9 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Whitstable, England
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Spending a weekend in Whitstable is a rite of passage for big city folks looking to escape the hustle and bustle. An easy jaunt from nearby Canterbury, this charming fishing village garnishes the northern Kent coast with its colorful houses, delightful fishermen's huts, shingle beach, and eclectic shops.
Whitstable is picturesque and small enough to ditch the car, but large enough that you won't get bored when visiting for a couple of days. When the weather's good, tourists can dine outside at one of the local beachfront restaurants, breathing in the salty sea air as they dig into the freshest fish and chips.
Plan your sightseeing in this charming seaside town with our list of the top things to do in Whitstable.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Whitstable Harbour
Whitstable Harbour, with its bobbing boats and quirky shops, is a big draw for those looking to soak up the quintessential English seaside charm. While the town is fun to visit at any time of year, summer weekends provide the best opportunity for people-watching and outdoor dining.
Whether you choose takeaway fish and chips from Ossie's, or grab a 99 (a traditional English, soft-serve vanilla ice-cream) from a vender along the boardwalk, food seems to taste better when eaten seaside.
The harbor was built in 1832 to serve the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway (a.k.a. the Crab and Winkle line), "the first regular steam passenger railway in the world." In 1834, the railway sold its first season's pass at Canterbury to people on their way to the Whitstable beach.
At that time, a Crab and Winkle line of ships carried coal between London and Canterbury, using the harbor as part of its freight route.
Address: Harbour Street, Whitstable, Kent
2. Tankerton Slopes
If you're looking for a place to relax and enjoy Whitstable at its best, it's here. The cliff-top Tankerton Slopes offers tremendous sea views on a path that eventually leads to Herne Bay.
Grassy and mildly steep, this popular spot tenders an impressive vantage point for those looking for a postcard-worthy photo. Colorful huts line the beach below, while golden sand stretches for miles, especially when the tide is out.
Kids will love climbing on the old cannon to reach an even higher vantage point. Plus, the Maunsell Sea Forts are nearby and easy to spot from up here. Strange, robot-like structures, these were designed during the second World War as an anti-aircraft defense. In contrast to these historic icons lies a horizon spotted with modern windmills. Talk about a perfect place to play "I spy."
Insider's Tip: Parking is free along the road near the slopes, but it can get busy on weekends, so arrive early or be prepared to wait for a spot.
Address: Marine Parade, Tankerton, Whitstable, Kent
3. Tankerton Beach
Lying directly below the Tankerton Slopes at the southern end of Whitstable lies Tankerton Beach. It's here that you'll find "the Street," a natural peninsula brought to life when the tide is low. This sandy outcropping is dotted with rock pools, which make great fun for kids looking to spot marine creatures up close.
You'll want to wear shoes on this old-fashioned beach. It's made up of hard, sometimes sharp stones (a.k.a. shingles) that make walking a bit of a challenge, especially if you're barefoot. It's beautiful, though, with low wooden barriers built out from shore and extending into the sea.
While you may not want to settle on the beach for long due to its uncomfortable base, there are plenty of cafés, restrooms, and shops nearby. And you won't notice the rocks as much if you pack a deck chair.
It's relatively calm here, and lifeguards are on duty during high season, which makes for easy swimming during the warmer months.
Address: Tankerton Road, Whitstable, Kent
4. Whitstable Castle & Gardens
What quaint English town would be complete without a castle? The town's main fortress, Whitstable Castle was originally known as Tankerton Towers. While the building itself is small when compared to other English bastions, it's still impressive and regal. The main reason people visit this attraction, though, is more organic in nature—the gardens.
Perfectly manicured lawns, lovely flower beds, and an impressive array of mature oak trees entice visitors to stay just a little longer. The fragrant rose garden is another treat guiding tourists towards a beautiful central fountain. Benches are placed here to help encourage guests to literally stop and smell the roses.
Insider's Tip: Visit the Orangery Tearoom while you're here and treat yourself to a traditional cream tea. They even offer gluten-free options. If the sun is shining, choose a seat on the outside patio.
Address: Tower Hill, Whitstable, Kent
Official site: whitstablecastle.co.uk/the-castle
5. Harbour Market
It's no surprise that Harbour Market is one of the top things to do in Whitstable. A small open-air market in Whitstable Harbour, each shop is housed in an adorable beach hut. Those looking to engage in a little retail therapy will enjoy the wide variety on offer, as well as the (mostly) reasonable prices.
In addition to selling pretty much everything you can think of—from t-shirts and baby blankets to handmade tea towels, fresh produce, and paintings, the market is a fantastic place to spend an hour. Since it's small, you won't need much more time than that.
Each shop is eclectic, and many of the owners are as unique as their wares, making this a great people watching locale. Add the gorgeous sea backdrop complete with bobbing boats, and you'll be content to wander for even longer.
During summer weekends, guests can expect live music, great takeaway food, and impeccably good fudge.
Insider's Tip: Head here on a weekend as many of the shops are closed on weekdays. If you're hoping to truly enjoy some unique retail therapy, be sure to visit during high season.
Address: The South Quay, Whitstable Harbour, Whitstable, Kent
Official site: https://harbourmarketwhitstable.co.uk/
6. Crab and Winkle Way
The Crab and Winkle Way is a lesser known bike route leading cyclists through about 10 miles of the winding countryside from Whitstable to Canterbury. What better way to get to know a country, than by traversing its wilderness and marveling at the lush fields and magnificent sky as you pedal?
