A trip to Kent is a fantastic opportunity for a holiday to remember. If you’re active, take a ramble along the coast, or breathe in the history and culture of one of its picturesque towns for a relaxing getaway. Visit this jewel of the home counties and you’ll realise why thousands of holidaymakers are drawn to it every year.
Whether you’re looking to relax at Botany Bay or indulge in some culture at Margate’s Turner Contemporary, you’ll never be short of something to do in Kent. With 11 blue flag beaches and over 300 miles of coastline to choose from, why not take to the waves in the stunning clear sea water or take the kids rock pooling while you recline on the sand? If you fancy something with a bit more bustle you’re not far away from one of many fantastic towns and cities to explore the history and culture of the area. Canterbury is home not only to a stunning cathedral, but also many Roman ruins. It’s hard to choose our favourites with so much on offer but here are ten of our favourite activities and places to visit on your next holiday in the county.
Places to Visit
This medieval city has its roots in a Celtic settlement captured by the Romans in 1 AD, so it’s safe to say it has a lot of history. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there is no shortage of locations of historical sites in the area. From St. Augustine’s Abbey to the ruins at Canterbury Roman Museum, each gives a glimpse into its chequered past. The most famous site, though, has to be the city’s cathedral. The “Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury”, this stunning church was built in 597AD and is the oldest church in England still in use. Step inside to see the pioneering architecture and intricate stained glass windows, or view the famous water tower from the church grounds.
You can’t visit Kent without a trip to the iconic White Cliffs of Dover. These chalk cliffs make the perfect setting for a walk with fantastic views out across the English Channel. With multiple routes available, why not stop in for a guided tour of the South Foreland Lighthouse while you’re there? If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also delve deep in to the cliffs themselves on a tour of the intricate tunnels of Fan Bay Deep Shelter, a relic from WWII. If the British weather gets a bit too much, luckily you’re at one of the country’s biggest ports and only a 90-minute ferry trip away from sunny France. So, while the town is full of delights to keep you busy, it’s also a great base to start an adventure from.
Nestled on the north coast of Kent, this port has become synonymous with one thing over the past few hundred years: oysters! Affectionately known as the Pearl of Kent, the town has a rich history of producing some of the finest shellfish in the world. Sample the delicacy at one of many bars and restaurants in the town, or why not wait until July when the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival comes around? As well as food and drink, the town is teaming with crafts shops and galleries. Visit the Harbour Gallery situated in the town’s harbour for some contemporary art, or The Horsebridge Arts and Community Centre for a live event or performance. While, like the rest of Kent, this town has its fair share of history, Whitstable is an ideal spot for some contemporary cuisine and culture.
Botany and Kingsgate Bay
One of Kent’s most famous beaches, Botany Bay isn’t quite on the same scale as its Australian cousin, but makes up for it with yet more views of the Kentish coastline. During summer, the beach is a great secluded getaway for a sunbathe but also makes for an ideal spot for photography and dog walking in the colder months. The coast around the bay is popular for surfing and when the tide is out there are plenty of rockpools to explore and fossils to find. Less than a mile away are some of the UK’s best sea caves at Kingsgate Bay. A more tranquil beach than Botany, the bay is famed for the natural chalk “gateway” cut into the rock. The cove itself is also overlooked by Kingsgate Castle. The building was recently converted to residential flats but makes for a stunning skyline set in to the sheer cliff face.
This fantastic monument to those who fell during the air battles of the Second World War features replica aircrafts including the famous Spitfire, used during the Battle of Britain. In the village of Capel-le-Ferne, there is a visitor centre full of information and artefacts, sure to keep keen historians occupied. The memorial, which features a poignant memorial wall engraved with the names of all those who lost their lives, is testament to the hard work of a Battle of Britain pilot who spent his final years ensuring that the sacrifices of the men who lost their lives were immortalised. Take a trip here to remember one of the darkest and yet most intriguing periods of British history.
