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Historic Hastings on England’s south coast is a beachside resort town with all the traditional trappings of a Great British seaside resort – pier? Yes! Old town? Yep! A swimming beach? Check!
But there is more fun and frolics to be had here compared to your conventional coastal resort – as such, there are lots of things to do in Hastings.
In a recent 2023 Naturecan survey, Hastings was also named as the ‘coolest place’ in Sussex – so don’t just take our word for it!
From the UK’s steepest cliff railway to protected coastal parks, amusement parks to afternoon teas and modern art museums, Hastings has a whole lot going on.
Less than two hours away from London on a direct train, here is our guide to the best things to do in Hastings (2023):
Table of Contents
How to get to Hastings from London
There are regular trains from London to Hastings. London stations that have direct trains include London St Pancras International (next to Kings Cross station), Charing Cross station and Victoria Station.
Depending on which London station you depart from, the London to Hastings trains take between 90 minutes and two hours.
If you book in advance and travel to and from London Victoria with a railcard, you can visit Hastings from London for as little as £10.20 day return per person – train fares correct as at March 2023.
Things to do in Hastings, East Sussex
1. Hasting’s Stade
The special seaside history of Hastings is most present along the Stade.
Hasting’s Stade is Europe’s oldest fishing beach and to to this day, still has complete historic fishing huts along the shore line – in addition, there are net shops, colourful fishing boats and stalls selling fresh fish and seafood straight from the ocean (just keep an eye out for those pesky seagulls!).
To note the Stade is more of shingle / pebble beach than a sandy beach but you still can enjoy it with beach blankets and mats.
The Stade also had a starring role on David Bowie’s iconic Ashes to Ashes video that was shot here in the 1980s.
2. Fishing Net Huts
Decades ago, there were dozens of these black fishing huts along the waterfront in Hastings – although there are less today, the ones that survive are grade II listed and a reminder of Hastings fishing heritage.
Back in the 18th century, there was a lack of room on the beach to allow the ships to come ashore so smaller fishing net huts were created for storage of nets and to dry equipment.
Made from timber and typically two or three storeys high, these were built by the fisherman in their dozens.
3. Cliff Railway / East Hill and West Hill Funiculars
Why have one cliff railway when you can have two instead? East Hill and West Hill are two neighbouring funiculars in Hastings; East Hill Lift is also the steepest funicular railway in the UK.
Dating back to 1902 and saving a steep walk up the hill, this is a ‘fun’(nicular’) thing to do in Hastings from on high. The second West Hill station has a track that goes through a tunnel.
An adult return ticket on the funicular costs £4.20 return as at March 2023.
Address: Hastings Funicular East Hill, Rock-a-Nore Road, TN34 3DW
4. Hastings Pier
To say Hastings Pier has had some bad luck in recent years is an understatement. The original pier dated back to 1872, harking back to the good old days of British seasides where piers were a focal point of fun family activities.
After storm damage in the 1990s, Hastings Pier remained closed until a grand reopening in 2008, but subsequently closed again after a fire in 2010.
After a couple more closings and reopenings and series of successful summer events and festivals, The Pier currently appears to be closed for but will be reopening in summer 2023 with ‘new management.
Address: Hastings Pier, 1-10 White Rock, TN34 1JY
5. The Old Town
A hodge-podge of historic buildings, ancient ale houses (pubs!) and independent shops, exploring the old town is one of our favourite things to do in Hastings.
Black and white timbered buildings transport you back in time and the whole area just feels vibrant and welcoming – all this and it is only a few steps from the beach (bonus!).
During the summer months, many of the bars and restaurants in the Old Town offer alfresco dining areas along the pedestrianised high street so take some time away from shopping to have a local ice-cold pint of beer (or three).
Whilst exploring the Old Town, also explore the Hastings ‘Twittens’ – these are nothing to do with social media but are apparently a local name for the narrow passageways that are dotted around Hastings.
6. Hastings Beach
The main shingle beach at Hastings is incredibly popular in the summer, with various beachside amusements and cafes for all to enjoy. Make sure you bring along your bucket and spade as we saw lots of families building sandcastles here on our last visit.
If you walk to the end of Rock-a-Nore (the left direction as you face towards the sea), you’ll be able to see lots of small rock-pools with sea-life (crabbing lines and small nets are available to buy in all the local souvenir stalls).
Many of the Hasting’s Edwardian hotels and bed and breakfast (B&Bs) also look out directly over the beach, offering great value package deals.
7. Hastings Contemporary
Located on the Hastings Stade (and formerly known as the Jerwood Gallery), Hastings Contemporary is a modern art museum that hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions, including an annual Quentin Blake exhibition (famous for his Roald Dahl illustrations).
Fancy a coffee after your culture? It also has a cute cafe (The Boat Yard) with views overlooking the beach.
Hastings Contemporary is open Wednesday to Sunday (and Bank Holidays) 11am to 5pm, with an adult ticket costing £9 – prices and times correct as at March 2023.
Address: Hastings Contemporary, Rock-a-Nore Road, TN34 3DW
8. Hastings Country Park / Hill
High up on the cliffs with charming coastal scenery, Hastings Country Park is a local nature reserve, packed full of flora and fauna.
Despite a steep walk (or just grab the funicular), it is well worth the hike up (or you can drive here if you have access to a car).
