10 Best Days Out in South East England (+ London)

Looking for the best days out in South East England? This side of the country has tonnes of amazing things to do, so you could spend many a day out here! If you want to have a brilliant day out in South East England, here are some of the things you could enjoy…

Best Days Out in South East England

South East England is teeming with some of the best activities and attractions the country has to offer, from historic palaces to beautiful islands to geological landmarks and much, much more.

South East England is made up of the counties of Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Hampshire, which includes the Isle of Wight. Each county has lots to do, and we’ve rounded up the best activities for each, plus one highlight that you really MUST do if you’re in the area.

Whether you’re visiting with the family, as a couple, with friends or doing some solo days out in South East England, you’ll find something on this list to enjoy. There are must-see cities, top-rated attractions, stunning architecture, beautiful beaches and so much more. Plus, if you’re looking for unusual things to do South East England has more than a few of those too.

Here is our list of the 10 best days out in South East England…

Best Days Out in South East England

All the best things to do in South East England…

1. Have a big city day out in London

No list of days out in South East England could be complete without the capital of the entire country. Of course, it’s London!

This city has so much to do that you could spend several weeks here and never get bored. Depending on who you are travelling with and what kind of activities you enjoy, everyone’s trip to London can look completely different, but here are a few of the best things you can do if you’re new (or new-ish) to the city.

London, England

If you want to enjoy a great Royal day out in London, it’s easy to do a walking tour all on your own. Start at Buckingham Palace to check out the Royal Family’s pad, then walk through St James’s Park to Westminster where you can snap pictures of the iconic Big Ben clock, Westminster Abbey (the site of Prince William and Kate’s wedding!), and the Houses of Parliament. These are some of the most iconic landmarks in London so they’re definitely not to be missed!

From there you can walk across the bridge to South Bank where you can visit the London Aquarium (book tickets here), the London Eye (book tickets here), and the London Dungeons (book tickets here) and look across the famous River Thames to the MI5 building – famously featured in the James Bond movies. 

After all that walking you might want to enjoy one of these 17 best afternoon teas in London (a real British treat!), or grab some street food at the famous Borough Market.

In the afternoon you could head to one of the most famous streets in the city, such as Portobello Road (for the market) or Piccadilly Circus (for the lights!). Or if you want ‘that’ photo, here are the 10 best viewpoints in London.

If the typical tourist route isn’t your thing, you’ll love this list of 11 non touristy things to do in London that locals love.

Head to Soho in the evening and grab last-minute tickets (which are sometimes cheaper) to a West End show – there are lots on every night, and you’ll never be disappointed that you made time to watch one of these. This is easily one of the best days out in South East England for couples looking for a great date night.

And remember, there are lots of brilliant FREE days out in London too, so don’t feel like you need to make it an expensive day out!

2. See critters at Whipsnade Zoo in Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire is an underrated county in England with more than a few great things to do on a day out. One of the best has to be Whipsnade Zoo, which is located in the gorgeous Chiltern Hills. It’s the UK’s biggest zoo, with some very popular animals like giraffes and penguins waiting to meet you. This is one of the best zoos in England for a day out, so if you’re in Buckinghamshire we’d say this is one you shouldn’t miss as it’s definitely one of the top family attractions South East England has to offer.

Giraffe at Whipsnade Zoo in England

Buckinghamshire has lots more to do; if you love stunning architecture and history it’s got to be Waddesdon Manor. This stunning French Renaissance-style chateau is encircled in gorgeous gardens, so if you want to take in the natural surroundings this is the place to go.

The historic town of Marlow is also worth a visit for its picture-perfect setting and lovely lake you’ll enjoy walking around. It’s rumoured that many celebs live in Marlow, so keep your eyes peeled! There’s also the village of Amersham if you love quaint English heritage.

If walking or hiking is your thing, the surrounding Chiltern Hills is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and has lots of great hiking routes and cycling trails.

