Sussex borders Surrey, Kent and Hampshire and, like its neighbour Kent, is known as the Gateway to England.
The coastline, backed by the green slopes of the South Downs offers some of the finest walking and cycling paths in England.
Sussex’s highest point, Black Down is still covered in heavy woodland of birch and chestnut, while across the boundary towards Surrey lie the wild heath and heather-covered hills which surround Haslemere and Hindhead. The landscape is romantic and quintessentially English.
The reed and water lilly rivers of Arun, Adur, Cuckmere and the Ouse flow through wooded valleys and rolling hills. The heavily-wooded Sussex Downs stretch to within a few miles of Chichester and its magnificent cathedral.
The downs are also crisscrossed by ancient pathways and feature Roman remains such as Fishbourne Palace, one of the finest Roman excavations in the UK.
The valley of the River Arun is a region of outstanding natural beauty. Sussex’s longest river lazily meanders through pastures and gentle valleys, past the towns of Littlehampton and Arundel. Read on as we profile some of the major Sussex visitor attractions and places of historical interest.
History and Culture
Fishbourne Roman Palace is an important historical site and features the remains of the largest Roman buildings in the country. Visitors will find elaborate mosaic floors, courtyards and an underground central-heating system.
Computer generated displays are also available and tell the story of this impressive attraction. The award-winning Newhaven Fort should also be visited and provides life-size exhibits, underground tunnels and large gun emplacements.
The How We Lived Then Museum in Eastbourne is equally noteable and features over 100 artefacts dating from the mid-18th century. The museum is set out over a collection of recreated old shops and buildings.
Brooklands Pleasure Park caters for the young and includes a number of attractions and activities including pony rides, bouncy castles, trampolines and a miniature railway – its open throughout the year. Knockhatch Adventure Park in Hailsham is also popular and features playgrounds, go-karts and toboggan rides.
For a more tranquil day out visit Nymans Garden House. It’s home to a large collection of rare and exotic plants, a rose garden and woodland walks.
Leonardslee is also worth visiting and consists of over 200 acres of beautiful woodland and garden areas. There’s also a miniature Victorian town and a collection of old motor cars from Victorian times.
Towns and Villages
As well as the numerous Sussex visitor attractions listed above, the county also boasts a wonderful array of picturesque towns and villages both on the coast and inland. Here are five which we think epitomise the charm of this popular short-break cottage holiday destination.
Brighton is a vibrant seaside town in East Sussex and is situated close to the resorts of Littlehampton and Worthing. The advent of the railways in the mid 19th century made Brighton more accessible to Londoners, hastening its transition from fishing village to major holiday resort. It’s seafront is dominated by graceful Georgian and Victorian houses and an elegant 19th century pier.
Brighton’s majestic Royal Pavilion is one of the town’s most cherished visitor attractions. Built in the early 1800s, the pavilion houses a vast collection of antique Chinese, French and English furniture as well as original works of art donated by the Queen. Its flamboyantly decorated rooms are open throughout the year with audio tours and guided walks also available.
Also popular amongst holiday-makers is Brighton Marine Palace and Pier. It includes a funfair with high-adrenaline rides, a series of seaside stalls and an amusement arcade complex. Nature lovers should try the Brighton Sealife Centre which is home to a staggering array of marine species including sharks and giant turtles, which can be viewed in glass-bottomed boats and an underwater tunnel.
Preston Manor is ideal for those looking for a taste of history. This 200 year-old manor house vividly exhibits a large collection of Edwardian furniture, ceramics and glass in 20 rooms. Brighton Museum is also a prime historical attraction offering state-of-the-art galleries and interactive displays. Hove Museum and Art Galley is more suited to families and includes a toy gallery and a wizards workshop.
Bognor Regis is a seaside town in West Sussex, around 25 miles from Brighton and situated close to the towns of Littlehampton and Selsey. It began as a small medieval fishing village but became a fashionable resort during the 18th century. Bognor remains a popular holiday destination to this day and has a large, family-friendly beach with a distinctive Victorian pier.
The town’s beach is a Blue Flag Award winner and is backed by a long promenade. In addition to the traditional seafront attractions, visitors will find a large collection of Regency buildings which offer an insight into how the town once was, before modern tourism took hold.
