If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air… then you need to visit the beautiful beach and rolling dunes of Camber Sands in East Sussex.
But it’s not all about dunes and the glorious sandy beach. There are plenty of things to do in Camber Sands including a range of watersports, activities and attractions nearby. From beach days and coastal walks, to nature reserves, castles, cultural attractions and adventure activities. There’s something at Camber for everyone of all ages to enjoy.
Camber Sands is one of the best beaches in Sussex. I’ve lived nearby for years so this guide comes from one who knows the area well. After you’ve read about the best things to do in Camber Sands, scroll to the end of this article for useful information that’ll help you make the most of your visit. Parking in Camber Sands is challenging so you’ll need to know about all the options before you visit.
So, grab your beach bag, pack a picnic and get ready to explore this stunning stretch of Sussex coast.
Where is Camber Sands?
Camber Sands beach is located in East Sussex on the south coast close to the Kent border to the East and ending at the estuary of the river Rother to the West. It sits 4.5 miles South East of the charming town of Rye.
As you head west from Camber Sands you’ll come to the villages of Winchelsea, Pett Level, Fairlight and the town of Hastings in East Sussex.
Head east and you’ll find Dungeness nature reserve, Lydd and the Romney marshes which are all in Kent. Camber Sands sit east of the ancient town of Rye.
Things to do in Camber Sands
Whether you’re looking for a day at the beach or a week’s holiday that the whole family will enjoy, Camber Sands has something special in store. This guide shares all the best things to do in Camber Sands, East Sussex, what to do in the local area, further afield plus all the practical information you’ll need to visit.
Hit Camber Sands Beach
The best thing to do in Camber Sands is to spend time on its miles of soft golden sand. Camber Sands beach stretches for almost five miles of unspoiled sand, backed by dunes and with stunning views out to sea. Camber Sands is known for being one of the only sandy beaches in East Sussex.
Other Sussex beaches like Eastbourne, Brighton and Hastings are pebble or shingle beaches where sand only appears when the tide is at its very lowest. At Camber during high tide there’s always miles of sand and at low tide it gets even better with swathes of damp sand perfect for sandcastles.
Camber Sands is also home to the only sand dune system in East Sussex. They’re beautifully unspoilt and provide a natural habitat for wildlife and plants with over 250 diferent species of plants and animals found on the dunes.
The rolling dunes offer perfect picnic spots and shelter from the breeze. No BBQs are allowed in the dunes.
Camber Sands Beach Activities
Swimming and paddling: Camber Sands is great for a paddle or a swim in the sea in summer months when the weather’s calm. Scroll to the section at the end for information on tides, lifeguards and flag systems.
Kite flying: All those miles of sandy beach are perfect for kite-flying and when it’s breezy the conditions are perfect for teaching the kids to fly a kite. Just don’t let go.
Beachcombing: Look for treasure buried in the sand or shells, seaweed, driftwood and seaglass washed up on the shore. If you’re lucky you might find jewellery or a coin. If you have younger children you might want to create a treasure hunt list for them to collect.
Picnic in the dunes: The dunes are a perfect spot for spreading your picnic blanket and eating al fresco in the sunshine. If it’s breezy the long grasses will offer shelter.
Sunset strolls: My favourite thing to do at Camber Sands is a sunset stroll before heading over to the Gallivant for a sundowner or a bite to eat.
Kite Surfing and watersports at Camber Sands
If you’re looking for more of an adrenaline hit then Camber Sands can be very windy with favourable wind conditions making it one of the best kitesurfing spots in the South East.
Camber Sands has a designated area for extreme sports. There’s a kiting zone with kite launches which you’ll find at the far eastern end of the beach next to Broomhill Sands free car park.
The Kitesurf Centre is based at Broomhill Sands and offers lessons and equipment hire for kite-surfing, kite buggying, kite landboarding, windsurfing and stand up paddleboarding.
