Leonardslee Gardens Spring Lake

The best places to spend your summer outdoors

This summer, take your family on a sweet picnic in gorgeous gardens, or have a stunning stroll around a lake. Here are the best places to explore the great outdoors in Sussex.

Petworth – Elmer Trail 

Image by Lawrence Perry

Join beloved children’s character Elmer the Patchwork Elephant on a colourful art parade around the Pleasure Garden at Petworth House and Park. 

Explore the gardens and discover ten individually designed Elmer sculptures, inspired by the work of well-known artists from across the world, including Yayoi Kusama, William Morris and JMW Turner, along with the original patchwork Elmer by David McKee. 

Collect your free map at reception and follow the easy to follow route around the garden to search for Elmer on this creative and colourful sculpture trail. Elmer’s Art Parade at Petworth will run from Saturday 27 May to Sunday 3 September 2023. The trail is free but please note normal admission applies.

Centenary Park in Peacehaven 

The Award winning Centenary Park (also known as The Big park) boasts 11 Acres of green space situated within the South Downs National Park. It’s the perfect place to start a walk or ride, to stop and play or to take advantage of our Gateway Café. 

The Park has two magical playgrounds that will keep your little ones entertained for hours. The toddler playground with its giant wood carved dragon, a peek a boo wall and the adventure playground for older children boasting a magnificent acorn tower and the biggest swing you’ve ever seen! 

The Park also has the Zero Degrees state-of-the-art Skatepark which is suitable for scooters, bikes, or traditional skaters – children from 5-50 have great fun here. Features include a skateable sundial, deep bowls and ramps. 

West Wittering Beach 

Offering wonderful views of Chichester Harbour and the South Downs beyond, the natural and unspoilt sandy beach of West Wittering has been a favourite destination for a family day out for generations. There are some stunning facilities including the Beach Cafe serving an extensive 

menu of breakfast, lunch and drink options. Take a picnic and run in the sea for the ultimate holiday vibes right here in Sussex. Note that you need to pre-book your parking, and watersports are limited to 2XS members only. 

Arundel Wetland Centre

Image by Darren Cool

Explore the wonder of wetlands and nature through the eyes of the UK’s best loved illustrator and join us for this unique ‘Drawn to Water: Quentin Blake at WWT’ experience. Discover the very best of the wonderful wetlands, get closer to nature and explore what it means to you with illustrated seasonal trails, competitions and much more! It’s a full day out for everyone. 

Collect an illustrated trail map complete with Quentin Blake’s drawings and see wetlands in a whole new light. This summer there’s a range of art and illustration activities to inspire all ages and abilities. Drop into Birds of a Feather Create together Mon-Fri for artful activities. On weekends book a “Lets Draw Outdoors” workshop. The Wetland Boat Safari and family Pond Dipping session run daily. Meet the Dalmatian Pelicans at daily talks with the Keepers and explore the beautiful Reedbed Willow Sphere and Coastal Creek Aviary. 

You can also get creative with a range of artistic challenges and competitions to be in with a chance to win some special Quentin Blake prizes. To find out more and book online search WWT Arundel or visit wwt.org.uk/Arundel/quentin-blake 

Wakehurst Summer Nights 

Explore wild botanic gardens in the heart of Sussex, home to the Millennium Seed Bank, over 500 acres of diverse landscapes and plants from across the globe. On 13 – 15 and 20 – 22 July enjoy their Summer Nights events, where you can enjoy an evening of cocktails, shows and delicious food under an evening glow. 

Cocktails from bower + hawthorne will be served and you can enjoy the rich flavours of wood-fired food from The Herb Kitchen. The gardens will come alive after hours with live music and mesmerising performances. From aerial performers high in the tree canopies, to dancers drifting through the grounds, Summer Nights is a delight for all the senses. 

It is also a chance to catch some of the art installations nestled in the landscape. Also expect face painting and ice cream in the sun. You can book tickets at 


Hever Castle 

Image by Alex Hare

From fun challenges to falconry displays and Jousting, summer at Hever Castle promises something for all the family. Throughout the summer holidays (22 July – 3 September) take part in a series of hands-on activities and challenges as part of Heroes and Villains School (included in normal admission rates). 

On selected days in July and August be entertained by the falconry displays from Birds of Prey Willow Centre in Sevenoaks with two displays a day or watch the thrilling Jousting tournaments (also on selected dates). 

Discover more about Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon in the Castle as part of a new exhibition running until November and keep younger ones entertained with a free family audio guide (included with castle admission). A visit to Hever Castle is a perfect day out for all ages with the fun Water Maze (will you get out without getting wet?) and three play areas including the Tudor Towers adventure playground. 

Also try your hand at archery or boating on the Hever Lake (daily during school holidays – additional charge). Bring a picnic to enjoy the stunning grounds or choose from a selection of homemade food from the various outlets throughout the gardens.


