12 Of Kent’s Best Beaches To Visit In Summer

12 Of Kent’s Best Beaches To Visit In Summer

We’ve traced the coast around England’s South East to pick out Kent’s Blue Flag beaches and lesser-visited bays. Plan a day trip or make a staycation of it; we’ve spotlighted some great places to stay en route

you’ve got your eyes on the rising mercury in the
month’s ahead or just want to stretch your legs on a bracing
coastal stroll, Kent has a beach for you. The tide here laps
against bucket-and-spade towns, crumbling chalk cliffs, wild
shingle shores and coastal enclaves riding the waves of cultural

We’ve traced the coast from Thanet – through Whitstable, Margate and Broadstairs – to Dungeness, picking out
the best stretches of sand to enjoy in England’s garden.

Plan a day trip – walking, cycling or road-tripping your way
along the shore via the Viking Coastal Trail or newly finished
England Coast Path – or make a staycation of it, booking into some
of the area’s most beautiful boutique hotels and self-catering
stays along the way.

The most beautiful shingle and sandy beaches in Kent

Botany Bay


The poster child of the Kent coast. Botany Bay takes its name
from the area’s 19th-century smugglers who were deported to
Australia. Today, however, you’ll be more likely to knock elbows
with photographers, who get snap-happy around the dramatic chalk
stacks, between which you’ll find smaller coves, rock pools and (if
you’re lucky) a fossil or two. Much like Dorset’s natural beauty
spots of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, Botany Bay draws crowds as
the mercury rises. Avoid them by walking 10 minutes east to
Kingsgate Bay, where Thanet’s best sea caves are carved into the
cliffs. Beware: it’s possible to get cut off by the incoming

Stay: The Royal Albion

Joss Bay


Surfers: take note. This 200m-long bay is pretty swell, with
sand bars and chalk reefs. Joss Bay Surf School has been here since the
late 90s, offering board and wetsuit hire along with lessons in
surfing and stand-up paddleboarding. Out of the waves, the soft
sands are wide, even when the tide is in. They’re backed by steep
chalk cliffs and the North Foreland Golf Club. Much like
neighbouring Botany Bay, this cove was once smugglers’ stomping
ground – it’s named after Joss Snelling, head of the Callis Court
Gang, which imported contraband to Kent in the late 1800s.

Stay: Seven
Bays Cottage

Herne Bay


Often overlooked by daytrippers beelining for Whitstable or
Margate, Herne Bay is a nostalgic stretch of coast – all
creased-silk sea and bright beach huts backed by Georgian
townhouses. Beyond them: rolling hillocks and a scattering of
sharks teeth between the pebbles. Fuel up with a slice of Naples
from A Casa
before stopping by The Seaside
, treasure hunting through the car-boot sales at
Whitstable Bends or following the Oyster Bay Trail east, setting
your sights on the medieval Reculver Towers that pierce the

Stay: The Lighthouse

Hythe Beach


Between Folkestone and Dymchurch, Hythe is more akin to a quaint
rural village than bucket-and-spade town. Its beach? More than 3km
of sloping pebble backed by a wide promenade perfect for cycling or
walking. Rise early and head to The Lazy Food
, which stocks fresh-from-the-sea fish and other Kentish
produce mere footsteps from bobbing boats. Kippers and coffee taste
better watching fishermen cast out and octogenarians take their
morning dip. From here, a steam railway links up with St Mary’s Bay, Romney
Sands and Dungeness.

Stay: Cabu
by the Sea

Sunny Sands


Folkestone may be enjoying a cultural renaissance, but
there’s plenty of that salty sea-dog charm left on its shores. Dip
in and out of its distinct beaches. Sunny Sands is prime
sandcastle-making territory, but can get busy in warmer climes –
instead, take a walk on the wild side in East Cliff and Warren
Country Park, where 200 years of landslides have created an ideal
habitat for seaside flora and birds. Knock elbows with the cool
crowd between the restored Harbour Arm’s street-food stalls,
drive-in cinema and smattering of installations that
belong to the UK’s largest exhibition of outdoor urban art. Pro tip:
follow a discreet staircase below the arm to find one of Antony
Gormley’s Another Time figures gazing across the Channel to

