Deal is a quintessential English coastal town in Kent, between Ramsgate and Dover in South-East England. Sometimes overlooked by its popular neighbours, Whitstable and Margate, Deal has its own unique charm and is a popular destination for holidaymakers and day-trippers from London alike.
We went on a visit to explore this quaint seaside town during our recent stay in Sandwich, a gorgeous medieval town, just 4 miles away. Read on for our round-up of the 7 best things to do and see in Deal.
Stroll along the seafront
As with most seaside resorts, one of the best things to do in Deal is stroll along the seafront. Don’t expect sand, but Deal does have a long stretch of shingle beach and a promenade which is perfect for a scenic walk to neighbouring Walmer.
Along the promenade you will come across Walmer Lifeboat Station. Built in 1856, this is an active lifeboat station, which has been rescuing people for years.
It takes about 30 minutes to get to Walmer Castle, part of Henry VIII’s defence system for this coastline.
Visit Deal Pier
One of the key attractions along the promenade is Deal Pier. Built in 1954, this is the third pier to stand here. The first Deal Pier was built many years earlier in 1838.
To be honest, our first impressions of Deal Pier were somewhat underwhelming. From a distance on a grey day, this concrete structure is not a thing of beauty. However, as the sun came out, I warmed to its “brutalist” architecture and from underneath, it has an unusual aesthetic appeal.
At the entrance to the pier is a bronze statue, “Embracing the Sea”, which depicts a man in a boat pulling a fish from the sea. You’ll also find a small ice-cream kiosk and shop for angling essentials. The end of the pier is a popular spot for anglers, and you’ll usually find some fishermen there.
For me, one of the merits of Deal Pier is the absence of arcades and fairground rounds. What you’ll see instead is plenty of wooden benches to relax and enjoy the sea views.
As you walk to the end, you can look back and admire the colourful Georgian houses on the promenade or even gaze out as far as France (so I’m told!). At the end of the pier, you can indulge in some local food at the Deal Pier Kitchen, which serves meals throughout the day.
Hit the Beach
Deal has a rich maritime history and was once a thriving fishing town. Today you can still see a scattering of wooden fishing boats pulled up on the beach. These reminders of bygone days gone add to Deal’s charm.
Deal has a long stretch of pebble beach and is popular for families and day-trippers from London. You can swim in the sea, but take care, as there are some strong currents. If you have children, there is a open air paddling pool along the promenade.
The shingle landscape and seemingly abandoned boats brought back memories of our visit to Dungeness. The similarity ends there, as Deal is a lively seaside town and far less remote!
Visit the Deal Time Ball Tower
History-lovers should visit the Timeball Tower Museum. This four-storey tower was built as a semaphore tower to guide ships along the coast.
From 1855 the tower had a Timeball, which you can still see on the roof. Electric telegraph wires connected the time ball to Greenwich, which would send a signal at 1pm every day for it to drop.
In its heyday local ships relied on the Deal Timeball Tower for accurate navigation. Today, you can see memorabilia from Deal’s maritime history or climb to the top for views over the town. The historic landmark has recently been out of service for restoration work but will be reopening soon.
Explore Deal Castle
We loved Deal Castle and it is one of the best things to do in Deal. Deal Castle is one of three artillery castles, built by order of King Henry VIII to defend the Kent coastline from Catholic invaders. You can still see the cannons on the bastions looking out over the English Channel.
The Tudor fortress is on the seafront and is now managed by English Heritage. It has the shape of a rose, similar to Camber Castle in Sussex, which we visited last year. However, this Tudor castle is in far better condition, and you can have fun exploring the different levels.
If you are visiting Deal Castle with kids, there are several family activities, including a super-size puzzle. You can also do a complete loop of the underground passageways and see where the captain lived.
Click here for current admission prices to Deal Castle.
Cycle to Walmer Castle
One of the most fun things to do in Deal is hire a bike and cycle along the seafront. You can hire bikes from Hut 55, a beach hut on Marina Road, near Deal Castle.
From here you can head South along the promenade and visit Walmer Castle, the oldest of the three castles in Deal. This is another of Henry VIII’s defensive fortresses owned by English Heritage. Walmer Castle remains in a good state, with well-maintained gardens. Alternatively, as Walmer Castle is only just over a mile, you could easily walk there.
Or, if you head in the other direction, you could visit the ruins of Sandown Castle. Carry on in a northerly direction and you’ll arrive at the gorgeous medieval town of Sandwich. This is about 5 miles from Deal.
Discover Old Deal
Deal town centre offers visitors an eclectic mix of old and new. Smart Georgian houses mingle with cute fishermen’s cottages. Narrow streets and alleyways are home to vintage markets, galleries, an old record store, and quirky gift shops. In contrast the pedestrian high street offers chain stores and practical outlets for grocery shopping.
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to eating in Deal. You’ll find cosy cafés, traditional pubs, trendy bistros, and delicatessens.
One of the prettiest buildings is the historic King’s Head. In a prime position on the beach front, this historic pub, dating back to 1645, is picture-pretty and an instagrammer’s dream shot! Stop for a pint in the seating area outside, or stay longer for some traditional pub food.
If you prefer a more intimate setting, Le Pinardier is a small, but friendly bar, with a superb selection of wine.
How to get to Deal
If you are travelling by car, it is an easy drive on the M25/M20 from the South of England. If you are coming from London, you can take the M2/A2. The journey takes about 2 hours from London.
You can get from London to Deal by train in 1hour 24 minutes. Trains leave regularly from London St Pancras. Deal Station is only a few minutes’ walk from the town centre and beach front.
What are your favourite things to do in Deal? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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