When it comes to National Trust sites, Sussex has a fair few thanks to the beauty of the South Downs, and Nymans is just one of them located in Haywards Heath. Until Friday 21 July, families can join Mog the Forgetful Cat on an adventure trail produced in partnership with HarpersCollins Publishers. Ideal for children of preschool age, you can follow the trail filled with extracts from Judith Kerr’s classic stories around the gardens, or in the Story Room, take a seat at Mog’s family breakfast table. You can even dress up as characters from the stories and cosy up and listen to recordings of classic Mog tales.

Or, on Sat 22 Jul – Sun 3 Sep, 10am–5pm, enjoy the ‘Summer of Play’ where each day there’ll be a range of fun and active play opportunities in Comber’s Field. Challenge your friends and family to a race, manoeuvre your way through the obstacle course or see who can win a tug of war. Look out for the play points around the garden too, each with a different activity to try including skipping, badminton and soft archery.

Discover prices, and more of what is on at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/sussex/nymans 

Borde Hill Garden 

Listed by English Heritage as being of Grade II* historic importance and set within 383 acres of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the High Weald, Borde Hill is of national botanical importance and features one of the largest collections of privately owned champion trees in the UK, with over 70 specimens. It is just a thirty minute drive from Brighton and allows you to experience the joyous balance of nature and immerse yourself in the beauty of our Estate. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, from Woodland walks and family-friendly events throughout the season, to the children’s playground with an exhilarating zip-wire, and locally sourced delicious food and drink at our café.

On Sat 22 July – Sun 3 September, enjoy the Band of Bears Summer Trail, suitable for youngsters aged 3-8. Or, on Fri 11 August, watch a performance of Bad Dad, as written by David Walliams, in the Children’s Outdoor Theatre. Tickets allow entry to the Garden and Playground from 3pm. Normal admission charges apply if arriving earlier than 3pm. Access to the performance area will be from 5pm, with the performance beginning at 5.30pm. Book at bordehill.co.uk/whats-on/for-families/ 

Summer at Leonardslee 

Spring Lake at Leonardslee

Leonardslee boasts spectacular and ancient gardens, with outstanding facilities. From breathtaking flora to the stunning sculpture gardens, there is always something to see and do for the whole family. This summer, Leonardslee Gardens have launched a brand new event which will be packed with entertainment, activities, and delicious food. From circus acts to mindfulness experiences, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Join them on 22 July – 30 July for a week of garden games on the lawn and dancing with the deer. The celebration will be everyday 11:00 – 16:00 and is perfect for the whole family. You can buy tickets online at www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk/all-events/summer-at-leonardslee 

Littlehampton Beach

If you fancy getting out for the day, and exploring a new beach, why not drive to Littlehampton? There is a mile long sand and shingle beach, to give you a break from the stones we are used to in Brighton. At Littlehampton beach you can actually build a sandcastle! Plus, expect your usual seaside entertainment: amusements, gardens, and a theme park. Unlike some of the gardens in this list, this allows you to get outdoors for free. It is also a great spot for snorkelling, and water activities like wind and kite surfing.

There are lifeguards on duty, and a Kidcare wristband scheme, making it very family friendly. Though, dog access is restricted. There are parking bays close to the beach, plus cafes, restaurants and in town shopping nearby allowing you to have a little staycation for the day just an hour from Brighton. We recommend heading to the cafe and restaurant, The Beach, which boasts a rooftop terrace and bar overlooking the sea. www.thebeachlittlehampton.co.uk/ 

Lewes Castle 

Visit Lewes Castle, a Norman Castle built after the Battle of Hastings by supporters of William the Conqueror. Climb the steps to the top of The Keep for stunning panoramic views across Sussex. Discover the story of Lewes through a delightful model of the town and short film, and look out for talks and workshops throughout the year. Don’t forget to bring your picnic to enjoy in the lovely gardens. Why not see if you can spot a very special cannon in the grounds?

On Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 July, enjoy the Summer Spectacular at Fishbourne Roman Palace where you can enjoy entry to the castle event for free. Take a wander around a summer fair with a twist as it takes place in one of the most important Roman heritage sites in the UK. There will be an array of local stallholders including handmade crafts and gifts, delicious food and drinks from food vendors as well as in the cafe. Enjoy an ice cream as you stroll around the recreated Roman gardens, marvel at performances by Steampunk Morris and a local community choir. Ample free parking is available and no pre-booking is required.

Queens Park, Brighton

Finally, let’s round things up with a free outdoor day out right here in Brighton. Explore the gorgeous Queens Park. Take a picnic, pop in the playground, and stroll around the pond. There is plenty of space to either enjoy the sun, or hide in the shade if need be. Watch the swans and the squirrels as you stroll around with an ice-cream. 1 West Dr, Brighton, BN2 0QU

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