Why go and what to do
In all honesty, I went to Worthing in West Sussex simply because it’s a short drive – almost directly south – from my home in SW London (about 1½ hours). I wanted a seaside break to look forward to in the spring but didn’t want to travel far. You can also easily get there by train (about a 2-hour journey from London Victoria). I’d never been to Worthing before and had mainly heard of it in the context of people retiring there. In fact, after I arrived a couple of friends texted me to say they knew it from their grandparents retiring to there. But gradually younger people, especially young families, are moving to the town. Nearby fashionable Brighton and Hove have become expensive and houses are more affordable in Worthing. Families are well catered for and I saw lots of brilliant play areas along the seafront as well as cafes with beach seating, making it a great destination for those with young children.
I arrived with virtually no expectations and merely the hope of weather good enough to get out and enjoy some walks along the seafront. But then, the more I learnt about it, the more I saw Worthing has quite a lot more than sea walks to offer. For a start, it’s just been named No.1 seaside town by The Times, which attributes its rise in popularity to the pandemic and ‘staycations’ – more people holidaying at home in UK. It also mentions the attraction of the new restaurants opened by BBC MasterChef winner 2018, Kenny Tutt. I visited both his restaurants and they were great, but aside from those there was a very vibrant foodie scene with artisan cafes, ice cream shops and many vegan places.
Worthing is still in its ‘improving’ stage, I think; not yet ‘gentrified’. But for me that was much of the appeal – a town full of locals, though I guess there are more visitors in season. It may be one of the biggest towns on the south coast, but it’s small enough to get round on foot easily. From my rented flat on the seafront, I could walk anywhere – restaurants, cafes, shops – in 10-15 minutes. Thus it was comfortably manageable without the need of a car or jumping on a bus.
It you’re there for longer than a weekend, you might like to venture further out. Worthing lies at the foot of the South Downs, and northern parts of the borough form part of the South Downs National Park. In the north of the borough lies the Iron Age Ring Fort of Cissbury Ring, which is managed by the National Trust. I passed it as I drove in and thought I might take a look at it one day – but I was too happy walking by the sea in the sun! Worthing is also close to Arundel, Chichester and Brighton, so a good base for exploring this part of England.
Where to stay
I rented a lovely flat overlooking the sea via Booking.com.
A friend who visited for a couple of days stayed at the Travelodge, just a few metres from my flat. Both were close to the pier, so very central. And just down the road was a Premier Inn. The seafront is mainly a series of lovely Georgian and Victorian terraces, with some new buildings, but there are of course other hotels, B&Bs and places to rent. However, depending on where you’re travelling from, I have been down that way as a day trip and certainly in the summer, if you’re looking for a beach outing, it’s a great destination.
After booking my trip to Worthing, I was delighted to discover that it has a Grade II listed Art Deco Pier – a pier easily visible from my flat’s window.
Designed by Sir Robert Rawlinson, the pier was opened to the public on 12 April 1862. Constructed of wooden decking laid on an iron framework, it was 960 feet (about 300 metres) long and 16.4 feet (5 metres) wide. It was a pier for promenaders and had seating laid along both sides. In 1884 two kiosks were added – a small souvenir shop and a toll house to collect a small entrance fee. A major reconstruction took place in 1887 as part of the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
A huge storm in March 1913 over Easter weekend battered the pier and washed away the entire centre part, leaving the south pavilion and landing stage marooned from the shore. Fortunately, rebuilding work began quickly and the pier was reopened in May 1914. The local borough of Worthing bought the pier in 1921. A new domed pavilion was built at the southern end, which opened in 1926. Another major refurbishment was made in 1958, but since then, despite a few repairs and alterations, the pier’s central structure remains much as the original did. During the Second World War, the pier was requisitioned by the military and closed to the public.
The Southern Pavilion has seen many uses, including being a night club a number of times. During WWII, it was a recreation area for the military. It is has been used as tearoom and function area, but is now temporarily closed for refurbishment. I was able to walk right up to it – but couldn’t see inside.
There’s a theatre at the northern (beach side) end.
The pier has been named Pier of the Year by the National Piers Society twice – in 2006 and 2019.
Eat & Drink
Well, going to one of Kenny Tutt’s (as mentioned above) two restaurants is a must for any foodie. And I went to both.
I went to Pitch in the centre of town on Friday night, and it was as brilliant as I’d hoped it would be. Click here for review.
The following evening I went to Tutt’s Bayside Social, which is right by the sea as the name suggests. It’s a more relaxed, all-day place and just as brilliant. Click here for review.
It you’re looking for some excellent Italian food, I had a great meal on the first night at Enzo’s Italian Restaurant. Click here for review.
I didn’t manage some simple Fish & Chips but there are quite a few places serving them. And at the weekend – and I’m told there are lots more in summer months – there were food shacks along the seafront. I had a crab sandwich at one for my lunch on Saturday; bought gifts at the Worthing Gin shack. The shacks are a great way to enjoy being by the sea with some local food.
I found a couple of great cafes too. I went for morning coffee and pastry, but they sold cooked breakfasts and had good lunchtime dishes too. Right by the beach is Coast Cafe where I met up with friends and was really good.
But my favourite – and just a 2-minutes walk from my flat – was Malt Cafe.
They do fabulous coffee and pastries but great cakes too. One afternoon I indulged in a big slice of their carrot cake!
For my post on cafes and food shacks, click here.
If you want to buy fish, there are fishmongers, but I also saw some fishing boats pulled up onto the beach selling their catch. So if you’re self-catering, that might be fun.
I was delighted to find so many great places to eat and drink in a short stay in Worthing. It’s an incredibly friendly place; I was always greeted warmly in shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s easily manageable on foot and for me a big bonus was the very long, wide promenade which stretches for miles. There were many cyclists and runners as well as those just slowly wandering along, so you can enjoy plenty of exercise at whatever pace suits you. And if all you want to do is sit and take in the sea air and enjoy the view, then there are benches all the way along at regular intervals.
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