Whether your interest lies with dogwalking and beaches, or fishing and stunning views — Kent is sure to provide an ideal spot for a relaxing UK weekend break by the sea.
For weirdness, fishing and nature
The delights of exploring Britain’s only desert and its contents – including Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage, Simon Conder’s Riba Award-winning Vista house, a nuclear power plant, two lighthouses and more than 600 plant species – make for a great weekend. Little wonder artists and romantics adore these light-filled expansive flatlands, where the steep shingle banks are constantly reshaped by the sea and a longshore drift means few swimmers, good fishing and year-round solitude.
Eat just yards from the sea at the Britannia Inn (Dungeness Rd, 01797 321 959).
This is the place to find fossilised sharks’ teeth dating from more than 50 million years ago – look for them around the muddy foreshore. When you’ve got a necklace together, head into Herne Bay: a sweet town with a good selection of second-hand shops and some great coastal paths – including an hour-long walk to Reculver Tower and Roman Fort, east along the coast via Beacon Hill.
Eat towering knickerbocker glories at Macari’s ice-cream parlour (54 Central Parade, 01227 374 977).
The town most famous for its oysters welcomes dogs on to its pretty shingle beach, afterwards, make a hearthside recovery at the mutt-friendly Old Neptune pub. For Hammer horror fans, there’s a Peter Cushing display at the Whitstable Museum (the actor bought a seafront house here in 1959), and for everyone else there’s the pleasure of Whitstable Castle and browsing an appealing selection of galleries and shops.
Eat oysters at tiny Wheelers Oyster Bar (8 High St, Whitstable, CT5 1BQ, 01227 273 311).
The Riviera, in Folkestone – if the sun’s shining. The Lower Leas promenade is criss-crossed with stairways, pathways and Mediterranean-style planting among which the smart Victorians and Edwardians used to amble and people-watch. It’s been beautifully restored – though we suspect the large children’s adventure playground and cycle route weren’t part of the original scheme. Get there via the Leas Lift, operated using water and gravity for 125 years.
Try modern English restaurant Paul’s (2A Bouverie Road West, 01303 259 697).
Stay at Relish (4 Augusta Gardens, 01303 850 952), a contemporary ten-room guesthouse.
For traditional seaside charm
The ridiculously cute Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Light Railway puffs along 13 miles of the south Kent coast between Dungeness and Hythe, and by far the quaintest of its seven stops is at tiny Dymchurch, which looks like a throwback to a kid’s idyllic world of seaside, amusement arcades, chip shops and candy-floss stalls. Napoleonic-era Martello towers add an air of majesty, and the beach is a perfect Blue Flag-awarded sandy one that should keep all ages happy. For food and accommodation, go to Romney.
Dine at the Romney Bay House Hotel (Coast Rd, Littlestone, 01797 364 747), the 1920s home of US gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
Stay at White Horses Cottage (180 The Parade, 01797 366626), part of a Sussex farmhouse relocated here in 1928.
For a great beach
Broadstairs has seven bays, all of them characterised by chalk cliffs – the longest continuous stretch in Britain – but Botany wins the prize for its much-photographed chalk stacks, its isolation and its cliffs. With the tide in, the bluffs make the bay feel safe and sheltered, but as the water recedes, the beach opens up and the horizons broaden – time it right and you can walk along the shore to Broadstairs in an hour.
Dine at the Broadstairs Pavilion (Harbour Street, 01843 600 999) for beautiful views across the bay.
Belvidere Place (Belvedere Road, 01843 579 850) offers excellent boutique-style B&B accommodation and weird spelling.
For catching crabs and views
Eurotunnel called it the Shakespeare Cliff work area, after the height that dominate the north edge, but the more romantic sounding Samphire Hoe was selected from a naming competition after its creation in 1997 from the soil dug up during the construction of the Channel Tunnel. It’s now a popular park and nature reserve, with access to excellent rock pools filled with crabs, pretty mermaid’s purses and ham-eating anemones. The clifftop walks offer some fantastic views of the White Cliffs.
Restaurants and hotels
Eat and stay in Folkstone (see above).
Time Out guidebooks
Kent & Sussex guidebook
The definitive guide to two of England's loveliest counties, highlighting their contemporary appeal as well as their traditional charms. Cultural events and attractions are covered alongside our favourite pubs, restaurants and hotels. We explore the great outdoors in all its glory, as well as the best villages and towns and suggest a wealth of things to do and places to visit. Providing information and inspiration, the Time Out Kent & Sussex guide is invaluable, whether you're a resident, a regular visitor or new to the region.