Stay: The Bird Hide


Isle of Sheppey

Look beyond Sheppey’s prisons and caravan parks to explore the
tufted marshland of Elmley
National Nature Reserve
, fossil-rich beaches and skies as wide
and as clear as the cycle routes are quiet. Twitchers are in their
element here. Hugging the northeast coast, Minster Leas’ shingle
gives way to sand at low tide and is popular with families, dog
walkers and fitness buffs who make use of the outdoor gym. But if
you really want to go back to basics, head to the dune-backed
Shellness, where a sign reads: “Beyond this notice clothing need
not be worn for bathing, sunbathing or general recreation.” We
never liked tan lines anyway…

Stay: Kingshill Farmhouse, Elmley Nature Reserve

Main Sands


Where kitsch meets cool. Crowned by “the loveliest skies in all
of Europe” (according to J. M. W. Turner), Margate‘s Main Sands can get shoulder-to-shoulder when
the weather’s fair and city daytrippers wash up between Dreamland
amusement park, vintage shops and vamped-up street food stalls
around The Sun Deck (though we’re partial to a cup of cockles from
Manning’s Seafood). Walk east to visit Turner Contemporary,
Haeckels and the Walpole Bay – the UK’s largest saltwater lido and
a more peaceful alternative to the tidal pool of the Main Sands.
Quieter still is the cliff-backed promenade, rock pools and no-fuss
cafés of St Mildred’s Bay, a 40-minute coastal walk west.

Stay: The Albion Rooms



Nothing blows out the cobwebs like a bracing beach stroll.
Whitstable West Beach is all well and good for
jaunty huts, oyster shacks and sunset pints at the clapboard
“Neppy”, but it’s neighbouring Tankerton that really amps up the
coastal drama. “The Street”, a 750m-long natural spit, emerges a
low tide – walk out with the estuary waters lapping either side.
That said, it’s equally as tempting to take the hour’s walk east
from Whitstable, past gnarled groynes and old boats, to Seasalter,
where you’ll be rewarded with lunch at Michelin-starred The
Sportsman – so long as you book far ahead.

Stay: Tides Cottage

Deal Castle Beach


Bohemian Deal is a magnet for “down from Londoners”. But
between its artisan delis, galleries and indie boutiques, it’s a
town saturated in seaside heritage. Julius Caesar landed here in
55BCE, Henry VIII built artillery castles and a once-thriving
smuggling trade inspired Daniel Defoe to write of Deal’s “barbarous
hated name”. The 19th-century pier was torpedoed in the Second
World War; today’s brutalist structure was reopened by Prince
Phillip in 1957. Fuel up in the architecturally inspired Deal Pier
before tracing the 10km promenade from Walmer to
Sandwich Bay – bikes can be rented from Hut 55. When the sun
shines, swimming is pleasant anywhere along the shingle – though
more serious types will be happier around Kingsdown Beach and
Sandwich Bay.

Stay: The Rose


Romney Marsh

There’s an almost post-apocalyptic feel to Britain’s only
desert. Threaded by boardwalks, Dungeness’s vast expanse of shingle
is decorated with more than 600 rare plant species, the rusting
ribcages of old boats strung with fishing nets and railway
carriages repurposed as homes – all overlooked by two lighthouses
and nuclear power station. Bleakly beautiful. Nose around the
garden of the late filmmaker Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage before
lunching on local-lobster tacos from the nearby Snack
. From here, we recommend hopping on the steam-powered
Romney, Hythe
& Dymchurch Railway
to explore farther along the Kent

Stay: Shingle House

St Margaret’s Bay


From the rural village of St Margaret’s at Cliffe, it’s a
pleasant wander down to this pebbled bay, a place as famous for its
proximity to France – Channel swimmers depart here – as its
connection with James Bond. Author Ian Flemming wrote many of the
novels in an art-deco house previously owned by playwright Noël
Coward. Nearby, The Coastguard boasts its status as being the closest
pub to the continent. Needless to say, the views have a license to
thrill – especially in the morning, when the white cliffs mark the
first place that the sun touches mainland Britain each morning.

Stay: The Lantern Inn

Minnis Bay


There’s a bucolic vibe at this Blue Flag beach, more digital
detox than beaches-and-cream. Locals head here for paddleboarding,
kayaking, windsurfing and other such watersports, as well as
gathering around the Victorian tidal pool. Look out for crabs.
Minnis Bay is easily reachable from Margate via bus – snag a seat
on the open deck in summer – or take a 30-minute bike ride along
the Viking Coastal Trail. Sunset here is beautiful; pitch up in a
glamping pod at nearby Hawk Place Campsite for a front-row seat.

Stay: Hawk Place Campsite

This article was first published 8 March 2021 and has been

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