The annual Whitstable Oyster Festival, which attracts vast numbers to celebrate the mighty mollusc, is one of the biggest events on Kent’s calendar. Summer welcomes its bounty of native oysters, for which this beautiful seaside town is famous; visitors can expect a series of colourful events blending historic and cultural tradition with modern festivities, expertly curated with an abundance of delicious local food, drink and live entertainment. For foodies, this unique event in Kent is an unmissable experience.
Over the course of the celebration of Whitstable’s famous oyster trade there will be a fun parade, the bustling Harbour Food Fair where you can sample dishes from around the globe, top performers from across the country, and a spectacular fireworks finale on Whitstable beach.
Whether you are visiting for the day, or planning a holiday in Whitstable, here is our pick of the highlights of the Whitstable Oyster Festival 2017 for you to enjoy.
Landing of the Oysters (22nd July at 12.45)
This is a delightfully quirky (and typically Whitstable) event symbolising the original holy festival, thought to date back to the Norman period. The traditional and historic ceremony sees the first catch of the season brought to shore by the Whitstable Sea Scouts on East Quay Beach. The haul is presented to the Mayor of Canterbury and blessed by the church, ready for the procession which heads to Tankerton Slopes.
Seafront Procession (22nd July at 13.30)
The festival procession takes a scenic seafront route along the promenade from East Quay to Tankerton Slopes where it culminates at the food fair. It is great fun for families, full of flamboyant characters and entertaining music, and you can join the procession anywhere from the East Quay to The Continental Hotel.
Oyster Eating Competition (22nd July at 15.30)
If you are a true lover of oysters and fancy a challenge, you can take on the annual oyster eating competition. This Man vs Food contest sees participants racing to consume half a dozen oysters and half a pint in the quickest time. Alternatively, you can watch with amusement from the crowd! Registration opens at noon at the festival bar, and is limited to 36 competitors, with an entry fee of £6.
The Oyster Food Fair (22nd - 23rd July from 10.00)
Sample fresh seafood, unique street food, and refreshing local beers and ales at a plethora of hand-picked stalls. With fantastic live music on the Festival Stage and the surrounding sea views to add to the atmosphere, you are bound to fill your bags with a variety of gastronomic delights. Our top tip is to take along some picnic blankets and swimwear with you and duck to the beach if you fancy a break from the crowds, you can toss a coin to see who goes back up the slopes for another round!
Mud Tug! (22nd July at 18.30)
Watch the town’s men and women come together in a warrior like tug-of-war in the mud flats and cheer on your favourite team. Last year saw a woeful turnout from the men, so let’s hope that they rally this year. Will Nautilasses be victorious once more, or will their crown be stolen?
Grotters (24th July at 16.00)
This is a magical event, unique to Whitstable. Grab a handful of oyster shells and join large numbers of children and adults as they build their ‘grotters’, which are hollow, castle-like structures made from the shells - a tradition thought to have originated in Victorian times. As the sun sets the sea front becomes illuminated as they are lit by candlelight - it is a wonderful sight to see.
Made in Whitstable: Art and Crafts Vintage Trail (daily from 10.30)
On this trail you will find a brilliant mix of arts, handmade crafts, vintage clothing, kitchenalia, collectables, and much more, perfect for finding a souvenir to take home with you.
Activities for kids:
- Beach Hut Tales – brings together storytelling and performance with kids joining in a fun singalong.
- Chalky Chalkie – perfect for little ones who are creative, with some fun prizes up for grabs.
- Pirate Treasure Hunt – follow the clues and pursue a pirate treasure chest.
- Whitstabubble Picnic Party – bring a picnic or a BBQ and join in the fun family activities.
- Let’s Go Fly a Kite – kids can create a colourful kite to fly high for all to see in the flying festival.
- Crabbing – kids will be delighted to catch the best crab with their favourite bucket and crabbing line.
If you have been inspired to visit this special event in Whitstable, we hope you have a wonderful experience and enjoy the unique flavours of our vibrant seaside town. Why not stay in one of our Whitstable cottages close by and make the most of the festivities?
*Dates and times are correct at the time of publishing; however, they are subject to change. Please check the Whitstable Oyster Festival Programme for the most up to date information.