22 Muddy-approved attractions in Sussex
From the big-beast tourist destinations to our cool insider alternatives, read on for our pick of 22 unmissable attractions in Sussex.
Think Sussex coast, think Brighton. From the award-winning Grade II listed Brighton Palace Pier stacked full of attractions and entertainment to the melancholy skeleton of the West Pier as it slowly surrenders to the sea, Brighton is bursting with excitement, entertainment and soul. You’re spoiled for choice for places to eat and drink along the seafront from beachside cafes to fine dining, and kids will be in seventh heaven with fairground rides, trampolines, a zip wire (NOT for the faint hearted) and miles of shingle beach to explore or admire from the i360 offering breathtaking views across the South. Your in-the-know guide to Brighton here.
In-the-know intel: Worthing
Award-winning art deco pier? Check. Trendy beachside cafes and fine dining? Check. Miles of shingle beach? Yup. Seasonal observatory wheel? Uh-huh. We’d say Worthing is like Brighton in miniature but this wouldn’t do the indie spirit of this seaside town justice. What we will tell you, though, is that it’s much easier and cheaper to park here, it’s way less crowded and it’s still a grand day out on the Sussex coast. Get the Muddy lowdown on Worthing here.
Headliner: Battle Abbey and Battlefield
Welcome to 1066 country. The battlefield and Abbey where the armies of King Harold and William the Conquerer clashed forms one of the most historically significant historical sites in England. Stand on the very spot where this battle was fought and England’s future decided, see the stone where King Harold fell (oops, spoiler alert, soz) and walk the battlefield itself with its carved wooden sculptures depicting the Norman and Saxon soldiers. The Abbey itself, now a ruin, was built by William himself after his victory. Those Normans sure loved a huge stone building. An ideal family day out, steeped in history and culture.
In-the-know intel: Arundel Castle
Thanks to its somewhat violent history (see above) Sussex has plenty of castles to admire and you could fill a holiday just visiting them all. But Arundel is fairly unique in that it’s one of the largest complete, and inhabited, castles in the entire UK. In a lofty hilltop location with views across the South Downs and River Arun, original features date back to 1067 and are in remarkably good nick, to say they’re nearly a millennium old. The house was almost completely rebuilt in the late 1800s and the Gothic architecture is considered one of the great works of Victorian England. Its location and style puts Muddy in mind of the castle in Beauty and the Beast.
Appetite whetted for castles? Check out Sussex’s heritage hotspots here!
Headliner: Drusillas Park, Alfriston
Er, what are you lookin’ at? Head to this fantastic small zoo and theme park and you’ll certainly find plenty catches your eye. There’s hundreds of exotic animals to admire (including baby meerkats!) and several play areas including a brilliant new dinosaur-themed area, a splash park, a maze, an adventure playground and much, much more. A sure-fire winner.
In-the-know intel: Fisher’s Farm Park, Wisborough Green
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, nowhere keeps the kids happy like Fisher’s. It’s not just the range of farm animals to meet, pet and learn about, or the heaps of rides and activities, the themed events and adventures or the brand-new and brilliant soft play. The whole vibe is just spot-on and while there’s loads to do, it’s all well-spaced out and not at all overwhelming – so not the kind of place that gives you an instant headache just walking in. Muddy’s known the family behind Fisher’s since it was just a pick-your-own fruit farm and it’s a joy to see it become one of the best attractions in the South. Masses of indoor fun makes it perfect for a rainy day too. As a fellow parent put it, ‘it’s just instant happiness’.
Headliner: Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead
If a Michelin star turns your head, then Gravetye is your place for fine dining. It helps that the stunning restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, overlooks one of the most historically significant gardens in the county, and is all set within an imposing Elizabethan manor in 1,000 acres of Sussex countryside. Sound tasty? Produce from the walled kitchen garden inspires a seasonal menu and every single ingredient is home-grown or locally sourced. Executive Chef George Blogg has, as you would expect, serious foodie creds – he was a National Chef of the Year finalist in 2019.
In-the-know intel: The Curlew, Bodiam
A new venture from a top chef to watch, and this one’s a much more relaxed, laid back eating experience. But it’s the kind of relaxed and laid-back that only comes with incredibly high standards and attention to detail. Brothers Matt and Will Devlin took over this former coaching inn in early 2020 and Will, named Chef to Watch by the Good Food Guide for 2020, has stamped his warm and friendly personality all over this offering. The focus is on sharing plates, excellent locally-sourced food and wine, and all in the kind of atmosphere the hospitality industry would bottle if it could.
The chalky soils of Sussex share characteristics with some of the vineyards of the Champagne region in France, which explains why Sussex-produced sparkling wine is beating all competitors in taste-tests. Nyetimber Estate in West Sussex has been at the forefront of Sussex wine for decades and a visit to the vineyard for a tour and tasting is a must for all wine aficionados. We warn you though, they sell out super-fast!
In-the-know intel: Albourne Estates
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of this 26-acre vineyard which sits just eight miles from Brighton. Co-owner and manager Alison had a career in marketing before pivoting and studying viticulture and winemaking at Plumpton College in Lewes while her children were young. Albourne now sponsors the recently opened Wine Research Centre at Plumpton, oh, and it makes rather good wine too. Hotfoot it over to check out the stunning new tasting rooms.
