Sometimes, you’ve just got appreciate what you’ve got on your doorstep.
I’ve lived in Kent all my life (except for a few years at uni). I’ve loved it, I’ve hated it and, at times, I’ve been desperate to get away from it. But there’s no denying that, for all its faults, there are actually quite a few reasons to visit the Garden of England.
I’m always looking at big days out in London or holidays abroad, but these sorts of things usually come with a hefty price tag (unfortunately…) and you’ve got to factor in actually getting there, for a start. It’s easy to daydream about getting away, but what about those great destinations that are usually right outside your front door?
In the spirit of trying to appreciate my home turf, I’ve put together a little list of things I think make for great days out, or places worth a visit, in and around Kent.
Shepherd Neame Brewery Tour – Faversham
The oldest brewery in Britain, Shepherd Neame is a working brewery that serves up beers and ales all over Kent, as well as some London pubs and even further afield. You might be familiar with some of their most famous drinks, like Master Brew, Spitfire and Bishop’s Finger, but how much do you really know about what goes into making them? Take the tour and find out what goes into some of your favourite Kentish beers and ales!
The tour takes you inside the brewery where you get to taste some of the ingredients that go into their lagers, ales and stouts and look around the inner workings. But even if you’re not really into these drinks, Shepherd Neame dates back to the 1600s so there is plenty of history learn about as well. You can also book a dinner package – the food is excellent – and browse the gift shop on your way out to find some unique gift ideas for your loved ones (or yourself!).
Herne Bay Pier and Seaside Arcades
Herne Bay is one of many coastal towns in Kent and, although it might not have golden sands, there’s a lot more to do here than just your average day at the beach.
After a day of sunbathing (we’re being optimistic here…), you can take a sunset stroll along the historic Herne Bay pier. Not only will you find funfair rides and quaint food, drink and gift huts, you’ll also spot the ruins of the old pier left out in the middle of the sea.
The arcades along Herne Bay seafront aren’t exactly mind-blowing, but they’re classic British seaside arcades with a certain amount of charm. I’d be surprised if anything about this coastal town has really changed much in the past 50 years, at least in the eyes of a visitor, and there’s something quite pleasant about that.
Just on the outskirts of Chatham you’ll find the historic dockyards. Sure, this Medway town might not have the best reputation, but if you head towards the dockyards you’ll barely recognise where you are.
The dockyards provides a great day out, with fascinating history and things for the kids to and explore, but there’s also the Dockside Outlet just across the car park too. This has a small range of shops, a cinema and a few decent restaurants too, and the walk along the riverside is gorgeous on a clear day. Oh, and if you do head a little further along the water, be sure to check out the Copper Rivet Distillery for some specialty local gins.
The dockyards are a beautiful little pocket of escapism in this area and definitely worth visiting!
Dreamland – Margate
This seaside town is a popular destination in Kent; although the actual town itself might not be up to much, the beach is perfect for the summer holidays. It’s become an even more popular now that Margate’s famous fairground Dreamland has reopened.
Closed for many years and almost demolished, Dreamland was saved a few years ago and is now running as a miniature “theme park” – it’s not exactly Thorpe Park, granted, but there are several family-friendly rides here including the Scenic Railway, the oldest roller coaster in the UK.
You can also find entertainment, arcades and even sometimes live music events here – Dreamland has hosted artists such as Gorillaz, Maximo Park, Groove Armada and The Libertines in the past few years, so that’s worth keeping an eye on.
Bluewater Shopping Centre – Dartford
If you’re looking to do some retail therapy in Kent, Bluewater is the place to be.
You’ll find almost everything here, from the usual high street shops like Primark and Next to designer stores like Karen Millen and Michael Kors, as well as three large department stores – M&S, John Lewis and House of Fraser.
There’s also a Gravity (indoor trampolining), an IMAX cinema, crazy golf, nature walks and a dinosaur-themed adventure park, so plenty to keep the kids entertained.
You can find some great places to eat here too, like Bill’s Restaurant, Browns, Giraffe and Wahaca, or quick bites in the food court. It’s not all that different to most other big shopping centres, but it’s definitely the place to shop in Kent.
Harbour Market – Whitstable
Whitstable is always a favourite with visitors. Most days during the summer you’ll see the small high street overflowing and the pebble beaches fill up with people flocking to this traditional seaside town.
The spot I always like to head to when I’m in Whitstable is the harbour market; towards the end of the high street, tucked away behind everything else, is a bustling row of beach huts and boutique market stands with independent sellers offering up their trade, and there are often some great little finds here.
You can also grab a deck chair and settle down for some fish ‘n’ chips (or oysters if you’re feeling adventurous!) and a drink at some of the cosy eateries along the harbour. Once you’ve threaded your way through the stalls, you’ll find yourself at the beach. On a nice day you might find a good suntrap to top up your tan but, personally, I’d keep walking until you hit beachfront pub The Old Neptune.
This is one my own personal favourite places to be in Kent. From the many bars and pubs to the incredible restaurants, the shops and markets to the historic buildings, the old Westgate towers to modern Whitefriars, there’s so much to love about Canterbury.
The reason I haven’t listed one specific place or attraction for Canterbury is because there’s just so much to do! If you’re interested in literature you could go on the Canterbury Tales tour; if you like history and architecture then a visit to Canterbury Cathedral is a must; if you’re more into nature and wildlife then a take a riverboat along the canal to get away from the city.
You’ve also got a bunch of great shops to browse, and the streets are lined with pubs, bars and restaurants to choose from.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Kent, or even just somewhere to visit for a couple of hours, Canterbury is a great choice.