Beautiful Bexhill-on-Sea! Tucked away on the coast in the south east corner of East Sussex, it’s easy to whizz past Bexhill on your way to and from Hastings and Eastbourne. But if you stop, you’ll find a sunny little town with an eclectic history and all sorts of things going on. Bexhill today is quirky, in a good way.
There’s a blend of Victorian, Edwardian, modern and slightly exotic-looking architecture as well as some much older buildings (unsurprisingly) in the Old Town. It’s also got a lovely long promenade along the seafront. So add it to your list of holiday hangouts because here’s our list of things to do in Bexhill:
The De La Warr Pavilion
The starting point for any visit has to be the De La Warr Pavilion which is hard to miss as it’s on the seafront in the middle of the town. It’s open every day and they have an ongoing programme of exhibitions and events which include art, music, comedy and theatre. It also has a café and used to have a brilliant little bandstand outside (it got irreparably damaged in a storm).
Look out for the Tschabalala Self sculpture “Seated”. It’s three metres high and patinated bronze. When she was vandalised recently, hundreds of local volunteers turned out to help restore it. We love her and the bold statement she makes.
The Colonnade Quarter
Immediately in front of The Pavilion, The Colonnade adds a touch of the exotic and a sense of history. It was built in 1911 to commemorate the coronation of George V and was designed as a sheltered structure from which to enjoy open-air beachfront concerts and performances. It’s Grade II listed with two-storey circular pavilions and Tuscan-style columns and as a side note, the Maharajah of Cooch Behar died nearby after attending George V’s coronation.
These days, The Colonnade is home to a collection of independent shops and cafés and is a great centre point. It’s also dog friendly.
From The Colonnade walk west a little way until you see the distinctive yellow clocktower, completed in 1904 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. Just back from the clocktower, you’ll find Bexhill Museum.
The museum is brilliant, manned by super helpful (and very knowledgeable) volunteers, and crammed to the rafters with interesting curiosities and oddities. Open Tuesday to Sunday, they’ve got everything from Neolithic man, fashion, ancient shipwrecks, famous giant crabs, an octopus, miniature buildings, Eddie Izzard’s train set and hundreds of artefacts. If you want to know about the area, this is the place to come.
Just behind the museum, Egerton Park was originally developed in the late 19th century and has a boating lake, a couple of large swans, a children’s play area, and a café. It won’t take you long to explore but is a good stop-off point if you’re travelling with children.
The Motoring Heritage Trail
As any website about the town will tell you, Bexhill is the birth place of British motor racing because it held the first British motor race in 1902. 200 cars turned up from both England and abroad and there were 30,00 spectators. There were also a number of dignitaries and important folk in attendance, many of who stayed in the grand Sackville Hotel.
These days there is a five-point Motoring Heritage Trail you can follow that starts halfway up Galley Hill and finishes at Cooden Beach Hotel. The trail has accompanying information boards.
The once luxurious Sackville Hotel is now apartments, but is also home to lots more information about the town’s motoring heritage including photos and newspaper clippings as well as a very trendy bistro. Opposite the hotel is a sculpture of what was called the “Easter Egg” car which you can also see in the museum … and look out for the rocks that mark the start and finish of the race route.
Bexhill Sailing Club
There’s an attractive-looking sailing club in Bexhill, which caters for dinghy sailing, catamaran sailing, kayaking and windsurfing. It’s a members club but pleasant to watch the boats coming and going!
Bexhill Old Town
Hike up the hill away from the seafront (it’s well-signed) to the Old Town for a very different feel. This is where you’ll find the Manor House with its gardens, and picturesque Georgian architecture lining the street.
St Peter’s Church in the Old Town dates to the Saxon period times and has one of the oldest examples of stained glass in the country. Manned by volunteers, you’ll receive a warm welcome.
The Old Town also has a marvelous smuggling heritage and there’s an imformation board about this just outside Manor Gardens where you’ll also find the ruins of the Manor House.
Unsurprisingly, Bexhill has seen a few shipwrecks in its time. A couple of times a year at low tide, the remains of the Amsterdam, the most complete surviving example of a Dutch East India Company trading vessel, can be seen on Bulverhythe Beach between Bexhill and Hastings.
You can also find details and artefacts from another Dutch ship, Klein Hollandia (1672), in the museum. The wreck itself can’t be seen because it’s still submerged in an unspecified location and was only recently discovered in 2019.
For keen golfers, Bexhill has two good golf courses, namely at Cooden Beach and Highwoods.
There is parking right next to The Pavilion.
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