Explore England's Creative Coast

20th March 2019

The beautiful coastline of Kent and the South East provides a walking experience like no other with secret coves and bays telling stories of smugglers, vibrant coastal towns that create lifelong memories and a warm welcome offered by a myriad of local cafes, hostelries and boutiques that add a touch of class to your walk.  Whether you visit for the day or come for a walking holiday, you'll be sure of a warm welcome and where better to start than to think creatively!

The South East section of the England Coast Path is well linked with galleries, from the Turner Contemporary in Margate, Folkestones cultural quarter and further afield, the De La Warr Pavilion located right on the sea front at Bexhill-On-Sea.  All these and more are waiting to be discovered and will add a touch of vibrancy to your walk.

Turner Contemporary and Margate

Be struck by Margate’s beautiful sandy beaches, famous light and spectacular skies, described by the painter JMW Turner as ‘the loveliest in all Europe’.

Turner Contemporary gallery is situated on Margate seafront overlooking the North Sea, at the tip of the East Kent coastline and on the same site where Turner stayed when visiting the town in the 1800s. The gallery celebrates Turner’s spirit with an exciting programme of temporary exhibitions showcasing contemporary and historic artworks. From the world’s leading contemporary artists such as Grayson Perry, Antony Gormley, Jeremy Deller, Tracey Emin, Yinka Shonibare, Paula Rego, Phyllida Barlow, Ai Weiwei to masters including Leonardo da Vinci, Auguste Rodin, William Blake and John Constable, there is always something new to experience and different artworks to see.

Soak up the British seaside spending time on Margate’s golden beaches and going wild swimming, then venture to the charming Old Town filled where you’ll find vintage shops, cafes, restaurants and historic buildings. Take a stroll along the seafront to Cliftonville, a bustling creative area full of artists’ studios, gallery spaces and independent shops, rich in character and cultural wonders.


Folkestone’s Creative Quarter

Uncover why artists have flocked to Folkestone for centuries to create, make and experiment. Nestled on the southern edge of the North Downs, on the English Channel in a valley between two cliffs, this vibrant creative coastal town has an abundance of art and events to discover.

Follow Folkestone’s permanent public art collection of outdoor Artworks by Mark Wallinger, Cornelia Parker, Richard Wilson and many more internationally acclaimed visual artists. Continue your cultural adventure with a meander through the heart of Folkestone’s cultural scene – the Old Town’s Creative Quarter. Here historic buildings have been transformed into new spaces with independent shops, cafes, art businesses and galleries.

Meet artists as they make their work, hear about their practice and be inspired by the works on display. Then spend your evening at the Quarterhouse, a venue showcasing the best in contemporary performance, theatre, dance and music.

In 2020, the town turns into a living canvas, as artists from across the world create artworks for Folkestone Triennial – the South East of England’s biggest outdoor art festival.   


Jerwood Gallery, Hastings
Steeped in history, the cosmopolitan coastal town of Hastings is famous for the 1066 Norman battle for England. Today, this ancient town on the East Sussex coast between Folkestone and Eastbourne fuses rich heritage with contemporary culture. The town is home to the Jerwood Collection of modern and contemporary British art, presented alongside temporary exhibitions and inside award-winning architecture. Situated just a few steps from the pebbled beach, the gallery overlooks the largest fishing fleet in Europe, where you can see the town’s fisherman at work.

Be amazed by great British modern artists in the Jerwood Collection such as Sir Stanley Spencer, LS Lowry, Barbara Hepworth, Paul Nash and Walter Sickert, before seeing a range of contemporary artists on display in the temporary exhibition. Then wander through the passageways of Hastings’ Old Town, where you’ll find artists’ studios, galleries, antiques and charming half-timber houses at every turn, explore bohemian St Leonards just along the sea front, and breathe in the sea air with a wander along the pier.

Taste some of the delicious local fresh fish and sea food from the day’s catch at the market. Go on a smuggler’s adventure in West Hill before taking the cliff-side East Hill cable lift to Hastings Country Park, where you’ll be greeted by 660 acres of ancient woodland across 5 miles of cliffs and rugged terrain - perfect for absorbing the fresh British sea air and beautiful coastline. Hire a bicycle and travel along the coast to nearby cultural attractions De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea and the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne.


