West Sussex has a fair amount of natural wonders, historic sites and outstanding coastline, making it a great road trip destination from London. You can amble along the waterfront in the quaint seaside towns of Worthing and Bognor Regis, explore gorgeous gardens filled with roses at Wakehurst and Nymans, or bring history to life at grand edifices like Arundel Castle and Chichester Cathedral.

    Destress in West Sussex's rolling hillsides and ancient woodland, where the pace of life is slower. The county is filled with vineyards producing excellent sparkling wine, as well as snug pubs where you can try local beers. There's so much to experience that covering it all can be intimidating, so we've put together a list of the best things to do in West Sussex.


    West Wittering Beach

    A sandy beach with a Blue Flag award

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    West Wittering Beach is a broad sweep of fine white sand that slopes gently down into cobalt seas. Situated at the mouth of Chichester Harbour, the surrounding area is natural grassland and marshland where you can spot ducks, waders and terns. Flocks of brant geese come here in the winter before returning to Siberia. Keep an eye out for Solent seals that often visit the harbour.

    West Wittering Beach has plenty of open space that makes it a popular place to windsurf or kitesurf. It's also possible to snorkel or dive in the clear waters. You can swim in the ocean, stroll along the footpaths around the East Head, or build sandcastles on the beach.

    Location: Pound Rd, West Wittering, Chichester PO20 8AJ, UK

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 8.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1243 514143



    Grand country estate with formal gardens and ornamental lakes

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    Wakehurst is an offshoot of London's Kew Gardens – it has all of Kew's grandeur and panache, but spread across an expansive 500 acres. The planting is wonderfully cosmopolitan, from ginger lilies in the Himalayan Glade to eucalyptus and tea tree in the Southern Hemisphere Garden. Stroll through Bethlehem Wood for carpets of bluebells, spot birds and dragonflies in the Wetlands, or look for butterflies and badgers in the Loder Valley Nature Reserve.

    Kids will enjoy the Children's Heritage Garden, where they can dig up wooden vegetables or pot their own seed to take home. The gardens aren't just decorative – they also do vital research and conservation work at the Millennium Seed Bank, the biggest seed conservation program in the world.

    Location: Selsfield Rd, Haywards Heath RH17 6TN, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1444 894066


    Bignor Roman Villa

    Spectacular mosaics at a reconstructed Roman villa

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    The beautifully preserved mosaics of Bignor Roman Villa make it one of the UK's most impressive Roman sites. You can get close enough to touch the mosaics – the most spectacular design depicts Ganymede being carried away by an eagle. Other lovely mosaics include a sequence of 2 gladiators fighting and a figure of Medusa surrounded by a twisting mass of snakes.

    The onsite museum has a small but fascinating selection of artefacts uncovered during the dig, including Roman armour and a heavy gold ring which probably belonged to the villa's wealthy owner. Enjoy a lovely cream tea in Bignor Roman Villa’s tearoom afterwards for views of the rolling South Downs.

    Location: Bignor, Pulborough RH20 1PH, UK

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1798 869259


    photo by Poliphilo (CC0 1.0) modified


    Weald & Downland Living Museum

    Step back in time at this faithful recreation of old England

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    The Weald & Downland Living Museum recreates West Sussex villages from different centuries. Spread across 40 acres of South Downs National Park, the museum carefully preserves dozens of original houses and workshops dating back from the 14th century. Watch a 17th-century watermill grinding grain, see metalworkers in the smithy, or browse the wares in a medieval shop.

    The museum has a Tudor kitchen, where you can sample 16th-century dishes like beef and prune stew. Kids will love seeing the horses, geese and woolly-faced Southdown sheep, as well as a pair of rare Saddleback pigs. Enjoy a stroll through the surrounding wildflower meadows or check out the crops grown using medieval techniques.

    Location: Town Ln, Chichester PO18 0EU, UK

    Open: Daily from 10.30 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1243 811363


    South Downs National Park

    600 square miles of rolling hills and ancient woodland

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    The South Downs National Park is crossed by one of its oldest walking trails – the South Downs Way has been in use since the Neolithic. Walking or cycling its 100-mile path will take you past pretty villages, Iron Age hillforts, Roman remains, and wildflower meadows full of orchids and butterflies. Paddle along the River Arun to spot otters swimming or discover wetland birds on a boat safari.

