Like the sound of old school seaside charm, Instagrammable sunsets and a blossoming street food scene? Then you’ve got a couple of scenic soulmates in these charming Thanet towns. Both Margate – dubbed Shoreditch-on-Sea – and Broadstairs offer plenty of iconic sandy beaches, vintage shops, quirky cafes, art galleries and world-class fish and chips.
Fancy a weekend getaway that’s just an hour ½ from London? Here’s how to get the best of England’s creative coast.
Check out the current exhibitions at Turner Contemporary
Margate is fizzing with artistic energy and frankly, no trip to this coastal gem is complete without experiencing the Turner Contemporary, named after Romantic artist JMW Turner. Widely recognised as the catalyst for the regeneration of Margate & East Kent, its ever-changing programme means there’s always something new to see, whether you’re a local or a visitor.
Pick up a coffee at Storeroom by Curve Roasters
For a solid cup of Joe and a delicious lunch menu, head 10 minutes down the road from Turner Contemporary to Storeroom by Curve Roasters. Their menu changes depending on the seasons and what’s fresh in from their most recent harvests. If you like your coffee with a story, this is the good place.
Pop into Mar Mar Margate
A café-cum-shop full of house plants, stationery and homewares. When you’re done flexing your green fingers, grab a pastry and a brew for the road.
Inhale a seaside snack at Po’ boy
Deep-fried scallop sub anyone? The dream team behind Po’boy have transformed the seaside tradition of fish and chips to a gourmet delight, served with fresh mango and lime sauce. Bib me up already.
Step back in time at Dickens House Museum
Dickens House Museum celebrates the author’s connections with Broadstairs from 1837 to 1851. Housed in the real-life cottage that was Dickens’ inspiration for the home of the legendary character Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield, you’ll find work by H.K Browne, the famous illustrator of the original Dickens novels, on display here alongside furniture owned by the man himself.
Please note, the museum is temporarily closed keep your eyes peeled for reopening times.
Have a sup lesson at Joss Bay Surf School
Surf’s up! If you want to work on your water sports and learn to sup ‘n’ surf, there’s no better teacher than Joss Bay Surf School. The instructors are ISA qualified and all your equipment is included. For stand-up paddling, you’ll have one full hour of coaching before hitting the water for another 60 minutes of free practice (price £40 for a group lesson). If catching waves is more your thing, you can have 1 ½ hours of contact time, 30 minutes free practice (price £40 for a group lesson). Have a splash around on the baby waves and get a much-needed dose of vitamin sea.
Tuck into famous ice cream at Morelli’s
This famous ice cream parlour has been serving sweet-toothed customers since the 1900s and if the queues are anything to go by, the hype is still real. Scoop up the best gelato of all the land, made in-store daily.
Get your sushi fix at Hantverk & Found
When in Margate, you simply have to try to get a table at Hantverk & Found. Serving fresh handmade sushi, scallop ramen, gyoza and bao bun. They also offer takeaway so you can box it all up and head to the beach for a seaside picnic.
Swim like a local at Walpole Bay
For safer sea swimming with plenty of wildlife, have a paddle at Walpole Bay – one of just 13 tidal pools in England. Designed in 1937, it’s now grade II listed and covers over four whopping acres, so you’re guaranteed to have a proper interrupted swim here. It has all the allure of the wide-open sea without the crowds, just check tide times as the sand is entirely covered at high tide.
For all the fun of the fair, head to Dreamland
Dubbed the heartbeat of Margate, Dreamland is the oldest surviving theme park in Great Britain. Experience retro rides (some of which date back to the 1920s), an indoor roller room, art installations, street food and a programme packed with live music and events for all the family. When you’re done on the Chair-O-Planes and the Pendulum, have a paddle at the beach and come back for a night of dancing under the stars at one of their iconic gigs. Dreamland, indeed.
Stay at the bougie Reading Rooms
Get some kip in this Grade II listed Georgian town house, situated just a short walk away from the beach, historic Old Town and vintage shops. Featuring floor to ceiling windows, ornate plaster cornicing, a hand-carved bed and a double-ended cast-iron roll-top bath, you’re guaranteed a sound night’s sleep in the Salon room (our personal fave). In the morning, roll out of bed and tuck into fresh pastries, fruit and freshly baked sourdough delivered straight to your room upon your request.
Discover the famous mystery of Margate at the Shell Grotto
These mysterious winding passages have been covered head-to-toe with over four million shells and nobody knows why. How curious. Discovered by chance in 1835 by a man digging for a duck pond, the underground cave has been elaborately decorated with treasures of the sea from mussels, oysters, cockles and whelks and its origins remain unexplained to this day. Some people suspect it was a secret temple, others say séances were held there. We like to think it was all a dark mermaid’s doing. Grab yourself a ticket and see for yourselves.
Pop by The Kentish Pantry
Located in Margate’s Old Town, The Kentish Pantry sells the finest artisan products from wines, cheeses, chutneys and handmade pottery, all sourced in Kent. Grab a pastry and a coffee from their in-store bakery and you’ll be all set for a day of exploring glorious Marg.
Snap up some second-hand outfits at Handsome Freaks
Handpicked in LA, this place sells a bunch of handsome vintage pieces with a streetwear edge. Drop in. Spend all your wages. Don’t look back.
Shop sustainably at Haeckels
Based in a clifftop lab in sandy Margate, this sustainable beauty brand was created to enthuse people about the health-giving benefits of the sea. Using natural ingredients such as ocean mud, local botanicals and seaweed, Haeckels’ Founder Dom Bridges and his team have developed a range of cruelty-free skincare products from the ocean, for the ocean. They are one of only two companies licensed to harvest seaweed from the English coast.
They also offer bespoke treatments designed to revitalise the mind and body, from seaweed baths to reflexology and full body massage. Never. Coming. Home.