Overlooking the beach, the sea and – a pebble’s punt to the right – the pier, Port Hotel is easy to spot thanks to its jet-black frontage, which stands out from the row of cream-hued townhouses on Royal Parade.
Being London’s southernmost airport, Gatwick is geographically closest to Eastbourne; from there it’s less than an hour by train to the coast. If you’re flying into Heathrow, Stansted or Luton, you’ll have to travel by train into London to then head south, or you could hire a car.
Direct trains take an hour and a half to Eastbourne station from London Victoria, or you can depart from London Bridge, changing at Gatwick. There are connections along the south coast, too, with Hastings to the east (30 minutes away) and Brighton to the west (40 minutes away). From the station, it’s a 20-minute walk through the town centre and along the seafront, or jump in a taxi for a five-minute journey to the hotel.
Parking is a little hard to come by along Royal Parade, but the hotel provides one free parking permit per room per night.
Worth getting out of bed for
The South Downs Way is a 100-mile hiking route between Winchester and Eastbourne that weaves through woodland, idyllic farmland, pretty village greens and genteel pubs, and along dramatic cliffs such as the Seven Sisters. Attack it in chunks or one mammoth adventure. You might make your pre-hike preparations at the Grosvenor Hotel in Stockbridge (why not stop a night or two?), which is a 20-minute drive from Winchester. In any case, we recommend ending your sojourn in Eastbourne, making Beachy Head your climax. That way, your reward is Port: a fitting finale to a week or long weekend away. After nursing aching feet in your suite’s hot tub and restoring energies with a local Gun Brewery IPA or an expertly mixed espresso martini, you might fancy seeing what’s what along the waterfront.
With its domed pavilion, Eastbourne Pier is one of the more photogenic on the south coast, and although its Victorian tea room and chip shop make a decent stab at harking back to yesteryear, we’d recommend admiring it from afar – and instead turning inland, through the pedestrianised town centre towards Grove Road. Here you’ll find one of the town’s more pleasant string of shops and cafés. Turn once again towards the sea and stroll 10 minutes to the Towner Gallery, home to a collection of Eric Ravilious’ most cherished South Downs landscapes, as well as works by Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Alfred Wallis and more. If an adventurous spirit in the vein of The Famous Five grips you, seek out the mystery of Sussex’s hill figures. The Long Man of Wilmington and the Litlington White Horse are six and eight miles away, respectively.
Port Hotel is a more-than-safe bet when it comes to Eastbourne’s culinary offering, especially considering the propensity of the town’s run-of-the-mill bistros and takeaways. However, head to Grove Road for Seven Sisters gin-cured salmon with organic cucumber, lime, fennel and Nasturtium; braised ham and Black Bomber cheddar croquettes with wasabi aioli; or pan-seared Gressingham duck breast with hasselback potatoes and sautéed sweetheart cabbage at Skylark, whose high ceilings and cake-filled countertop welcome patrons from brunch to supper. And it wouldn’t be the seaside without an ice cream: head to Fusciardi’s, just two minutes’ walk from the hotel, for traditional toffee crunch or rum and raisin cones, lovingly scooped by third-generation members of the Italian family who opened the shop here in 1967.