Between them all they offer all kinds of water sports activities including paddle boarding, power kiting, land boarding, wakeboarding, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing, fly-boarding, and jet skiing. This popular location for watersports is enough to keep the adrenaline buzz going for days!
Go on a RIB seal safari
A RIB tour is so much fun so take a high speed adventure on a 1 hour Rye Bay Sea Safari trip. The RIB tour zips 8-miles along the coast, past the village of Winchelsea and Fairlight Cliffs with a stop at Seal bay to watch the shiny black seals swim and frolick in the water. After 20-minutes you’ll head back to Rye Harbour.
Other RIB (rigid inflatable boat) tours are available which you can check out at Full Throttle Boat Charters.
Take a stroll around Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a beautiful spot which runs alongside the river Rother and covers 1150 acres. The reserve is a great place for bird watching and walking with miles of paths and trails. The site is a Special Protection Area for birds with over 280 different species recorded many of which are endangered.
Stroll past lagoons, areas of wetland, salt marshes and freshwater gravel-pits. There are hides for wildlife watching and plenty of flora to see. The new Rye Harbour Discovery Centre is worth a visit and a dog-friendly cafe is also on site.
Keep and eye open for ‘Little Red’ the Rye Harbour hut which has been an iconic sight since 1904.
Note: You can’t cross the river Rother from the beach to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. You’ll need to head inland to Rye Harbour where you can cross. This map of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve shows all the trails and points of special interest.
Go for a bike ride
Head a little further afield on an e-bike ride. E-Bikes are available to hire from Rye Bay E-Bikes located on Harbour Road up by Rye Harbour. The family run business offer guided or self-guided tours which include Winchelsea Beach, Pett Level and village, Lydd and Romney March. They also run wine tours to nearby vineyards so you can sample some excellent Sussex wine.
Harbour Cycles also offer bike hire from Rye Harbour Marine near the Lifeboat station. Take a bike ride around Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, see the Martello Tower and stop by Camber castle.
Visit Camber Castle
Pay a visit to Henry VIII’s historic castle which sits within Rye Harbour Nature Reserve between Rye and Winchelsea. The castle was built in 1539 as an artillery fort to protect the town of Rye from invasion by France. At the time the castle sat on the shore but by 1627 silting meant the castle became landlocked and redundant.
Camber Castle can be viewed any time from the outside from where you’ll be appreciate its unusual shape. The castle is part of English Heritage and the interior is only open for guided tours between August and October on the first Sat of the month.
Meet at the castle for tours which start promptly at 14:00 hrs. However, you can see pretty much all there is to see by peering through the gates from the outside so unless you’re particularly interested in a tour you can visit any time.
Camber Castle is only accessible by foot from the designated paths. The walk is around 1-mile long so if you’re interested in the castle tour you’ll need to factor in the walk. See map.
Guided tour is £3 for adults and free for children. Entry is free for English Heritage members. If you are visiting other English Heritage properties in the area then annual membership will save you some money. Click here to join.
Camber Sands movie locations
The beach of Camber Sands is a popular filming location. We’ve been down there to find part of the beach closed off and an aircraft wreckage in the middle of the sand.
Camber has doubled for the Sahara Desert, Dunkirk and was the location for The Monuments Men, the Invisible Woman and the Inbetweeners. George Clooney, Matt Damon and Michael Caine have been spotted whilst filming in Camber.
The nearest town to Camber is Rye which is around 4-miles away. Rye is absolutely enchanting and you should definitely make time to visit. Like stepping back into old England you’ll find pretty cobbled streets, ancient gateways, historic houses and the incredibly pretty Mermaid Street home of the infamous Mermaid Inn.
You could easily spend a whole weekend in Rye so check out our post Tips for visiting Rye and take your pick from ancient inns, independent shops, museums, National Trust properties, antique shops and views from the church tower. The cafe, tea-room and restaurant scene is great too.
