Since moving to Sussex, Littlehampton has become my happy place, where I go every time I want to enjoy some beach time. I love getting here early in the morning and spending the entire day either enjoying the beach, having lunch at one of the cute cafes in town or on the seafront, or strolling along the nature reserve to see if I can spot the birds that are nesting. I love that the beach in Littlehampton is long and wide, with sand and shingles. It’s hard to find this type of beach close to London. I also like that there are plenty of things to do in Littlehampton, whether you’re in town for a day, or a week.
Where is Littlehampton and How to Reach it
Littlehampton is located 23 miles West of Brighton and 7 miles East of Bognor Regis. The easiest way to get to Littlehampton from London is by train. There are hourly direct trains from London Victoria station that reach Littlehampton in less than two hours. You can also take a train from London Bridge, but you would need to change at Gatwick Airport station.
The train station in Littlehampton is a 10 minute walk from the beach.
If you drive from London, it takes around 2 hours to reach Littlehampton.
Where to Park in Littlehampton
Even in high season, I never struggle to find a parking space in Littlehampton because I usually get here quite early. There are quite a few large car parks along the sea front, but they are expensive (around £3/hour). If you want to park just opposite the beach, check out West Green Car Park, Banjo Road Car Park, East Green Car Park or The Wall Car Park.
I usually park a bit further along, where there are plenty of free parking spaces on the road.
Things to do in Littlehampton:
Sunbathe on the East Beach
Littlehampton has one of the most beautiful beaches close to London. It’s long, wide and partly sandy when the tide is out, with plenty of space for everyone to sunbathe without being too close to each other. Along the beach there are some cafes, an amusement park, and a long paved promenade which goes all the way to Rustington.
The East Beach in Littlehampton is patrolled by lifeguards during the summer. It is a safe beach for families, but do be aware of the strong current running close to the pier. There are signs prohibiting swimming here.
You can really notice the tide movement on Littlehampton beach, as the water retreats quite far at its lowest point.
Enjoy the Wilderness of the West Beach
West Beach is a good 20 to 30 minute walk from the centre of Littlehampton. If you come by car, you can park at the West Beach Parking for £8 (over two hours) or £10 (between July and August). I do enjoy the walk to here because it passes by some really interesting places and offers different perspectives of Littlehampton.
The West Beach is a long, wide beach, perfect to sunbathe or walk along, depending on the weather. It is a pebbled beach, but at low tide, you can walk on the sandy seafloor. There are plenty of things to do around West Beach, which I will tell you about a bit further along.
The West beach is home to one of the only three sand dune systems in West Sussex. It’s catered for by a small café which sells sandwiches, hot snacks and drinks.
Take the Ferry to the West Beach (in Summer Only)
During the high season there is a ferry that crosses the Arun river, connecting the East Beach with the West Beach. The pontoon boat used is unique in the UK because it was built and shipped from America. It has a capacity for 12 people plus crew, and as well as the river crossings, it can also be hired for harbour trips or sailings to Arundel.
The crossing costs £2 for adults and £1 for children. Well behaved dogs are also accepted on board. Please note that you can only pay with cash on board, as they don’t have a POS.
Walk the Historical Rope Walk
To get to West Beach, from Littlehampton, you have to stroll along the Historical Rope Walk. Flanked by a shipyard on the left hand side, this narrow road has many stories to tell, if you stop to look for them. Rope Walk got its name from the glory days of sailing, when each ship needed 20 miles of rope to support the masts. To make the rope for rigging, men would have to walk up and down up to 15 miles a day!
The first ferry to link the West and East side of the river Arun was open in 1825. It was a wooden barge pulled by underwater heavy chains. By the end of the 19th century locals felt the need to build a bridge over the river. However, this was not very popular with the boatyard workers, who refused to pay a bridge toll fee and continued to cross the river in small rowing boats. The original toll bridge booth is now in the Amberley Museum, which is a great place to see to if you decide to visit Arundel.
At the end of the Rope Walk you will find the Canadian Village. During the second World War, this was used as a base for the Canadian troops who manned the air and sea rescue operations launched from Littlehampton harbour. Today, the site is now known as “Riverside” and is composed of private bungalows.
Take a Peek at Littlehampton Fort
Whilst you can’t yet visit the Littlehampton Fort, you can see it from the boardwalk between the sand dunes, behind a fence. Littlehampton Fort was the first Palmerston Fort built in 1854, as an experimental fortification to replace a gun battery, and to protect England’s coastline.
The lessons learned by building Littlehampton fort contributed to developing Fort Nelson, one of five defensive forts built on the summit of Portsdown Hill in the 1860s, overlooking Portsmouth Naval Base. Visiting Fort Nelson is free of charge, but tickets must be pre-booked in advance.
After the second World War, the fort was left in disrepair and slowly, over the years, the vegetation took over. Today, the fort is covered by sand and vegetation. There is a team of volunteers clearing the remains of the fort, and working to restore it.
Spot Oystercatchers at the West Beach Nature Reserve
There are quite a few inhabitants in the West Beach Nature Reserve, living together in a perfect ecosystem. The Nature Reserve includes quite a few different habitats. River Arun, which is one of the fastest tidal rivers in England, is home to plaice, sole, flounders and shore crabs. If you sit on one of the benches along the Littlehampton pier, you can see cormorants diving into the water to find their dinner.
The Vegetated Shingle along the sand dunes is a very rare habitat, home to the Yellow Horned Poppy and the Sea Kale. The sand dunes themselves are home to a very rare endangered species, the Sand Lizard.
The Sand Flats, which occurs because of the tide, is another unique habitat, home to different molluscs and lungworms. When the tide is low, you can see Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers looking for their dinner in the sand.
