With its remarkable history and prime position on the beautiful Kent coast, Hastings is a natural fit for day-tripping families with children in tow. Whether you’re on holiday or simply looking for new places to take the kids, the town and its immediate surroundings offer plenty of things to see and do – whatever your interests may be.
To provide inspiration for your visit to Hastings, we’ve put together a guide to the town’s primary attractions, including Hastings Aquarium and Smugglers Adventure. And in hopes of persuading more people to give the town a try, we’ve also thrown our two cents in on why we think Hastings makes the perfect day-trip destination in southeast England.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
We’re aware that people often ask Google “Is Hastings worth visiting?”. So, in answer to this, we can say that it categorically is – and for all sorts of reasons.
For starters, the history of Hastings simply can’t be ignored. Not only was this the site of one of the most formative battles in British history, but the town has played an integral role in the broader legacy of the English Channel for centuries – something that both Smugglers Adventure and Hastings Castle continue to showcase.
Then, of course, there’s the town’s remarkable location. Two hours from London, an hour from Eastbourne, and perched on one of the finest coastlines in England – Hastings is ripe for exploration whichever way you look at it. Its twin beaches of Hastings and Pelham are regarded as some of the finest swim spots on the Channel, while its historic pier, rebuilt in 2016 following a terrible fire, continues to exude the same charm that had Victorians flocking to the town in the 19th century.
Convinced by the merits of Hastings? Then let us take you on a whistle-stop tour of its must-see sights, all of which are prime for a day out with your little ones.
One of Hastings’ most unique visitor attractions; Smugglers Adventure comprises a labyrinth of ancient caves, tunnels and caverns, once used by the nefarious smugglers and buccaneers of 17th-century England. Explore the hidden passageways of St Clement’s Caves, believed to have formed as far back as the last Ice Age, and hear bloody tales of smuggling and piracy from live actors. With atmospheric lighting and life-like props, this subterranean tour promises an experience you and the children will never forget.
Built by William the Conqueror in 1067, Hastings Castle is perhaps the most tangible piece of evidence showcasing the town’s spectacular history and heritage. Erected on the site of an earlier wooden keep built by the Normans when they first reached England’s shores, the present stone structure was commissioned by William I in the immediate aftermath of the battle. Although only a ruin remains today, the castle is one of the most evocative reminders of Hastings’ history, and its ramparts are sure to capture the imagination of visitors young and old.
It’s fitting that Hastings plays host to one of southeast England’s most celebrated aquariums, the town being one of the historic Cinque Ports of medieval Europe. Bursting with marine animals of every stripe, Hastings Aquarium is comprised of six unique exhibits, each showcasing different species from across the globe. Discover the graceful rays and skates of Ray Tank, marvel at the powerful predators of the Ocean exhibit, and encounter the rare and wonderful wildlife on display in the Native Zone. Lots to see, lots to do – this is a must when visiting Hastings with children of all ages.
Hastings’ history is wrapped up in the maritime comings and goings of the English Channel, and nowhere is the town’s link to sea more evident than The Shipwreck Museum. This charming visitor centre is dedicated to showcasing artefacts from ships lost amid the precarious cliffs and shallows of the Channel, including the naval warship, Anne, and the Dutch East Indiaman, Amsterdam. Other exhibits also include a fine display of fossils found along Hastings’ ancient Cretaceous cliffs, which tell the story of when dinosaurs, not Normans, roamed these parts.
If your little ones love trains, taking them for a ride on Hastings’ twin funicular railways is definitely something to tick off the travel itinerary list in East Sussex. The fact that Hastings is home to two of the UK’s steepest and longest cliff-side railways is a real source of local pride, with the impressive West Hill Lift being the more popular of the two. With that said, for spectacular views alone, the East Hill Lift is not to be missed, offering a wonderful panorama over the surroundings. Tickets are priced at £4.20 for adults and £2.60 for kids, though family tickets are available via the official 1066 Country website.
Ready to join us for an exciting family day out in Hastings? Don’t forget that you can purchase tickets to Smugglers Adventure, Hastings Castle and Hastings Aquarium to save money and be sure of an unforgettable day out. See our ticket page for more information on the 3-in-1 Super Saver Deal.