Colourful, cosmopolitan and with more cheek than a nudist beach, England's Brighton attracts a year-round crowd. However, it's during the warm, summer months that this Regency resort really sparkles.
This month, the Naked Bike Ride came to town, followed by the British Heart Foundation London to Brighton Bike Ride, now in its 40th year. And the neighbouring seaside village of Rottingdean is marking Rudyard Kipling's 150th birthday with the Kipling Festival from June 25 to July 5.
There are regular rail services from Hastings, Portsmouth, Bristol and Bedford. National Express services run from other towns and cities to Pool Valley coach station on the seafront.
Get your bearings
Brighton is a small and walkable city despite the undulating hills that ripple from the South Downs. The briny English Channel peeks in and out of view as you go.
From the station, you can be stocking up on hessian smocks and hemp fudge in the bohemian North Laine quarter in less than five minutes. The beach is a 10-minute romp down Queens Road, while the city's signature 'Taj Mahal', the Royal Pavilion, is a 15-minute stroll.
Visitor information points are dotted throughout, including in the Pavilion shop and at 64 King's Road where you can also book a 'Brighton greeter' – locals who host free tours of the city.
Hove lies west of the city centre and favours wide avenues of Regency townhouses and red-brick mansion blocks. It is overrun with posh delis, gastro pubs and fancy interiors shops.
Whether you're on a Champagne or a cider budget, there's no shortage of places to stay.
YHA Brighton has recently taken over the former Regency-era Royal York hotel at the Old Steine, and now offers modern, budget accommodation just steps from the beach. Bag a dorm bed for $A30 a night or a private en-suite room for $A122. There's also a trendy cafe-bar and guest kitchen.
Overlooking Regency Square and the rippling waves of the Channel, the Artist Residence, a chic 23-bedroom boutique hotel at 33 Regency Square, is a far cry from the B&Bs and boarding houses still remaining from Brighton's 'dirty weekend' legacy. Themed rooms are stacked with local art, while a cool cocktail bar and restaurant sets it apart. Doubles from $A285 B&B; two-night minimum stay.
Those out to impress can book a sea-view suite at The Grand at 97-99 King's Road, the empress of Brighton hotels. Beneath its ornate Victorian exterior, the once dour rooms now have a contemporary, seaside-y decor, thanks to a extensive overhaul, while the glitzy New York-style champagne and oyster bar, and the heavenly day spa seal the deal. Doubles from $A460 B&B; two-night minimum stay at weekends.
Take a view
For a gull's-eye view, take a spin on the Brighton Wheel on Madeira Drive (from $A145 if booked online). On a clear day you can see the green sweep of the South Downs and as far as the Isle of Wight. (Next summer, the i360, the world's first vertical cable car opens further west along Madeira Drive. Rising 162 metres, it promises dizzying views along the coast.)
Lunch on the run
Grab a posh saveloy and chips from new gourmet chippy Fish + Liquor on Madeira Drive. Match it with a Brighton gin and tonic, distilled right here at the seaside, or grab a growler (a flagon) of Sussex ale from the Bison Beer Crafthouse on nearby East Street.
Antique hunting in Kemptown is de rigueur for Brightonians, but you can cut out the middle man at Moderne, 30a Upper St James Street open Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11am to 4/5.30pm, other days by appointment. This cavern of fancies is divine, if not for the timid wallet.
The North Laine area is a treasure trove for vintage lovers. Hope and Harlequin at 32 Sydney Street (closed Tuesday) is the place to go for hand-picked finds from Victorian wedding dresses to Seventies lame bomber jackets.
The Bluebird Tea Company on Gardner Street is revered as the UK's only tea mixologist, flogging a cornucopia of fine leaf teas from ice cream float flavour to pineapple mint.
Head to the beach and the underground caves of the new Tempest Inn at 159-161 Kings Road Arches for a Seagrog, a glass tankard of Kraken rum and ginger ale topped with a pale ale foam. Don't leave without a shot of Tuaca, a vanilla-and-citrus spirit that's a key ingredient to any night out in Brighton.
Dining with the locals
Opened in February, The Salt Room at the Metropole Hotel, 106 King's Road, is one of a slew of modern, new, fish restaurants. Bag a seat on the terrace and feast on octopus salad ($A17.50) and the surf board: a platter of coal-roasted oysters, prawns, scallops and squid ($A90).
The Urchin at 15-17 Belfast Street (kitchen closed Monday and Tuesday) is a shellfish and craft beer pub which opened in Hove in February. There are more than 100 beers to wash down your razor clams in lemongrass, chilli and coconut broth ($A13) or moules mariniere ($A20). Alternatively, push the boat out with fresh lobster, lime and coriander butter (A$52).
Plan ahead and book a rare-as-hen's-teeth table at The Little Fish Market at 10 Upper Market Street (closed Monday and Tuesday). Owned by former Fat Duck chef Duncan Ray this intimate restaurant already has two AA rosettes and is well on the way to earning Brighton's first Michelin star.
Check out family-friendly Britain. New Family Attractions In The UK
Want more on the English seaside? Escape to the English Seaside
Sunday morning: Go to church
The Renaissance-style St Andrew's Church on Waterloo Street is no longer used for religious worship. It's now home to the Sunday Assembly, a godless congregation that meets monthly to hear inspiring talks, belt out pop songs, and enjoy tea and cake.
Take a hike
Start facing the West Pier, bear left and wander past the Brighton Centre and West Street. Hang left up Middle Street and wind through the narrow, Victorian Lanes crammed with antique jewellers, boutiques and sweet shops.
Emerge on to East Street and cross over to the Pavilion Gardens, stopping to gaze at the Prince Regent's palace. With the domes of the Pavilion behind you, cross over Old Steine gardens and dog-leg to the right to St James's Street. Stroll past the rainbow flags of gay bars and through to Kemptown village.
Out to brunch
Refuel in Kemptown's Busby & Wilds, a pub at 9 Rock Street. Decked out in nautical hues, it does a cracking Sunday roast.
Take a ride
Hop on the Volks Railway, the world's oldest operating electric railway, which rumbles between the marina and its terminus near Palace pier (from $A4).
Built for George IV in the 18th Century, the Royal Pavilion is like a grand Indian palace (9.30am-5.45pm daily, $A27 for a History Pass for three museums). Opposite, the Brighton Museum hosts the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition until September 6.
Icing on the cake
Eight kilometres away, Devil's Dyke is best reached by bus (77 from the seafront; $A9). This kilometre-long chasm amid rolling moors was described by Constable as "the grandest view in the world".
Visit your local Flight Centre or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Brighton.
This article was written by Tracey Davies from The Independent and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.