Comprised of rolling countryside, bluebell woodlands, the UK’s newest national park and some of the best beaches on the south coast, West Sussex is the backdrop for a perfect camping holiday.
We’ve picked a selection of well-run camping and glamping sites and skipped the holiday parks to reveal only the very best camping hideaways. Whether you want to explore the High Weald or the South Downs, to build dens in the woods or skim stones on the beach, you’ll find a good base to pitch your tent or a place to rest your head in our collection.
The twin counties of East and West Sussex bridge the gap between London and the sea with a swathe of glorious countryside. Both the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Downs National Park are here with rolling countryside, woodland, farmland and chalky downlands characterising the views down to the sea. Add to this the fact that London is only about an hour away by car or train - and it’s a pretty perfect camping destination both for week-long holidays and weekends away. It’s little wonder, then, that there are so many great camping and glamping sites in the county. Along with the neighbouring county of East Sussex, there is plenty of choice here - including a vast array of great well-established glamping sites that have been attracted posh campers since glamping began.
With countryside and coast within easy reach of London, it’s no surprise that West Sussex has been a holiday destination for generations. You can find every type of accommodation here from the second homes of the rich and famous to the holiday parks of seaside resorts like Butlins. But somewhere in between are the holidays we like the best; camping and glamping. Young or old, rich or poor… camping and glamping holidays are holidays with an appeal across the board; the chance to get back to basics - just how basic is up to you.
There’s nothing like a bit of back-to-basics tent camping to give you a break from the norm. Turn off the TV and kick back with a campfire, forget microwave meals and enjoy the crispy skin of a jacket potato cooked in the embers, switch off your mobile phone and wander instead at the wonder of nature. Ahh - tent camping is the perfect chance to get away from it all and enjoy a digital detox. Unless, of course, you want a tent camping site with electric hook-up and WiFi. It’s possible to find all types of tent camping in West Sussex. And it’s a lovely place to do it. There’s a great mix of woodland camping, farm-based camping and meadow camping so you can choose the pitch that suits you. There are plenty of places to pitch tents around the county but the South Downs National Park, close to the South Downs Way, is especially popular with hikers who want to bed down for the night en route along this popular long-distance footpath.
If you don’t fancy pitching a tent, however, choose one of West Sussex’s glamping sites. There are plenty. Both East and West Sussex have all sorts of glamping options from the most basic of bell tents to elaborately-decorated yurts. There are tipis, safari tents, shepherd’s hut, pods and cabins. But, as one of the country’s glamping hubs, there are also more elaborate and quirky options too. There are must-be-seen-to-be-believed treehouses and vehicles that have been refurbished and reimagined as places to bed down for the night.
If you want to give camping a go for the first time, try a bell tent. It’ll give you a great idea of campsite life without the need to fork out for the gear - not to mention the fact that you won’t have to pitch a tent. If you’re a camping fan looking to return to camping after having kids, glamping in any shape or form, will ease you back in gently. It’s camping with comfort. Choose a shepherd’s hut with an en suite if you don’t fancy sharing a shower and make sure you’ve got an electricity supply if you can’t live without a hairdryer.
In the humble opinion of the Hipcamp crew, camping is the ultimate family holiday. It throws the family together in a way that other holidays don’t and that makes it all the more memorable. It also takes you away from the distractions of modern life giving you and the kids more time to explore, to talk and to play games. You can sit around the campfire roasting marshmallows and telling stories, you can build dens, play frisbee and make daisy chains. You might also feel able to give your kids more freedom than at home. Before you know it they’ll be begging you to let them go off exploring or playing football with their new best friends.
Choose your campsite wisely and you might find there are activities laid on to amuse your kids. We’re not talking about the kids’ clubs of holiday parks (you’re unlikely to find those among our family campsites in West Sussex) but about forest school sessions and nature trails. And after all the fresh air of days outside, after the excitement of staying up late on the first night, you might just find that your kids are actually keen to go to bed. The novelty of snuggling down in a sleeping bag, of reading by torchlight and sleeping in a tent have even been known to encourage early bed times. Once the kids are in bed, parents can sit out and enjoy sitting by the campfire with a glass of wine or a mug of tea, within easy earshot of little ones. It’s a night out with a difference!