Part of the National Cycle Network, this well-tended path passes farms, crosses bridges, and heads through forests. The path is made of a mixture of elements, depending where you are—tarmac, stones, gravel, and dirt can all be navigated along it. You can also expect to see varying types of path—from tree-lined wonders to neighborhood streets to wide-open spaces.
There are no massive hills or mountains to climb, but it can be a bit challenging at times. Overall, though, cycling along the Crab and Winkle Way is a perfect activity for those who aren't the most confident bike riders.
If you don't stop to rest, marvel at the livestock, or take hundreds of photos, the route should take about an hour and a half to two hours to complete. But there's no need to do the whole thing. Even staying close to town will give you an idea of the area's extensive beauty.
Insider's Tip: Keep your eyes posted for trail signs. They're usually easy to spot but get trickier to find when you're in the heart of Canterbury.
7. Whitstable Museum and Gallery
The Whitstable Museum and Gallery is housed in the most adorable, slate-shingled building. Painted white at the front, its blue trim brightens up the façade, inviting people to enter for a trip back in time.
The museum's most impressive display is located right in its center—the INVICTA engine. This historic steam locomotive was one of the first to be used on the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway (a.k.a. Crab & Winkle Line), pulling the first paying passengers from Canterbury to Whitstable. As of June 2019, it's on show right here for all to admire.
Film buffs will like the Peter Cushing display (a.k.a. "Cushing Corner"). The actor, who starred in Star Wars and Doctor Who, was a Whitstable resident for 35 years.
Although small, the Whitstable Museum is the perfect size for children with a short attention span and offers an interesting look into the people and trade that made up the town's past. It's run by volunteers who exemplify the friendly community that makes up this seaside town.
Insider's Tip: The museum is closed on Mondays, so plan your visit accordingly.
Address: 5A Oxford Street, Whitstable, Kent
Official site: https://www.whitstablemuseum.org/
8. St. Alphege Church
Set in the midst of the busy high street, deep in the heart of Whitstable, stands the stoic St. Alphege church. Its turreted steeple is impossible to miss, as is the English flag that flies high above it.
A small Anglican church, St. Alphege is worth a quick stop to admire the intricate stonework and stained glass from inside. Within the main foyer is what many tourists tout as the church's best asset—a café.
Kind staff and chatty volunteers sell delicious cakes and various other treats guaranteed to please any palate. Plus, the coffee exceeds that found in any of the large chains. Looking for something to warm you? They also serve tea, hot food like jacket potatoes, and light lunches. Another bonus: the prices are extremely reasonable.
Address: High Street, Whitstable, Kent
Official site: https://stalphege.org.uk/
9. Get Your Eat On!
One of Whitstable's main draws is its foodie scene. With fresh seafood being unloaded from fishing boats daily, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better place to enjoy a sardine sarnie. There are so many great restaurants here that it can be hard to choose.
Many of the best eateries, though, have nothing to do with the sea. Oxford Street's Potato Tomato is a small restaurant with a big, eco-conscious heart and an impressive vegan menu. It's best to reserve a spot to ensure you can taste their fantastic fare.
Revival Ice Cream Parlour and Veggie Vinyl Eatery is unique and tiny, with a menu to rave about (don't leave without trying knickerbockerglories). It's run by Mind in Bexley, a mental health charity. The owners welcome patrons to bring their own records to play while they eat.
Birdies is a French bistro with extra charm. For an afternoon treat, do your taste buds a favor and visit Whats Up Cupcake? on Harbour Street. With flavors like John Dear, Plain Jaynes, Marty Mocha, Cheeky Monkey, and Juicy Lucy, there's something for everyone. Let's be honest, you had us at cupcake.
Where to Stay in Whitstable for Sightseeing
When it comes to spending the night in town, Whitstable's hotel offerings are slim. It's such a small town that there aren't a ton of options for places to rest your weary head. Below are a few of the best hotels in this quaint fishing village. Since there aren't any luxury accommodations, those hoping for a higher class of stay may want to look a bit further afield in nearby, and much larger, Canterbury.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The Crescent Turner Hotel is as close as it gets to a luxury stay in Whitstable. Boasting 18 rooms, this stylish boutique hotel offers guests a phenomenal view of the coast from the top of Wraik Hill. The grounds are beautiful, and breakfast is delectable. The Marine Hotel also offers impeccable sea views from its supreme (almost) beachside location. Its 30 rooms are clean, modern, and spacious, and the on-site restaurant, which was awarded a Visit England Breakfast Award, is a crowd pleaser. The family-run Hotel Continental fronts the sea and is positioned a mere five-minute walk to the High Street. The crisp, tidy rooms were recently updated and boast impeccable views.
- Budget Hotels: No. 9 Whitstable Bed and Breakfast provides charming and stylish accommodations in a Victorian house dating back to 1895. It's centrally located, and everyone gets their own, ensuite loo. A stay at Hillview Whitstable Bed and Breakfast is about as peaceful as it gets. Set in a rural section of town, this sweet B&B is conveniently close to the Crab and Winkle Way. The Premier Inn Whitstable hotel is a bit generic but has everything you need in a good hotel—comfy beds, clean bathrooms, and courteous staff.
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Day Trips from Whitstable: Whitstable is a charming seaside escape, perfect for a weekend break. If you're looking for a bit more excitement, head out of town. Within a half hour, you'll reach Canterbury, which boasts the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral and a bevy of phenomenal restaurants. Forty-five minutes south, you'll come to the port town of Dover, home to the spectacular chalk cliffs known as the White Cliffs. Seven miles west, you'll find trendy Folkestone, one of the country's busiest ports.