Must-explore in West Sussex

As summer draws to a close, West Sussex takes on a whole new persona. The countryside turns golden, the seas roar and turn grey and the air crackles with fresh opportunities.
Ideal cycling and walking weather, why not plan a long route through the High Weald, a cycle on the South Downs (e-bikes also available) or a stroll through an historic high street, making the most of those precious sunny, autumnal days.

Explore the coast, harbours and rivers and spot migrant birds and wildlife. Browse independent shops and warm up in quaint cafes and characterful inns with roaring fires.
Share deliciously local seasonal food accompanied by our own Sussex Sparkling wine and create memories to last a lifetime. And be amazed at our very dark skies – at their best at this time of year.

Check out our autumn ‘must explore’ list below, so that you don’t miss out on our greatest seasonal highlights.

Chichester Harbour

Man windsurfing at Chichester Harbour

Big skies, watery landscapes and atmospheric misty mornings await you at Chichester Harbour this autumn. Come and explore by land or on the water, and you’ll discover secluded, meandering paths, windy beaches and an unexpected treasure trove of wildlife in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the south coast.

view of sunset at Pagham Harbour

RSPB’s Pagham Harbour – Just south from the hustle and bustle of Chichester, Pagham Harbour is a beautiful nature reserve and a haven for a wide range of wildlife, including a number of migrant birds like egrets, pintails and geese who come back for the winter. There are miles of quiet footpaths, perfect for a fresh and blustery walk.

Sand dunes at East Head Beach West Wittering
East Head Beach, West Wittering ©National Trust Images/David Sellman

West Wittering – There’s something atmospheric about a beach off season, less people for one thing! One of the cleanest beaches in the South of England, enjoy some watersports action or just breathe in the sea air and enjoy the spectacle, whatever the weather. There are tasty treats available at the café too.

A group of seals in Chichester Harbour

Chichester Harbour Seals – It’s impossible to forget seeing seals up this close! Bring your cameras and discover the incredible colony of over 46 seals aboard this harbour cruise. There is plenty of other wildlife to spot this autumn / winter too including oyster catchers, plovers and brent geese to name a few.

The High Weald (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty)

A treetop view of the High Weald Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty

If you’re yet to discover this archetypal English rural landscape of wooded rolling hills, fields, farms and villages you’re in for a treat. There’s a reason why the High Weald is a protected landscape and Autumn is the ideal time to explore this truly picturesque part of West Sussex. With easy access from London, you can be in the countryside in no time at all.

Here’s a couple of our favourite walking routes, which can be easily accessed from train stations from London:

Walking path at Ardingly Reservoir

Relax and unwind in Ardingly – Walk the Kingfisher Nature Trail around the eastern shores of Ardingly Reservoir just a short drive north of Haywards Heath or visit via the seven-mile circular route from Balcombe Station. Soak up the tranquil atmosphere and bring your binoculars for spotting the local birds. The Ardingly Activity Centre provides opportunities to sail, canoe and windsurf.

Two birds sitting on East Grinstead Lake

The woodlands and parklands of East Grinstead – Pack a picnic for this adventurous circular from East Grinstead Station where you’ll climb and descend through a patchwork picture of small farms, woodlands and tiny villages decorated with the golden, earthy tones of autumn. Bring a camera for the breath-taking views and some friends to share the experience. You can catch a ride on the Bluebell Railway from this station too.

Findon

View of Findon Village from Cissbury Ring

The pretty and historic village of Findon is just north of Worthing and set within the South Downs National Park, making it the ideal place to begin a weekend of exploring in West Sussex. Popular local Inns dot the high street, a welcome sight after a day out in the countryside.

View of the signpost at Cissbury Ring

Cissbury and Chanctonbury Rings – A huge 783 feet above sea level, the rings offer fantastic and far-reaching views out to sea and across the countryside. The names of these popular walking routes refer to the rings of trees planted on the remains of Iron Age Forts situated two and a half miles apart at Chanctonbury and Cissbury. A brilliant walking route connects the two and follows the crest of the South Downs Ridge, also popular among those on two wheels.

