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South East, The Cultural Coast

Looking for things to do on the South East Coast? Whether you're taking the short train journey from London or coming from further afield, the South East has a lot to offer! Explore the breath-taking scenery and rich cultural attractions, below are some ideas for days out on the South East coast.

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Day 1

The best things to do near Margate

Begin in Margate with a visit to the Turner Contemporary, an internationally renowned Gallery named after the famous painter J M W Turner. Then watch the waves from the snug comfort of Angela’s, a 24-cover restaurant in Margate which was awarded the new Michelin Green Star for Gastronomy and Sustainability in 2021.

Marvel at the nearby Shell Grotto, a mysterious ornate subterranean passageway covered in shell mosaics. Drive on to the charming seaside resort of Broadstairs and stop for lunch by the beach (Botany Bay is a must). In the afternoon visit Dickens House Museum before going on to Ramsgate, an architectural jewel which has the only Royal Harbour in the UK.

Read our blog on fine dining and art galleries on the Kent and Sussex Coast

Day 2

A day out near Dover, welcome to White Cliffs Country 

Explore Sandwich by climbing the Haven Heights tower at St Peter’s Church to gain a unique perspective on England’s most complete medieval town. 

Then, explore the Guildhall before going on to maritime town of Deal with its many independent shops and galleries. Stroll the pier and promenade to the Timeball Tower or Deal Castle. Next, venture to St Margaret’s Bay to view the iconic White Cliffs of Dover. In Dover visit the awe-inspiring Castle then see the world’s oldest known sea-going vessel at Dover Museum. 

Day 3

Visit Eastbourne and the epic Beachy Head

Leaving Dover, stop at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne to pay homage to Churchill’s famous “Few”. 

Then head into East Sussex starting with a visit to the Hastings Contemporary Gallery. Next stop should be Beachy Head for a bracing walk on the dramatic sea cliffs and a leisurely afternoon in traditional Eastbourne. Don’t miss the Towner Gallery, a world-renowned collection of contemporary and historic art or the Redoubt Fortress, one of only 3 surviving Napoleonic fortresses. 

Eastbourne also marks the start of the South Downs Way and the edge of the South Downs National Park, great walks can be sought out in this area as you travel West along the coast.

Day 4

Things to do in Brighton

Start the day with an amazing view of the city from the British Airways i360, the world’s tallest moving observation tower and go on to Brighton Palace Pier, a traditional seaside icon. 

Venture up through The Lanes exploring the many independent shops before visiting the exotic Royal Pavilion which was once a royal residence. There is a variety of night life available in Brighton including restaurants, bars, concert and theatre venues. 

Day 5

Walking and culture in West Sussex

Next on the route is West Sussex to see the magnificent Arundel Castle, a restored medieval stately home with dramatic views across the South Downs National Park. 

For nature lovers, Pagham Harbour, Itchenor or Selsey Bill offers beautiful scenery and excellent bird watching. Alternatively spend the afternoon in the cathedral city of Chichester or visit the Roman Palace at Fishbourne. 

Check out our blog, 48 hours in Chichester for more inspiration

Day 6

Attractions in Portsmouth and Gosport

Enjoy the amazing views from the Emirates Spinnaker Tower then soak up centuries of history at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Mary Rose. 

Walk along the historic waterfront to the D-Day Story and Southsea Castle. Continuing the maritime theme, head over to Gosport on the short ferry ride to see the Submarine Museum and Explosion! and then watch (or take part!) in watersports at Lee-on-the- Solent. 

There's plenty to do around Gosport, read more in our 48 hours in Gosport blog here

Day 7

A ferry to the Isle of Wight

Start the final day on the Wightlink ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne and discover Britain’s holiday island. 

Head into East Cowes to visit Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s palatial holiday home or drive through Shanklin and Luccombe Village to the beautiful Ventnor Botanic Gardens. After lunch drive along the unspoilt south side of the Island to the famous white cliffs of the Needles and discover the vital role the Needles Battery played in Britain’s defence history.  

Finally see the pretty harbour town of Yarmouth on the route back to Cowes for the Red Funnel ferry to Southampton.  

Why not arrive by train or coach? the South East has a great rail network along the coast. Alternatively, this stretch of coast works well for a road-trip, with lots of great choices for accommodation, from chic hotels in Brighton to sleeping under the stars on the Isle of Wight. The South East Coast is a great choice for a UK staycation.

Several trains an hour from central London to Brighton (1 hr), Southampton (2 hrs) and stations in Kent (1 hr +) 

Regular coaches from central London to Brighton, Southampton (2 hrs 30) and stations in Kent (2 hr +) 

How to get to the Isle of Wight
There are regular ferry services from Portsmouth, Southampton or Lymington to the Isle of Wight.