Synonymous with seaside breaks and oysters, Whitstable is intrinsically linked to the sea. From tucking into the town’s freshest delicacies of ocean origin to taking a walk along the scenic pebble beach, there are many simple pleasures to enjoy in this friendly town.
Just over an hour from London and a far cry from the capital’s crowded streets and non-stop noise, Whitstable offers a relaxing retreat full of equally relaxing pursuits. We’ve gathered together a list of the things to do in Whitstable which we most enjoy, and hope you’ll love them too!
We couldn’t begin without mentioning the native oysters for which this seaside town is famous. Celebrated with their very own festival in July, the locals are rightly proud of their delicious mollusc and you can buy them in several places in the town.
The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company serves up oysters alongside a mouth-watering selection of the freshest seafood, which you can tuck into while admiring the sea views, including the company’s oyster grounds.
For a more rustic experience, head to The Forge, a licensed shack on the beach which sells Whitstable oysters as well as fish and chips and a range of seaside snacks. Or if you want to stay true to the town’s roots, visit Wheelers Oyster Bar, the oldest restaurant in Whitstable! It’s unlicensed, so if you fancy a tipple, bring your own – there’s no corkage charge.
Wander around the harbour
Whitstable’s harbour is an atmospheric mix of working fishing port and welcoming shops, cafés and stalls where you can again treat yourself to the ubiquitous oysters. There’s free parking on Tower Hill for four hours, from where it’s an easy 0.2-mile walk to the harbour.
Pause to watch the fishing boats cruising in and out and enjoy the hustle and bustle of what is still a thriving part of Whitstable life. Stroll around the open-air Harbour Market whose huts house the stalls of local artists and craftspeople. Please note that most of the huts are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Take a boat trip
Leave dry land behind for an eye-opening trip into the local waters. There are several sites worth exploring accompanied by a knowledgeable guide.
7 miles from shore are the leviathans known as Maunsell Forts Towers which were built in World War II to protect the Thames Estuary from German warplanes. There’s also the Kentish Flats Windfarm whose majestic 75-metre giants rise out of the sea. If you’re more interested in nature, book a spot on a seal safari to visit the local colony on the sandbanks.
Enjoy the beach
The beaches in Whitstable are pebbled and groyned to stop erosion, but the lack of sand shouldn’t put you off spending beach days here in the summer. Swimming is a popular pastime two hours either side of high tide. At lower ebbs of the tide, the mud and oyster beds are exposed which can make swimming hazardous. Children can take a net and try the ever-enjoyable activity of crabbing, as well as searching for shells and seaside treasures.
Tankerton Beach and West Beach are both dog-friendly although the former has designated restricted areas between May and September.
Watch the sunset
The Old Neptune, a distinctive clapboard pub right on the beach, is the ideal location from which to watch the sun set, creating a riot of colour as it sinks into the sea. ‘The Neppy’, as it’s known by locals, hosts free music events on weekend evenings which you can enjoy as you feast on a hearty pub meal.
Sailing on board Greta
Built in 1892, Greta is an old Thames Sailing Barge, once used to carry ammunition, beer, grain, malt and construction products. Nowadays she works from Whitstable Harbour, offering day trips and private charters which can take in Maunsell Forts, the Kentish Flats Windfarm and Herne Bay Pier, or sail up the River Swale to see the wreck of the USS Montgomery.
The sailing period varies depending on the weather, but trips usually operate between April/May and September/October.
Walk along Tankerton Slopes
Tankerton Slopes stretch from Whitstable to Herne Bay, affording glorious views out to sea, including the landmarks off the coast. With free parking and well-maintained paths, it’s a pleasant spot year-round, perfect for dog walks and even running if you’re feeling energetic.
The beach huts make for picture-postcard photos, and several eateries en route, including The Royal pub (dog-friendly), provide plenty of opportunities to stop and recharge your batteries.
Take your camera for a walk
Whitstable is undeniably photogenic and there’s little more enjoyable for those with a penchant for photography than taking an inspirational wander to capture some of its most beautiful scenes for prosperity.
