Things to do in Whitstable, KENTMAP
Whitstable is a seafront town in northern Kent with a population of 32,000.
Whitstable's attractions include the usual seaside activities: swimming is a great option, with safe beaches and remarkably warm water; kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing are other favourite pastimes; you can take a boat trip to see the Kentish Flats Windfarm and Maunsell Army Towers; or you can relax with an ice-cream or perhaps enjoy an afternoon crabbing?
Whitstable's other things to do and see include a working harbour, a wonderful selection of independent stores (this is a good place to pick up an antique), great eateries serving the freshest of fish, a small castle with exquisite grounds, and an interesting museum.
Whitstable is situated about 7 mies from the cathedral city of Canterbury, which makes a great day trip.
Little wonder then that Whitstable, also famous for its oysters, has become a favourite holiday destination for the well-heeled. Here's our selection of the 8 best things to do.
1. Seaside Fun
Whitstable’s beaches and clean water are great for seaside fun.
Whitstable’s beaches are pebbled and separated by groynes to stop erosion every 40 or so metres. Swimming is a popular activity in summer months. By comparison with other English seaside resorts, the water is pretty warm.
One part of the Whitstable coastline, Tankerton Beach (10 mins walk to the east of the Harbour), is patrolled by lifeguards in the summer months.
Top Tip: Swimming is only really possible two hours each side of high tide. This is because the sea retreats by up to a kilometre at low tide to expose the muddy (though oyster-packed) seabed. Get information about high tide times from the BBC Tide Tables.
Whitstable is a popular centre for the usual seaside water sports. Oyster Coast Watersports, found just to the east of the Harbour, hires kayaks and paddleboards by the hour. They also offer a range of Royal Yacht Association sailing and powerboat courses.
The Whitstable beaches are also a popular kite-surfing destination, with easy access and launching (particularly at low and mid-tides). At low tide, there is also lots of flat water (good for cruising and freestyling).
A fun activity for children is crabbing (trying to catch crabs using a net containing fish or ham).
Crabbing kits and bait can be bought for under £5 from a variety of shops around the Harbour. You’ll also need a bucket filled with seawater—to hold your crabs before returning them to the water. Make sure you fill it with seawater, change it regularly, and introduce some rocks and seaweed (to recreate the crabs' natural environment and reduce stress).
Finally, take time to check out Whitstable’s iconic pastel-coloured beach huts (pictured).
2. Whitstable's Harbour
Whitstable has a small working harbour that is predominantly used by whelk and oyster fishermen and is home to a number of good eateries.
The blue and red fishing boats of the Whitstable fleet will often be seen moored around Whitstable’s Harbour. If you are lucky, you will catch fishermen unloading their catch.
Whelks (large sea snails) are a local speciality. After they are hauled onto dry land they are taken to the whelk processing plant near the Harbour’s entrance: you will be able to see them being poured onto a conveyor belt going into the plant.
Whelks are boiled before the snails are removed from their shells. They are traditionally eaten with vinegar and pepper – why not try one from the nearby stalls and shops?
A few of the Harbour’s eateries warrant mention:
- the Crab and Winkle Restaurant, overlooking the Harbour, offers great harbour views and the freshest of fish (above the Harbour’s fish supermarket, with a wide variety of mains priced at around £20),
- the Lobster Shack, found at the northern end of the Harbour, boasts great seaviews and a simple but delicious menu with favourites such as fish/scampi and chips and baked lobster with garlic and parsley butter.
Whitstable oysters were first discovered by the Romans two millennia ago; they shipped large numbers of them back to Rome. They have been harvested by the Whitstable Oyster Company since the 1400s, with peak production of about 80 million a year being reached in the 1850s (most were shipped to Billingsgate market to feed East London’s growing population).
These days oysters are a luxury delicacy. They can be bought from a variety of locations around Whitstable for around £12-15 per half dozen. We suggest trying out the Whitstable Oyster Company’s Fish Restaurant, to the west of the harbour (left as you face the sea). Other dishes include chargrilled sardines (£7.50), lemon sole with parsley and lemon butter (£23) and cooked crab with mayonnaise (£22).
Finally, check out Whitstable’s Harbour Village—a series of green huts offering local crafts, food and drink.
3. Boat trips
Boat trips, departing from the Harbour, are offered by three providers.
Whitstable Boat Trips operates from a small cabin to the right-hand side of the Harbour (as you face the sea). They offer four tours in their powerful sunseeker motoryacht. The shortest (20 minutes, £10 pp) and most popular takes passengers out to sea and then west along the coast and to Tankerton Slopes on the return leg.
Other tours take passengers to the Swale Estuary to spot seals between Faversham and the Isle of Sheppey (60 minutes, £30 pp) and to the Kentish Flats Windfarm (40 minutes, £25 pp) or Maunsell Sea Forts (60 minutes, £40 pp).
A higher-adrenaline alternative is to take a speedboat to the Maunsell Sea Forts with Oyster Watersports (1 hour, £40pp). Their 7.8 metre Ribeye is capable of over 40 knots and reaches the Forts in about 15 minutes
An altogether classier experience is offered by Steve Norris, the owner and skipper of the 1892 Greta sailing barge. Greta is the oldest active little ship that took part in the Dunkirk rescue during the early years of the Second World War. Trips are, weather permitting, powered by the wind and take passengers to either the Sea Forts or to the Swale Estuary. Tea and coffee is provided in a below-deck lounge. Trips are for up to 12 people and cost £48 during the week and £54 at weekends and on bank holidays.