    Vineyards around here produce exceptional sparkling wines thanks to chalky soils similar to the Champagne region, so don't leave without visiting a tasting room or two. The park is also a dark sky reserve, which means on clear nights, you get a sensational view of the Milky Way.

    Location: North St, Midhurst GU29 9DH, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1730 814810


    Worthing Pier

    Award-winning Victorian pier for strolling or afternoon tea

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    Worthing Pier dates back to the 19th century, featuring an elegant Victorian design with excellent views of the English Channel. Amble along its wooden boards and admire boundless views of chalk cliffs and the English Channel. An elegant art deco pavilion at the end of the pier serves ice cream and afternoon tea. At the other end, the Pavilion Theatre hosts fairs, craft markets and evening performances.

    Fishing is allowed on the landing stage and in some areas of Worthing Pier, and you might catch bass, mackerel or whiting. If that's too sedate for you, head for the amusement arcade in the middle of the pier and have a go on the retro pinball and slot machines.

    Location: 3AJ, Marine Parade, Worthing, UK

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1903 238977



    Romantic gardens surrounding a picturesque ruin

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    Visit a quaint, rose-filled English garden at Nymans, whose ornamental gardens are a haven of tranquillity. Explore the mysterious bamboo jungle, enjoy the heavenly scent of the Rose Garden, and discover plants from as far afield as China, Chile and Tasmania in the Wall Garden. There's also a children's play area with balance beams and a roundhouse, lots of fun topiary sculptures, and a croquet lawn.

    A devastating fire ravaged the estate's main house in 1947, leaving it as a dramatic Gothic ruin backing the gardens. A small part was restored and now displays some of the house's beautiful furniture and books. The attached woodland has an attractive lake and lots of wildlife-spotting opportunities from its bird hides.

    Location: Staplefield Rd, Handcross, Haywards Heath RH17 6EB, UK

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1444 405250


    Fishbourne Roman Palace

    Biggest collection of Roman mosaics in the UK

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    Fishbourne Palace is the largest Roman house in Britain, an opulent residence built around 75 AD. It's renowned for its arresting floor mosaics, the most magnificent of which depicts a cupid astride a dolphin and surrounded by seahorses. You can also view the original hypocaust, which provided the villa with underfloor heating, and the foundations of the luxurious bathhouse.

    The original Roman gardens have been painstakingly recreated with Roman vegetables and herbs used for cooking or medicine. The museum displays some of the dig's remarkable finds, including jewellery, personal items, and a marble bust of Emperor Nero as a child. Finish your visit at the onsite cafe with a tempting slice of cake.

    Location: Roman Way, Chichester PO19 3QR, UK

    Open: Mid-February–March and October–November: daily from 10 am to 4 pm. April–September: daily from 10 am to 5 pm. December– mid-February: Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 3 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1243 785859


    Chichester Cathedral

    Soaring Gothic arches paired with intriguing modern art

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    Chichester Cathedral is a majestic landmark dating back to the 11th century. The church is the jewel in the crown of this historic market town, where you can see 12th-century carvings of religious scenes decorating its interior, along with an elaborate 15th-century screen. Other treasures to search out include a section of ancient Roman mosaic tile, the free-standing medieval bell tower, and a modern stained-glass window designed by artist Marc Chagall.

    Composer Gustav Holst is buried here, as are several generations of the Dukes of Richmond. Drop by the Bishop's Palace Garden for tranquil walkways through beds of native plants. The Cloisters Cafe offers tasty homemade cakes with your tea or coffee, while an onsite gift shop sells books, souvenirs, and unique jewellery by local designers.

    Location: Chichester PO19 1PX, UK

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 7.15 am to 6.30 pm, Sunday from 7.15 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1243 782595


    Devil's Dyke

    The deepest and longest dry valley in the UK

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    This plunging valley formed during the last Ice Age offers magnificent panoramas of the South Downs and the Weald. Legend has it that the devil dug the valley in an attempt to drown the pious churchgoers of the Weald. Some of the tracks are over 2,000 years old, and the ramparts of an Iron Age fort are still visible on the hill.

    Along with many ancient footpaths to explore, there are cycle routes for both experienced cyclists and novices. The valley's chalk downland is carpeted with colourful wildflowers which attract dozens of species of butterfly. Stop at the Devil's Dyke Pub for a classic British menu with splendid views of the dyke from the beer garden.

    Location: Devil's Dyke Rd, Brighton BN1 8YJ, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)344 800 1895

    Victoria Hughes | Contributing Writer

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