© VisitBritain and Tourism South East

Overview

While everyone knows East and West Sussex for the vibrant seaside cities and towns of Brighton and Eastbourne, these counties’ beautiful rolling countryside, castles, market towns and villages offer the perfect setting for gentler-paced family holidays and breaks spent embracing the great outdoors. There are plentiful palaces and gardens to explore, many public rights of way across the South Downs and woods, offering cycling, riding and walking opportunities, plus sailing off the south coast. This is also ‘1066 country’, with plenty to pique the interest historically – kids never tire of hearing how Harold lost his eye, and there are stately homes galore plus Roman villas to discover.

That said, Sussex is no insider secret, with places such as Chichester Harbour, Petworth, Rye and even the bridleways on the Downs getting a bit crowded at times.

Things to do with kids in Sussex

Discover East Sussex. After exhausting the many delights of Brighton and Eastbourne head for Drusillas Park with its gentle rids, zoo, softplay, water play and mazes. Paradise Park is also a popular choice, with its Planet Earth Museum, Heritage Trail and gardens, and dino-themed playzone.

Head for Bewl Water, the largest lake in the south-east, for cycling and summer aqua-park fun. Local animal farms and centres include the Ashdown Forest Llama Park, where you can walk lllamas as well as enjoy facilities such as a bouncy castle.

Spend a relaxed day at Groombridge Place, with a moated manor, a deer park, a canal-boat trip, teepees, a pirate-themed play area and an enchanted forest. It's also home to the UK Owl and Raptor Centre and a Sherlock Holmes Museum and has a fantastic array of family events throughout the year. Other good gardens to visit are the National Trust's Nymans and Wakehurst Place, along with High Beeches and Highdown.

Let your imaginations run wild and enjoy the dizzying heights from the ramparts of the National Trust's Bodiam Castle, a great example of a fortified and moated fortress. Newhaven Fort is also worth a visit; set in 10 acres, the museum shows you what life in a castle was really like. The Kent and East Sussex Railway is also a popular day out.

Amble through West Sussex. Chichester, with its beautiful Georgian houses and streets, is a great place to while away some time – if your family are walkers, Chichester Canal is an attractive way to explore the countryside as far as pretty Chichester Harbour, which you can tour by boat trip (very busy in summer). Vast Arundel Castle is one of the most striking of all English castles, while Fishbourne Roman Palace and Bignor Roman Villa show you how the Romans lived. Or head to Weald and Downland Living Museum for a history lesson that’s slightly closer to home, with villages from the 13th to 19th centuries recreated in 40 acres of countryside. 

Animal lovers might venture to Huxleys Birds of Prey Centre or Tulleys Farm, but don’t forget about the most popular four-legged variety at Goodwood Racecourse, which can make for a great, surprisingly child-friendly day out.

Playing pooh-sticks, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex© VisitBritain

Playing pooh-sticks, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex

Eat

The preponderance of Sussex food festivals throughout the year is testament to the quality of the local produce, served in restaurants across the region, from reliable family-friendly chain restaurants in larger towns to excellent gastro pubs and Michelin-starred restaurants. The coast is dotted with good cafés and pubs too.

When to go to Sussex

Temperatures tend to be a bit milder in Sussex than in the rest of the country, with warmer springs, summers and autumns than elsewhere, though winter can see heavier snowfall across the Downs. Though summer is the best time to come here for family holidays and breaks, winter can be scenic too –  and exhilarating walks can be rewarded by a hot chocolate in front of a log fire. May is also a good time, when the landscape is at its leafy, flowery best but the crowds have not yet arrived in force.

Do look out for big events at Goodwood (see Things to Do), when the country lanes can get gridlocked.

Cost

Sussex can be a very good place for great-value UK family holidays and breaks – easily accessible, it has oodles of great family-friendly campsites and other low-cost options if you’re looking for fun that won’t blow your budget sky high.

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