Rye and Camber Sands Beach, East Sussex: An Easy Day Trip from London

Do you want to explore medieval streets and walk amongst windswept sand dunes? Visit Rye and Camber Sands beach, two beautiful destinations for the price of one easy day trip from London.

Featuring meandering winding cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses, Rye is one of England’s best-kept secrets. The sand dunes of nearby Camber Sands beach rival those in more exotic locations.

In this guide, I will walk you through how to visit Rye and Camber Sands by train from London, the best things to do when you are there and how to get from Rye to Camber Sands beach. If you fancy extending your time here, I’ve also included a few recommendations for places to stay.

half timbered houses on street in rye

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Where are Rye and Camber Sands Beach in England?

Rye and Camber Sands are located in the county of East Sussex on the South Coast of England, close its border with Kent. As the crow flies, Rye is around 53 miles from London.

How to get to Rye from London

As Camber Sands does not have a railway station, Rye is the main transport hub if you are arriving by train.

Getting to Rye by train

The journey time from London St Pancras International to Rye is just over one hour. Change trains at Ashford International.

You can check train times here.

Arriving by car

With a fair wind, it will take you around 90 minutes to drive from London to Rye via the A20 and M20. To reach Camber Sands beach, continue on the A259 from Rye. 

PARKING IN RYE

Rye has a number of public car parks as well as pay-and-display on-street parking (maximum two-hour stay). It can get busy, especially at weekends, so arrive early.

PARKING IN CAMBER SANDS

There are council-run car parks in Camber Sands at the following locations:

  • Camber Central  (TN31 7RH)
  • Old Lydd Road (TN31 7RH)
  • Western Car Park (TN31 7RB)

These are all pay-and-display (RingGo is also available).

How To Get from Rye to Camber Sands Beach

If you don’t have a car, you have three options for travelling between Rye and Camber Sands: cycle, walk or take a local bus. Following directions provided by Rye’s Tourist Information Office, I walked to Camber Sands and took the bus back to Rye.

Walk from Rye to Camber Sands Beach

Pick up National Cycle Network Route 2 from the centre of Rye, which will take you all the way to Camber Sands. The walk should take you around an hour.

It’s not the most picturesque walk I’ve ever taken but is nice enough, with views of Northpoint Water and Rye Bay and lots of curious sheep.

sheep on wlak between rye and camber sands

Taking the bus from Camber Sands to Rye

Bus 102 will bring you to Rye from Camber Sands in 20 minutes. Buses run every hour.

Expect to pay between £3 and £4 for a one-way ticket. If you are travelling to Rye by train it is cheaper to buy a PlusBus ticket.

A Brief History of Rye, England

Much of the things that you see in Rye today are thanks to its rich, and sometimes colourful, history of maritime conflict and smugging.

In medieval times, it was part of the Cinque Ports confederation, a group of maritime towns in Kent and East Sussex established to furnish ships and men for the king’s service. At this time, Rye was almost entirely surrounded by the sea and remained this way until the 16th Century.

As the town’s Rye’s economy began to decline, fishing and particularly smuggling started to thrive, encouraged by the imposition of taxes on goods in 1301. Wool, cloth, hides, gold and silver were popular commodities.

GETTING OFF SCOT-FREE

in the 13th Century, Rye was prone to flooding and a tax, called a “scot”, was introduced for people living in the lower town to pay for flood protection. However, those living on higher ground were not affected by flooding and did not have to pay this tax, hence the term “getting off scot-free.”

Best Things to Do in Rye, East Sussex

Rye is the type of town that sets your imagination on fire.

Perched on a hill above the River Rother it has been a source of inspiration for writers and artists. It was once home to Henry James and Conrad Aitken. Other notable residents include Mapp and Lucia author E.F. Benson, John Ryan who created the Captain Pugwash stories, and Spike Milligan.

Immerse yourself in the history and beauty of Rye by walking in the footsteps of kings & queens, sailors & merchants, authors & artists, not to mention smugglers and murderers.

1. Learn more about Rye’s history at the Heritage Centre

There’s no better way of starting your day in Rye than by learning more about its history. This will help put what you will see into context.

Rye Heritage Centre explores over 750 years of its history and includes the “Story of Rye”, a 15-minute sound and light show featuring a scale model of the town.

The Heritage Centre is adjacent to Rye Tourist Information Centre on Strand Quay, five minutes walk from the train station. The Tourist Information Centre can provide maps and lots of valuable local information.

2. Wander along Mermaid Street

With its Georgian townhouses and timber-framed Tudor houses lining steep cobbled streets, Rye is straight out of casting central as a ‘quaint English town’.

Starting from the train station, slowly make your way uphill to Mermaid Street, keeping your eyes peeled for the names on some of the buildings – The House with Two Front Doors’, ‘The House Opposite’ and ‘The House with the Seat’.

wonky-houses-in-cobbled-street-in-rye
Mermaid St, Rye

3. Have a drink in a haunted inn

If you have time, take a break at the Mermaid Inn, which dates from 1156. A stronghold of the infamous 18th Century Hawkhurst gang of smugglers – it’s said that their ghosts haunt the inn – it is laced with secret tunnels.

