Most people think of the South East of England as London. But there’s a lot more to it than just a big city and there are incredible things to do and see in South East England.
The South East, in fact, has open countryside, coastline, ocean cities, rolling hills, forests and plenty to keep you busy on a camping holiday, including a huge choice of campsites. Go quirky in a glamping tipi or mainstream at any number of brilliant family friendly holiday parks. Or just go camping, the old fashioned way at an out of the way oasis. It’s up to you!
And while you are here? Well you might just want to take a day out to enjoy one of our top ten of the best things to see and do in the South East of England.
10 Best Things to Do and See in South East England
1. Wildlife spotting in the New Forest
The New Forest was named by William the Conqueror as his new favourite place to go hunting after he took over at the helm in 1066. He loved its beauty and the variety of wildlife on offer. Thankfully he wasn’t a very good aim (despite the stories) and so much of it has been preserved today, which means it’s a great place to look for butterflies, reptiles, deer and the ubiquitous New Forest Pony. The forest today comprises of 300 square miles of impossibly beautiful woodland and open moorland where you can walk, cycle or explore on horseback. There are also 43 miles of coastline, a world class motor museum at Beaulieu and wildlife parks, zoos and reserves. Perfect for finding out about the habitats before setting out on your own. And the best thing? You can stay right in the forest with Campsited. There are a number of campsites that will give you direct access to the forest.
2. SUP London
It would be impossible to write a top ten things to do in the South East of England and not include London, so we have. But, as campers, we expect a different perspective on life. So we have decided to include a new way to see the city that we guarantee you won’t have done before. SUPing (or Stand Up Paddleboarding) is a new sport that’s helping to open up waterways around the world like never before. And you can do it with Active 360, an SUP training company, at 4 locations in the capital, including on the Thames. How exciting is that? You’ll be the coolest campers in the city when you take to the waterways under your own steam!
3. Walk to Blakeney Point, Norfolk
A visit to Norfolk, or, more precisely Cley, offers fantastic opportunities for great camping and lots of brilliant exploring. But what we’re focussing on here is a walk out to see one of Norfolk’s natural treasures, England’s largest seal colony at Blakeney Point. It is possible to take guided trips by boat from Morston Quay (and get a closer look) but the more energetic might prefer to step out on to the reserve and visit on foot. Along the way you’ll get to see the areas rich wildlife, the important populations of rare and vulnerable ground nesting birds such as Ringed Plovers and Little Terns. So bring your binoculars!!! Bring a packed lunch too – the walk is 7 miles from start to finish.
4. Dream on at Dreamland, Margate
Thrill seekers and lovers of the retro will be flocking to Dreamland for an authentic British holiday experience like no other. Dreamland has always been described as ‘the heartbeat of Margate’ and was once one of the UK’s favourite attractions. However, it fell into disrepair, closed and was about to be flattened until the locals decided to save it.
Happily it has now been restored to its former glory as a unique destination offering the very best and most authentic British holiday park experience. How could you not love a go on the dodgems, a flight on the Ferris wheel, a slide down the helter skelter or a skate at the retro roller room? Kiss me quick and jump aboard the UK’s oldest rollercoaster, the scenic railway, now fully restored. Fantastic!
5. See the spires on an Oxford walking tour
You thought Oxford was all about dreaming spires and punting on the Cherwell, right? It can be if you want it to be, but we’d recommend getting to the heart of this magnificent (and compact) city by booking a private walking tour.
The best thing about these types of tours is that you can choose the subject of the tour and search out your very own Oxford. That could be Morse’s Oxford, Harry Potter’s Oxford, the Oxford of Downton Abbey or Tolkein and CS Lewis’ Oxford. And it doesn’t end there…Oxford has many faces and there’s even a tour devoted to the city’s gargoyles and grotesques!
6. Join the Hell Fire Club, High Wycombe
The Hell Fire Club was once a gentleman’s club devoted to earthly pleasures. It was formed in the 18th century by Sir Francis Dashwood and, perhaps unsurprisingly, comprised of MPs, poets, painters, Lords and the ‘great and the good’.
They created mock ceremonies and enjoyed raucous nights at a series of manmade caves cut into the Buckinghamshire chalk at Sir Francis’ home.
Today you can visit the caves and find out how figures such as Sir William Hogarth and Benjamin Franklin made their entrances at the table of Sir Francis. The caves are over a quarter of a mile long and include a banqueting hall, a miner’s cave and an Inner Temple that can be reached by crossing the River Styx. Spooky. Oh yes, it’s haunted.
7. Get arty in Bexhill-on-Sea
Bexhill-on-Sea might not be the first place you think of for a cultural visit but it should be! In times of late Bexhill has enjoyed something of a renaissance, thanks partly to the restoration of the fabulous De La Warr Pavillion, a Grade 1 listed Modernist building (Britain’s first).
Now it’s one of the most significant centres for contemporary art in the South East of England and a must see when you are camping in East Sussex.
Whatever you think of the exhibitions the building is star enough to bring you to the town. Once inside you’ll find activities, workshops, events, film shows and concerts. And if that’s too arty for you, you can simply stroll on up to the roof top terrace and enjoy brilliant views across two miles of classic English seafront towards Beachy Head. Unmissable.
8. Get a taste of Britain’s seafaring past in Portsmouth
For salty dog types interested in all things naval, the first place to head is to Portsmouth’s ancient dockyard.
It’s situated in a working naval base and includes ships that are icons of British naval history. You can see the remains of Henry VIII’s flagship, The Mary Rose, take a tour of the world’s most famous warship, Nelson’s HMS Victory, and step aboard HMS Warrior, Britain’s first iron hulled warship. Of course this isn’t all that Portsmouth has to offer.
Just a short stroll away is Gunwharfe Quays a modern quayside shopping centre where you can eat and drink and shop until you drop… if that’s what inspires you. Here you’ll also find the 170 metre Spinnaker Tower, a viewing platform that offers very impressive views of the city. Dare you walk across the glass floor?
9. Visit Winchester’s magnificent cathedral crypt and tower
As with many cathedrals, Winchester has enjoyed a fascinating history as burial place of English Kings, centre of the Anglo Saxon world, spectacular Norman cathedral and fine example of gothic architecture. As such it’s a great place to visit. Especially since you can see it all from top to bottom.
Tours include trips to the Norman crypt, the oldest part of the building, where you can see Anthony Gormley’s Sound II, an evocative modern statue, and a trip to the top of the tower to see the nave roof and bells. The views, once you have climbed the 213 steps, are fantastic.
10. Find your serenity at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Kew Gardens is a World Heritage Site, which means it’s of truly global significance. For gardeners it’s Mecca, the centre of the horticultural universe. But that doesn’t mean it’s overrun with or exclusively for green fingered types. Far from it.
It’s a great day out where you can warm up in the world’s largest Victorian greenhouse, lose yourself in the tropical forest or simply take an hour or so to stroll among the flowers. It has its nooks and crannies too, which means you can find a quiet spot to relax on the grass and let the sights, smells and sounds of Britain’s favourite garden lull you to sleep. Bliss.
Time to book your campsite in the South East of England
Once you’ve found your must-sees, take a look at our selection of campsites in Sussex, Norfolk, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. Then book it and you’re away. It couldn’t be easier! We look forward to seeing you and if you’re looking for more tips, check out our guide on the 10 Best Things To Do And See In South West England.