Wildlife Heritage Foundation, The Big Cat Sanctuary - Smarden
Not your average wildlife park, the WHF in Smarden is dedicated to the conservation and promotion of big cat breeding. Set in the beautiful Kent countryside, over 50 big cats live in the park including snow leopards, African lions, and pumas. Visitors can get up close and personal with the cats and even feed them by hand, safe in the knowledge their entry fees are contributing to the future conservation of the species. If you’re a photographer, then what better subjects to test your skills on than these beautiful creatures? Get a masterclass with one of the park’s in-house photography team, with one-on-one or group options available. Whether you’re a professional or an amateur, you’re sure to take home some unforgettable images.
Another of Kent’s WWII relics, the Ramsgate Tunnels are the longest network of underground bunker tunnels in the UK. Take a step back to the forties as you wander through the extensive passages with one of the attraction’s expert guides. Built at the start of the war by a determined Ramsgate mayor, they were considered the best civilian tunnels in the world when constructed. The shaft network was built on the site of a Victorian railway tunnel, so start your journey there before descending into one of many air raid shelters. Tours typically last an hour and don’t worry, hard hats are provided upon arrival!
Leeds and Hever Castles
Once proclaimed “loveliest castle in the world” by Lord Conway, the description has stuck and Leeds Castle continues to be one of the most visited landmarks in the country. This former home of King Henry VII is set on a small island in the middle of the River Len, with only a narrow stone bridge linking it with the mainland. Relax on a gentle trip around the castle’s moat in one of the traditional wooden punts before you head inside. Or, solve the hedge maze and make it into the underground grotto at the centre. Around 20 miles away is another fine example of historic architecture, Hever Castle. Another moated wonder, the grounds are always teaming with activities. From archery to shield painting, you can even catch a dramatic jousting tournament during the summer months and root for your favourite characters.
Tuner Contemporary, Margate
If you fancy a bit of culture on your holiday, then there’s nowhere better to stop off at that then the Turner Contemporary in Margate. This extensive gallery is named after the famous romantic painter J.M.W. Turner, who spent many of his formative years in the coastal town. Featuring a mix of contemporary art and classic paintings, the gallery also boasts pieces by Turner himself. Entrance to the gallery is free, with exhibitions from world renowned artists year-round. There are also workshops and educational events for budding creatives, on everything from maritime-inspired painting to sculpture, by visiting artists. Grab a souvenir in the gift shop while you’re there for a reminder of your time on the Kentish coast.
If you have kids, a visit to Dreamland will ensure your holiday in Margate is full of fun activities. The oldest running amusement park in the UK, Thanet local council secured funding in 2013 to ensure the much-loved park could stay open, and used the money to restore it to its former glory. With dodgems, a mirror maze, and even a roller disco, Dreamland retains all the traditional fun of a seaside arcade with modern facilities. One of the park’s most famous rides is the scenic railway; the wooden rollercoaster, that gives views out on to the North Sea, is a Margate landmark. In keeping with its update, the park also now puts on regular music events and is fast on its way to becoming a staple of the music scene in the area.
Experience a luxurious lodge break in Kent
Want the hustle and bustle of a city break by day, but desire a tranquil countryside escape by night? Discover this peaceful luxury retreat just 15 minutes' drive from historic Canterbury.
Kent is so often overlooked as a holiday destination and yet has so much to offer, from the charming old fashioned seaside towns of Margate and Whitstable on the north coast to the sweeping marshlands at the nature reserve at Dungeness. Take the coast road to see the changing landscape and take in the world famous White Cliffs of Dover on the way.
Kent is of course best known as the Garden of England and so many of the villages retain links to their agricultural past. The Hop Farm at Paddock Wood tells a fascinating story of Kent’s history and is really brought to life by the hop pickers stories that so many of my family share. Away from the orchard filled hills of The Downs is the historic city of Canterbury with its stunning cathedral, infamous for the murder of Thomas-a-Becket.
Kent is a great place to base yourself. With London on the doorstep and France just a short hop across the channel, if you can tear yourself away from the spa towns, quaint villages and country pubs there really is something for everyone in the Garden of England.