4. Walk through Rye’s Landgate Arch

Your Rye walk will eventually lead you to Landgate, the sole survivor of two stone gates built in the 14th Century to (unsuccessfully) defend Rye from French invaders.

old-city-gate-in-rye
Landgate, Rye

5. Visit St Mary’s Church, Rye

The spiritual centre of Rye for more than 900 years, St Mary’s Church has one of the oldest functioning church turret clocks in England.

For a small fee, you can climb the tower to see the clock mechanism and the bells. But you also get a panoramic view of Rye and the East Sussex countryside.

graveyard in front of church in rye
stained glass in window of church in rye

The church is daily from 9 am until 5.30 pm (hours may be shortened in the winter months).

6. Visit Rye Castle Museum & Ypres Tower

The exhibits in these two small museums, situated a short walk apart, tell the history of Rye, its inhabitants and the surrounding area.

Admission to the Rye Castle Museum is free, and it is open on weekends only from April to October.

Ypres Tower is open 7 days a week throughout the year. A small admission fee applies.

7. Visit the home of Henry James

Between 1898 and 1914, the author Henry James lived in ”dear old Lamb House.” From here he penned his last three novels: The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904).

This Grade II-listed Georgian house is run by the National Trust as a museum. It is open from Friday – Tuesday in the summer months.

8 Go shopping in Rye, England

I’m not an enthusiastic shopper, but even I was drawn to Rye’s shops. In this age of globalisation and homogeneity, it’s a delight to wander around small independent stores.

Strand Quay is stuffed with antique shops, up-cycled furniture shops and vintage stores. Art galleries displaying work by local artists are a testament to the town’s thriving art scene.

cobblestone street lined with half-timbered houses in rye
purple and cream flowers in front on buildings in street in rye

9. Down a pint in Rye’s award-winning microbrewery

With all of this sightseeing in Rye, you will have worked up a thirst. There’s no better place to quench this than at Rye Waterworks Micropub.

Situated in a historic building that was originally a water pump house, this Soth East Sussex’s first micropub to open in South East Sussex. This family business serves eight local ales, two keg beers and twelve local ciders along with a selection of wines, gins & soft drinks.

10. Go wildlife spotting at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Set in an exceptional coastal and wetland landscape, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve supports a vast number of species – 4,355 at the last count – including many considered to be rare or endangered. From dragonflies to butterflies, chiffchaffs to willow warblers, there’s something to see throughout the year.

To reach this 465-hectare reserve, walk along Harbour Road which runs alongside the River Rother.

11. Visit Rye Harbour Discovery Centre

Opened in 2021, the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre features information about the wildlife reserve, exhibitions, events, a cafe and a shop. 

Designed by award-winning architects Simpson & Brown, the building has been designed to be as sustainable as possible:  locally sourced sweet chestnut cladding, natural light and ventilation, solar roof panels and air-sourced heat pumps.

From the centre, there are great views over the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, which boasts close to three different habitats – grassland, saltmarsh and shoreline – plus a birdwatching hide. 

The Discovery Centre is usually open daily from 10 am – 4 pm.

12. Take a tour of Camber Castle

Located between Rye and Winchelsea, Camber Castle was built by Henry VIII to guard the port of Rye. From Rye, it’s a pleasant one-mile walk along footpaths (there’s no vehicular access).

Although you can admire the exterior for free at any time, visiting the interior is by guided tour only for a modest fee. Check the times and cost here.  

Visiting Rye, England: Frequently Asked Questions

Does Rye have a beach?

Rye is located two miles from the beach at Camber Sands. You can walk from Rye to Camber Sands beach, or it’s a quick journey by car or local bus.

What day is Rye market on?

Rye market takes place in Rope Walk every Thursday from 7 am.

Things to Do at Camber Sands Beach

Camber Sands looks like it shouldn’t belong in Southern England. Featuring seven miles of unspoilt, golden beach and rolling fine sand dunes, it has been the setting for many films, including that British ‘classic’ Carry On Camel.

The sandiest, and therefore most popular, section of the beach is the western end, nearest to Rye. As you walk east along the beach it transitions into shingle.

Let’s take a look at the best things to do at Camber Sands beach. There’s something for everyone.

1. Walk along Camber Sands Beach

Much of the joy of visiting Camber Sands comes from strolling along its golden sands, listening to the sound of the gently rolling waves. But do check the tide times.

Buy a tide table or check Magic Seaweed for daily tide times to plan your day.

I visited at low tide and it was close on a mile to the water’s edge. However, this creates a wonderful open space laced with gently rippling pools and streams and perfect conditions for seashell collecting.

But you don’t want to be caught unawares when the tide comes in, which it does at pace!

Even on a glorious day, Camber Sands can be windy. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

camber sands beach at low tide
Camber Sands beach at low tide

2. Go for a paddle (or swim)

With multiple streams created at low tide, Camber Sands is a wonderful place to dip your toe in the water.

