Whitstable in Kent is a beach town with a quaint, old-fashioned appeal.
Whitstable - an hour and a half outside London but a million miles away from the hustle and bustle
Traditional fish and chips, a harbour-front jazz cafe, oysters, ice-creams and candy-coloured beach huts. The British seaside doesn't get better than this.
I first visited Whitstable in 1998 with my children because I wanted a day out by the sea without slot machines, rock shops, stag weekenders and parking issues. This little oyster-farming town fitted the bill perfectly and soon became our place to escape to.
It’s become more popular over the years but hasn't lost the charming qualities that drew me and my family there originally.
Whitstable in Kent
This sloping, pebble beach literally goes on for miles and miles and joins together the nearby towns of Seasalter in one direction and Tankerton the other. Long walks are on the cards, or you can pick your spot to settle down between the groynes. Choose a place right in front of the Whitstable Oyster Company restaurant where it’s busy and only a hop away from the shops, or walk along a bit so there are fewer people and a bit of peace and quiet. Skimming flat pebbles and collecting shells are just two of the pastimes old and young people enjoy.
Neptune pub, Whitstable
Directly on the shingle is a characterful local pub called the Old Neptune. This place features a very wonky bar that actually makes me feel a bit giddy when I’m standing by it. Inside there are lots of photos to admire and a couple of windows over the beach. It’s a good pitstop after a bracing winter walk. In the warmer months, pick a bench outside and enjoy the endless view.
Whitstable Harbour Village
There’s a fishing harbour here and along the back of it are some wooden warehouses where the catch comes in to be packed and shipped. These also have retail fronts where you can pick up some fresh fish or takeaway a portion of winkles, shrimp or the oysters they are famous for in these parts. Just a few metres along there’s an al fresco cafe set up on neat decking called the Harbour Garden Cafe. It’s a great spot to enjoy lunch and a drink in the summer and they have live music and jazz bands there usually every Sunday and Tuesday, and you can hear the music all along the harbour. A little further still and there is a cluster of cute little stalls called the Whitstable Harbour Village and they sell original artwork, handmade jewellery, artisan bread, olives and cheese and some tasteful nicknacks.
Whitstable Harbour Village
Fish n' chips and other places to eat in Whitstable
The high street is just one road back from the beach. It’s a narrow strip which offers quite a variety of shops and food outlets. Fish and chips is a must-eat when you're at the British seaside. There are a couple of places to choose from but VC Jones at 25 Harbour Street, Whitstable is my family’s absolute favourite. Its been there since the 1960s and has barely changed. The shop front, chequered floor and the seats are originals as far as I can tell. There is often a queue along the street for their fresh fish and delicious chips. You can eat in but most people take their food along to the beach and sit on the sea wall looking out over the water. I swear they taste better this way!
Whitstable is famous for its oysters and there is a great restaurant just metres from the beds where these sea creatures grow - The Whitstable Oyster Company. Just here the empty oyster shells are saved up in a huge mound, ready to re-lay in the sea for the next generation of 'spat' to mature in.
On the high street in Whitstable you'll find a Pizza Express, Zizzis, Costa, two pubs serving food, three or four independent coffee and sandwich shops, a tapas restaurant, a French restaurant, an Italian, two Indian restaurants and a couple of other fantastic boutique eateries. Quite a choice for a small town.
If you're staying in a self-catering accommodation, there is a huge Tesco on the main Thanet Way just outside the town, or on Whitstable high street there is a Tesco Express and a mini Morrisons plus a choice of butchers shops, a green grocer, boutique cheese and deli places as well. You will not go hungry in Whitstable!
Antique shops in Whitstable
There are four or five antique shops in Whitstable. They are mainly nearer the station end of the Hight Street. They have some fantastic trinkets and furniture, and are a joy to browse around. They close when things slow down, so don't leave it too late in the day to go.
A few chain stores can be found, such as Boots, White Stuff and Tesco, but there are a larger number of boutique stores selling clothes, home accessories, books, toys, art work, hand-made jewellery and fancy cheeses. Some are so old-fashioned, they have come back into fashion again!. Many of these shops are tiny places with unique things you just cannot resist. You could shop for hours here if you like the more individual, one-off shops.
Staying for longer than a day? Places to stay in Whitstable.
When it comes to places to stay in Whitstable, there’s a Premier Inn, Hotel Continental, Marine Hotel, Fisherman’s huts and holiday cottages to let.
The Premier Inn is just off the busy A299 and out on the edge of the town, which is a typical location for one of these budget hotels. You know the rooms will be comfy, clean and functional and it’s also a good location for visiting other nearby places like the fabulous city of Canterbury.
The Hotel Continental is right on the seafront going towards Tankerton. It’s seen a few improvements recently, as it was a bit dated, and they have a really good cooked breakfast offering. This place also owns the Fisherman’s Huts too.
The Fisherman’s Huts are tucked just behind the sea wall near the harbour. These were actually used by fishermen and have now been completely renovated so they look like a hotel room inside. There are about 14 in total, some are a bit bigger and sleep 4 people. The stairs up to the bedroom in the top part are very steep, almost like a ladder, so if you would have difficulty getting up there this might not be for you.
The Marine is up on the Tankerton Slopes, a few minutes’ walk from Whitstable, and is an elegant hotel with great sea views.
There are lots of holiday lets available ranging from flats over the shops to great big houses. These are a good idea for a longer stay because you can self cater, and they are especially good for larger parties of people. Look carefully at where they are located though as some are actually a fair way out of town. There are some gorgeous places available for rent that have been stylishly kitted out. Check out a few on this website http://www.whitstablecottagecompany.com.