The Coast is Clear: A Road Trip Through the Lesser-Known Kentish Riviera

The Coast is Clear: A Road Trip Through the Lesser-Known Kentish Riviera

We’re sidestepping Whitstable, Dover and other headline destinations on the Kent coast in favour of a drive along the roads less travelled. Join us for a ride in the low-emission Volvo XC40 Recharge plug-in hybrid SUV, as we wild swim in hidden bays and beaches, cycle through under-radar villages and eat seafood at family-run shacks.

In partnership with

of the unspoiled spots on the UK coast and your mind
flicks to rugged Cornish beaches or the Hebrides’ wild shores. The
Kentish Riviera? That’s all bucket-and-spade holidays in which
fish, chips and sticks of rock fuel days flitting between donkey
rides, amusement arcades and lounging on a striped deck chair with
a knotted hanky on your head, right? Wrong. Sometimes the best gems
are hidden in plain sight.

We’re embracing the ocean breeze on a coastal road trip in the
Volvo XC40 Recharge
plug-in hybrid SUV that’s as striking as
the White Cliffs of Dover and as eco-conscious as Kent’s many
nature reserves. Forget queuing for oysters in Whitstable or
knocking elbows with “down from London” folk, we’re making the most
of the twin engine’s maximum efficiency and low environmental
impact as we navigate the steep and winding roads less travelled –
no need to worry how far your battery will take you.

Expect sweeping shingle fronts, medieval castles, untamed nature
and seaside sites soaked with culture – all within 90 minutes’
drive from London, perfect for a long-weekend break. We’ll be
tracing sections of the newly finished English Coastal Path by car,
foot and bike, so bring a set of pedals on the towbar-mounted bike
rack. The world is your oyster.

A Different Side to Thanet

Day One

This round-route hops between the small seaside towns, Blue
Flag-winning beaches and natural beauty spots often overshadowed by
Thanet’s headline destinations (we’re looking at you

The twin towers of Reculver mark a dramatic start to your trip.
Leave the marshland for Minnis Bay, where windsurfers and sailors
ride the waves. Join them for watersports or jump on your bike to
follow an almost traffic-free stretch punctuated by hidden coves,
chalk cliffs and under-radar villages to Margate.

Skip Turner Contemporary, Dreamland, et al. and continue east to
Cliftonville where Walpole Bay Tidal Pool juts out toward the
horizon. Lap up the health benefits of the ocean with
thalassotherapy and sustainable, seaweed-based skincare at Haeckels. No worries
if you work up a sweat cycling back; simply use the Volvo On Call
app to pre-cool the car.

It can get busy around Broadstairs’ Viking Bay (though lit
lovers may want a snap outside Dickens’ turreted Bleak House).
Instead, drive to Ramsgate and give your car a boost at one of
several charging hook-ups while you trace the footsteps of Vincent
Van Gogh on Pegwell Bay or make a splash on a canoe trail.

Loop back to Herne Bay, passing through Monkton Nature Reserve
safe in the knowledge that your emissions will be low – not
forgetting to crank open the panoramic sunroof to spot rare birds
overhead. Perched on an isolated cliff, the self-catered Lighthouse
lets you soak up sea views from every window. Nearby A Casa Mia is an
unassuming restaurant in the little black book of the UK’s toughest
food critics. Order a leopard-spotted, Neapolitan-style pizza
before a post-dinner walk on The Downs.

Insider tip: The
Pig at Bridge Place
is a rural alternative to staying at
different places along the coast. With this bucolic yet bon-vivant
manor as your base, you’ll reach all spots on this itinerary in 30
minutes to an hours’ drive – often through the Kent Downs – and
have Potting Shed spa treatments and garden-to-plate grub waiting
upon your return.

Where Coast Meets Culture

Day Two

Sling towels and clothes into the Volvo XC40’s spacious boot for
a morning swim in Sandwich Bay. Let your hair sun-dry as you
saunter along shingle shores to Deal’s brutalist pier, picking up
breakfast fodder from the local-favourite Saturday Market or
Name Shop
deli. Nosey at Henry VIII’s Walmer Castle before
heading back to the car to trace the coast’s curve to St Margaret’s
Bay (of James Bond fame). Near Ian Flemming’s holiday home,
has a license to thrill with views across the
Channel – this is the nearest pub to France.

Stay-on-the-road technology makes sure you always feel in
control in your Volvo XC40 as you navigate the White Cliffs of
Dover and Samphire Hoe to Folkestone, where a thriving creative
scene is breathing life into the salty sea-dog town. Don’t miss
The Harbour Screen, a drive-in cinema where culture,
the coast and the comfort of your spacious car combine. Grab
nibbles from the Harbour Arm’s indie food and drink vendors – just
try not to get greasy fingers on the cutting-edge aluminium

For dessert? Descend through the flora and fauna of Lower Leas
Coastal Park and promenade (designed by the guy behind Kew Gardens’
Palm House) and head west, away from the popular Mermaid Beach,
past ice-cream-coloured huts to Sandgate and order a 99 at The
Boathouse. A Flake is non-negotiable.

When you’ve had taste enough of Folkestone, use the integrated
touch screen to set your sat nav to the Romney Marsh, stopping to
gawp at Hythe Lighthouse along the way. Sprinkled across the vast
wetlands, Cabü by the Sea hideaways include a writer’s cabin and
a Boat House ideal for families. Pack up a picnic from the natty
Cabü House for dinner on the beach and while away the evening
dipping between the sea, sauna and hot tub.

Dipping into East Sussex

Day Three

The drive around the elbow of Dungeness into Sussex is the most
ethereal of the trip – curate a mellow playlist; the Harman Kardon
surround-sound will amp up the mood. Pull up on the barren headland
to weave between ships’ skeletons to Derek Jarman’s Prospect
Cottage. Like the vibe? The architect-designed Shingle House chimes with the poetic

Alternatively, refuel with crab rolls at the family-run Snack Shack before driving west – inhaling briny sea
air through the tilted panoramic sunroof – to check in at The Gallivant, a
pebble’s toss from the tufted dunes of Camber Sands. This
California-style motel is a place for those in pursuit of the good,
coastal life. Take a sandy-toed stroll to the Summer House for
classes in yoga and wild swimming or join one of the hotel’s beach
cleans before a session in the Beach Hut Spa. A former French
Laundry chef crafts dinners from the ocean’s bounty.

With driver-assist technology, the compact SUV makes light work
of the winding lanes that take you inland for an excursion to
chocolate-box Rye, where old meets new in half-timbered buildings
housing vintage shops and inns once frequented by 19th-century

From here, flick into all-wheel drive and drop down to the salt
marshes of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, one of the UK’s most
important wildlife conservation sites (the fry-up at no-frills
Bosun’s Bite café on the harbour is second to none, FYI), or drive
north through the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to
wine estate.

No doubt you’ll realise why Kent is dubbed the “garden of
England”. Tour the vineyards and use the XC40’s many storage
compartments to stock up on sparkling plonk and fruity cider –
after all, you’ll want to raise a toast to this soul-satisfying

The Lowdown

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