Read more What to see and do in charming Rye
Sample some Sussex wines
Just outside Winchelsea to the west and around 8-miles from Camber Sands is Charles Palmer Vineyard set in the gorgeous East Sussex countryside. Head to this lovely vineyard for wine tastings or a cheese and wine experience.
For a full day experience Vine and Country wine tours will pick you up from Rye station and take you on a wine tour of two vineyards with a fabulous lunch.
So, now you know the best things to do in Camber Sands you’ll need some practical information on how to get there, parking and where to to eat and stay.
Things to do further afield
Bodiam Castle, a fairytale moated castle, is a 30-minute drive from Camber Sands
A visit to Hastings Old Town makes a fund day with plenty to do for adults and kids alike and is 35-minutes drive or take the train from Rye.
The town of Battle is a 35-minute drive away. The main attraction is Battle Abbey but the pretty market town is worth a wander too. Read more about how to plan a visit to Battle Abbey in Battle.
A visit to the weirdly fascinating landscape of Dungerness which is less than 10-miles from Camber. Drive or cycle.
How to get to Camber Sands
Camber Sands is a popular destination due to its easy accessibility from anywhere in the south east. It’s just over an hour’s drive from London and easily reached within two hours by public transport.
The beach at Camber Sands is accessed via Camber Road, which can be reached via the A259 near Rye. If you’re travelling from the north or the east, the M20 and A2070 is the fastest route. From Brighton or the west take the A27 then A259.
It’s worth noting that on hot sunny days during summer season and peak times, like school holidays, many people head to this popular Sussex beach and you could be spending a lot of time in a hot car. Take plenty of water. Rother District Council will close the roads into Camber and turn cars away if the car parks reach capacity.
Parking at Camber Sands
If you’re heading for a day at Camber Sands by car then you need to read this. Parking at Camber Sands during sunny summer days and school holidays is challenging to say the least. If you arrive after 9am you’ll be lucky to find a parking space.
There is no free parking and no on-road parking in Camber Sands. Bollards are placed along New Lydd Road with warnings of £60 fines.
As you arrive from the west into Camber Road a privately owned field offers parking for £10 per day. You’ll need to arrive early to bag a place here. This is the best it gets.
There are three Rother District Council owned car parks at various points along the back of the sand dunes and all three are payable. They include Western car par, Camber Central and Old Lydd Road.
Rother District Council are testing new parking charges for 2023 (and they’re painful) with two out of three car parks charging £30 for a day’s parking. This will be reviewed for 2024. I really hope they revise the parking charges which I feel are unnecessarily high and restrictive.
Western Car Park
Charges 1 April – 30 October (1 October – 31 March)
up to 1 hour – £3 (£1)
1-3 hours – £7 (£3)
3-6 hours £14 (5)
Over 6 hours – £18 (£6)
Free after 19:00 hrs (which is when we go!)
The car park opens at 08.30 and closes at 20:00
RingGo is available in all car parks if you don’t have cash. RingGo Codes: 15620
You’ll need to walk up and over fairly steep sandy paths to access the beach from this car park which is fine if you’re fit and able but if you have a pushchair, kids and loads of bags it will be a challenge.
Central Car Park and Old Lydd Road
Charges 1 April – 30 October
Arrival up to 3pm £30
After 3pm £15
1 October – 31 March
up to 1 hour £1
1-3 hours – £3
3-6 hours £5
Over 6 hours – £6
Free after 19:00 hrs
RingGo is available in all car parks if you don’t have cash. RingGo Codes: 15617, 15619
Central car park, the main car park, opens at 08.30 and closes at 20:00
The closest train station to Camber Sands is in Rye. High-speed trains run from London St Pancras to Ashford International with a journey time of 38 minutes. A further train to Rye takes 21 minutes. If travelling from Brighton or the west change at Hastings for Rye.
A regular bus service runs from Rye train station to Camber Sands. Look for stop B just outside the station – the bus runs every 60 minutes at two-minutes past the hour.
