Worthing is a Sussex coastal town 16 km west of Brighton, 29 km east of Chichester, 79 km south of London, and just south of the South Downs.
Worthing dates back to at least the Bronze Age, with an important Bronze Age hill fort at Highdown Hill just north west of the town. It was also important in the Iron Age with one of Britain’s largest hill forts at Cissbury Ring. The Romans came this way too and there was a Roman-British farmstead in the town before the region became part of the Kingdom of Sussex.
The town was mentioned in the Domesday Book and was under the control of William de Braose before it gradually developed into a small fishing village. Following the rise in Brighton’s popularity in the 18th century and a visit from a princess, Worthing developed into a fashionable seaside resort and was also later temporarily home to famous literary types like Oscar Wilde and Harold Pinter.
Indeed, Worthing is famous for being the birthplace of the Importance of Being Earnest. Jane Austen is thought to have based Sanditon on Worthing too. Like many Sussex coastal villages, it was also home to smugglers in the 19th century.
In 2021, Worthing had a population of approximately 111,400 and it is now a popular alternative to Brighton and Hove. Despite some rumours to the contrary, it also has a young population when compared to other West Sussex coastal districts. In terms of transport links, the town sits at the end of the main A24 which connects it to Horsham, the M25, and London. It’s also on the A27 that runs from Brighton in the east, and to Chichester in the west. Worthing is also well connected by train with five train stations and train lines running east, west and north. Gatwick airport is 45 km north whilst the smaller Shoreham airport is only 8 km east.
Worthing is well endowed with primary schools and also has a number of state secondary schools, two local independent schools, a sixth form, and a college of higher education.
A town on the up
The town has been subject to a master plan of regeneration since 2006 and it really shows! It has a thriving cultural scene that includes the arts, history, cinemas and theatres. The Art Deco Pier is Grade II listed and was named Pier of the Year in 2006 and 2019. It’s got a café at the end, lots of space and local art installed down the middle. Worthing Theatres and Museums is an arts and heritage charity that consists of the Connaught Theatre, Studio and Cinema, Pavilion Theatre, Assembly Hall, and the Museum and Gallery. There are also a number of local galleries and artist’s studios in the town including the East Beach Studios. And let’s not forget the distinctive Dome Cinema (which first opened in 1911) – a focal point on the seafront.
Places to eat
There are dozens and dozens of great places to eat in or near Worthing, including Pitch and Bayside Social (both owned by MasterChef Champion Kenny Tutt), the Crab Shack, The Fish Factory (serving sustainably sourced seafood), Indigo Bistro and Bar at the Ardington Hotel and Aunty Bunny’s Hut (where you can enjoy themed music nights) … to name just a few. Alternatively, head out of town to nearby Bailiffscourt, Wiston or Ashington for some out-of-town dining.
Worthing has some amazingly diverse architecture. If this is what you’re after, start to the east of the town at The Esplanade. Here you’ll find a plaque on a rather unimpressive building that stands on the site of where Oscar Wilde stayed and wrote The Importance of Being Ernest in 1894.
Then walk round the corner to New Parade to see a row of brightly coloured Edwardian houses and the very new and modern Bayside Apartments on the seafront. Keep walking west and you’ll pass the Beach House, a large and impressive Regency house built in 1820 and set a little back from the seafront.
As you carry on west, you pass a couple of large former hotels namely The Eardley and Warnes which, like them or not, in their refurbished state, are quite impressive.
If Art Deco is your thing, check out the Pier and Pavilion Theatre but also the Connaught and the Dome and as you do, you start to get a feel for what Worthing would have been like 100 years ago.
As you leave the seafront behind you, head to Portland Road where there has been a regeneration project recently and then head up to Christ Church, where you’ll be greeted with a row of flint stone houses and a completely different vibe. Then the style changes again as you turn into Ambrose Place, home of Harold Pinter for a while, and a row of charming Regency houses. Then it’s just a short walk to the neo-Georgian-style Town Hall and the museum.
The vibrant and cosmopolitan city of Brighton and Hove is in easy rich and there are plenty of buses to take you that away, via Shoreham, another up and coming and slightly eclectic coastal town. The South Downs overlook Worthing and in addition to great walking, there are various nearby points of interest including Cissbury, Chanctonbury, and Lancing Ring. Just a stone’s throw away you have the historic town of Arundel with its magnificent castle, as well as Bramber with the ruins of a Medieval castle, and Steyning with its food and drink festival. You’re also not far from Amberley Castle and Amberley Museum and a number of vineyards including the prestigious Wiston.
What about things to do and local shops?
Worthing has a fantastic selection of shops which includes lots of independents and you can find out more about the shops and other things to do here:
Things To Do In Worthing
The Best Shopping in Worthing