Hotham Park is one of the most popular places to visit, both with residents and holiday makers. Located in the centre of town, this woodland park covers more than 20 acres and features a boating lake, miniature railway and putting green. The railway is open on weekends and school holidays and takes passengers on two circuits of the park every 20 minutes.
Arun Leisure Centre is also noteworthy and features an 8 lane swimming pool with a large water slide. There’s also a gym, play area and two bars. Those with a head for heights will enjoy Arena Sports Centre which has a nine metre high climbing wall, one of the highest in the UK. In addition, there are eight tennis courts and an air-conditioned bar. Jet skis and kayaks are also available for hire.
Chichester is a cathedral city that’s situated in the South Downs. Dating back to Roman times, it is also one of the most well-preserved Georgian cities in the United Kingdom. Today, Chichester acts as the administrative capital of West Sussex and is its county town.
Chichester Cathedral is of course the main attraction and towers over the city. Constructed by the Normans and featuring a rebuilt Victorian spire, it’s located in the heart of Chichester. Inside, there’s a collection of medieval artefacts as well as a magnificent stained glass window in the cathedral’s cloisters.
Other notable historical attractions in and around Chichester include Goodwood House which is home to the Dukes of Richmond. Its considered to be one of the finest stately homes in the UK and features a number of priceless paintings from the likes of Canaletto.
The Weald and Downland Living Museum is also well worth a visit. Set on a 40-acre site, it comprises an open-air collection of rural period buildings which vividly exhibit how life was for Anglo-Saxons and Edwardians. Edwardian life is also celebrated at the impressive Standsted Park which offers visitor access to its many state rooms and servant’s quarters. Outside are 1700-acres of wooded grounds that include a picnic area, garden centre and maze.
Littlehampton is on the West Sussex coast, within a short distance of Brighton and Worthing and 8 miles from Bognor Regis. It became a popular resort in the 19th century with the introduction of the railways and a channel ferry. The original harbour remains but is now used by pleasure craft instead of fishing trawlers. It boasts two quality beaches with a picturesque riverside and seafront walkway.
The Harbour Amusement Park complex offers the type of attractions present in most UK seaside towns such as an amusement arcade and various rides for both adults and children. It also include an indoor play area for children complete with rope swings, ramps and a soft play area. There’s also a viewing area for parents, form which they can enjoy a cup of coffee while the kids play.
Littlehampton’s main beach is well-suited to families, featuring a safe swimming area and a Kids Care Scheme. Along the beach runs a mini-road train, which travels the length of the promenade. It operates during the summer months with pickup points at the East esplanade and the Foreshore Station.
The history of Littlehampton is celebrated through the Look and Sea Visitor Centre. Its heritage exhibition includes shipwreck artifacts and films of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which operates locally. There’s also a viewing tower that affords some impressive views of the harbour and coast and a stylish cafe that looks out over the water.
Worthing is situated on the West Sussex coast and is within a close distance of Brighton and Littlehampton. It evolved from a small fishing hamlet to become a flourishing seaside resort in the late 19th century, following the visit of Princess Amelia, youngest daughter of George III. This attractive seaside town boasts attractive Regency houses, a good beach with pier and a 4 mile promenade.
Worthing Pier offers the usual seaside attractions such as amusement arcades. There’s a theatre at the promenade end which hosts events including dinner dances and art/craft fairs. The Worthing Lido can also be found on the seafront and consists of gift and souvenir shops, a restaurant and a number of rides for young children. Weekends usually feature live entertainment.
Major visitor attractions include Worthing Museum and Art Gallery on Chapel Road. The museum houses one of the most extensive collections of costumes and toys in the country, including over 1000 dolls dating from the 18th century. Also exhibited are an impressive number of artifacts retrieved from local archeological digs, such as Roman pottery and Saxon Jewellery.
Nature lovers should visit Highdown Gardens on the Littlehampton Road. This one-time chalk pit was developed into over 8 acres of attractive gardens and features a selection of rare trees and plant species. They hold a Green Flag Award and have also been designated as a National Collection.