The colourful beach huts provide the focal point for many a Whitstable photo, painted lovingly in a kaleidoscope of colours which brightens up the seafront. More colour can be found on the beachfront houses down from The Neptune pub. Around the harbour, you’ll find plenty of interesting fishing paraphernalia to photograph, including the boats themselves.
Even Harbour Street, home to many of the town’s shops, is blessed with a hodge-podge of unique buildings which will have you reaching for the shutter button at every turn.
See a show
A charming little theatre in the high street, The Playhouse has a varied programme of plays and tribute acts. It is owned and run by the Lindley Players, an amateur theatre group who put on a selection of plays themselves throughout the year, as well as welcoming other theatre groups and musicians. The volunteer staff are friendly, there are snacks to buy and all seats offer a good view of the stage, so sit back, relax and enjoy the show!
Visit Whitstable Castle and Gardens
Set on Tower Hill, Whitstable Castle and Gardens is a pleasant spot for tea and cake in the café and a free tour of the castle with a volunteer tour guide. The well-maintained gardens are perfect for a wander on a fine day and there is a programme of events from antique fairs to murder mystery evenings.
Shop in the town centre
Whitstable’s welcoming town centre exudes old-fashioned charm, with its eclectic collection of shops and eateries jostling for space along its bustling High Street. Galleries and independent shops offer a quirky and interesting shopping experience, with lots of opportunities for buying souvenirs and curiosities. A plethora of friendly cafés offer the chance to rest in between exploring the shops.
Witness ‘The Street’
At low tide, a shingle spit known as ‘The Street’ is revealed, protruding about half a mile into the sea from Tankerton Beach. You can wander out along it (being wary of the tides) and enjoy a pleasant view of the beach and its groynes when you reach the end. Some compare it to walking on water, as striding out into the sea gives the impression that you’re defying science. Keep your eyes peeled for seabirds who scour the shingle for crustaceans to eat, and the occasional seal in search of its dinner.
Walk the Crab and Winkle Way
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The Crab and Winkle Way follows a disused railway line 7.5 miles from Whitstable to Canterbury. A multi-use path, it’s shared with runners and cyclists, passing through the countryside, woodland and orchards. Taking around 2.5 to 3 hours to walk the whole length, it’s recommended to take the train or bus to Canterbury where you can spend some time enjoying the medieval cathedral city before walking back to the coast, rounding off your walk with fish and chips on the beach.
Soak up some culture
The Horsebridge Arts and Community Centre boasts galleries, workshops, a café and a performance area, offering an exciting programme of events and exhibitions throughout the year. Admire artwork from notable artists, or book onto a workshop or talk from a visiting lecturer. There are classes for adults and children, some of which are drop-in, playgroup-style sessions so ideal for families on a rainy day. When it’s time for a rest, settle down for a drink and a snack in the balcony coffee shop where you can watch the world go by.
Educate yourselves at Whitstable Museum and Art Gallery
Did you know Whitstable is the unassuming home of helmet diving and the ‘first regular steam passenger railway in the world’? If not, head for the Whitstable Museum and Art Gallery to find out about these two accolades, as well as the town’s other important industries such as oyster cultivation and shipbuilding. The museum also has a ‘Cushing corner’, to celebrate the life of one of its most beloved visitors, Dr Who and Star Wars actor, Peter Cushing.
Get out on the water
There are several different water sports on offer in Whitstable, from sedate activities such as gliding along the scenic seafront on a paddleboard, to trying your hand at the exhilarating sport of kitesurfing. Kayaking, surfing and windsurfing are also fun here, so if you’re looking to do something a little different while on holiday, head for Oyster Coast Watersports where they’ll equip you with all the gear and knowledge you’ll need to get going.
Practise your swing
Golfers will enjoy spending the day at Whitstable and Seasalter Golf Course which stretches behind the West Beach beach huts parallel to the sand to Collingwood Road. Visitors are welcome to play the links course, which is challenging, due as much to the coastal wind as the lack of hazards which makes it difficult to judge the power needed for shots.
We hope this has given you plenty of inspiration for your holiday in Whitstable. May it be full of seafood, shopping and sunshine!