The last but not least habitat in the West Beach Nature Reserve is the sea itself, with another world of wildlife in its waters.
Enjoy Fish and Chips on the Beach
There are quite a few places along Littlehampton Pier and the promenade, where you can buy fish and chips to enjoy on the beach.
Last year, I actually spent my birthday having fish and chips on Littlehampton beach. As we were still under heavy restrictions and restaurants were closed, I was lucky to be able to get a fish and chips take away and enjoy it on the beach, in the sunshine. I don’t have fish and chips very often, but when I go to the beach, I feel that it’s a must. And in Littlehampton, you are spoiled for choice, with fresh fish that’s caught and delivered to the restaurants every morning.
Take a Stroll to Rustington
Rustington is a village located at the midpoint of the West Sussex Coast, between Brighton and Chichester. It is much quieter than Littlehampton, even during the busy summer months.
It takes around half an hour to walk from Littlehampton to Rustington, along the promenade or on the seashore if the tide is low. The further away you go from Littlehampton, the less people you will see on the beach.
Rustington is a great place for kitesurfing due to its privileged position for winds coming from the South-West of the English Channel. So, if you’re a fan of this water sport, this is a great place to practice. There is a new water sports centre being built on East Beach, opposite Mewsbrook Park, from where you will be able to rent equipment and book lessons.
Check Out the Long Bench
One curiosity on Littlehampton’s promenade is the Long Bench, a project that took inspiration from the children at the local school. The result is a fun bench that loops and slides along the promenade, able to seat 300 people at the same time.
The 1,000-foot-long bench has hundreds of special messages on its slats. Anyone can buy a slat and engrave it with a special message, through the wood department at the Aldingbourne Country Centre, a charity which supports and helps people with learning and physical disabilities to gain independence.
Take Photos of the Beach Huts
As with every other respectable English beach destination, Littlehampton has some cute beach huts just outside the city centre. They are all owned by the city council and are let out on an annual lease to locals. Whilst you can’t rent a beach hut in Littlehampton when you visit on a day trip from London, you can still take photos of them and hope someone will invite you to join their beach luncheon.
Have Fun in the Harbour Park
Harbour Park is an amusement park located on the seafront, mostly aimed at families with young children. Due to the pandemic, I have never actually seen it open, but I peaked through the gates and saw a small rollercoaster and a purple octopus ride. I would’ve loved to get on that when I was a child. At the entrance to the park is an ice cream shop and a gift hut.
Littlehampton has not one but two mini golf courses, each themed differently.
The Sharkville Adventure Golf is located on top of a hill, just next to the Harbour Park. It is suitable for the entire family, with multiple club sizes available for children.
Buccaneer Bay is a pirate themed mini golf course, designed to make you feel that you are on a corsair ship, surrounded by barrels, cannons and treasure chests.
Have Lunch at the East Beach Café
East Beach Café is a modern restaurant located on the promenade, which has an innovative fresh fish menu.
The building in which the café is located is a work of art in itself, designed by Thomas Heatherwick. It represents a “shingle” among the shingles on the beach, with the idea of a smooth integration of the building in nature.
Stroll Along the Littlehampton Pier
Every time I come to Littlehampton, there is something to discover on the pier. Last time I was here, someone tied up small hearts with encouragement notes on them, all along the railing. This is a very popular spot for locals to fish, or for families with children to practice crabbing.
Don’t miss the “recipe boards”, which you can find on the pier and along the river path. You might get inspired, buy some fresh fish from the Riverside Fishmonger to cook when you get home. Could you find them all?
Visit the Littlehampton Museum
I always thought that before visiting a place, we should make an effort and learn more about its history, to try and better understand where we are. And there is no better place to do this than the local museum.
At the Litthemapton Museum you can see an archaeological collection of artefacts from the Bronze, Iron and Roman ages. There is also a collection of fossils, found along the coastal area. The museum tells the story of a small fishing village that grew to become an important industrial port and a sought-after beach destination from the Roman times, through the Victorian era, to the present day.
The entrance to the Littlehampton Museum is free of charge.
If you are interested in the local maritime history, which by the way is pretty amazing, the Littlehampton Look and Sea Centre is the place to go. This educational centre offers interactive experiences and it’s a great place to visit with curious children.
With a strong shipbuilding heritage flourishing in the 19th century, Littlehampton soon gained its reputation as being the home of shipbuilding on the south coast. In 1851, one in five men who lived in Littlehampton were employed in the shipping or shipbuilding industries.
You can find all about it at the Look and Sea Centre, which also has some amazing views from the top tower.
Check Out the Oyster Pond
Oyster Pound is a very small, round shaped lake, just off the beach. It’s popular with locals who have picnics around it, or hire pedalo boats on sunny days.
Hire a Pedalo Boat at Mewsbrook Park
Should you have enough of the beach and want some shade, go to Mewsbrook Park, where you can rent a pedalo boat and try to spot the wildlife living on the small lake.
An interesting thing about the lake in Mewsbrook Park is that it was originally built as a flood relief solution. As well as renting a pedalo boat shaped like a dragon, you can also ride the miniature railway during the high season.
Explore the Town Centre
Littlehampton centre reminded me of my previous hometown, Poole. On the High Street you will find most of the usual brands, but also a few independent shops. There are a few supermarkets and small take away shops, where you can buy snacks or hot meals.
Keep your eyes open though, as there are quite a few quirky things to see in Littlehampton. Like this house in the photo above, for example. The more you look at it, the more unusual things you will notice about it. Have you spotted the “ghost” from the top floor?
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