Historic Hastings on England’s south coast is a beachside resort town with all the traditional trappings of a Great British seaside resort – pier? Check! Old town? Check! A pebble beach and water you can swim in? Check. But there is a lot more fun and frolics to be had in Hastings compared to your conventional coastal resort. From the UK’s steepest cliff railway to protected coastal parks with glorious sea views, Hastings has a whole lot going on. Less than two hours away from London on a direct train, time to ‘make Hastings while the sun shines’.
1. Hasting’s Stade and Fishing Huts
The special seaside history of Hastings is most present along the Stade as this is Europe’s oldest fishing beach no less, complete with old fishing huts, net shops, colourful fishing boats and stalls selling the freshest fish and seafood straight from the ocean (just keep an eye out for those pesky seagulls!)
You can also visit Hastings Fishing Museum or if pop-culture is more your thing, recreate the iconic beach scene from David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes video that was shot on the Stade in the 1980s (the clown costume is optional).
2. Hastings Cliff Railway / Funicular
Why have one cliff railway when you can have two instead? East Hill Lift lays claim to be the steepest funicular railway in the UK. Dating back to 1902 and saving a steep walk up the hill, this is a ‘fun’(nicular’) way to see Hastings from on high. The second West Hill station has a track that goes through a tunnel (but is currently closed for repair work, as at March 2020). An adult return ticket costs £3.50.
3. Hastings Pier
To say the pier has had some bad luck in recent years is an understatement. The original dates 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, the 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, the pier is now back in action and hosts many events over the summer months.
4. Hastings Old Town
A hodge-podge of historic buildings, ancient ale houses (pubs!) and independent shops, exploring the old town in Hastings is likely to be the highlight of your trip here. 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 here 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 ‘Twittens’ – these are nothing to do with social media but are apparently a local name for the narrow passageways that are dotted around Hastings.
5. Hastings Beach
The shingle beach here is incredibly popular in the summer, with various beachside amusements and cafes for all to enjoy. Although we don’t possess our own bucket and spade, 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.
6. Hastings Contemporary / Jerwood Gallery
Located on the Stade mentioned above (and formerly known as the Jerwood Gallery), Hastings Contemporary is a modern art museum that hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions and also has a cute cafe (The Boat Yard) with views overlooking the beach . Usually £9 to visit for adults, the gallery is free on the first Tuesday evening of every month (4pm to 8pm).
7. Hastings Country Park / Hill
High up on the cliffs with charming coastal scenery, this local nature reserve is packed full of flora and fauna and 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.
8. 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. Most recently, Hastings featured 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.
9. Fish & 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 – alfresco views and sea air always enhance this great British traditional dish. Make sure you also try mushy peas if they are available.
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 for Number 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 Hastings Beach. Check out prices and availability for Pop Art Pad heart of Old Town with parking!
Hotel located a few steps from Hastings Beach in the St. Leonards neighbourhood. Many rooms have a sea view and a continental breakfast is included. Check out prices and availability for The Bank
Other UK blog posts
- Things to do in Whitstable
- Things to do in Brighton – a day trip from London
- Guide to a day trip to Margate
- Top things to do in Ramsgate, Kent
- Things to do in Littlehampton
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