Worthing is a vibrant West Sussex coastal town just west of Brighton. It has the wonderful South Downs just to the north and looks out over miles of beach and sea. It’s also a town that has a long and interesting history, diverse architecture, and a thriving business and cultural scene, all of which make it a great place for a visit. So, if you’re heading south for the day, a weekend or a holiday here are just some of the best things to do in Worthing.
The Pier and the Lido
Worthing’s Art Deco Pier is Grade II listed and one of a number of focal points of the town. It was officially opened in 1862 after which a pavilion was added, as was a souvenir shop. In 1913, the pier was badly damaged in a storm but then rebuilt before the pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1933. Once again it was repaired, rebuilt and re-opened. During WWII the pier was deliberately damaged to help protect against invasion. In recent years, more improvements and refurbishments have brought it back to life once more and it was named Pier of the Year in 2006 and 2019.
At the land end of the Pier are Pavilion Theatre and Pavilion Atrium Bar whilst on the Pier itself is an amusement arcade in the middle and the South Pavilion at the end. The South Pavilion has been many things over the years but is now a rather stylish café. In between the Pavilion and the amusement arcade you’ll find Art on the Pier, an outdoor gallery that showcases a range of different work by local artists, community art groups, art students and children. It changes annually and is very eye-catching.
A hop, skip, and a jump away from the Pier is Worthing Lido. No longer containing a swimming pool, it is now home to children’s rides, souvenirs and ice cream amongst other things, and is a bit of a must-visit for those with smaller children.
Museums, galleries, theatres and the arts
Worthing has a thriving cultural scene and is home to Worthing Theatres and Museums. This is an arts and heritage charity that consists of the Connaught Theatre, Studio and Cinema, Pavilion Theatre, Assembly Hall, and the Museum and Gallery all of which means whether you’re after history, music, dance, exhibitions, film or art, there is likely to be something for you.
Not far from the Pier is the distinctive Dome Cinema which first opened in 1911. In addition to this, the town has dozens of creative outlets. If you head east along the seafront, you come to the East Beach Artists Studios which is described as a creative hub and a great place to meet local creatives and see their work. You’ll also find the Two Faced Twin Art Gallery on the seafront at Steyne Gardens and Montague Galleries in Montague Place. And let’s not forget Colonnade House which is described as “the home of local art in Worthing, providing studio and gallery space to local creatives, artists, designers and makers”.
Worthing beach stretches east and west of the Pier for several kilometres with long stretches of promenade, beach huts, seafront cafés, and even the occasional Worthing Gin van!
It’s a gently sloping beach with a mix of sand and shingle, and at low tide, there are vast stretches to explore and great rock pooling to be had. Alternatively, walk all the way to Goring, Ferring, and beyond, or try your hand at fishing, windsurfing or swimming (if safe to do so).
The festival scene
Worthing has a number of festivals. They have a food and drink festival in September in Steyne Gardens and they have a summer seafront festival in July which includes entertainment, markets and fireworks, classic cars, American cars, vintage buses, and a fun fair. They also have The Worthing Music and Arts Festival in the early part of the year and other notable events include fireworks displays, their beer festival, Worthing Pride, Worthing Carnival, and Worthing Light Festival.
Food and drink
Worthing has got a fabulous food and drink scene. Not far from the town are Wiston Estate Winery and Highdown Vineyard which both offer tours and tastings and produce outstanding sparkling and still wines. Worthing is also home to craft gin makers including Worthing Gin and Slake Spirits (who offer tours). For beer drinkers, head to the Brewhouse and Kitchen Brewpub where you’ll find freshly brewed, hyper-local, and award-winning craft beers.
For something to eat, pull up a chair at Pitch or Bayside Social both owned by MasterChef Champion Kenny Tutt. Or head to the very popular Crab Shack on the seafront. Beyond these two, you have dozens of different eateries, many with al fresco seating.
Worthing at Christmas
If you’re in the area at Christmas and looking for things to do in Worthing, be sure to check out the ice rink in Steyne Gardens, the Christmas tree trail and various Christmas markets.
Just north of Worthing, where the town meets the South Downs, are Highdown Gardens. These date back to 1909 and include an incredible collection of plants from around the world and an unusual Chalk Garden. It’s open all year and there’s also a café nearby and access to Highdown Hill which is home to the rather charismatic tomb of a local legend. Highdown Hill was also a Bronze Age hillfort, with spectacular views and the local Morris Dancers (Sompting Morris) hold various events here.
The Sistine Chapel in Worthing?
On the outskirts of the town, the Church of the English Martyrs looks like an ordinary church. Then you step inside and wow, just wow. It doesn’t matter what your religious persuasions, the 2/3 replica of the original ceiling in the Sistine Chapel (in perfect proportion) is incredible, all the more so because it was painted by a local man, Gary Bevans, who is a self-taught artist and was a sign writer.
The South Downs
You can’t visit Worthing and not step out and up onto the South Downs. One of the nearest points of interest is Cissbury Ring, the largest Iron Age hillfort in Sussex which dates back over 5,000 years. After a steep climb, you can either walk the circumference of the peak, sit and enjoy the views, or use it as a starting point for your South Downs adventures. There are various local nature reserves in the area too including Mill Hill and Lancing Ring, and of course, the South Downs offers fantastic walking. Alternatively, there is a bike hire shop (South Downs Bikes) in Goring Road in nearby Goring.
High Salvington Windmill
North west of the town, is High Salvington Windmill which was built around 1775 and was a working windmill until 1897. There is also a windpump on the site and both the windmill and pump have been beautifully restored. The windmill is open to the public on the first and third Sundays of the month between April and September.
If you’re still looking for things to do in Worthing, well there are some great independent shops and boutiques. They really do have everything here from Eccentric Chaos, an ethical supermarket, Heavy Gretal, and a rather beautiful arcade.
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