Have you ever wondered what are the best things to do in Whitstable? Other than oysters that is. We went on a day trip to this gorgeous seaside town to find out.
It’s really no surprise that Whitstable has become one of the top destinations for city people looking for a daytrip from London. With its picturesque harbour, contemporary arts scene, and unique shopping it has a lot to offer its visitors. And even better, it’s just over an hour away from London.
It’s somewhere that’s been on my wish list for ages, so we went during our recent stay in Kent. We loved the place and discovered it’s not just for day-trippers, but a fabulous family destination too. Read on for our guide on how to spend a day in this gorgeous seaside town and the best things to do in Whitstable.
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Explore Whitstable Harbour
If you want a feel for the essence of this seaside town, one of the best things to do in Whitstable is visit its gorgeous harbour.
Although it has become synonymous with daytrips from London, Whitstable is primarily a working fishing port, albeit a very pretty one. It seemed like the ideal place to start our visit.
As harbours go, it has everything you could hope for. Pretty fishing boats, lobster crates and seagulls. Along the sea front you’ll see the tall fishing huts, which are reminiscent of the ones we’d seen on a recent trip to Hastings in Sussex. Formerly used by fishermen to store their gear, they now offer prime location accommodation for visitors.
Piles of gravel on the opposite side of the harbour are a good reminder that it the port is still in action and throughout the day you’ll see fishing boats coming and going.
Sample Whitstable Oysters
Whitstable is world-famous for oysters, and it seems the done thing to try one whilst you’re here. I’m not a big sea-food fan, so left this delight to the kids.
Luckily, they’ll try anything once and did a decent job of slurping them down in one. From the look on their faces, they weren’t too impressed, but top marks for trying.
At around only £2 a pop, they are not too expensive and are prepared freshly whilst you wait.
They have been farming oysters in Whitstable since the Roman times and the Whitstable Oyster Company now owns the beds in front of the huts. The oyster season is from September to April.
Celebrate at Whitstable Oyster Festival
At the end of summer, Whitstable celebrates its famous molluscs with the annual Oyster Festival.
Expect to see the Lord Mayor of Canterbury in a ceremonial celebration blessing the first oysters. As well as sampling an array of fine seafood, they offer a full programme of activities and acts to entertain visitors. Mud tugs, grotter building and of course, oyster eating are just some of the events on offer.
Click here for more details on Whitstable Oyster Festival.
Mooch around the market
Once you’ve indulged in some oysters, one of the best things to do is mooch around Whitstable Harbour Market. This is a charming arts and crafts market, just by the port. Forty black huts offer an eclectic range of local artisan goods, including jewellery, homeware, art, and souvenirs.
There’s also an outside eating area with take-away food, so looked like a good place for lunch. The noodles looked tempting, but since we were at the sea we opted for fish and chips.
Unfortunately, this was not the best fish in town, and I would choose somewhere else if you’re there. Some of the best reviews are for the Lobster Shack, VC Jones, or The Forge.
Hit the beach
Don’t expect a sandy beach at Whitstable, as it is full of shingle and shells, but it’s still one of the most popular things for families to do. Kids can have fun looking for shells or taking a dip in the sea. We were there in October, so gave the water a miss and had fun skimming stones and climbing the groynes.
If you are looking for a sandy beach, head further up the coast to Margate or the lovely Broadstairs.
Alternatively head for the 19th century Old Neptune Pub and just spend some time looking at the shore. You can’t get a better view, as the pub is on the beach!
Walk along the promenade to Tankerton
As with any seaside town, one of the best things to do in Whitstable is stroll along the promenade.
From Whitstable you can easily walk along the sea front to Tankerton. It’s only a mile away and takes about 20 minutes on foot. It’s a scenic route, which took us past the rows of brightly coloured beach huts.
If you have more time, you can continue your walk to Herne Bay, which is 5 miles away.