The outside of the Black Horse Inn

Black Horse – A rustic home away from home pub that offers open fires, the comfiest sofas and a great selection of ales and beers on tap. Popular with the locals, sample a Sussex sparkling wine or opt for a winter-warmer cocktail (we can recommend the negroni and amaretto sour!)

The Gun Inn at FIndon

The Gun Inn – This award-winning traditional inn on the village square has delicious food and serves up a great Sunday roast in a warm and welcoming setting. Four-legged friends are welcome here too.

Tour at Wiston Estate

Wiston Estate Tour – Heard about our Sussex sparkling wines? Come and explore this family-run estate and how their vineyards are providing a reconnection to the land. See the vines and discover the history of the ancient chalk downland.

Steyning

Tearooms on Steyning highstreet

One of the most photographed of our pretty villages – the ancient high street and timber-framed buildings of Steyning are brimming with history. Browse the independent shops and don’t miss Cobblestone Walk where you’ll find The Cobblestone Tea House, one of our favourites and a great spot to warm up in with coffee and cake. Nestled at the foot of the South Downs National Park, there are plenty of walking and cycling trails to explore too.

Downs Link

Downs Link – Shared by walkers, horse riders and cyclists, the route is great for exploring the countryside and follows the disused railway line from the coast at Shoreham north all the way through to Surrey. Pick up the trail at Steyning and meander south to the coast, passing banks of wildflowers, rivers, ponds and streams, and take in the golden woodland scenery.

The South Downs Way

South Downs Way – For a real sense of achievement, pack the rucksack, pull on your hiking boots and follows the old routes and droveways along the South Downs on this 100-mile National Trail. Full of seasonal flora and fauna, pretty villages and handy pubs, the views from the top are breath-taking. Join from Steyning or embark on the entire trail and have an adventure this autumn.

Inside view of the bar in the White Horse Steyning

The White Horse – After exploring the cobbled streets, quaint shops and brilliant views, you’ll need a spot to soak up the atmosphere. Tucked neatly in the rolling hills of the South Downs, The White Horse Smokehouse and Grill is just the spot for those looking for a quintessential country pub and an array of cellar specials.

Littlehampton

View of boats at Littlehampton

A beach in autumn is the perfect destination for lovers of peace and quiet, mild temperatures and nautical sports, so make the most of the fresh water and sea breeze whilst walking bare foot in the sand, which has proven to have many health benefits for all ages! Lovely Littlehampton has two award-winning beaches and is great for dog walking at this time of year too. The pretty town of Arundel is just up the river.

Here are some of the top spots to explore in Littlehampton:

Sunset view of The Beach Littlehampton

The Beach Littlehampton – Somewhat of a local sanctuary, The Beach is, as it implies, right on the seafront! A lively hub delivering delicious food and drink from a uniquely designed building, there are sea views from every seat in the house, and that’s not forgetting the roof terrace. Come for the vibe and the watersports including kiting, SUP and kayaking. It’s a great meeting place, rain or shine, and really is a cool seaside spot.

Kids playing at Harbour Park

Harbour Park – This family-focused amusement park is a brilliant day out for all, with indoor and outdoor activities including an arcade, indoor play area and a number of traditional rides (The Water Chute is a favourite among many!). With just a short distance to the sandy beach and several restaurants, bars and not forgetting famous fish and chips, Littlehampton is a great location for a fun-filled day of exploring with the family!

Man standing in Arundel getting ready to lead a Walking Tour

Arundel – Steeped in history, the picturesque market town of Arundel is much loved by film makers! The medieval castle closes between November and April, but there is still plenty to explore here. Full of small independent shops, tea rooms, an impressive cathedral and fascinating museum, take a walking tour to discover the behind the scenes stories!

Looking for more unmissable places to explore in West Sussex?