Contributor Review – Simon Knott
Local Expert. Visited 2023
Brighton is renowned for its English image of ‘Kiss me quick.’ The city is buzzing, young, and non-judgmental and often celebrates its proximity to London. Brighton naturist beach, a little further along the coast from the central Palace Pier, carries on this theme of enjoying yourself and having fun, attracting many locals and day-trippers from London and holidaymakers on more extended stays. The beach is one of UK’s most popular beaches.
The naturist beach area and Madeira Drive have recently undergone a comprehensive restoration. This has injected the whole area with new life and shaping the pebbles into large mounds now offers more seclusion to beachgoers.
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The vibe on the beach changes constantly. During the cooler months of spring and autumn, it usually attracts a mixed crowd; however, as the weekends get hotter it has more of a gay vibe. Although Brighton is often considered a young city, there is a good contingent of middle-aged and older visitors.
The pebble beach at Brighton starts at Brighton Marina, at the east end, and continues almost 4 miles to Brighton’s sister town, Hove, into which it blends. In a way, the beach typifies the English beach scene, which is naturally shorter because of the climate. During summer bank holidays, when day-trippers want to make the most of the sun, hordes of day-trippers descend on the beaches with disposable barbecues, giving the impression of some biblical scene as the smoke floats across the beach.
Thankfully Brighton naturist beach is separated from the main public beaches by the Palace Pier, which acts as a natural barrier. So, the beach’s eastern end is still busy but much less frenetic. The naturist beach is about 1 mile from the Palace Pier. The signing is good, indicating where the naturist beach starts and finishes, and the mounds of pebbles are a good indicator, which provides good seclusion from passing visitors. The beach is approximately 300 m wide, with regular beaches on either side.
It’s an enjoyable walk from the pier to the naturist beach, which will take about 15 minutes. Or, if you’re not in the mood, you can take the small Volks Electric Railway, the oldest electric railway in the world, which has open carriages.
The closest toilets to the beach are located at the start of the marina, just beyond Black Rock Station. Going further into the marina, there is a good selection of restaurants, cafes, bars, mainstream hotels, and individual shopping outlets. Madeira Drive also hosts a smaller selection of cafes, bars, and restaurants.
First assigned as a naturist in 1980, Brighton naturist beach initially raised concerns among some locals as a slippery moral slope. However, it is now well-established and is enjoyed by a diverse crowd of locals, as well as visitors from London and holidaymakers.
Visitors can happily enjoy the day naked within the confines of the naturist section. However, visitors are requested to be clothed beyond the pebble mounds at the back of the beach on Madeira Drive. Brighton naturist beach is now a good destination for first-timers to nudity. Before the creation of the pebble barriers, passing visitors had a full view of the naturist beach from the road, which could be intimidating for the less confident. However, with the barriers providing adequate cover, the beach is now much more secluded. Visitors to the beach tend to be open-minded, so if, as a first-timer, you wanted to stay clothed for some of the day, this would very unlikely be a problem.
Swimming at Brighton is popular, and the water quality is regularly assessed. However, the gradient of the beach can create large waves if the wind is strong enough, as well as make currents that run along the shore in either direction. During summer, a lifeguard is on duty close to the naturist beach between 10:30 AM and 5:30 PM.
Accommodation on the eastern side of Brighton, not far from the naturist beach, tends to be B&Bs and small private hotels. In the center of town there is still a good selection of hotels and B&Bs, alongside larger international branded hotels. See below for clothing optional accommodation.
Eating out in Brighton and Hove once revolved around fish and chips and pizza; however, the dining scene has been revolutionized, so it now offers the same sophistication as larger cities but, for the most part, within easy walking distance. Whether you’re looking for fine dining, street food, cafe culture, or any number of cuisines from abroad, you’ll most likely find it in Brighton.
If you’re interested in trying another naturist beach nearby, then Portslade Beach, west of Hove, is a popular choice. Locals call it Shoreham Beach , which is pebbles separated by a sea wall, part of nearby Shoreham Harbour. Locals enthuse about its quietness and seclusion in comparison to Brighton’s brasher beach.
Brighton Pavilion, located on the Old Steine was a project of King George IV who asked the famous architect, John Nash, to create an ornate Indian-style Palace around his existing house. The interiors are eccentric, lavish, and oriental. There is plenty to explore outside of Brighton too. Just a short drive east along the coast brings you to Saltdean on the cliff tops. Saltdean Lido had come to the end of the road but its recent lottery funding has given it a new lease of life since it was built in 1938 during the art deco heyday. Seven Sisters Country Park just beyond Eastbourne east of Brighton, is a vast natural area of high cliffs, woodland, and rivers with plenty of opportunities for walking. It’s easiest to get to this park by car; there is a bus, but it takes two hours from Brighton. Nyetimber Vineyard Northwest of Brighton makes use of the plentiful chalky soil to produce award-winning sparkling wines. Take a vineyard tour and try some of the wines for yourself.
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Easiest By Car - while it may be convenient to drive straight to the seafront to park, the cost of parking could take the shine off your day at £20.10 for 8 hours. Alternatively, use the park-and-ride service from Withdean Stadium to the Palace Pier or the free four-hour parking in the marina.
Train - there is a regular service to Brighton from London Victoria and Blackfriars. The fastest journey time is 1 hour.
Bus - Brighton has a comprehensive bus service for getting around the city.
Taxi - a taxi ride from the train station to the Palace Pier takes about 10 minutes.
Walking to the naturist beach - From the train station, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the Palace Pier. From there, it’s a 15-minute walk east to the naturist beach, or you can jump on the historic Volks Railway, a small electric train that will transfer you in no time.
Clothing Optional Accommodation:
The Old Flint Cottage is a small clothing-optional B&B setback in the center of Brighton close to London Road train station. If you travel further east along the coast, there is a clothing-optional B&B just outside Hastings, the Three Farthings, which is an excellent base for exploring the Seven Sisters Country Park and other attractions.