Image Credit: Jonny Fuzz – Hastings & St. Leonards On-Sea Photography

Discovering the Undiscovered: Unearthing Hidden Gems in Hastings and St Leonards

The coastal twins of Hastings and St Leonards are often celebrated for their iconic landmarks, turbulent histories, and stunning seafronts. Yet, beneath the surface of these popular tourist destinations lies a world teeming with secrets waiting to be discovered. Wander off the well-trodden paths, and you’ll find yourself amidst great boutiques, secret gardens, niche galleries, and culinary delights that rarely make it to the typical travel guide.

Many of these hidden gems are the reason why Hastings and St Leonards are why the area has so much to offer visitors beyond the usual attractions.

Hastings’ Hidden Treasures: Venturing Beyond the Beaten Path

1. The Stables Theatre:
Tucked away from the bustling lanes, The Stables Theatre is a hub for thespians and art lovers alike. Established in the 1950s in a former stable, this intimate venue offers a diverse array of plays, ranging from Shakespearean classics to contemporary dramas. The authentic, cosy ambiance makes it a unique experience.

2. The True Crime Museum:
Housed in deep seafront caves, The True Crime Museum is a riveting attraction that often goes unnoticed by the average tourist. The museum delves into the macabre world of crime, showcasing artefacts from infamous criminal cases and presenting intriguing tales of law and disorder.

3. High Street Passage:
Just a stone’s throw from the crowded main streets, the High Street Passage is a slender alleyway adorned with quirky boutiques, antique shops, and charming eateries. It’s the ideal place to find a unique souvenir, indulge in a delicious treat, or simply absorb the local atmosphere.

4. Alexandra Park:
While Hastings Country Park is widely celebrated for its breathtaking views and walks, Alexandra Park, with its beautifully manicured gardens, ponds, and cascades, is a serene retreat right in the heart of the town. It’s a haven for nature lovers and offers a picturesque setting for a leisurely afternoon.

5. The Electric Palace:
One of the UK’s oldest independent cinemas, The Electric Palace offers a vintage movie-going experience. Its art-deco interiors, classic film screenings, and occasional live events make it a unique cultural gem amidst the town’s historic backdrop. Perfect for those movie goers!

6. The Fishermen’s Museum:
Located in a former church, this museum offers an intimate glimpse into the life and history of Hastings’ fishing community. With its fascinating exhibits and evocative stories, it’s a poignant reminder of the town’s deep connection with the sea.

7. Hastings Antique and Collectors Market:
While the Old Town is dotted with antique shops, this market is a true hidden gem for collectors and vintage enthusiasts. From ornate jewellery to rare books, the diverse array of treasures is bound to intrigue and inspire.

8. Cliff Railways:
Hastings boasts two funicular railways: the West Hill Lift and East Hill Lift. While they are functional modes of transport, they also offer an unparalleled view of the town and coastline, making the journey as delightful as the destinations they lead to.

9. Smugglers Adventure:
Venture deep into the St Clements Caves and embark on a journey through Hastings’ smuggler history. Interactive displays, atmospheric settings, and captivating tales transport visitors back to a time of mystery and intrigue. Perfect for history buffs.

10. Breeds Place Cellars:
A labyrinth of underground tunnels and chambers, Breeds Place Cellars is an unexpected journey into Hastings’ history. Once used for smuggling goods, these cellars now serve as an atmospheric venue for events and tours.

Secret Corners and Coastal Charms: Discovering St Leonards’ Hidden Gems

1. Warrior Square Gardens:
A beautifully maintained, tranquil green space located between the bustling town and the seafront. While visitors flock to the beach, this garden offers a haven, perfect for picnics, calming walks, or simply soaking up the sun surrounded by elegant Regency architecture. If you’re looking to relax and enjoy the atmosphere, check out Warrior Square Gardens.

2. St Leonards Modern Goods:
A boutique like no other, St Leonards Modern Goods is not just a shop but an experience. Bursting with handcrafted goods, local art, and bespoke pieces, it encapsulates the spirit of modern British craftsmanship and design. Whether you’re looking for a gift for a friend, or simply want to appreciate the art, St Leonards Modern Goods is right for you.

3. The Kino-Teatr:
Nestled in Norman Road, this restored cinema and arts venue exudes vintage charm. It regularly showcases a curated selection of films, theatrical performances, and art exhibitions, providing a vibrant cultural heart to St Leonards. Perfect for those looking to see a good film, or enjoy the performance of a play. It also has a great bar!

4. St Leonards Central:
Ditch the usual high-street chains and immerse yourself in this delightful haven of independent shops, boutiques, and eateries. Every shop has its own unique character, offering anything from vintage finds, artisanal baked goods to craft beer and wines.

5. The Coastal Currents Arts Festival:
While this event occurs annually, many visitors remain unaware of this fantastic celebration of local arts. During the festival, artists open their homes and studios to the public, displaying a stunning array of contemporary art, crafts, and performances.

6. Marine Court:
This iconic seafront building, reminiscent of an ocean liner, is an architectural marvel. While it’s a residential structure, its art deco design, when viewed from the promenade, makes for a stunning photo opportunity and is a testament to the town’s artistic heritage.

7. The Horse and Groom:
An unassuming pub from the outside, The Horse and Groom surprises visitors with its eclectic interiors and stellar live music offerings. It serves as a focal point for the town’s thriving local music scene, ensuring an authentic experience. Perfect for those who would like to enjoy a beer alongside live music.

8. Gensing Gardens:
A lush oasis tucked away from the town’s busier sections, Gensing Gardens provides a beautiful backdrop for relaxation. With its verdant flora, winding paths, and a serene pond, it’s a nature lover’s dream within an urban setting.

9. The Baker Mamonova Gallery:
While many are familiar with the larger galleries in the area, The Baker Mamonova, located in a beautiful Regency building, offers a curated selection of Russian and Eastern European contemporary art. This niche focus makes it a unique addition to the town’s art scene and a hidden gem like no other.

10. Sea Kale:
This delightful eatery on London Road is more than just a cafe. It offers a locally-sourced menu, charming interiors, and hosts occasional live music nights, bringing the community together in a cosy setting. Perfect for those looking to eat a fresh, tasty meal while enjoying live music.