From quintessential ‘bucket and spade’ beaches to secluded bays to stretches of shingle overlooking bleak coastal landscapes, Kent has every kind of shoreline imaginable.
The 200km cliff-backed coastline of Kent in southeast England stretches from the Isle of Sheppey and Whitstable in the north to the wetlands of Romney Marsh in the south. With many of its beache towns reachable in just over an hour from London, the county attracts huge numbers of visitors every year. Below are 7 of the most charming – and diverse – beaches that Kent has to offer.
Situated in the village of Birchington-on-Sea in the Isle of Thanet, Minnis Bay is a long stretch of sandy beach that’s popular with both families seeking a relaxing day out and water sports enthusiasts alike. The Blue Flag beach offers sailing, windsurfing, paddling, kayaking and beach games, and there’s also a paddling pool for youngsters, a children’s playground and a picnic area. A popular cycling route takes you from Minnis Bay along the Viking Coastal Trail to Margate. There’s a café and ice cream kiosk on the promenade, too.
Famous for its connections with Charles Dickens, Broadstairs is one of Kent’s most charming seaside towns. The main hub of activity is Viking Bay, a crescent-shaped expanse of sand with all of the time-honoured features you’d expect of a classic UK beach resort, including inflatables and rides during the summer months. More unusual is the cliff-side elevator at the southern end, for those who don’t fancy the rather steep steps down. At the northern end is a small fishing harbour and backing onto the beach is a large grassy area with a bandstand that hosts regular performances and the acclaimed ice cream parlour, Morelli’s.
While neighbouring Whitstable grabs all the attention for its fashionable high street and mouth-wateringf oyster shacks, a 20-minute walk east will bring you to Tankerton beach, where you’ll find all of the appeal but none of the crowds. From the Marine Parade promenade, grassy banks gently slope down to a shingle beach backed by pretty wooden huts and a sailing club. At low tide you can walk right out to sea – ideal for paddling and exploring rock pools – while large patches of green are ideal for family picnics or simply taking in the views. The historic Whitstable Castle is a few minutes’ walk inland.
Perched off of Kent’s northern coast and neighbouring the Thames Estuary, the Isle of Sheppey is perhaps best known for its nationally important bird sanctuary and fossil hunting opportunities. But its large shingle beach, bordered by a wide expanse of green open space which leads to the promenade, also draws large numbers throughout the year. Enjoying Blue Flag status, it is a popular spot for watching cargo vessels sail up and down the busy shipping lanes, while at low tide crabs, shrimps and other sea creatures are in abundance in thee exposed rock pools, offering kids hours of wholesome fun.
A shallow inlet straddling the estuary of the River Stour north of Sandwich Bay, Pegwell Bay comprises several baches as well as an acclaimed nature reserve. At one end is a sandy stretch neighboured by Ramsgate harbour that offers a more traditional beach experience; at the other a marshy reserve that’s a twitcher’s paradise, with migrating waders, wildfowl, and birds of prey such as Merlin regularly sighted. Surfaced paths and waymarked trails invite visitors to embark on bracing walks or cycle rides while enjoying the views of Sandwich and Deal to the West and the cliffs of Ramsgate to the East.
Overlooking a flat, bleak landscape on the border of Romney Marsh, the southernmost point of Kent, Dungeness Beach has a stark, wild beauty far removed from the ‘fun on the pier’ vibes of a Margate or Ramsgate. Home to a broad pebbly shoreline, the surrounding area features one of the most diverse habitats anywhere in the UK and is officially classed as a desert, dotted with rare plants and desert flowers. Looking out to sea is impressive enough here, but turn inland and the vistas are no less arresting, with the beach lined with charming wooden dwellings and backed by an imposing power station and two lighthouses.
A five-mile coastal drive north of Dungeness brings you to Romney Bay, where the flat, mainly sandy Dymchurch Beach can be found. Stretching for almost 3 miles, the beach and its surroundings have undergone significant improvements in recent years, helping to attract large numbers of families during high season with its combination of picturesque, sweeping views and a touch of seaside town charm. Its sands are a popular spot for kite surfers, swimmers, paddlers and sandcastle builders, while donkey rides are run through the holiday months. The beach is also within easy reach of all the facilities of Dymchurch village.