As long as the wind isn’t too strong, the sea is generally safe for swimming. However, there are a few potential hazards that you need to be aware of.

As well as those fast-rising tides, watch out for sandbanks under the water. These result in sudden increases in water depth, taking you from waist to shoulder depth in the blink of an eye.

3. Beachcomb for semi-submerged treasures

Channel your inner child by grabbing a stick and rooting for hidden gems along the tideline.  

Camber Sands is one of the best places in the UK for beachcombing. So keep your eyes peeled for pretty seashells, lost coins or even a message in a bottle.

4. Picnic amongst the sand dunes

sand dunes at camber sands

Shelter from the wind amongst the grassy sand dunes, open your picnic basket and have a seaside feast.

Mercifully free from the tourist hordes descending on places like Brighton and Bournemouth, there should be no problem finding a peaceful spot on Camber Sands beach. All that remains to do is to open a bottle of chilled wine and settle back with your favourite novel.

5. Try your hand at kitesurfing

If you are feeling more adventurous, Camber Sands is one of the best places in England to learn how to kitesurf.

The Kitesurf Centre will supply you with all the gear and show you the ropes. Rye Watersports also offers one or two-day kitesurfing courses.

Other things to do at Camber Sands to get your adrenaline pumping include paddle boarding, power kiting and kite landboarding.

6. Take a RIB Adventure

If you really want to increase your pulse rate, take to the waters in a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat), which is a powerful and very fast small boat.

A RIB Tour operated by Full Throttle Boat Charters will bounce you along the East Sussex coastline near Camber Sands. Perhaps do this before you tuck into your beach picnic.

The same company also offers more sedate seal safaris.

Both boat tours depart from Rye Harbour.

7. Enjoy fine dining at The Gallivant

Is there a more perfect end to a summer day at Camber Sands than a wonderful meal overlooking the grassy sand dunes?

The Gallivant is a multi-award-winning restaurant that offers a fine-dining experience with a local twist. Expect seasonal dishes like grilled Sussex asparagus, Rye Bay silver mullet and local artisan cheese, washed down by English wine.

broad sand beach with tidal pool leading to grassy sand dune at camber sands beach
broad sand beach with ripples and tidal pools

Visiting Camber Sands Beach: Frequently Asked Questions

Are there lifeguards on Camber Sands beach?

RNLI lifeguards patrol Camber Sands beach between 10 am and 6 pm during the summer months (from May to October).

Are there toilets at Camber Sands beach?

There are limited public toilet facilities at the main Camber Car Park, close to the beach.

Are there showers at Camber Sands beach?

Foot showers only are available at Camber Sands.

Is Camber Sands dog-friendly?

Dogs are not permitted in zoned areas between 1 May and 30 September. More information here.

Can you have a barbeque on the beach?

Only gas-powered barbeques that are raised off the sand are allowed on Camber Sands beach. Disposable, wood or coal barbecues are not permitted.

No barbeques are permitted on the dunes for safety reasons.

If there are more than ten people in your group, you will need to seek permission from the Neighbourhood Services Office at least four weeks before you visit Camber Sands beach.

seabirds in rockpools on large sandy beach at camber sands beach

Where to Stay in Rye and Camber Sands Beach

Although Rye and Camber Sands is an easy day trip from London, why not stretch your visit into a mini-break? Here are a few places that I have found that look great for an overnight stay.

Hayden’s B&B, Rye

This bed & breakfast in the centre of Rye looks amazing and has garnered rave reviews for its rooms, breakfast and hospitality.

Mermaid Inn, Rye

Or why not stay in the historic Mermaid Inn which offers boutique-style accommodation and an award-winning restaurant?

Beach Lodge, Camber Sands

This modern, static self-catering lodge in Camber Sands’ Holiday Park couldn’t be in a more perfect location. It’s not cheap but accommodation close to the beach is not plentiful and comes at a premium.

Where to Eat in Rye and Camber Sands

Whether you are looking for a traditional tea room or dinner in an atmospheric setting, there is no shortage of good places to eat in Rye.

Considered to be the best restaurant in town, Landgate Bistro serves locally-sourced food with a classic or modern twist.

If you are in the mood for fish and chips, head to Marino’s Fish Restaurant & Takeaway, located on 37 The Mint, Rye.

Apart from The Gallivant, your dining options are more limited at Camber Sands beach.

The Owl serves excellent pub meals in a convivial setting.

Alternatively, Rye Bay Bar & Grill serves burgers and the like, just a stone’s throw from the dunes. It is located at 1 Royal William Square Old Lydd Road, Camber Sands.

Are Rye and Camber Sands Worth Visiting?

Rye & Camber Sands beach is one of the best day trips from London

For good reasons, Rye is considered to be one of the prettiest towns in England. Instead of the vanilla chain stores found on many high streets, you’ll find independent shops, historic pubs and a handful of good restaurants.

The sand dunes of Camber Sands beach rival those of more exotic locations.

Furthermore, it is easy to visit Rye and Camber Sands in one day. That said, stay overnight for a more relaxing break, perhaps using Rye as a base to visit the historic towns of Hastings and Battle.

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