This summer, Southeastern is offering special train fares to selected destinations around the Kent and East Sussex coast – from £10 day return to Whitstable, Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Dover, Deal, Folkestone and Faversham, and from £15 day return to St Leonards and Hastings. That sounds like the perfect excuse to swap a frappé in Trafalgar Square for a day at the beach, with the cooling sea lapping at your toes.
We don’t need to tell you how to pack for a day at the beach, but we have put our crack team of daytrippers on the case to come up with hidden gems in each place so you can REALLY chill out when you get there.
You’ll find more inspired ideas for your day out in our summer guide to #SEhiddengems, too.
Now, pass the sunblock, and let’s get going…
Gaze on contemporary art in Whitstable
Set in an old fisherman’s cottage, Frank is a light and airy gallery and shop selling work from individual makers. Browse through the beautiful litho prints and check out the ceramic crafts. Even the wrapping paper selection looks like fine art here.
Frank, Whitstable rail.
Sample a glassful of the fruits of nature in Faversham
Take a stroll around one of England’s oldest market towns and find yourself at Macknade Fine Foods. This much-loved food hall is stocked full of local and regional produce, with a fabulous deli counter and regular pop-up events, like artisan soft drink tastings.
Macknade Fine Foods, Faversham rail.
Venture inside a shell grotto in Margate
Away from the thrills and spills of the seafront and Dreamland, Margate’s loveliest hidden gem isn’t so much a secret as a mystery. The Shell Grotto is a warren of subterranean passages that lead to a vast chamber adorned with a mosaic made from thousands of sea shells. No-one knows who created it, which adds to its strange beauty.
The Shell Grotto, Margate rail.
Afternoon tea in a glasshouse in Broadstairs
The Italianate Glasshouse in the grounds of East Cliff Lodge is a unique and elegant survivor of a bygone time, leafy and verdant, with outdoor tables in the shade, just perfect for a cuppa. If you really insist on something cool, order a long glass of Little Stour juice, made with local apples. For those who want a shorter walk, Dumpton Park station is nearby (which is not part of the £10 ticket offer).
The Italianate Glasshouse, Broadstairs rail.
Sample Victorian Gothic life in Ramsgate
Architect Augustus Pugin was one of the key influences on the Gothic revival in the 1800s. His own family home, The Grange, was designed so he and his family could live out his vision of medieval life. A tour in his world (Wednesdays at 2pm and 3pm) is bound to take your mind off the heat.
The Grange, Ramsgate rail.
Go back in time, underground in Dover
As a key strategic location in World War II, medieval Dover Castle played a new role in the 1940s. Tour the secret wartime tunnels, where the Dunkirk evacuation was masterminded, underground.
Dover Castle, Dover Priory rail.
Tour the towers at Deal
One of the most elaborate Tudor coastal forts, built by order from Henry VIII himself, Deal Castle has a distinct design, with pretty, rounded walls – a key feature of its defence. Explore the dark passages that wind inside these amazing, vast bastions.
Deal Castle, Deal rail.
Sip well-iced fizz on Folkestone Harbour Arm
Folkestone has a choice of sandy and pebble beaches, but as the shadows begin to lengthen, head for the Harbour Arm where, at weekends, you’ll find a champagne bar inside the lighthouse. Oh yes.
Folkestone Harbour Arm, Folkestone Central rail.
Climb a cliff by rail in Hastings
When it’s too hot to stroll, see the sights while you’re sitting down… on the West Cliff and East Cliff funicular railways. These beautiful old railcars date back to the Victorian times but are immaculately maintained, so you can cruise up to the clifftop Country Park, no sweat.
Cliff Railways, Hastings rail.
Sunshine Salad for lunch in St Leonards
The boho Love Café is, as the name suggests, a welcoming place for all – for vegans, veggies, meat eaters and their dogs. Set just back from the seafront, it’s open from breakfast but we have a soft spot for the Love Lunch menu of refreshing salad platters, festooned with green leaves and bursting with colour.
Love Café, St Leonards Warrior Square rail.