmere Haven beach is a beautiful location with sweeping views along the coast towards the Seven Sisters and beyond. To access the beach you need to walk either along the meanders from the car park at the Seven Sisters Country Park or along the headland from Seaford. Both routes require a fair bit of walking and a reasonable level of fitness. The whole area is dotted with points of interest old military canals, huge cliffs and the famous coastguard cottages.
Best for: Walkers, dog walks, adventurous families, taking photos.