Looking to escape from London for the day? Or to sample the British seaside at its finest? Then Whitstable, just over an hour from the big smoke, is a perfect choice. Our guide will show you exactly how to spend a day in Whitstable (or even longer), alongside our recommendations for things to do, where to eat and where to stay - it really is the perfect English day trip!
London can be great to live in, but it's even greater to escape it for a day - anyone who lives here and denies that is an absolute liar. We both regularly crave to be away from so much traffic, so many people, so many of the things we don't love about London. To transport ourselves to somewhere where the air is clearer, we're a little closer to nature and life.slows.down.
And that's exactly what we found in Whitstable.
We enjoyed it so much that, even though Emily had to fly out to Spain early the next morning, we pushed back catching the train to London...twice. A few cold local beers, a slow sunset to watch and a gentle breeze tinged with the smell of an English summer by the sea will do that you...
Here's why you should go to Whitstable, plus personal recommendations on where to stay.
things to do in whitstable
Eat Oysters, Cockles and Mussels
And yet, we both utterly detest the slippery little suckers...
Pescetarian dietary preferences aside, there really aren't many foods that we don't enjoy, but oysters, well, they come straight in at the top of the list. However, if you do love freshly collected oysters - as well as a whole plethora of other seafoods - then you'll be in heaven in Whitstable.
This town is, after all, world famous for the salty little buggers.
Where to go | Unsurprisingly, it's pretty easy to find an oyster in Whitstable; the seafront is heaving with carts, restaurants and stands. However, if you're looking for the best, we have it on good authority that you should check out The Forge by the seafront, Wheelers Oyster Bar (the pretty pink one in the town centre), The Whitstable Oyster Company (which is a more formal restaurant setting by the water) or the excellently named Crab & Winkle (by the harbour). Note that oyster season runs from September until April.
Have absolutely no bloody clue about how to eat oysters? Then read this guide.
hanging out on the (pebble) beach
Having spent time at some of the world's most beautiful beaches, we admit that we'll usually dismiss those without sand. A day at the water's edge here however, and we can actually see ourselves coming around to those of a little more pebbly disposition.
Venturing to Whitstable on a sunny Bank Holiday Weekend, the waterfront was undeniably busy, full of visiting families, local groups of friends and many fleeing Londoners. And yet, the crowds were not obtrusive - any other day of the year, we imagine it may feel pretty empty.
Even if there are crowds of holiday-makers when you visit - do not despair! You can simply make the enjoyable ten minute walk away from the main part of the beach (head towards the colourful huts and a caravan park on the other side of the Old Neptune pub) and you'll quickly find yourself in near blissful isolation, save for the odd seagull or curious mutt out on a walk. The beach here is divided by wooden structures called 'groins' - we still don't entirely know why, so please do let us know in the comments!
The ocean was blissfully, wonderfully calm throughout our day in Whitstable - perfect for a quick dip or to venture out in a kayak or SUP for an hour or two. Rental is available from a number of places along the seafront, and for those yet to get their feet wet, lessons can be easily arranged.
Of course, being England, having water warm enough for this will be a rarity but it's worth knowing if you strike it lucky when you visit.
boats and boxes at the harbour
It's no surprise that the harbour is a bustling part of Whitstable, and we found it to be incredibly photogenic.
Pointed black fisherman's huts, colourful boxes for the next morning's catch, ropes and knots and buoys, lobster pots and fishing boats - it's a typical harbour scene but we could have snapped away here for hours.
Aside from the Whitstable Fish Market on the South quay, there are also a selection of restaurants and cafes (many with outdoor space) serving fish as fresh and local as one could hope for, and a regular Sunday art & crafts market.
charity shop and boutique rummaging
Had we ventured to Whitstable on any other traditionally British day (that is, when the sun remains stubbornly behind a veil of dark cloud), we know exactly what we would have done - trawled through the town's legendary charity shops and scored ourselves a few vintage bargains.
Instead, we went and drank cider, ate fish and chips and sat on the beach. So instead, for those keen for quirky finds, bric-a-brac delights and age-old one of a kinds, check out this excellent post.
Pick out your favourite beach hut
After fish and chips, nothing really says British seaside to us more than cute little beach huts - and visiting on a wonderfully sunny day, we came to understand exactly why these wooden shacks are so sought after.
