Why You Should Go To... Bexhill-on-Sea

By Maire Rose Connor Last edited 6 months ago
Why You Should Go To... Bexhill-on-Sea

We know, we know, we're Londonist and this isn't in London. Sometimes we like to show you interesting places to go and things to do that are a little further afield. For more things to do near London, take a look at our day trips from London page.

Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock.com

The last UK census found that Bexhill-on-Sea was home to more centenarians than any other part of the country. But, nearly a decade later, it shouldn't be dismissed as God's Waiting Room (one time Bexhill resident Spike Milligan actually awarded that accolade to the excellently-named Australian suburb of Woy Woy).

In fact, the sleepy seaside town is a brilliant destination for anyone looking to escape London for the day — a train will take you there from London Victoria in just under two hours. It might not have the bright lights of Brighton, but Bexhill-on-Sea boasts plenty of its own, gentler charms....

It's got an incredible arts centre

De La Warr Pavilion. Photo: Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB/Shutterstock

This stunning art deco building hosted Bob Marley's first UK gig in 1972, and that's not its only claim to fame. Launched as an entertainment hall by the town's first socialist mayor, the 9th Earl De La Warr, the De La Warr Pavilion is also one of the first major Modernist public buildings in Britain — a striking architectural landmark in a town otherwise dominated by 18th and 19th century structures.

Following a £6 million restoration project in the early noughties, the De La Warr reopened as contemporary arts centre, and today boasts an eclectic programme of events, many of which are free. You can also catch big name acts here, like Eddie Izzard set of dates in August.

And boasts incredible seaside views

Image: Shutterstock

Galley Hill, visible in the background of the above photo, is the highest coastal point between the neighbouring town, St Leonards and Eastbourne. The wildflower-strewn cliff is a prime bird-watching spot, but it also houses the remains of a military bunker used in the second world war. Comedian and author Spike Milligan, who was posted in Bexhill from 1940 to 1942, references the bunker in his  book Adolf Hitler - My Part In His Downfall.

It's home to some stunning woodland

Bexhill High Woods. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

High Woods in the outskirts of Bexhill is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest and — fun fact — contains the largest area of coppiced oak in the county. The Bexhill Highwoods Preservation Society run regular walks and mushroom foraging sessions.

And a 260 year-old shipwreck

The Amsterdam Shipwreck. Photo: Shutterstock

Technically, the Amsterdam Shipwreck is in West St Leonards but, as it's just a ten minute cycle ride from Bexhill Town Centre, we're including it anyway. This remarkably well-preserved Dutch East India Company cargo ship can be seen on Bulverhythe Beach during only the lowest of tides, so you're going to have to time your visit wisely.  The ship has lain partially submerged since it was abandoned in 1749 — during an ill-fated maiden voyage which saw 50-odd members of its crew succumb to 'yellow fever', as well as an apparent mutiny.

There are some great places to eat...

Image: Bentleys Steakhouse Facebook Page

Fish and chips shops are always better by the sea, and Bexhill is full of 'em. But if you're looking for somewhere a bit upmarket to replenish yourself, your best bet is probably The Driftwood, an elegant yet unpretentious restaurant situated in the new boutique hotel of the same name. Featured in the Michelin 2019 guide, this bistro wins rave reviews for its locally-sourced Full English breakfasts and an authentic Thai dinner menu (though please note that due to COVID-19 regulations the restaurant is currently only open to hotel guests).

Elsewhere, there's Bentleys Steakhouse to satisfy any carnivorous cravings, while mussel bar Bistro 45 on the esplanade serves up locally caught seafood.

... And drink

Image: Rocksalt On Sea Facebook page

While the De La Warr hosts the odd DJ set, it's fair to say that Bexhill isn't exactly renowned for its nightlife.  If you want to party, hop on a train to Brighton come dusk, otherwise stick around to explore the local pubs. There's The Royal Sovereign, which is niftily located opposite the train station and has roaring fire to warm your cockles against the sea breeze during the colder months, though it is currently closed for refurbishment. Alternatively, trendy seafront brasserie bar Rocksalt-on-Sea does great gin cocktails.

It's a got a brilliant museum for motorheads

Image: Bexhill Museum Facebook Page

Bexhill is known as the birthplace of British motor racing, with the nation's first two automobile races taking place here in 1902 as part of a wider effort market the town as a fashionable seaside resort. A tubular sculpture of Leon Serpollet's Easter Egg Steam Car, which won the first race at a speed of 54 miles per hour, is displayed on the sea front, and Bexhill Museum boasts its own replica in its Motoring & Transport gallery (which also features Eddie Izzard's childhood trainset).

You might even meet a mermaid

Bexhill's Festival of the Sea. Photo: Dave Smith 1965/Shutterstock

...Or several hundred of them, in fact. Bexhill Festival of the Sea features a rather quirky Guinness World Record attempt: the ever largest gathering of mermaids. To participate, you'll need to find yourself an ankle-length fishtail skirt and a costume top (though aspiring mermen are allowed to go shirtless). There's also live music, seafood cookery demos, and marine conservation activities for those who don't fancy donning scales.

See also:

Last Updated 30 July 2020