If you happen to be near Great Missenden and have the kids in tow, a visit to the wonderful Roald Dahl Museum is definitely worth it to see where the famous author penned books like Matilda. The library in Great Missenden has lots of Roald Dahl-related activities, so the kids will love it (and the adults!)

Buckinghamshire definitely has some great days out in South East England to try out – you’ll find 23 more unique days out in Buckinghamshire here.

3. See stunning Windsor Castle in Berkshire

Berkshire has lots to do, but perhaps its most famous landmark is Windsor Castle, the former home of Queen Elizabeth, and the site of Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding back in 2018. It has lots more history to discover, so it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the county of Berkshire.

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Visit and see the famous banqueting rooms, watch the changing of the guard, and wander the stunning grounds around the castle to take in one of the most iconic and important buildings in the whole of the UK – it’s the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world!

If you need additional tips, here’s how to do a day trip to Windsor Castle.

Windsor itself is a great town to visit, with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars to keep you busy for the day. Elsewhere in Berkshire you will find the famous Ascot Racecourse that any horseracing enthusiasts will absolutely love to see, or you can stroll around the gorgeous gardens at Cliveden.

If hiking is your thing, a walk through the Berkshire Downs or along the Thames Path is an absolute must, where you’ll get to see the stunning scenery that this county has to offer – easily some of the best in the country.

Reading’s Oracle Mall is a great place to get some shopping done on an adults day out, and if you’re in the city you may be interested in the Reading Abbey Ruins to see a bit of the history of this busy city. It’s one of the best days out in South East England for adults.

If it’s more of a kids day out, you can’t miss the family fun on offer at Legoland Windsor Resort (book the best tickets here!), which is easily one of the top days out in South East England. This colourful attraction has so much to do that you’ll go home absolutely knackered and ready to sleep.

Looking for more to do in Berkshire? Here are 14 unique days out in Berkshire you need to experience.

4. Explore the New Forest in Hampshire

Hampshire is a beautiful part of England with lots to explore and a diverse range of activities that will suit everyone from history enthusiasts to nature lovers.

You can’t go to Hampshire without making a trip to the New Forest, by far one of the most beautiful places in South East England. There you’ll find a number of stunning, tranquil forests, quaint villages, and the famous New Forest wild ponies who roam freely there in the ancient woodlands.

Wild ponies in the New Forest, England

A trip to the New Forest is also one of the best cheap days out South England has to offer as you can visit without spending a penny if you want to.

Over in Winchester, Winchester Cathedral is a stunning piece of medieval architecture that history buffs will enjoy a visit to, and the city of Winchester itself is a lovely place to wander, grab a tasty pub lunch or go shopping in.

Fans of the British television phenomenon Downton Abbey will LOVE a visit to the Victorian-era Highclere Castle, where you can tour the castle or just marvel at its impressive size from the outside.

If you’d rather spend your time in Hampshire by the coast, Portsmouth has tonnes to do, from its historic dockyard where you can visit the iconic HMS Victory, to its many museums and bustling nightlife. Southsea is another great seafront destination that’s worth a visit if you want that classic British seaside feel – definitely one of the most fun days out in South East England.

There are lots of great things to do in this beautiful county, and you’ll find 26 more brilliant days out in Hampshire, here.

5. See the famous White Cliffs of Dover in Kent

Kent has lots to do, but if you want to visit the most iconic place in the county it has to be the White Cliffs of Dover, which is one of the most famous landmarks in England.

White Cliffs of Dover in Kent

A visit to the cliffs is always a great day out if the weather is nice, as it offers breathtaking coastal walks (literally, the wind can be pretty breathtaking up on the cliffs!) and stunning scenes of the Channel.

Elsewhere in Kent you can visit Canterbury Cathedral, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and wander through the beautiful little streets of Canterbury itself. If you’re into history, Leeds Castle is also in Maidstone in Kent, which is confusing as many people think it would be up north in Leeds. This castle is pretty interesting as you can see the fortress surrounded by a moat – soak up all the heritage of this lovely area.

