Brighton can be reached via the M23, although parking can be costly and you don't need a car if you plan to stay anchored in the city. You'll want one to explore the more rural parts of East Sussex, though.
Gatwick (www.gatwickairport.com) is the best of the region's airports, 30 miles north of Brighton on the M23; the train takes half an hour from there. Heathrow and Luton are also handy, with fast transport connections.
Brighton has great national rail links, with direct services to London Victoria, Reading, Bath and Bristol, among others. Elsewhere, East Sussex is not as well served: the journey to Rye via Ashford takes two hours.
Country code for the UK: 44. Brighton: (0)1273; Rye: (0)1797.
Enjoy a seedy summer of sin in Graham Greene's 1930s thriller Brighton Rock; classic historical satire in 1066 and All That by WC Sellar and RJ Yeatman; and descriptions of the Sussex landscape in Rudyard Kipling's The Five Nations.
Do go / Don't Go
Britain is an unpredictable blighter for weather, so don't let that dictate when you go. In summer, the coast can get crowded, so go midweek if you want quiet romance.
Hail one of Brighton's fleet of blue-and-white hackney cabs on the street, go to a rank, or ring Streamline Taxis (+44 (0)1273 202020). In smaller towns, it's minicabs only; in Rye, try Taxi-Time (+44 (0)1797 224016).
10 or 15 per cent is standard, but many restaurants now add a discretionary 12.5 per cent to the bill, so be careful not to tip twice.
Most beaches are pebbly, so if you do like to be beside the seaside, bring some scuffable footwear and something to sit on - unless you want a permanently dimpled bottom.
A hot contender for the title of the UK's most flamboyant building, the Royal Brighton Pavilion was built for George IV and now houses the engaging Brighton Museum & Art Gallery (www.brighton.virtualmuseum.info). Rudyard Kipling's home, Bateman's near Etchingham (+44 (0)1435 882302; www.nationaltrust.org.uk), is an impressive Jacobean house and garden, left much as it was in Kipling's day; you'll love his 1928 Rolls-Royce and original illustrations for The Jungle Book. Battle Abbey's heritage centre reveals all about the site of the Battle of Hastings (www.english-heritage.org.uk/1066).
For a fishy lunch on Brighton beach in summer, head to Jack & Linda's, a traditional fish-smoking shack on the seafront at King's Road Arches. You'll get addictive home-made fish soup and the best grilled-mackerel sandwiches imaginable; perfect with a squeeze of lemon. For more ideas, check out our Brighton destination guide.
In Brighton, browse the boutiques and jewellery shops of the Lanes. Jeremy Hoye's twinkling emporium on Ship Street is a magpie's dream, with modern but elegant handmade pieces in platinum and gold (+44 (0)845 094 3175). For artwork and homewares, we like Castor and Pollux down in King's Road Arches (01273 773776). Rye is the place to go for antiques and collectibles; Glass Etc on Rope Walk (+44 (0)1797 226600) is owned by the knowledgable expert and author Andy McConnell, and houses his amazing hoard of 20th-century glassware. Visit Rye's farmers' market on Strand Quay on Wednesdays; the quay is also where Rye's fishing fleet lands its catch each morning.
The white chalk cliffs of the beautiful Seven Sisters Country Park are best seen from Birling Gap, with fabulous vistas towards Beachy Head. Alternatively, scan your eyes across the Old Town of Hastings from the East Hill, home to Britain's steepest funicular.
Ponder the origins of the Long Man of Wilmington - Europe's largest representation of the human form, which is scored into the northern flanks of the South Downs six miles north of Eastbourne.
May Hastings holds its bizarre Jack-in-the-Green Festival of Morris Dancing on May Day. Running from 3 to 25 May, Brighton Festival is the biggest arts event in England, and includes the Brighton Festival Fringe, which is presented over the same period (www.brightonfestival.org). May-August Glyndebourne Festival Opera is one of the year's top social fixtures (www.glyndebourne.com). See our European events guide Smith 52 for details, or buy the book for the full insider lowdown. July-August Gay Pride (www.brightonpride.org). September The Rye Festival is a long-established celebration of art and music (www.ryefestival.co.uk). November Lewes' Guy Fawkes celebrations are among the UK's finest. See our European events guide Smith 52 for details, or buy the book for the full insider lowdown.