From Rye station you could walk or cycle along National Cycle Network Route 2 from Rye to Camber Sands. It’s 3.5 miles to the beach and will take around an hour to walk.
*** Bearing in mind the parking challenges at Camber Sands I’d recommend you arrive by train and take a bus or taxi from the train station.
Beach safety at Camber Sands
Take care when the wind is strong and be aware of tidal changes, riptides and currents. Check tide times on the Met Office website. There are also sandbanks at Camber and one step can take you unexpectedly into deep water. RNLI lifeguards will operate on Camber Sands Central beach from 10am – 6pm from Good Friday to Easter Monday. The service will then cover weekends and bank holidays from April 29 to 21 May, then daily from 27 May – 30 September.
Red and yellow flags mark where the lifeguards patrol, which is the safest part of the beach so you should swim only between these flags. Black and white checked flags mean it’s an area for watersports like kite surfing so it’s not for swimming. An orange windsock means offshore winds so inflatables should not be used. A red flag indicates danger and indicates no swimming.
You’ll find information signs on the access points to the beach which cover safety hazards and other useful beach information. It’s worth a look over or take a picture on your phone for reference.
RNLI lifeguards will operate on Camber Sands Central beach from 10am – 6pm from Good Friday to Easter Monday. Weekends and bank holidays are covered from April 29 to 21 May, then it’s daily from 27 May – 30 September.
Camber Sands beaches operate a wristband system to help locate and reunite lost children. Pick up wristbands at the coastal office or from the beach patrol.
It can get windy at Camber Sands and the breeze blows up the top layer of dry sand. Take wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes. A wind breaker on the beach is also a good idea if it’s breezy.
Facilities at Camber Sands
There are public toilets in the main car parks near to the beach with a decent number of cubicles and an accessible toilet which are regularly cleaned. I used the toilets in Western car park on my last visit and they were acceptably clean at 8pm after a busy day which had been warm and sunny. There are outside taps for rinsing off sandy feet.
There are plenty of shops, cafes and some restaurants in Camber village.
Is Camber Sands Dog Friendly?
During the winter months, dogs are allowed along the entire stretch of the beach. Between May and September dogs are allowed but must be on a lead and are restricted to particular zones on the beach. There are clear signs to show where you are allowed with your pooch. Check this map for dog friendly zones at Camber Sands.
Are BBQs allowed at Camber Sands?
Disposable barbecues are not allowed at Camber Sands.
Gas-powered BBQs on legs that are raised above the sand are permitted on the Western side of the beach. They must be removed and taken home with you. It is illegal to barbecue in the sand dunes in any way, as it poses a serious safety risk.
If you are a group of 10 or more people permission is required from Rother District Council at least four weeks in advance.
Where to eat in Camber Sands
There’s a variety of good pubs and restaurants in or near to Camber Sands. Here are some of the best places to eat in and around Camber Sands:
- The Gallivant. A good modern British menu with fresh local produce and beautifully presented dishes. Just a step away from the dunes.
- The Owl. (Owlers Beach Grill) Where the locals go to eat on Old Lydd Road in Camber. Excellent, imaginative food as well as the usual fish and chips – all using locally sourced ingredients.
- The Standard Inn, Rye. Delicious seasonal cooking in the relaxed atmosphere of a 15th century pub, complete with ancient beams.
- The Globe Inn Marsh, Rye. Another favourite Rye pub serving good quality food in a quirky setting.
Places to stay in Camber Sands
If you want to spend more time in Camber exploring nearby towns and attractions here are some great places to stay:
The Gallivant, Camber. A stylish and relaxed hotel a mere flip and a flop away from the dunes in Camber.
Owlers Retreat, Camber. A beach themed self-catering 3-bed lodge with outdoor terrace and private parking
I hope you’ve found our guide to Camber Sands useful, it makes for a lovely day out at the beach with lots to do nearby. If you have any questions about visiting just drop us a line or comment below and we’ll be happy to help.