Popular with locals (especially dog-walkers) and ramblers, allow extra time (or opt for an overnight stay) if you really want to explore the country park in addition to the harbour and town area in Hastings. Hastings Country Park is HUGE (over 300 hectares) so to fully explore it will require several trips.
Address: Hastings Country Park, 148 Martineau Lane, TN35 5DR
10. Hastings Fishermen’s Museum
Located in a former church used predominantly used by Hasting fishermen,
The Hastings Fishermen’s Museum is a small local heritage museum that opened in the 1950s, dedicated to preserving stories and exhibits relating to the East Sussex Maritime Industry.
The museum is Grade II listed (like the nearby fishing net huts) – inside you various model boats and pictures whilst outside the museum, there is a large collection of vintage boats
The Hastings Fishermen’s Museum is open 11am – 5pm April to October and until 4pm November to March; opening times correct as at March 2023. Entrance is free but donations are appreciated.
Address: Hastings Fishermen’s Museum, Rock-a-Nore Road, TN34 3DW
10. Fish and Chips
Finally, as with every picturesque English coastal resort, it is (almost) the law that you try fish and chips (or nearest battered veggie equivalent) on the beach
A culinary rite of passage, to enjoy fresh battered fish and chips on the beach has to be one of the best things to do in Whitstable (and tastiest!).
And if you don’t like fish, simply get a cone of chips – a small cone generally costs between £1 and £2 – cheap as chips (literally).
Popular Hastings fish and chip shops (“chippys”) include Maggie’s Fish and Chips, Hollington Fish and Chips and The Lighthouse.
Depending on taste, try to add salt and vinegar to your fish and chips plus we’d recommend you try ‘mushy peas’ as a side (just keep them separate if you don’t like them).
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11. Hastings on Film
If you visit Hastings for the first time and experience a weird sense of deja vu, this might be because it has had a starring role in several TV series and films.
Hastings featured heavily in the first few series of Foyle’s War (you can visit the exterior of Foyle’s home, 31 Croft Road). Neil Jordan’s ‘biting’ vampire story ‘Byzantium’ was also filmed recently as were scenes from ‘I Want You’ starring Rachel Weisz and ‘Grey Owl’ starring Pierce Brosnan.
12. Hastings Castle
High on the hills overlooking the coast and English Channel, Hastings Castle has kept watch over East Sussex since 1067.
Built by William the Conqueror (well, his workers), Hastings Castle is semi-preserved (it is quite ruinous in parts) and has an onsite museum and cinema where you can learn more abouts it history.
Popular for picnicking too, a ticket to Hastings Castle costs from £5 per person as at march 2023.
Address: Hastings Castle, Castle Hill Road, TN34 3HY
13. The Dolphin Inn
Located in Hastings Old Town, the Dolphin Inn is a classic British pub popular for its live music nights and hearty British pub grub menu (think fish and chips, oysters – but Dolphin is definitely not on the menu!).
Dating back from the late 18th century, the Dolphin Inn is a CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ales) award winner with a good ale and beer selection.
Address: The Dolphin Inn, 1-12 Rock-a-Nore Road, TN34 3DW
14. Swan Lake Pedal Boats / Flamingo Park
No, not THAT Swan Lake. Whilst more kitsch than cute, you can hire swan pedalos on the seafront at Hastings – just don’t take them out on the ocean as they won’t be impressed.
The swan lake pedal boats cost 6 tokens per person (or £3 in real money) as at 2023.
Also at Hastings Flamingo Land, you’ll see Cinderella’s Carousel, dodgy dodgems and a classic ghost train – all your traditional english seaside rides in one place.
Address: Swan Lake Pedal Boats, Smugglers Cottage, 9 E Parade, TN34 3AL
15. Pelham Arcade
A grade II listed building, Pelham Arcade is a shopping parade close to the seafront in Hastings. Whilst it is fair to say it has seen better days (many UK seaside shopping centres are suffering), you’ll find lots of beach bargains galore here as cheap as candy floss and buckets & spades.
The Pelham Arcade is almost 200 years old (opened in 1925) and after a period of decline and decay, was restored to its former glory at the turn of the century – it is known for its arch / crescent shape.
To note the famous Deluxe Hastings Bingo hall here closed down in March 2023 and many of the shops are vacant so the future for Pelham Arcade is uncertain.
16. Hastings Pirate Day
A ha there! Who knew that Hastings in East Sussex was the unofficial Pirate Capital of the world?!
Taking place every year in mid July, the annual Hastings Pirate Day takes place on and around Hastings Pier and Beach with storytelling, treasure hunts, pirate acts, pirates and more … well, as long as they don’t make us walk the plank. Most of the Pirate Day events are free although some side events have admission costs (maybe Pieces of Eight)?
The 2023 Pirates Days are still to be announced .
Where to stay in Hastings
Guest house located just a 2-minute walk from the beach and centre of town and 5 minutes away from the old town. Rooms are equipped with flat screen tv, mini fridge, coffee machine and an iPod docking station.Check out prices and availability forNumber 46
Pop Art Pad heart of Old Town with parking!
Yep thats the name of the property haha! These apartments with a funky decor feature a terrace, kitchenette with fridge (plus free parking), and is located just 200 yards from the beach. Check out prices and availability forPop Art Pad heart of Old Town with parking!
Hotel located a few steps from the beach in the St. Leonards neighbourhood. Many rooms have a sea view and a continental breakfast is included.Check out prices and availability forThe Bank
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