Some things are meant to be … and taking children to the beach, with fish and chips on your lap, and ice-cream messy t-shirts are just a few of those simple pleasures.
As we didnt get a chance to leave the UK for our Summer break, we made an effort to taste the delights of easy day trips from London. We are lucky to live a 15 minute bus ride from the newly polished St Pancras and Kings Cross international train stations, so recently jumped on the 2012 Olympic javelin train from St Pancras, and found ourselves in sleepy Whistable 1h 25 minutes later.
Whitstable is an English seaside town in North Kent and famous for its Whitstable Oysters, fabulous food and traditional fishermen cottages and beaches. The beaches are perfectly situated for Sunsets due to its location on the north Medway coast. Once landed at the train station, you have the choice of either slowly meandering down to the beach front by foot (15 mins), past real life houses, and cute beach nik naks sitting in the windows of charming semi’s. Or, if you were organised I am sure you could book a taxi to take you directly to the beach (5 mins), or even a bus, and then you would really be starting your adventure in style.
There are plenty of salty things to do in the town of Whitstable, mainly most of them involving eating, sitting, browsing at unique and charming shops, and then making life and death decisions about where to have your next pint or oyster. Here we have a great list of secrets shared by a real local, who rest assured has very good taste indeed.
EAT (with advice from a local)
- VC Jones do Fish & Chips on Harbour Street. The locals rate this as excellent, and is best eaten out of the paper on the beach. If you’re trying to impress say hi to the (insider tip) owner whose name is Madeleine.
- JoJo’s is great for tapas on Tankerton Slopes. Another highly rated restaurant owned by Paul. It is a (BYO) Bring Your Own Booze joint, but (insiders tip) don’t take wine from Tesco’s as Paul will either throw you out or charge you extra corkage! The team in charge only buy local produce, so you can sleep easy after a slap up meal here. Make a note that you do need to book before you go. Its very popular with those in the know, and it’s quite a walk so be prepared if it’s still under 10 degrees, especially if you’re taking kids with you.
- Tapas restaurant on Harbour Street is owned by Chris. Simple, the food is great.
- Browns Deli on Harbour Street. If you are having a meal in they have some really special food, it can be quite pricey but good. This is owned by David. He and Chris from the Tapas were business partners but now run the places separately. (Insiders tip) You will notice David’s food in Chris’s tapas restaurant).
- Duke of Cumberland. This is a decent pub that now has a good restaurant out the back, called the Salt Marsh. They also do a tapas style menu which hits the mark. The put tend to serve what they have cooked that day, rather than a set menu.
- Zizzi’s. This is a bog standard pizza joint which the kids will think is ‘like heaven’.
- Crab & Winkle. You will find this In the harbour itself. It keeps changing hands so can’t vouch for that, but it is definitely worth a try for the location.
- Oyster Fishery. This is the famous restaurant, that everyone knows. It is right on the sea front, and locals know it as the place that the Londoners love. Some find it a bit impersonal and too pricey, as they charge London prices too. (insiders tip) It is owned by the Green family who own most of Whitstable including the beach!
- The Sportsman. I’m saving the best until last. This is situated a little out of town at Seasalter. You will need to drive or grab a cab (see cab numbers below). Its a Michelin star pub, and totally fantastic. Dare I say it, you can save up for this one, and book a babysitter. Taxi costs £5-6.
- If you want a curry take out, call Krishna by the railway station.
BOOK YOUR TABLE
- East Quay Restaurant, The Harbour, Whitstable Kent 01227 262 003 (Seafood on the beach)
- Hotel Continental, 29 Beach Walk, Whitstable Kent 01227 280 280 (French Style)
- Wheelers Oyster Bar, 8, High Street, Whitstable, Kent 01227 273 311 (Cash only, rated as one of the best UK fish restaurants)
- The Sportsman, Faversham Road, Seasalter 01227 273370 www.thesportsmanseasalter.co.uk (gastro pub, 1 Michelin star)
- Williams and Browns Tapas, 48 Harbour Street 01227 273167 www.tapas.co.uk (traditional and modern Spanish Tapas)
STAY (self-catering & hotels)
- You can hire bikes and cycle along the promenade. Whitstable Cycle Hire, Wide variety of bikes for all ages to hire explore local areas such as the popular Crab & Winkle – now a defunct railway line. Visit web page for hire rates & advice, The Captain’s House, 56 Harbour Street 01227 275156 www.whitstablecyclehire.comThere is a small museum in the town which will take 30 minutes and is interesting for the kids also
- There are lovely shops on Harbour Street for browsing and shopping, especially ‘George’s’ on the high street is like Aladdin’s cave. Cheap as chips and has everything you ever wanted. Bucket & Spades, toys, sun cream, swimming trunks, wellies, flip flops, time-share apartments!! etc
- The Canterbury Tales tour. Good but might be too scary for the little-uns
- Crabbing – hours of fun for the kids while the parents drink wine on beach!
- The Harbour has little trinket pop up shops that are open in the week, certainly on Saturdays.
- The tide goes out big time in Whitstable so take wellies so the kids can go out onto the mud flats
- There is a spit called The Street which you can walk along. It goes directly out to sea and is about a 1/4 of a mile long. Make sure you are back before the tide comes in!
- Whitstable has a small castle with a really nice play area for kids.
- Whitstable Swimming Pool – 2 pools and gymnasium located on the front, a short walk from town Tower Parade, 01227 772442
- AMF Bowling – Ten pin bowling – fun for all the family Tower Parade – next door to swimming pool 0844 8263037
- Tennis courts – Five well maintained courts bookable through Windy Corner Stores, lessons available located on seafront, 50 yds away at 110 Nelson Road 01227 26240
- Snappys Adventure Play Centre – Indoor adventure play centre for children under 12, 45b Joseph Wilson Estate (behind Tesco) 01227 282100 www.snappysadventureplay.co.uk
- Great Old Thames Barge, Get away from it all and sail off into the Thames Estuary on this beautiful old barge. Parties of up to 12 people, bring a picnic or catering can be arranged. South Quay, Whitstable Harbour 07711 657919 Steve Norris www.greta1892.co.uk
- Failing all of the above hire a video, put the kids in front of it, get a bottle of wine from ‘The Offy’ in the hIgh street and get drunk!
- Abacus Cars 01227 277728
- Whitstable Taxis 01227 261561
Travelling by car
If you’re travelling by car, Whitstable is just 60 minutes drive from the fringes of London, and only 45 minutes from the M25 and Dartford Tunnel. Most visitors will be travelling to Whitstable via the A299. Exit at the Whitstable junction and follow the brown signs for the harbour. These take you through Whitstable High Street. If you’re traveling from abroad, Whitstable is around 45 minutes drive from the ferry at Dover or the Channel tunnel exit.
Before we go, don’t forget the famous Sunsets