Hove, UK: England's more refined seaside town - it's nothing like Brighton

The quaint English seaside town of Hove has long been overshadowed by its bigger, brasher neighbour Brighton. The two towns joined forces to become a city in 2001 but Hove remains the quieter, more refined sibling. You won't find a pier, a fun fair or a mess of beachside bars; its charms are subtler, more genteel and best appreciated on foot.

Start on the seafront by Hove Lagoon, a popular watersports centre for sailing, windsurfing and wakeboarding. Adjacent is "Millionaire's Row", a string of beachfront mansions whose famous residents have included Paul McCartney and Heather Mills, DJ Fatboy Slim and singer Adele.

The unassuming cafe overlooking the lagoon has a similarly star-studded past. Mills ran it as a vegan restaurant before Fatboy Slim (real name Norman Cook) relaunched it as the Big Beach Cafe last year. It now has a more casual vibe and offers an inexpensive (if rather underwhelming) assortment of burgers, rolls and toasted sandwiches.

From here, head east and join the throng of walkers, joggers and cyclists on the seafront esplanade, a delightful promenade lined by a kaleidoscope of brightly painted beach huts. These coveted little shacks range from simple storage units to chic designer boltholes and often trade hands for more than $30,000.

Why would people spend that much on a hut when they could just sit on the beach? Because the beach is like lying on a cobbled street. And, as for taking a dip in the English Channel, I lived nearby for 19 years and swam precisely four times.

Soon you'll hit another uniquely Hove-ian feature: Hove Lawns. Running alongside the esplanade for a kilometre, these large expanses of greenery are particularly popular in summer when they're strewn with canoodling couples, picnicking families and spirited games of soccer and Frisbee.

At the eastern end of the lawns is the Peace Statue, a nine-metre-high memorial to Edward VII. You won't find an official sign but this is the boundary between Hove and Brighton. While numerous roads will usher you away from the coast, I'd suggest backtracking to Brunswick Square, a stunning horseshoe of four-storey regency homes that sweeps around a manicured central garden. Built in the 1820s, it was Hove's first housing estate, a model that was repeated a few streets down in the equally grand Palmeira Square. Brunswick Square spills into Western Road, a busy thoroughfare with the usual assortment of supermarkets and chain stories. It's not all bad, though. There are unexpected treats such as i gigi, a stylish homewares store with a delightful cafe upstairs and Le Cave a Fromage, a fragrant palace of cheese and charcuterie that stocks more than 300 English and French cheeses.

Surprisingly, this main drag is also home to arguably Hove's finest restaurant, Graze, a gorgeous little venue whose tour de force is a seven-course seasonal tasting menu. For a more affordable alternative, try the excellent value three-course version for $45 or just order the aged rib eye steak with dripping chips. You won't be disappointed.

Head west on Western Road, past the elegant floral clock above Palmeira Square and you'll find yourself in another bustling commercial artery, Church Road. Don't be put off by the proliferation of solicitors and real estate agents, there are gems here, too. The Book Nook is a fantastic independent children's bookshop that holds readings and events and nearby Australian-owned cafe Small Batch Coffee serves a fine flat white.

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Cricket fans will want to head north to the home of Sussex County Cricket Club, Britain's oldest cricket club, which this year celebrates its 175th anniversary. Others may prefer to seek refuge in nearby St Ann's Well Gardens, a tranquil haven of lawns and formal gardens.

While not exactly within walking distance, there is one more establishment you should try to visit. The George Payne is a delightfully quirky pub with a communal knitting basket, chandeliers made from tea cups and a garden full of summer playhouses. Named Best Turnaround Pub in the 2013 Great British Pub Awards, it also serves seriously good grub. On paper, it's exactly the sort of cheeky, eclectic venue you'd expect to find in Brighton. How refreshing to find it hidden among a maze of residential streets in deepest, darkest Hove.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

visitbrighton.com

GETTING THERE

British Airways flies from Sydney and Melbourne to London via Singapore. Hove is a one-hour train ride from London Victoria. See www.britishairways.com

The writer travelled as a guest of British Airways, Graze and The George Payne.

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