Couples enjoying coffee and the Sunday papers, families splitting their time between a barbecue and playing games in the sea, groups of friends lounging around with drinks, snacks and sunshine for company - and all of them with a great sea view. Some of the huts are very well kitted out - better than our flat - as well as being beautifully decorated and maintained; how we wished someone had invited us onto their deck!
Now, if you're tempted, bear in mind that these certainly don't come cheap. In fact, one Whitstable beach hut was listed a few years ago for £150,000!
enjoy proper british fish & chips
There is something so terribly sad about watching tourists, only in the UK for a few days, having a bleak and soggy battered cod by the Tower of London.
Proper paper-wrapped fish and chips (with mushy peas if you're feeling fancy) should be enjoyed with views of the ocean, a few pebbles under your bum and a can of coke. Maybe it's the added salt from the sea air, the squawking threat of thieving seagulls overhead or the sudden gust of wind rustling the paper it's all wrapped in, but, whatever the reason, there's no better setting to enjoy this dish.
Unsurprisingly, given this is a town renowned for its seafood, you have plenty of options for fish and chips in Whitstable.
We were recommended V.C. Jones (25 Harbour Street) before we arrived, and this traditional family-run place is worth a visit just for its glorious signage and decor (inside and out) - we wish we could have had five minutes here to take proper photos. It's been around since 1962 and you instantly sense that it's been a staple for day-trippers from London for decades - and the queues are testament to it still being a favourite. Unfortunately, we weren't overly impressed by the food. A decent fish and chips certainly, but not as fantastic as we'd been hoping for (especially after what we had sampled on a weekend in Brighton & Hove).
An alternative you might want to check out is Ossies Fish Bar on the High Street. It doesn't look anything special from the outside but, given how packed it was on the Sunday night, it may be worth sampling. We also hear that The Forge, by the seafront, is a good shout.
find the pretty
We didn't really expect it from a little English coastal town. But, from the pastel hues of the rows of dream beachfront houses to the vivid tones of the fisherman paraphernalia and Instagram perfect Wheeler's and shops along Harbour Street, Whiststable is extraordinarily colourful and very pretty in parts.
One of us has a particular weakness for nostalgic old-school signs and typesets, and was positively drooling throughout our visit.
Try some local beers at the Old Neptune
How many pubs have you visited in England that are actually ON the beach?
So, there's one more reason to head to the Old Neptune, a pretty old white clapboard pub, and sample the excellent Whistable Bay beers which are brewed in nearby Faversham.
savour a chilled out sunset
It reminded us of the sunset we experienced at the most northerly point in South America.
Yep, you who would have thunk that little ol' Whitstable could be compared to La Guajira?
The ocean is big and velvety here, and with our little picnic dinner on the pebbles. we savoured the sunset, whilst kicking ourselves for not having been to this part of England before.
And if you have longer than a day...
Whitstable would be an excellent base from which to explore more of Kent over the course of a few days. If you're spending a weekend here, then perhaps do a cycle ride to Canterbury (just seven miles away) along the scenic Crab and Winkle Way bicycle path, or take a walk to Whitstable Castle and then Tankerton Beach.
accommodation in Whitstable
Despite the popularity of Whitstable as a British seaside destination, there is a limited number of hotels in town, with the majority of accommodation on offer being B&Bs or whole apartments/homes. Additionally, budget accommodation is a little scarce.
If you've never used Airbnb before, you can sign up via this link to save up to £30 off your first booking.
The best of the rest
Hotels | The Marine, set on the Tankerton Cliffs,is a large hotel offering quite a bit of luxury with sea views. The Hotel Continental, just a little down the road from The Marine, has a bit more of a homey vibe but also offers sea views and is just 1 minute from the beach.
Fisherman Huts | Located right on the sea front, these delightful little converted fishermen's huts looked like a great choice for a trip to Whitstable! Discover more here.
With limited availability, and Whitstable being a popular school holiday and weekend break destination, it is highly recommended to book ahead for summer visits.
how to get to whitstable from london
The quickest train from London to Whitstable departs from St Pancras International, with a total travel time of 75 minutes. There also hourly direct departures from London Victoria to Whitstable, which take 80 minutes and are usually a couple of quid cheaper. Do be aware that from both these stations there may be slower train options to Whitstable, which require a changeover or take around 2 hours, so try to avoid these. From the train station, you are a 7-10 minute walk to the beachfront.
An off-peak return ticket costs around £23-30 per person.