Having had its day as the ‘Waiting Room For God’, increasingly chi chi but also child-friendly Eastbourne in Sussex is seeing a resurgence in coolness as parents bring their kids to the beach to sit amongst the golden oldies for family holidays by the sea, on pebbly beaches beside a postcard-perfect promenade and immaculate gardens. Stripy deckchairs and ice-cream parlours site cheek-by-jowl with new art galleries, hip eateries and a growing community of young thrill-seekers taking to the sea for exciting water sports in a town cute enough for little kids but with enough going for it to gain credence with grouchy teens too.
Things to do with kids in Eastbourne
Make a beeline for the pier to have an ice cream, listen to music at the bandstand and wholeheartedly embrace the whole tourist shebang by jumping aboard on the little train Dotto for an amble along the seafront. Alternatively, Eastbourne Miniature Steam Railway Adventure Park invites you to wind your way around the lake for nearly a mile and has a tots’ village and play area.
Take to the water: Buzz Active Eastbourne offers courses in sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and power-boating, plus active kids' clubs.
Head for Drusillas Park, with animals, amazing play areas and more. There’s also Knockhatch Adventure Park, with an owl sanctuary, boating lake, children’s farm, massive indoor soft-play centre and more.
Discover Eastbourne’s art galleries, theatres and museums, especially the Towner Art Gallery with its family drop-in sessions and airy top-floor café.
Spend an afternoon in Gildredge Park and Manor Gardens or Helen Gardens, or else Princes Park on the eastern end of the seafront, a good place for a picnic. Or opposite the Grand, the Western Lawns often host events in summer and are also good for picnics.
With older kids browse the boutiques and antique shops of Little Chelsea.
Blow the cobwebs along the South Downs Way, remembering to keep a tight grip on small hands on Beachy Head.
Eating fish and chips near the pier is a must in Eastbourne, as is a good old-fashioned afternoon tea at the Grand Hotel (see Best Places to Stay). The kids will love its architecture of fantastic meringue-like turrets. Otherwise, Station Street is the place to eat, with lots of choice.
When to go to Eastbourne
Summer is the best time for family breaks in Eastbourne because it's warm enough to swim in the sea and explore the rock-pools, and many of the town's biggest and most popular events take place then too. In August, don’t miss Airbourne, a four-day air show with plenty of daredevil antics.
But it's fun year-round – lovely at Easter and even better at Christmas, when you can enjoy mulled wine as you listen to carols at the bandstand before taking in a classic panto.
Unless you take a suite at the Grand and dine every night at its swanky restaurant, you should be able to escape from Eastbourne reasonably unscathed, although your spare change will disappear at the pier and on ice creams.
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