Kent may be known as the garden of England, but we come this way for the cliff-lined coast.
It is much-loved by cyclists looking for a longer trek than the usual circuit around Epping Forest or Essex, as well as avid walkers looking to explore some proper coastal paths.
But those of us not looking to get active on a weekend trip away this summer have plenty to enjoy along the Kent coast, too.
Fresh and affordable seafood awaits you on the shores, sandy beaches are made for pasty Brits attempting to tan, and there’s plenty of art and culture to be experienced down in this creative part of England.
Our favourite seaside town comes in the form of funky Whitstable. This bohemian area is becoming increasingly popular among Londoners who can get here in just over an hour by train. But that’s far from the only reason why you should visit.
Whitstable’s long history as a fishing hub continues to this day. It even holds an annual Oyster Festival at the end of July.
Here, you can get stacks of fresh shellfish for absolutely nothing. At least compared to London prices. We have pigged out on entire lobsters, trays upon trays of oysters, and all the prawns we could get our hands on. And we still had plenty of money left over in our budget for trips to pubs and some shopping in the harbourside fish market for more seafood dining back home.
Be sure to then walk off all the feasting by exploring the picturesque laneways, boutique stores and art galleries. The pebble waterfront lined with colourful huts isn’t too bad either.
Folkestone is a highly underrated Kentish seaside village. It doesn’t boast the same sexiness as nearby Margate – but that’s a huge part of its charm. The area hasn’t gentrified beyond recognition and locals still dominate the high street and sandy beaches.
Pop into some of the waterfront pubs and you won’t be greeted by fellow Londoners yodelling on about how cheap the pints are. You’ll find genuine Kentish characters who can either be grumps staring you down or super friendly folk up for a good old chin wag. You never really know what you’re going to get.
And the growing art scene, bursting out of the Creative Quarter, is also putting Folkestone on the map. The small coastal town even has the largest urban outdoor collection of contemporary art in the UK. And while you’re down on the shores, take some time to hike about The Leas – especially the Lower Leas Coastal Park in which you can enjoy a picnic or BBQ on the beach with the some fine scenery all around.
Sandy beaches are aplenty in Margate. Botany Bay and Joss Bay are favourites for locals and are must-sees for anyone who has enough time to spend a full day swimming and tanning – that should be everyone by the way.
But this hipster village is much loved for the highly acclaimed Turner Contemporary gallery and recently renovated Dreamland amusement park. These alone will keep you busy with the kids for an entire day – both fun and culture boxes get ticked off easily.
You can also do some great vintage shopping in Margate, nabbing some great deals. Reach hipster heaven at Peony Vintage or dig for rarities at Margate Retro Fort Road Yard.
Pick up all natural perfume and skincare products at the eco-loving store Haeckels, which offers free finds to shoppers who come in armed with a bagful of rubbish collected from the beach. The more adventurous among you should get your adrenaline fix via all kinds of water sports – most notably surfing. You don’t have to go all the way down to Cornwall to ride some waves.
Isle of Sheppey
This small scrappy island is a favourite among cyclists who come here for the flat, five-mile Isle of Harty Trail.
Take a spin through the Isle of Sheppey past beaches, bird reserves, reed beds, and the welcoming Ferry House Inn that reveals the isle’s rich aviation history on the way. And, because there are so few hills, it makes for a great beginner’s cycling trip – no Lycra needed.
But don’t expect the striking beauty found down by the epic white cliffs of Dover or the colourful streets of Whitstable. What you do get, however, is total escapism. You’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from anywhere. London will feel like a distant memory.
This is added by the general look and feel of the other small towns scattered about the coast. It is like stepping back in time, with some areas barely changed since the 1950s. It’s not perfectly curated and glammed up – what you see is what you get.