The end of summer, when days start getting shorter and nights colder, should by no means also be the end of holidays; it might be the last opportunity to enjoy the golden glow of October evenings before harsher weather comes. No longer than a two-hour drive from London, Eastbourne welcomes us with its atmospheric waters, seafront restaurants and a picturesque Victorian pier opened in 1872, one of the finest examples of its kind.
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Where to Stay: Port Hotel, Eastbourne
On arrival in the characterful town, we were welcomed at Port Hotel, situated on the Royal Parade in a masterfully restored Victorian townhouse, just opposite the beach, facing the peaceful sea. The Studio Apartment in which we stayed is more than worthy of recommendation; it is the largest room in the Hotel’s offer, and we could spend hours just admiring the mesmerising views of the English Channel and Eastbourne Pier from its full-height bay window. Furnished with a bar fridge, record player and highest-standard modern bathroom with walk-in shower and a freestanding bath, the studio invites for an unforgettable weekend, ideal for any sort of holiday, be it a romantic escape from the city or a cosy family staycation.
With the cool sea breeze whetting our appetites, of course we could not resist the seafront restaurant, conveniently located on ground floor of the Hotel. The seasonal dinner menu is arranged to make the best out of the local produce, sourced in Sussex and coming primarily from within a 30-mile radius of the hotel.
If the state-of-art rooms and delicious food should not be enough to drag you away from the City, surely even the biggest workaholics will be tempted with the Workcation package, offering a productive mid-week seaside getaway and allowing your creativity to flow freely in the cosy lounge area. The competitively priced weeknight stays include unlimited hot drinks, free day passes to local co-working space, Foundry, and 10% off various classes and therapies at local beachfront wellness studio, Natural Fitness Therapies. For us, it really was the wellness studio that was the icing on the cake of our stay; with excellent massages from Roz and Adam, whilst listening to the sound of the ocean just outside, we could completely unwind and clear our minds.
Culture Fix: Towner Gallery
Eastbourne is not all about rest and relaxation; during our stay, we also had the chance to visit the local Towner Gallery, which has been collecting and exhibiting contemporary art for almost 100 years now. With its exterior transformed into a real piece of art by German artist Lothar Götz and a thrilling new exhibition inspired and curated by the Sussex queer community, the Gallery is sure to give you the cultural experience that you need.
Nibbles & Wine at Cru
The final step of our Eastbourne journey happened to be Cru, a lovely modern wine bar and restaurant, combining high quality, artisan wines with gourmet seasonal menu designed by professional chefs. Their offer consists of a variety of tapas-like nibbles, to be ordered simultaneously and shared or as a starter to the restaurant’s more traditional “large plates”. The selection of wines, with more than 200 choices, is sure to satisfy even the most demanding connoisseur; and Cru also provides the opportunity to taste some of the most renowned wines of the world by the glass.
Take a Day Trip to Rye
The journey to East Sussex would not be complete without visiting Rye, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in England, only an hour’s drive away. Located between the English Channel and the green hills of the South Downs, it was once one of south-east England’s most important ports; today, Rye presents its historic charms to travellers, with medieval inns serving the best local produce and steep cobbled lanes offering breathtaking views of half-timbered houses that remember when Rye was considered one of the finest of the Cinque Ports.
Stop for Brunch at Whitehouse
Climbing the town’s steep streets will surely make you want to stop at one of the many brunch options Rye has to offer; we made the great choice of visiting Whitehouse, a contemporary café with an in-house bakery, serving daily made cakes and pastries. The Fancy Bacon Roll with chilli fried egg and crispy onions was just the treat that we needed to prepare us for an afternoon of exploration.
Stroll Along Camber Sands Beach
Camber Sands, unlike most Sussex beaches lined with pebbles, is covered in fine, golden sand. Located just next to Rye Harbour, this fabulous belt of immaculate sandy beach features one of the longest and purest dune systems on the South Coast. Stretching on for almost 5 miles, it offers a perfect opportunity for keen cyclists to hire bikes at Rye Harbour with Harbour Cycles and ride along the coast through the nature reserve down to Pett level beach – a stony beach good for swimming (if it’s warm enough!).
Cosy up at The Fig with Small Plates and Cocktails
Our favourite meal of the trip came at the end, at The Fig; a hip, cosy café with stylish rooms, offering small plates and cocktails for those willing to relax after excitements of the beach. With options for brunch, lunch, and dinner, the menu presents a range of freshly prepared dishes designed to share amongst the table, always featuring choices for vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters, as well as gluten free options.
Our favourite plates were the Parma Ham and Figs (with whipped feta, caramelised shallots, dukkha & honey) and the Prawn Tacos; they made us a delicious Ginger Margarita, too. With exceptionally friendly staff to top it off - who were very happy to recommend the best spot for our next cocktail (which happened to be The Grapevine, just around the corner) - we couldn't have been happier with this final culinary treat on our East Sussex Staycation.