Margate, Deal, Whitstable... The Kent coast is dotted with picture-perfect towns. Pretty Whitstable, with its brilliantly fresh seafood and annual oyster festival, has long attracted stressed-out city dwellers in desperate need of a little fresh air and is the perfect place for a post-lockdown trip. With its pastel-painted shopfronts and beach huts, this traditional fishing town feels tailor-made for snap-happy day trips. There’s also a thriving arts scene, a genuine community spirit, and always loads and loads going on. Planning a day trip? Here are the best things to do in Whitstable right now.
Please note:Travelling around the UK is only allowed from April 12. Some of the facilities and businesses we mention will be closed at the moment. Government advice is to avoid public transport so don’t travel by train or bus. Please be mindful of the people who live locally. If you decide to travel, check whether car parks are open before you set off and adhere to social distancing guidelines on your walks.
A perfect day in Whitstable: the best things to do
Scandi-cool café Blueprint on Oxford Street is part espresso bar and part bookshop, with a focus on provenance: the beans are from small-batch roastery Ozone and the milk comes from pampered Kentish cows. Get your coffee to go, in a 100 percent biodegradable cup, of course.
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Soak up the vibes
When the sun’s out it’s hard to beat rolling your trousers up and picking your way down Whitstable’s delightful pebble beach to the breakers. If you’d rather not get your feet wet, head to The Old Neptune pub (The Neppy to its friends) – it’s right by the water’s edge.
Stop for lunch
You might have to book months ahead, but it’s worth the faff to bag a table at The Sportsman, just down the road. It jokingly calls itself a ‘grotty run-down pub’, but it’s a place of foodie pilgrimage. Think home-churned butter, local wines and fish caught that morning. Left it too late? Beachfront shack The Forge has local beer and the freshest fish and chips – perfect.
Splash the cash
Independent record store Gatefield Sounds specialises in freshly pressed vinyl, while Rock Bottom Records is a crate-digger’s dream full of pre-loved bargains. Clothes-wise, tiny Ruskin on Harbour Street is a kind of Arket-on-Sea.
Explore Whitstable’s arty side with a wander round its galleries. TheFishslab Gallery (it used to be a fishmonger) supports emerging makers. Visit Chappell Contemporary for limited-edition prints that you can buy on interest-free credit through the Own Art scheme.
If you only do one thing
When there’s an R in the month, it’s native oyster season (rock oysters are available all year). As well as doing a nice line in the crustacean it’s named after, The Lobster Shackserves stunning Whitstable ones. In fact, back in the eighteenth century it was an oyster-grading house. Shucks!
And if you stay the night...
To really fill your London lungs with fresh sea air, you’ll want to snooze right on the seashore. Tides Cottage is a bright coastal cottage that looks out on to the shingle and surf, with beach access from the front door. The tiny terrace is full of rustic antiques. Inside there’s a traditional stove and no telly. This is an ace base to explore Whitstable from – The Old Neptune pub is just a short walk away along the beach – but it would be equally lovely to stay put and sip tea in bed while watching the waves or, from the little front garden, see the sun slowly set. Ellie Walker-Arnott