Explore Tankerton Slopes
Take some time to climb up the grassy area behind the beach huts known as Tankerton Slopes. Some of this is a nature reserve, home to some of Britain’s rarest plants and moths.
If you’re with kids, they won’t be able to resist a quick climb on the cannons overlooking the slopes. Two cannons and a ship’s mast proudly look out to sea, reminding people of the area’s significant contribution to coastal defence.
Take a walk on "The Street"
At low tide, you can wander out from Tankerton along a sand bank to the open Thames Estuary and look back on the town. Known as “the Street”, this shingle spit is only exposed when the sea levels are low.
Enjoy a cream tea at Whitstable Castle
On the way back from Tankerton, take a detour to Whitstable Castle, where you can stop for a cream tea in the Orangery Team Rooms.
If you don’t fancy scones, they have an impressive selection of homemade cakes, which you can eat on the terrace. If you’re feeling extravagant, you could extend to an afternoon tea and enjoy a glass of prosecco.
Formerly known as Tankerton Towers, this Victorian home once belonged to the Pearson Family. It’s more of a stately home than a castle but does look authentic. Built in 1789, it was originally just a tower, but they later extended it look like a castle. Today it is mostly used for special events, like weddings.
There’s plenty of space for kids to explore in the gardens and a new playground in the grounds.
Browse the shops in Harbour Street
You can’t visit Whitstable without browsing the shops in Harbour Street. Whitstable doesn’t have the olde-world charm of some seaside towns. However, it does have an excellent array of independent shops, and this is definitely one of the best things to do in Whitstable.
You’ll find some tempting boutiques, antique and book shops to while away your time. Whitstable has a contemporary arts scene and there are several galleries, including the Whitstable Museum and Gallery. Or, if you’ve still got room after all the seafood, pop into one of the many restaurants or cosy tea shops.
Look out for the iconic Wheelers Oyster Bar, a cute pink building, that’s the pride of Instagram. Or the distinctive green cheese shop, dedicated to cheese.
If you’re visiting with kids, they will be more tempted by the wares in Sundae Sundae, one of the best ice-cream shops in town.
Other things to do at Whitstable, Kent
We had a fantastic family day out in Whitstable. Here’s a couple of things to do in Whitstable if you have more time.
Take a boat to the Maunsell Forts
For history lovers one of the best things to do in Whitstable is a boat trip out to the Maunsell Forts. From the shore, you can see the forts and wind farm on the horizon. A boat trip from Whitstable Harbour will take you out to both for a closer look.
The Red Sands Sea Forts form part of the Maunsell Forts defence system, built to defend the area from Nazi attack during the 2nd World War.
Animal lovers can take one of the wildlife boat trips from Whitstable to see the seal colony at the Swale.
These are both popular trips, so it’s a good idea to book in advance. Unfortunately, we were unable to get tickets.
Cycle the Crab and Winkle Way
If you like cycling, there’s a traffic-free route from Whitstable to Canterbury. The Crab and Winkle Way is a scenic route that follows the disused railway is 7.5 miles each way. This is top of our agenda for our return to Kent.
You can hire bikes from Kent Cycle Hire.
Click here to find out the best things to do on a day out in medieval Canterbury.
Visitor information for Whitstable
How to get to Whitstable by car
If you live in the South of England, Whitstable is easy to get to by car. Take the M25/M2 and then the A299 on the Thanet Way. If you are travelling from central London, take the A2, which takes just over 2 hours.
There are several small car parks near the sea front, but it does get busy in summer.
How to get to Whitstable by train
The quickest way to get to from Whitstable by train is from St Pancras station. High-speed trains depart every hour, and the journey takes about 1 hour 15 minutes. You can also take a train from London Victoria, which takes about 1hr 30.
From the station it is about 10 minutes’ walk to the beach front. Whitstable is fairly small, so is easy to explore by foot.
What are your favourite things to do in Whitstable? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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