Whitstable is the perfect mix of a modern trendy seafront accommodating the traditions of fish and chips and an even more ancient oyster history. As a seaside with a difference, it is well worth a visit for a day trip or even longer.
What to do in Whitstable
On the north coast of Kent stands Whitstable, a once important railway route for the Crab and Winkle line handling coal and other heavy cargo, now a pleasant seaside town showcasing a bit of everything. The main attractions of Whitstable are all within walking distance of each other making getting around very easy. You can walk from the beach, to the car parks, to the shops, to the train station, to the harbour, the castle and the museum. Of course, there are still taxis and public transport available if you want/need these.
Whitstable Beach, Harbour and Thames Barges
The pebble and shingle beach at Whitstable provides the perfect place to sit and enjoy the sea view. The beach is divided by wooden groynes enabling the feeling that you have a small part of the beach to yourself. Its location is perfect to watch and soak up the sunset and as you are surrounded by pastel coloured beach huts and weatherboard buildings, a sense of calm envelopes you.
Children (and grown ups alike!) will be fascinated to spot the many different shells, pebbles and even oyster shell ‘mountains,’ displaying remnants of the oyster stalls. Alongside the freshest oysters, you can find cockles and whelks to further satisfy your seafood fix.
Being so close in proximity to both London and Canterbury and with safe shallow waters for good anchorage, Whitstable Harbour became an important sea port for Thames Barges during the 19th Century. The harbour is home to The Greta, a Thames Sailing Barge built in 1892. This barge transported grain, beer, malt, ammunition and building supplies across the River Thames and Thames Estuary. It was also part of the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. Nowadays, you can experience the majesty and history of The Greta for a day or weekend trip or even hire the whole boat for upto 12 people for a special occasion. For more information and to book a trip, please see Greta’s website here: https://www.greta1892.co.uk/.
Whitstable Harbour Market
A distinctive aspect of Whitstable is its charming Harbour Market. With a community, hand crafted in Britain and locally produced approach, the market is a haven for artisans. Housed within sleek beach huts, traders can showcase all sorts of goods and fine art. From jewellery to photography, iron work to ceramics and textiles to paintings, there really is something for everyone covering all budgets too. A trip to Whitstable would not be complete without a browse around the market. So go ahead and treat yourself or someone special to something unique, just like Whitstable itself. The market is usually open from 10am-4/5pm but on different days according to the time of year although Saturdays and Sundays are a mainstay. It is worth checking before you go so you don’t miss out. You can find Whitstable Harbour Market Opening Hours here: https://harbourmarketwhitstable.co.uk/opening-hours.
Whitstable Oyster Festival
As well as eating as many oysters as you can in as many restaurants and food stalls, there are a number of community events to get involved in during the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival. Usually spread over a weekend, you can take part in kite flying, crabbing, treasure hunts, oyster farm tours, grotter building, oyster eating competitions and listening to live music. Fun for all the family, this is a unique festival like no other!
Whitstable High Street Shops
Shopping in Whitstable actually covers the High Street, Harbour Street and Oxford Street, all of which have pretty and artistically designed shop fronts. Whilst there are a few typical high street stores, you will mainly find independent shops selling a variety of goods such as clothing, flowers, homeware, records, furniture and even sewing machines. It is easy to while away an afternoon browsing the quaint and quirky shops and there is certainly no shortage of eateries in Whitstable. Cafes, coffee shops and restaurants galore serving a variety of cuisines and of course Whitstable’s famous oysters!
Whitstable Community Museum and Gallery
As the name suggests, this museum is run by volunteers to showcase and educate people of all ages as to the maritime history of Whitstable. Local accounts on diving, shipbuilding, fishing, shipwrecks and oysters can be explored here as well as some very exciting large exhibits. On display is the Invicta, one of the world’s oldest railway locomotives, the world’s first diving helmet, Whitstable’s own Horse Drawn Fire Pump and a traditional local whelk boat. Whilst of course being educational, the museum is also fun and engaging for all the family with lots of activities specifically aimed at children.
The museum can be found at Foresters’ Hall, 5A Oxford Street, CT5 1DB and is open Thursday to Saturday, 10.30am-4.30pm and Wednesday to Saturday, 10.30am-4.30pm in school holidays. For Christmas and New Year opening times, please check the Whitstable Community Museum Group’s Facebook page: https://facebook.com/WhitstableMuseumCommunityGroup/. The nominal entry fee into the museum is £3 for adults, £2 for over 60s, £1 for students, free for children under 18 (under 13s must be accompanied by an adult) and free for local residents (CT1 to CT6).
Whitstable Castle and Gardens
Whitstable Castle has a rich history with various owners and uses dating back to the 15th Century. Whitstable Castle has been the site of a copperas house and smelting works, family home, summer residence, council offices and now it is open to the public as well as hosting weddings and events. Whitstable Castle Gardens has flora and fauna to appreciate in every season and has won numerous awards including the prestigious Green Flag Award. There is a fantastic newly refurbished playground for children of all ages too.
Whilst here, treat yourself in The Orangery Tea Rooms which is open 7 days a week, 10am-5pm, April-end of September and 10am-4pm, October to March. Breakfast, lunch, cakes and scones overlooking the castle gardens…bliss! The public can’t walk around the castle but group guided tours are welcomed if booked in advance. A ‘Cream Tea and Tour’ for groups of 10 people or more costs £14.95 per person. For more information, please visit their website here: https://www.whitstablecastle.co.uk/. The Gardens are open daily to the public from 8am-5pm and can be found at Whitstable Castle and Gardens, Tower Hill, CT5 2BW.
How to Get to Whitstable
How to Get to Whitstable by Car
There are a few main car parks in Whitstable which are very well located for all the main attractions of Whitstable:
Harbour Car Park, Harbour St, Whitstable CT5 1AB, open 24 hours.
Gorrell Tank Car Park, 10 Westgate Terrace, Whitstable CT5 1BZ, open 24 hours.
Victoria Street Car Park, 1 Victoria St, Whitstable CT5 1JB
How to Get to Whitstable by Train
The South Eastern Railway Line stops at Whitstable train station and you can get a fast speed train from London St. Pancras International which takes 1hr 15 minutes. The station is less than a mile from the beach and half a mile to the shops.
Final Thoughts on Whitstable
Whitstable is a really interesting and lovely place to visit. Steeped in history and tradition yet embracing the modern, quirky and charming, you can spend as much time as you like here; a day, a weekend or even longer. Laze around the beach, become a seafood foodie, shop independently and locally, explore the history and ride the waves…what more could you want from a small town by the sea.