Bexhill-on-Sea’s De La Warr Pavilion

Bexhill on Sea is the essence of Edwardian seaside elegance. This tranquil resort along the East Sussex coast is home to the iconic De La Warr Pavilion. Built in 1935, the Pavilion is a signature of modernist architectural design and home to free art exhibitions featuring work by contemporary and 20th century British and international artists and designers, live performances, music, comedy, film and outdoor events. From exhibitions of works by Peter Blake, Fiona Banner, Cy Twombly and Alison Wilding to cinema screenings projected onto the side of the building, whatever the season, De La Warr offers a variety of cultural activities, and with the English Channel as its backdrop and infinite views out to sea, provides hours and days of entertainment.

Stroll along the Colonnade and West Parade to see the town’s many Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian and Art Deco buildings and landscaped gardens. Dive into sea sports such as sailing, rowing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and angling. Hire a bicycle and travel along the coast to nearby cultural attractions Jerwood Gallery in Hastings and the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne.


Eastbourne’s Towner Art Gallery

Eastbourne is one of England’s grandest resorts. On the tip of the South East coastline, with Beachy Head and the expansive South Downs National Park to the West, and Victorian promenade, pier and architecture to the East, this seaside town is full of cultural entertainment and outdoor pursuits. 

The award-winning Towner Art Gallery houses a collection of over 4.500 works by modern and contemporary British artists including Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Duncan Grant, Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans, Anya Gallaccio, Julian Opie, Tacita Dean and Grayson Perry, as well as the largest body of work by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942). Every season, new exhibitions showcase the latest in contemporary art and a new cinema screens the best in film. Explore art outdoors with a special curator-led tour across the stunning South Downs, looking at the landscapes that have inspired works in the Towner collection.

After your art adventure, cycle across the South Downs Way to the UK’s highest chalk sea cliff, Beachy Head, visit the landmark lighthouse and capture the famous views, as featured in many Hollywood films.

Travel back down to the water’s edge to enjoy Eastbourne’s sea on a kayak or standup paddle board, try kitesurfing, or simply fly a kite in the great and beautiful outdoors. Dry off by browsing the independent art galleries in the Victorian shopping streets of Little Chelsea, then see a show at one of Eastbourne’s five theatres or enjoy a classical evening at the Bandstand.


Thames Estuary

Every two years, Whitstable Biennale transforms the quaint Kent seaside town famous for its oysters into a festival of performance, film and sound. Emerging and established artists present thrilling, new site-specific works and major commissions, woven into the fabric of the town itself.


Along the Essex and North Kent coastline, where the River Thames meets the North Sea, the Thames Estuary has become a hive of creative happenings. Artists are creating, making and performing up and down England’s water gateway. The area hosts a number of art festivals, events, theatre, and music. Every two years, Whitstable Biennale transforms the Kent seaside town famous for its oysters into a festival of performance, film and sound. Emerging and established artists present thrilling, new site-specific works and major commissions, woven into the fabric of the town itself. .  

The world’s first Digital Art Park, NetPark, resides in Southend-on-Sea, where the arts organisation Metal host events all year round. Be immersed in the outdoors like never before by exploring the 15 outdoor digital artworks found in the park via apps. Take an audio walk, a spoken word or music tour, or listen to an adventure or love story, created by artists, musicians and writers, while wandering through the park and enjoying the natural surroundings. At the annual Village Green Festival the town comes alive with art and music, and the Estuary Festival celebrates 60 miles of spectacular coastline with art, music, literature and film. Explore Southend’s seven miles of coastline, teeming with wildlife, by bicycle, before walking down the longest pleasure pier in the world, with panoramic views out to sea.


As today is the first day of spring, it's the perfect reason to plan your creative trip - after all, come rain or shine all these galleries will offer a fantastic day out!

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Turner Contemporary, Margate
Creative Quarter, Folkestone
Jerwood Gallery, Hastings
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-On-Sea
Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne
Whitstable Biennale
NetPark Southend On Sea