A ridge of chalky hills and downs stretching between Winchester in Hampshire to the sea near Eastbourne in East Sussex make up the South Downs. This area, which accounts for a huge part of West Sussex, was designated a national park in 2010 making it Britain’s newest member of the national park family. A great way to see the park is to walk the length of the Downs on the 100-mile national trail, the South Downs Way. Many people who take on the challenge do so with their gear on their back looking for places to camp or even glamp along the way. But if walking 100 miles is not your idea of fun, you can still enjoy the national park. Choose a campsite in or near the South Downs National Park and you can spend days on shorter walks, go mountain biking, horseriding, paragliding or simply to enjoy the far-reaching views over the Sussex countryside, down to the sea. There are lovely market towns and pretty villages with country pubs which make for great destinations or pit stops on days out in the area.
The High Weald is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which stretches across the two counties of Sussex and in to Kent. It’s also a bit hilly but here it’s not chalk underfoot but sandstone ridges which jut out here and there among the woods, heath and farmland. Part of the High Weald is the Ashdown Forest. Like the New Forest, it is open-access land which means you (and grazing animals) can wander freely through woodland and open heath. In fact, it’s one of the south-east’s largest free open spaces and a great place to explore on foot, by bike or on horseback. It’s also the place that inspired AA Milne to write the Winnie Pooh stories. With so much to do and beautiful scenery all within easy reach of London, it’s a great place for a day trip and even better for a weekend away camping. Find out more about things to do in the area at the Ashdown Forest Visitor Centre.
There are plenty of towns and villages to visit and if there’s somewhere you particularly want to see on your camping trip, you might want to choose a campsite near your chosen attraction. Take Arundel for example. With 11th-century Arundel Castle and the mighty Arundel Cathedral, there’s plenty of history as well as an abundance of independent shops and cafes. There’s another impressive cathedral in Chichester, a compact, walled city that’s worth a mooch around. Other West Sussex towns like Crawley, Haywards Heath and Horsham may offer less in the way of historic sites and attractions but they are hard to beat for location. Midway between London and the coast, surrounded by countryside and well-connected by public transport, these are great places to camp near.
For days out on your camping holiday, you can head to the beach at Bognor Regis where you’ll find all the fun of the fair or to the Witterings (East or West) for watersports or swimming. You’re never too far from Brighton either so the huge shingley beach, the pier and the shopping are within reach.
There are plenty of country houses and gardens to visit in this well-to-do part of the world from the home of motor-racing at Goodwood to the home of opera at Glyndebourne (technically in neighbouring East Sussex but we won’t hold that against them). There are also a growing number of vineyards in this part of southern England with The Bluebell Vineyard and Bolney Wine Estate among them. There are plenty of lovely gardens too including the Capability Brown-designed Sheffield Park and Gardens, Nymans and Wakehurst, home to the world’s largest seed collection and an offshoot of Kew.
It’s not all grown-up fun though, there are plenty of days out that kids will love from a ride on the heritage steam trains of the Bluebell Railway to the fun fair rides at Bognor Regis. With the South Downs Way, the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Ashdown Forest within the county, there’s plenty of exploring, den building and even horse riding on offer too. The Ashdown Forest was also the country home of AA Milne who was inspired to write his Winnie the Pooh stories here. You can see some of the real-life locations on a visit. The Pooh Sticks Bridge is the most popular, obviously. It'so popular, in fact, that we’re not joking when we say you should take your own sticks!
Explore the best camping and glamping sites in West Sussex with Hipcamp’s handpicked list.. There’s a campsite for everyone, whether it be glamping, pitching a tent in a remote spot, or back-to-basics family camping.