Whitstable is a seaside town in north Kent. With a picturesque harbour, extensive shingle beach and lots of quaint shops to visit along the high street, there is no shortage of things to do in Whitstable.
To top it off, there are tonnes of great eateries, outlets to buy fresh seafood and an annual oyster festival, so foodies will love the place!
Whitstable is a short train journey from London St. Pancras and Victoria stations so you can easily day trip here from the capital in just over an hour. It’s also a great place to visit if you fancy a short break by the sea in Kent. The town has a good selection of accommodation for visitors but do book early during the tourist season.
Whitstable is well worth a visit. Read on for ideas for things to do in Whitstable.
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Top things to do in Whitstable
Take a walk on the beach
Whitstable has one of Kent’s most beautiful shingle beaches, which is ideal for strolling along and admiring the views. The beach continues to Seasalter, which is roughly a mile away.
You can also walk along the coast pathway which continues beyond Whitstable; in fact you can stretch your legs as far as Herne Bay, 5 miles away. There are colourful beach huts along the route which give a real sense of the town’s traditional seaside charm.
The wide-open beach that you will discover in Whitstable is my favourite type of British beach. Although I like a good old lively sandy beach resort, I also love coastal areas that are quieter and where you don’t have to fight your way through crowds queuing for candy floss and ice cream.
And on windy days, you get to walk the beach in relative isolation. So, although Whitstable itself can be popular and attract the crowds, there’s plenty of places on the beach to escape from the throng.
If you do take a walk along the beach, you can end it with a stop off in The Old Neptune pub (or the “Neppy” to locals). Thought to have once been a boatyard workshop, it’s right on the beach and is a popular spot to hang out.
It has a restaurant serving food, and live music is performed on some evenings. There are benches outside for those long summer evenings and, when the weather permits, they hold barbecues on the beach.
Enjoy a foodie break
If you’re a bit of a foodie, Whitstable is the place to go. It’s renowned for its seafood, so having a foodie break is definitely one of the top things to do in Whitstable.
There are plenty of restaurants with the freshest seafood and also a fish market in town, so there is no shortage of tasty treats to look forward to.
A fish market is located in one of the quays in the town’s harbour and sells a variety of fish and shellfish. This is an opportunity to pick up some fresh food to take home or eat from the counters.
The harbour hosts barbecues during the summer, so you can enjoy a beer, some local cuisine, and watch the sun go down over the sea.
The Crab and Winkle restaurant is also located in the harbour. In a nod to the past, this is named after the historic Crab and Winkle railway line. This connected Canterbury to Whitstable and once ran alongside the site of the current harbour.
Or if you prefer, grab some fish and chips and eat them on the beach!
Visit during the Whitstable Oyster Festival
If you enjoy oysters, Whitstable’s annual Oyster Festival is a must-see. This is an annual event that takes place in the town during the summer and features a variety of enjoyable activities tourists can participate in.
Visitors can construct an oyster shell structure (also known as a “grotter”) and children can enter a crab catching contest. According to the website, prizes are given out for the “biggest, smallest, angriest, ugliest and prettiest crabs”!
And if you have the stomach for it, you can compete to be the fastest to consume 6 oysters and half a pint of beer…
The festival includes opportunities for visitors to experience a host of mouth-watering dishes in local restaurants. If you enjoy eating seafood, you won’t be disappointed!
Some of the activities require that you purchase a ticket in advance. It’s a good idea to do so far ahead of time since the event is very popular.
If you can’t make it to the Oyster Festival, don’t worry; there are several locations in Whitstable where you can still sample oysters.
The Whitstable Oyster Company is one of those places. It has a variety of oyster dishes, including one with black truffle butter and champagne!
Explore the town and harbour market
When you come to Whitstable, there are some great places to explore in the town.
If you fancy a spot of retail therapy while you’re here, you’ll discover shops packed full of character lining the streets.
Most have been around for years making them a part of the town’s history. They include clothing and jewellery shops, antique shops and gift shops, as well as an ice cream parlour.
There is also a museum and a range of restaurants and tea rooms to stop off in.
The harbour marketplace is another spot to look for presents to take home. This location features stalls that sell a variety of arts and crafts. There is also a good selection of places to eat here.
Whitstable town centre also has some quirky parts to it and old winding alleys that lead down to the sea. These make for some interesting spontaneous short cuts around the town.
One such place is ‘Squeeze Gut Alley’ which is worth a few minutes of your time. Originally called Granny Bell’s Alley, it was renamed because it narrows at one point and creates a squeeze.
Apparently, it may also be associated with a time when a policeman, because of his size, was unable to fit himself through the alleyway to chase some of the local children.
The alley is just off of the Island Wall street in the town.
Ride the Crab and Winkle Way
Cycling in Whitstable is a popular way for visitors and residents to explore all that the town has to offer. You can also travel beyond the centre of town and make use of The Crab and Winkle Way.
This takes its name from the disused railway line that once ran between Whitstable and Canterbury. It is now a walking and cycle route that stretches for over 7 miles and that takes you past some lovely places in the Kent countryside.
The route includes sections that go past the seafront, through woodland, past a nature reserve and through villages. On arrival in Canterbury, you’ll get to see its magnificent 11th century cathedral.