Headliner: Wakehurst Place
One of the loveliest and most fascinating places to visit in Sussex, and it just happens to be the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew’s sister. Wakehurst is set in 500 acres of Sussex countryside and has all the space and facilities for a full day out. Kids will love the Tree Trunk Trek and the natural play spaces and everybody will be fascinated by the Millennium Seed Bank, a vital hub of scientific and conservation activity. There’s plenty of opportunities for eating and drinking too.
In-the-know intel: Leonardslee Gardens and Lake
This gem near Horsham reopened to the public in spring 2019 following a nine year closure and the largest UK garden restoration project for two decades. The picturesque site spreads across a valley and includes lakes, woods, lawns and a large rock garden. Fabulous rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and magnolias are among some of the blooms in the Grade 1 listed 240 acre estate. There’s also a colony of wallabies, including rare albinos. Oh yeah, and the Restaurant Interlude has a Michelin star.
Headliner: Camber Sands, Rye
Practically world-famous for its unspoiled sand dunes, Camber Sands is worth the hype but take it from us, there is hype. Plan your visit carefully, especially at peak season and don’t chance it at the last minute on a super-hot July day. It’s a wise move to book into a local hotel or campsite and spend some time here rather than chance a day-trip at peak season and end up in nose-to-tail traffic. Get it right and you’ll be glad you bothered, though.
In-the-know intel: West Wittering
Still less famous than Camber Sands but creeping into national awareness, not least because The Times voted it best beach in the South this year. West Wittering is the definition of unspoiled and this is both a selling point and an issue. There’s only one cafe and car park, run by the National Trust, and access is tricky at peak season with traffic often backing up to Chichester and all the way down the A27. It’s always worth the effort, but plan ahead and leave early for a day-trip to beat the crowds and again, not one for a last-minute rush in a July heatwave.
Check out our guide to Sussex’s beaches here!
Headliner: Park House Hotel & Spa, Midhurst
Fancy a dip in a 15-metre mother-of-pearl inlaid swimming pool? We thought you might. This classy and award-winning spa at upmarket country house hotel Park House is pure luxe, which is just what you want in a spa really. As well as THAT pool there’s a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi. When it’s warm you can enjoy the outdoor heated pool where there’s even a handy bar. Enticing packages include the Sunset Experience with a 45 minute treatment, champagne afternoon tea or two-course dinner.
In-the-know intel: Poppinghole Farm Spa, Robertsbridge
A lovely country spa housed in an oak-framed complex – on warm days the pool doors open onto a patio with sun-loungers. You’ll also find a waterfall, plunge pool and hot tub to help soak your cares away. Treatments include a vitamin-packed superfood pro-radiance facial, a frangipani body wrap and a fragrant Garden of England Rose Restore massage. There’s also a dedicated menu of more technical BIOTEC treatments plus men’s treatments and a range of Jessica and OPI manicures and pedicures. Stay over at the holiday cottages for the ultimate pampering getaway.
Headliner: Ardingly Reservoir
A really lovely, tranquil site for walks, bird-watching and wildlife-spotting, Ardingly Reservoir is also home to Ardingly Activity Centre which is packed with watersports action including sailing, windsurfing and paddleboarding. There’s something for everyone in a great, easy-to-reach location – definitely a winner for a day out in Sussex.
In-the-know intel: Lancing Beach
Lancing isn’t the most picturesque of Sussex’s beaches – although it’s certainly a winner with the Muddy crew – but it’s one of the most action-packed. It has ideal conditions for kitesurfing, which looks like one of the most fun watersports out there, and is home to the Brighton Kitesurf and SUP Academy which offers lessons in both sports. Good parking and Perch, a beachside one-stop-shop for eating, drinking and takeaway, make it a great candidate for an active day out.
WILDLIFE, NATURE AND CONSERVATION
Headliner: Knepp Wildland, Dial Post
None other than Joanna Lumley (not pictured) was spotted on safari at Knepp recently, and she’s still only the second most famous creature to step foot on this legendary Sussex rewilding project. This year was most definitely the Year of the Stork, when wild white stork chicks hatched at Knepp – the first to do so in 600 years. It was a glorious moment for Knepp which has courted controversy in the past for its radical approach to conservation but has more than proved itself as one of the most ecologically significant projects of our time. Next up, beavers! Visit, take a tour, or even camp out at this piece of Weald wildland.
In-the-know intel: South Downs National Park
OK, OK, it’s hardly a secret but the best places to go in England’s youngest (and in Muddy’s opinion best) National Park are less well-known. The crowds justifiably flock to Ditchling Beacon (above) and Devil’s Dyke outside Brighton, Cissbury Ring to the West and Beachy Head to the East, but there’s really not a lump or a ‘bottom’ (as some of the valleys of the Downs are endearingly entitled) that disappoints. Lesser-known guaranteed crowd pleasers include Firle Beacon and Halnaker Hill, and the latter has a windmill for Insta-perfect moments. But Muddy’s top tip is just to head up the Downs from wherever happens to be convenient and let the views, wildlife and habitat take your breath away.
This world-renowned opera house in West Sussex began as a festival in 1934 and has remained under the stewardship of the Christie family ever since. Today it welcomes and employs inspirational directors and world-class orchestras and performers. The festival runs each summer from May to October as a flagship season of world-class opera.
In-the-know intel: Chichester Festival Theatre
One of the UK’s flagship theatres, with a particularly striking design and renowned for the high standards of performances. Productions originating at Chichester transfer regularly to the West End and across the world – and you can legitimately say you saw it here first. Firmly rooted in the local community, the theatre runs a learning and education programme for young people that’s as noted as its top-calibre performances.