The 8 Best Beaches in East Sussex: Pebbled and Sandy Beaches for all the Family



Stretching along the south coast of England from Brighton to Camber Sands, the shores of East Sussex are dotted with fab family-friendly beaches within easy reach of London. With  swimming opportunities in the English Channel, views over dramatic cliffs and easy access to the South Downs National Park, it's easy to see why this tried and tested area has such year-round appeal for South East England camping breaks

Whether you're planning a trip to sizzling summer hotspots or are on the hunt for a sleepy shingle beach away from the crowds, our run-down of the 8 best beaches in East Sussex should give you a good idea of what you can expect from this spectacular stretch of the British coastline.

See our full range of East Sussex campsites here 

Colourful beach huts in East Sussex

Brighton beach

Culture, cuisine and shopping by the sea

Known for its off-beat lifestyle, stylish Victorian terraces and ease of access (London is just an hour away by train), the seaside resort of Brighton and Hove is an excellent destination in anyone's book. Vintage markets like The Lanes, a lively arts scene, great nightlife and some of the UK's finest restaurants mean that the place would still be worth visiting without its trademark pebble beach.

But a beach there is – a steep shingle bank backed by a four-mile promenade that has space for sun-seekers on even the busiest of days. Best of all, top attractions like Brighton Pier, Hove’s colourful beach huts, Volk's Electric Railway and the i360 Viewing Tower are mere metres away whenever you fancy a change of scene. 

Find campsites and outdoor accommodation near Brighton beach

The bright lights of Brighton

Cuckmere Haven 

Swim within view of the Seven Sisters cliffs in the South Downs National Park 

Picture a place where a river meanders through a peaceful green landscape until it reaches the sea by dramatic white chalk cliffs. That place is Cuckmere Haven, a National Trust-managed beach on the eastern edge of the South Downs National Park. 

The water courses here have rich pickings for anglers and birdspotters, while beachgoers can gaze out over the Seven Sisters cliffs for hours on end without getting tired of the view. Although sandwiched between the busy towns of Brighton and Eastbourne, Cuckmere Haven is often on the quiet side; dogs are allowed here all year round. 

After a little exercise? For something really special, walk along the footpath to Seaford Head Nature Reserve at sunset, or play a round at Seaford Head Golf Course.

Enjoying the scenery? Click here for a run-down of the 6 best walks and trails in East Sussex or check out 6 of the best woodland walks in East Sussex 

Birling Gap 

Pebbles, rock pools and the highest chalk cliff in Britain

Up next is Birling Gap, a pebble and sand beach at the foot of Beachy Head, Britain's highest chalk cliff. At low tide, gnarled rockpools are exposed and kids of all ages can clamber over the shore in search of sea creatures. 

As well as being great for rockpooling, Birling Gap has good facilities including a spacious car park and a National Trust-run café. Don't be tempted to snooze in the shadow cast by the cliffs, though – they are eroding at up to a metre per year in some spots and are less stable than they look. 

Browse campsites with availability near Cuckmere Haven and Birling Gap 

East Sussex’s iconic white cliffs


A classic seaside town with a smart waterfront that’s more vibrant than you’d think 

Eastbourne's been coming up in the world recently and is slowly but surely shaking off its meek and milk reputation following the arrival of a contemporary art gallery and trendy new eateries. Some things have stayed very much the same, though – the seafront is just as gorgeous as it ever was, and a trip to Eastbourne is still all about enjoying life's gentler pleasures.

After an ice cream on the beach or a stroll along the pier, there's plenty of scope for a pub lunch followed by an afternoon exploring the marina, taking the kids on the miniature steam railway or visiting any of the several golf clubs within walking distance of the town centre.

Escape to Eastbourne for outdoor holidays filled with fresh sea air 

Pevensey Bay 

A small seaside village with easy public transport access and a Norman castle 

Just outside of Eastbourne, the village of Pevensey is a particularly strategic point on the East Sussex coast – in medieval times, the Normans built an imposing castle here that can still be visited today, while during the Napoleonic Wars Martello Towers and other defences were erected along this part of the English Channel. 

Visitors to Pevensey can expect plenty of space on its beach (the trade-off is that there's no promenade here, and walking over the mixture of pebbles and shingle can be hard going). The village has a top-rated fish and chip shop, a café and is the starting point for off-shore fishing trips. 

Fishing boats on the beach at Hastings


History, heritage and a well-preserved old town 

Sitting on the edge of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Hastings has both Victorian charm and a storied medieval past. The town centre is home to a patchwork of streets with a distinctive old world feel, while more recent additions like the 19th-century cliff railway and pier or the contemporary Jerwood Gallery show how the town has grown and adapted through the ages. 

At the coast, Hastings has an attractive two-tiered promenade backed by grand hotels and turn-of-the-century villas. The beach here is spacious, with a good amount of sand usually accessible at low tide. 

Book a campsite near Hastings and discover the landscape of the Norman Conquest

Pett Level beach

A quiet village beach with few amenities and lots of wildlife

Pett Level beach is a peaceful pebble beach on the edge of a small village. There are few amenities here, so you’ll want to pack your own food and perhaps a good book or magazine, but the reward is a very quiet atmosphere and lots of wildlife. 

Pett Level is also known locally for its fossils and for being home to an ancient sunken forest, parts of which are believed to be over 6,000 years old. 

The dunes at Camber Sands

Camber Sands

A rare sandy beach on the border between East Sussex and Kent

If you’ve come to East Sussex in search of golden sands, you’ll need to head to the far east of the county and the Kent border. Camber Sands, as its name suggests, is one of the few non-shingle beaches in East Sussex and is the only place in the county where you’ll find sand dunes.

Camber Sands can get quite busy, but if you don’t mind sharing the beach with others there’s plenty to see and do – RIB tours, kitesurfing and other watersports can be arranged, and seals can sometimes be spotted beaching themselves on the shore or playing in the harbour close by. 

The sandiest parts of the beach here are around the river Rother and the village of Camber – keep going west and more and more shingle enters the mix. 

Click here to find a campsite near Camber Sands and get first dibs on the best spots on the beach


Bringing your dog to the south coast? Check out our list of the best dog-friendly beaches in East Sussex