12 Beaches in Kent to visit this Summer
From Blue Flag award-winners to hidden coves, those great for sports to coastal paths with a difference, whatever you want from a day at the seaside, Kent’s beaches have it all.
With over 50 beaches to choose from, summer is set to be spectacular in the Garden of England! The hardest part of seaside holiday in in Kent has to be deciding exactly which beaches to visit. That’s why we have put together our favourites to help you get to know their quirky characters and what makes each of them unique and special. So whether you’re craving traditional seaside nostalgia, white sands to rival Cornwall or tranquil nature reserves to marvel at wildlife – Kent will have a beach to suit you. Whoever you might be and whatever you might be looking for, there is sure to be a beach for you to fall in love with.
Lying at the southernmost point of the county is the fascinatingly weird and wild seascape of Dungeness. A shingle beach teeming with wildlife, Dungeness has an artistically apocalyptic feel to it, its stunning strangeness heightened all the more by the converted WW2 buildings, fisherman’s huts and lighthouse that stand like chess pieces upon its diverse landscape.
Sometimes referred to as the UK’s only desert, this surreal and desolate place is surprisingly home to a vast amount of rare plant and animal species that visitors might glimpse as they walk the wooden boardwalk or as they crunch upon the flint shingle down to the shore.
Nature and unusual scenery go hand-in-hand with the dreamlike casting of light in this environment, making it the perfect place for artists to create and feel inspired. Appreciate sculptures of driftwood and washed up materials created by those inspired by the likes of Derek Jarman and even the cover art of Pink Floyd, as you explore this other-worldly hinterland.
You are likely to be familiar with Folkestone and its newly generated ‘creative quarter’ as well as its trendy ‘harbour arm’ lined with bars and bistros but just a little way along the coastline is Folkestone’s smaller, quieter, quainter neighbour – Sandgate. With a high street that runs parallel to the seashore, visitors to Sandgate can take their pick between lounging on the long stretch of spacious and tranquil pebble beach or exploring the pubs, restaurants and cafés that thrive with activity in the summer and offer a welcoming invite in the winter. Have brunch or take away a strong coffee from independent café LOAF (@loaf_sandgate) or, if warmer weather permits, pick up an ice-cream from the beach-front vendor and get your perfect insta pic against the backdrop of the pretty row of beach huts. No matter which way you look in Sandgate you will be met with a stunning view. If you are not looking out across the ocean, look inland and you will see beautiful houses and architecture that stack up the hillside looking out to sea. From modern luxury beachfront pads to traditional Victorian grandiose mansions with white-washed walls and green lead roofs, don’t be alarmed when you feel a touch envious of those who live here.
Deal’s prettiness does not stop at the immaculate pebble beach complete with its long pier and smattering of wooden fishing boats, it’s charm and charisma soaks all the way from the shoreline into the winding streets lined with elegant Georgian townhouses rubbing shoulders with fisherman’s cottages. Deal is best observed en-masse from the pier, a sweeping panoramic view of seafront houses mirrored above the emerald green ocean will challenge even the non-photographers among us not to snap a picture of this perfectly preserved slice of British seafront. Traditional English pubs such as The King’s Head (www.kingsheaddeal.co.uk) sit festooned with cheerful bunting and hanging baskets, offering refreshing local ales and scrumptious Sunday roasts, as well as views out to sea and a vibrant atmosphere. Deal is also rich in history, with not one, but two castles, as well as an intriguing story of smuggling, paid homage to by Smuggler’s Records, an independent record shop well worth a visit (shop.smugglersrecords.com). Built on the orders of Henry VIII as a Tudor artillery coastal defence, Deal Castle sits a stone’s throw away from the town’s other royal link Walmer Castle. Once a residence of the Queen Mother, visitors can admire the beautiful formal gardens and grounds before delighting in the chic waterfront restaurants with mouth-watering menus back in town.
Botany Bay, Joss Bay and Kingsgate Bay
Awarded a Blue Flag for its clean water and with golden sands to match, it’s no surprise that Botany Bay is the perfect place for families to enjoy idyllic hazy beach days, exploring rock pools, building sandcastles and playing about in the surf. With deckchair rental service and a beach café selling ice-creams and snacks, Botany Bay really is an English summertime haven. If you are a fan of the UK’s fastest growing sport of paddle-boarding, the balmy waters are ideal for perfecting your balance and technique and when the tide goes out, visitors can wander among the imposing chalk stacks and hunt for shells and fossils. Car parking is however very limited here, so an early arrival in summertime is heavily advised!
Neighbouring bays to Botany Bay also provide similarly idyllic experiences, Joss Bay is an easily accessible sandy cove and Kingsgate Bay is most famous for its sea caves, imposing rock sea arch and cliff-top Kingsgate Castle. Bring your beach towels, sun-cream and a delicious picnic to revel in the very best of a British beach day and whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!
Arguably the most famous of all Kent’s beaches, and the epitome of English seaside speciality, is the treasured town of Margate. Close your eyes and imagine hard enough the screeching of gulls against the tinkle of fairground amusement music and you will feel transported to Margate’s sandy shores that seem to somehow relentlessly capture times gone by and showcase them to the crowds of loving visitors that flock to the town year upon year. With a direct high speed train link from London, Margate beach’s popularity is undeniable. Whether it’s ‘seaside kitsch’ attracting the uber-cool hipsters or the age-old resort town traditions, such as seafood stalls and shore-front rides that bring the families, Margate will hold a special place in anyone’s heart. Vibrant cafés, vintage stores and record shops, combined with the famous Turner sunsets over the ocean and the namesake art gallery, have convinced artists to come in waves. Revel at the sheer amount of museums, galleries and theatres here ready to amuse and inspire, take a swim in the tidal pool or simply sit back on the sand and watch the world go by – a day in Margate is one you will never forget.