In terms of city days out, Rochester has lots to do including the Norman castle, and lots of lovely restaurants for dinner which makes it one of the best days out in the South East for adults.

Or if you’re after something really special, Port Lympne Safari Park is one of the best safari parks in the country and it just happens to be situated in Kent.

There are tonnes of wonderful days out in South East England, and Kent has more than a few of them! If you’re looking for more, you’ll love our list of the 27 all-time best days out in Kent.

6. Have a fun day out in Brighton in East Sussex

Brighton would be considered by many as the crown jewel of East Sussex, and you could spend weeks soaking up its lively atmosphere without getting bored. From amazing nightlife to fun-filled days out on the pier to beach activities, this seaside city just has something about it that every visitor loves.

Coastline at Brighton, East Sussex

Check out the Royal Pavilion, head out onto the iconic Brighton Pier for the amusements, and head to one of the many unique dining experiences and quirky shops in The Lanes. Check out our list of the 10 best things to do in Brighton for a great day out.

Outside of Brighton, nature lovers will be giddy over the stunning landscape over at Seven Sisters Country Park, where you’ll feast your eyes on stunning cliffs and coastal trails that will keep you occupied for hours. Or there’s the enchanting gardens of Great Dixter for horticultural aficionados.

For a different seaside vibe, medieval Rye has plenty of cobbled streets and stop-and-stare architecture. And if history is your favourite thing to spot on a day out, Hastings has its lovely Old Town and the ruins of Hastings Castle which overlook the sea – one of the most interesting days out in South East England, for sure.

If you’re up for more East Sussex fun, here are 15 great ideas for days out in East Sussex for all the family.

7. Check out Chichester in West Sussex

West Sussex should be the next stop on your South East tour, as it offers a mix of brilliant activities that blend history, nature and more. First up, Chichester is a can’t-miss destination for anyone who wants a taste of British history.

Chichester, England

A walk around Chichester will bring you to many great sites without much planning, but either way you should start at the impressive Chichester Cathedral and take in the sights of the city from there. Don’t miss the nearby Roman Palace at Fishbourne too if you love all things ancient.

While you’re in and around Chichester, here is the best itinerary for a great day out in Chichester to keep you entertained.

West Sussex is also the home of the enchanting Arundel Castle. This medieval beaut looks like something out of a Disney film as it’s set against the backdrop of the stunning South Downs. Speaking of which, nature enthusiasts will enjoy unwinding in the South Downs National Park.

Beach seekers… West Sussex will be a must-visit destination for you as it’s home to the sandy shores of West Wittering Beach. Book a car parking space at this beach on a sunny day and enjoy sandcastle-building, photography in front of the cute colourful beach huts, and a dip in the sea. It really is one of the most smile-inducing days out in South East England.

Spending a bit more time in the county? Here are 15 of the best days out in West Sussex.

8. Marvel at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire has loads of lovely spots to add to your bucket list, and more than a few that tick the academia box if that’s what you’re into. First stop should be Oxford, where you can take in the world-renowned University of Oxford to take a tour of its historic colleges and famous Bodleian Library.

Wander through the streets of scholarly Oxford, see the medieval architecture, and don’t forget to stop in a cosy pub for lunch – chances are you’ll be in a place where some of the greatest minds of our country hung out between classes!

Other places in Oxfordshire to check out include the charming market town of Henley-on-Thames, where you can take in the quaint shops, have a cup of tea there, and take a stroll along the Thames Path.

One of the highlights of Oxfordshire is definitely Blenheim Palace, known for being the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. With its impressive size and lush surrounding gardens, you could spend a whole day here learning about this 18th century UNESCO World Heritage site, its baroque interiors, and its 2,000 acres of landscaped parkland.