The route is largely free from traffic making it ideal for all bikers, including children. If you’re visiting without a bike, there are local outlets where you can hire one. This includes Kent Cycle Hire.
Get out on the water
If getting out on the water is something that appeals to you, then Whitstable offers plenty of options.
There are several boat trips you can book. There are short trips that take you out around the coastline, as well as trips that go out to the Red Sand Maunsell sea forts in this area.
The latter will appeal to those with an interest in history, having been constructed as sea defences during the Second World War. They are quite unique structures!
Wildlife lovers might also want to see if they can spot some seals at the nearby seal colony.
You can also enjoy some water sports while you’re in Whitstable. The lengthy coast lends itself to sailing, surfing, and other activities such as paddle boarding and jet-skiing. Companies in the area provide opportunities to participate in these activities. A local diving firm also provides courses on scuba diving and snorkelling.
See the views from the Tankerton Slopes
A visit to the Tankerton slopes is one of the top things to do in Whitstable, especially if you want to get some good photos of the surrounding area. It’s also one of Whitstable’s most popular attractions for families with children.
The Tankerton Slopes are grassy lawns on top of the cliffs that are about a mile out of town centre. From this vantage point there are wonderful views, including of “The Street”, a spit of shingle that juts out into the sea.
The sloping lawns provide lots of space to play games and you can walk or cycle along the bottom of the slopes from Whitstable to Swalecliffe. On a good day, it’s a great spot to head to for a picnic.
Learn about local history in the Whitstable Museum and Gallery
Whitstable Museum and Gallery is located near the seafront and is packed with local exhibits that will interest history lovers.
This includes the Invicta steam train that ran on the Whitstable to Canterbury railway line, a fire pump that was pulled by horses and used in the 1869 Fire of Whitstable and various pieces of equipment that were used in the local fishing industry.
The museum is set inside a 19th century house and became home to the museum in 1985.
Have afternoon tea in Whitstable Castle gardens
Whitstable Castle and Gardens (otherwise known as Tankerton Towers) is a late 18th century building that was privately owned up until the 1970s. It is now a venue for weddings and community events.
However, the landscaped gardens are open to the public and you can stroll around its attractive surroundings. The garden features some beautiful plants and flowers that can be found in 3 acres of land.
You can also pop into the Orangery Tea Rooms during your visit. Set in a beautiful venue, with lovely views of the castle, it serves breakfast and lunch dishes, as well as cream teas.
There is also a tasty afternoon tea menu if you really want to push the boat out!
Take a day trip
Whitstable is ideally located for trips to other tourist attractions in Kent, so if you have the time you might want to get out and about a bit.
The historic city of Canterbury should be high on your list. You can see this historic city if you decide to cycle along the Crab and Winkle Way or you can catch a bus or train. If you go by car, it’s just over a 20 minute drive.
Once there you can visit the 11th century Canterbury Cathedral. This historic building is home to the shrine of Thomas Beckett, who was murdered inside the building during the 12th century.
You can also explore Canterbury’s old town with its small pretty alleyways and medieval buildings. Other ways of seeing the city include taking a boat trip along the River Stour.
If you’d prefer to visit Canterbury as part of a day trip from London and which also includes a tour of the Kent coastline, learn more here.
Broadstairs is another destination that is definitely worth seeing. This will appeal to children, as it has Viking Bay, a sandy beach which is the perfect spot to spend a sunny day and where there are opportunities to paddle in the water.
Nearby Botany Bay is another picturesque spot. The geological structures around the bay make it an ideal place for fossil hunting, another favourite activity for children.
Overlooking Viking Bay is Bleak House, the early 19th-century house where Charles Dickens is said to have written some of his works. There’s also a museum – the Dickens House Museum – where you can learn more about his life in Broadstairs.
You can drive or catch the train from Whitstable to Broadstairs in just under half an hour.
Less than 20 miles away from Whitstable is Margate, another place worth considering if you’re visiting the area with children.
It has a sandy beach and a promenade stretching alongside the seafront. Kids will love Dreamland, with rides that include a ghost train, the waltzers and a big wheel. The park also hosts a variety of events and concerts.
There’s also the Shell Grotto Margate Museum, where millions of seashells decorate 70 feet of an underground grotto. On the seafront you’ll find the Turner Contemporary Gallery. As its name suggests, this is a contemporary art gallery, named after JMW Turner who had close connections with Margate.
You can take the train from Whitstable to Margate or drive; both journeys take less than 30 minutes.
How to get to Whitstable
Whitstable is only an hour and fifteen minutes from London St. Pancras International station or London Victoria station so it’s very easy to travel to by rail. You can also drive here although the journey time will depend on where you are starting from.
You can also catch a bus from London Victoria Coach Station which takes 2 hours and 50 minutes.
Other UK short breaks and UK staycations
I hope this post on the top things to do in Whitstable helps you plan a trip here.
If you are looking for ideas for UK short breaks and UK staycations, see my following posts:
- A weekend in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bath
- Top things to do on a short break to Dorset’s Lyme Regis
- 3 days in Edinburgh
- A short break to Windsor
- The must-do sights in Gibraltar
- A day trip to Hampton Court Palace in London
- Top things to do in south west London
- A short break to Guernsey
My website also contains more ideas for short trips in Europe and the United Kingdom.