The third place which turns Broadstairs and Margate into a joyful trio of neighbouring seaside towns is Ramsgate. Taking a slightly more nautical approach to beach life than the other two, visitors to Ramsgate will delight at its picture book marina and the large collection of boats that happily bob around waiting to venture out to sea. Separated from the marina by the largest and most impressive Wetherspoons in the UK, with spectacular ocean views and beachfront access, you will find Ramsgate Beach. Awash with golden sands and echoing some of Margate’s cheerful tradition, this beach offers a seamless combination of family fun and adventure. The irresistible waters are also perfect for Kitesurfing, with Ramsgate laying claim as the location in which kite surfer Lewis Crathan, broke the UK record for highest kite jump.
A true seaside hit since the beach-obsessed Victorian era, the characterful town of Herne Bay is the embodiment of a typically traditional English coastal destination. Complete with a bandstand and what was once the UK’s longest pier, visitors will feel as though they have stepped back in time when visiting this charming town. Beachfront arcades adorned with hanging bags of candy-floss line the promenade and sit beside traditional fun-fair rides including a helter-skelter, making Herne Bay any child’s paradise in which to create cherished family memories. Go crabbing on the pier or walk down to the striking Reculver Towers, a famous ancient landmark that can be seen for miles around. On hot days, relax on the shingle beach and know that when it is time for lunch there are plenty of cafés serving fresh sandwiches and tasty ice-creams to choose from. Visit long established gelato parlour Mackari’s (www.makcaris.com) who are just as passionate about coffee as they are ice-cream and feel satisfied that you have embraced all the traditions of a day on the Kent Coast.
Whitstable and Tankerton
Whitstable has been a seaside town of rapidly growing popularity over the last ten years, experiencing a welcome influx of the accurately coined phrase DFL’s (Down From Londoners) who come to appreciate the artistic beauty of this Kentish gem with its working harbour, plethora of independent cafés, award winning restaurants, galleries, and quirky shops.
Whether you choose the Tankerton Slopes or Whitstable Beach itself to set down your picnic blanket and relax, space allows for tranquillity and the wooden groynes separate out the shoreline into reassuring partitions creating the perfect place for children to play happily in the water. There is also the opportunity to rent one of the large colourful beach huts (www.beachhuts4hire.co.uk) for the day, providing a base for the perfect family beach party.
If you are feeling brave enough, try the town’s speciality of oysters from The Whitstable Oyster company (whitstableoystercompany.com) or order a refreshing pint of Whitstable Bay made by local Kent brewers Shepherd Neame.
Broadstairs – Viking Bay
The cherry on top of the archetypal beach town of Broadstairs comes in the horse-shoe shape of Viking Bay. Lined with stripey beach huts and coming complete with a harbour, life-guard service, deck chair rental, and even a surf school, there is plenty to keep everyone amused for hours on end at Viking Bay. As well as beachside shops, cafés and kiosks, the town of Broadstairs sits right behind, offering fresh gelato from Morelli’s Ice Cream Parlour (www.morellisgelato.com) and award-winning fish ‘n chips at The Seafarer (www.facebook.com/seafarerbroadstairs). A favourite of Charles Dickens, the sandy bay, cliff-top promenade and boardwalk make Viking Bay a place of timeless beauty and excitement for all.
Sandwich & Pegwell Bay
If you are craving a peaceful and serene day of relaxation on what comes closest to your very own private beach, look no further than Sandwich Bay. To access Sandwich Bay by car, visitors will have to pay a small fee, this entrance cost perhaps maintaining its secluded quietness all year through. A residential area, admire the beautiful houses on the private road that takes you down to the bay and remain stress free knowing that you will be able to effortlessly park right next to the shore. This factor also makes it the perfect beach for those with their own kayaks and other water-sports equipment, which can easily be carried across the shingle down to the water. This saltmarsh beach is also a haven for nature lovers, as Kent Wildlife Trust’s largest reserve, it is home to a variety of bird populations and therefore is of international importance. If you are lucky enough, you might even spot a seal basking in the water or sunbathing on the beach. Lay back, breathe in the salty air and listen to the waves roll onto the shore as you soak up the tranquillity of Sandwich Bay.
If you are wanting to take in the sea air away from the hustle and bustle of thriving seaside towns yet still be close to cafés, shops and other amenities, we recommend a visit to the large, yet quiet stretch of shoreline in the form of Hythe Bay. This completely unspoiled pebble beach which sits between Sandgate and Dymchurch, slopes down into waters which quickly become deep when the tide is in. With plenty of benches for those not wanting to sit on the pebbles, stare out to France and spot boats on the horizon or wander down the nostalgic high street which consists of quirky shops and cute places to eat. On rainy days visit The Crypt at St Leonard’s Church, (www.slhk.org) the largest and best-preserved collection of ancient skulls and bones in Britain.
St Margaret’s Bay and the White Cliffs
A round up of Kent’s beaches would not be complete without a mention of one of Britain’s world-famous landmarks; The White Cliffs of Dover. The best way to appreciate this breath-taking mass of scenery is by hiking the St Margaret’s At Cliffe Coastal Walk. Start off at St Margaret’s Bay, a sheltered, shingle beach enclosed by the spectacular cliffs themselves. With fantastic views across the channel, this is the ideal location to spot boats on the horizon or even glimpse France on a clear day. Make your way from here to the cliffs above and wander past historic monuments such as South Foreland Lighthouse, The Dover Patrol Monument and the Coastguard Station – now a £3.5 million pound home. Not only will you enjoy glorious panoramic views of chalk white cliffs against blue ocean, but nature lovers can also appreciate rare insects and plants specific to this unique habitat and its rugged charm.