Explore the opulent State Rooms while inside, and don’t miss a family picture in front of the Great Lake. This is a brilliant day out all year round, but Blenheim Palace is an especially magical day out at Christmas.

If you’re spending more days out in this county, here are 17 unique days out in Oxfordshire that will become some of your favourite days out in South East England.

9. Let your hair down at Thorpe Park in Surrey

Surrey is a beautiful part of the country with lots to do no matter your age or interest. One of the biggest family attractions South England has to offer is, of course, Thorpe Park.

This is one of the best theme parks in England for a day out so it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re looking for things to do with kids in Surrey. You can book tickets to visit Thorpe Park here!

Theme parks are plentiful in Surrey, as you can also visit Chessington World of Adventures (book tickets here) for more hair-raising fun.

If you’d rather keep your lunch down, there are lots of other things to explore in Surrey. A trip to Hampton Court Palace is in order if you love all things Tudors, as this is famously the former home of king Henry VIII and his six wives.

The architecture is second-to-none, which makes it one of the most visited attractions in the county. Plus you’ll enjoy trying to escape from the famous maze! This is absolutely one of the best days out in South East England.

Elsewhere in Surrey you’ll find the stunning landscape of the Surrey Hills, which offer brilliant viewpoints and hiking (like Newlands Corner), and cute villages (like Shere).

Plant obsessives will enjoy a visit to the RHS Garden Wisley, while those in need of some tranquility should head to the scenic Virginia Water Lake for a walk. You might like these 10 great Surrey Hills walks too.

When it comes time to seek a city for shopping, food and nightlife, Guildford’s cobbled streets are picturesque while providing the atmosphere you want. Dine at the Thai Terrace (its entrance is above a multi-storey car park but the views are 100% worth the climb up!), and head to one of the many bars and pubs playing music at night.

10. Enjoy the beaches of the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is part of Hampshire, but it’s a very unique place to visit that doesn’t feel like anywhere else in England. Located just 2 miles from the mainland of the south coast, you can get a ferry over to this beautiful island and easily spend a day out (or more, if you have time!).

Beach on the Isle of Wight, England

Uncover the history of Osborne House, known for being Queen Victoria’s seaside residence, or take a peek at Carisbrooke Castle for some medieval charm.

There is no shortage of great walks on the Isle of Wight, such as the botanical gardens of Ventnor or the panoramic views from the Needles.

If you want traditional seaside charm, it has to be Shanklin or Sandown where you’ll find sandy beaches and a Victorian promenade to walk along. The beach at Ryde is also somewhere to lay a towel down for the day and people-watch. If the weather is agreeable, this could just be one of the best days out in South East England.

There’s lots to do for active folks on the Isle of Wight, like cycling routes, walking trails and lots of lush countryside and coastline. Its probably busiest during the Isle of Wight Festival (one for the music lovers), Cowes Week (one for the sailing lovers!), and the summer holidays in general, so choose your visit time wisely.

You’ll find more great days out on the Isle of Wight here.

Are you keen to check out one of these brilliant days out in South East England? There is SO much to explore here no matter what your main interests are and how much time you have. From the excitement of London to the tranquility of the New Forest to the beach-vibes of West Sussex and the Isle of Wight, you’ll find no shortage of amazing days out to keep you entertained throughout the year.

Don’t forget to check out our list of the 10 best days out in South WEST England too.

10 Best Days Out in South East England (+ London)

  1. Have a big city day out in London
  2. See critters at Whipsnade Zoo in Buckinghamshire
  3. See stunning Windsor Castle in Berkshire
  4. Explore the New Forest in Hampshire
  5. See the famous White Cliffs of Dover in Kent
  6. Have a fun day out in Brighton in East Sussex
  7. Check out Chichester in West Sussex
  8. Marvel at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire
  9. Let your hair down at Thorpe Park in Surrey
  10. Enjoy the beaches of the Isle of Wight
Caitlin McAllister

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