Indulge in oysters and a rich maritime heritage in the Kentish jewel of Whitstable, a tranquil coastal haven.

Whitstable has blossomed into a popular seaside retreat over the past decade or so, drawing waves of tourists who flock to admire its artistic allure. Most famous for its maritime heritage and oysters, which have been collected here since Roman times, Whitstable itself dates back to before the Domesday Book, where it was mentioned as one of the largest 20% of settlements recorded.

In the 900 years that followed, Whitstable’s location on the Thames Estuary afforded it great fortune in trading goods with London, other coastal ports and eventually the whole world. The town’s fishing and shipbuilding industries also thrived from this strategic position, which was further relied upon as a naval defence in both world wars. Today, with its bustling working harbour, charming independent cafés, acclaimed eateries, eclectic galleries, and quirky boutiques, Whitstable pulsates with a vibrant cultural energy that has been strengthened over the centuries.

What to do in Whitstable, Seasalter and Tankerton

One of the best ways to delve into Whitstable’s history is at the volunteer-run Whitstable Museum, which prides itself in telling local maritime stories, the town’s oyster and fishing industry, and its most famous display: Invicta, one of the world’s oldest railway locomotives.

Around the high street, visitors will find a plethora of individual boutique shops, selling art works, handmade jewellery, accessories, antiques, maritime gifts and various local craft shops. There’s also an array of local galleries, including Fishslab Gallery, which hosts an eclectic and varied array of ever-changing exhibitions, covering media from pottery and paintings to sculpture and photography.

Blue Flag-awarded Tankerton Slopes seamlessly merges with Whitstable beach, offering a serene escape for families and friends seeking a day by the shore. Whatever the season, visitors can elevate their seaside experience by renting a beach hut, where they’ll receive front-row seats to the beach’s beautiful vistas. These cosy havens provide a perfect retreat for making a cup of tea, uncorking a bottle of wine, or simply basking in the serenity of the area’s coastal charm.

Some of the most beautiful coastal walks and bike rides can be traversed in this area too, with footpaths and cycle routes available all the way to Canterbury, Faversham and more. The village of Seasalter is a particularly stunning coastal area, with plenty of routes to explore, as well as its crowning gem: acclaimed Michelin dining destination, The Sportsman. A bastion of culinary excellence, The Sportsman has proudly retained its prestigious Michelin star since 2008. Blessed by the bounty of the Thames Estuary, its kitchen delights in fresh fish and succulent oysters, while the local marshes, woods, and fertile soil yield a cornucopia of meats, game, fruit, and vegetables. The five-course menu, which changes each day, is showcased on blackboards near the bar, and epitomises exemplary culinary artistry as it seamlessly blends cherished classics with daring innovations.

What to eat in Whitstable

A pink-painted beacon adorning the town’s high street, Wheelers Oyster Bar stands as a testament to Whitstable’s culinary excellence and is one of the town’s most photographed buildings; the ultimate photo backdrop, it has even adorned the pages of Condé Nast Traveller and other prestige publications. Established in 1856, this cherished institution has been tantalising taste buds with delectable morsels beyond the famed Whitstable oyster for more than 160 years. Dine in and indulge in Wheelers’ à la carte menu by day, or try the sumptuous tasting menu by night – owner Delia upholds a tradition of culinary mastery passed down through generations, crafting everything from scratch. For those visiting on a warm day, Wheelers also offers picnic boxes to go, inviting guests to enjoy their culinary delights on the beach where the picturesque scene of the Whitstable Yacht Club sailing in the sea creates a postcard-perfect backdrop.

For those seeking libations against Whitstable’s idyllic beach backdrop, look no further than The Old Neptune, which is perched majestically atop the pebbles. Here, visitors can savour Kentish ales like the renowned Whitstable Bay Pale Ale, or Maidstone Distillery’s Ranscombe Wild Gin, all while relishing one of Kent’s most cherished views. Nearby, the Lobster Shack beckons with its beachfront charm, serving an array of delectable seafood delights amid the soothing ocean breeze.

For a more sophisticated experience, Whitstable additionally boasts plenty of wine bars and bistros ready to indulge and entertain. One such cherished gem is Porto Wine Bar, which is renowned for its extraordinary wine collection boasting over 60 exquisite selections spanning white, rosé, red, sparkling, and Champagne varieties, alongside an impressive array of 40 ports available by the glass. The wine list is accompanied by a tantalising array of Portuguese snacks (‘petiscos’), including pastel de nata, chorizo and halloumi skewers, and an assortment of cheeses, cured meats and breads.

Whitstable is also the proud home of award-winning Samphire, an independent, family-run bistro in the heart of the town that showcases the best seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms, allotments, fishermen, and producers in Kent and the South East. This charming venue transforms seamlessly from a relaxed breakfast and lunch spot into an inviting restaurant come nightfall, beckoning locals with its undeniable charm. The black and gold art deco exterior makes way for a light and airy interior, setting the perfect backdrop for its open kitchen, where locally sourced ingredients come together to craft a modern and alluring menu. Guests are welcomed with warm, personable service that puts everyone at ease, complemented by a thoughtfully curated wine list that mirrors the generosity of its culinary offerings.

Where to stay in Whitstable

Offering the ultimate urban retreat for two guests, Whitstable Hideaway is a beautifully-styled first-floor apartment located just a pebble’s throw from the town’s high street and beach. Period features are paired with an inviting colour palette throughout the property, creating a homely atmosphere that’s best exemplified in the sitting room, the addition of a chess board providing the perfect opportunity for a competitive tête-à-tête.

Sleeping up to eight guests, Tankerton’s Little Beach House offers a coastal gem of a holiday home, benefiting from access to a further beach hut overlooking the waves to make beach days all the more enjoyable. A family favourite, this property boasts a king room, queen room, and room with two sets of bunk beds to deliver a memorable sleepover for up to four children; meanwhile the combination of open-plan kitchen, lounge area, garden, and hot tub offers an excellent setting for grown-up socialising. Another eight-sleeper, Oyster Shore, brings bags of character to any staycation, with pops of bright colour creating a fun and relaxing place to stay. Located right in the heart of Whitstable, this townhouse will suit those seeking convenience down to a T, with a heated outdoor shower to wash the sand away after a day spent on the beach. Similarly, the house’s versatile spaces lend themselves well to both children looking to play or those needing a quick workspace, with an enclosed, sun-filled garden bringing everyone together for meals or to mark the day’s end.