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Charming Whitstable offers pretty pebble beaches

© World Travel Guide / Barclay Curtis

Whitstable beaches, Kent

A mere hop from London, the Kent coast is a magnet for capital dwellers in need of a seaside fix. Although perfectly pitched for family fun, the area also has a sophisticated appeal, particularly the oyster restaurants in and around the charming wood-slatted town of Whitstable, with its pebble beaches and forest of bobbing yachts.


Shingly and pebbly, and sectioned by wooden divides known as 'groins', Whitstable's beach is a fun place to take in the sea air, have a tentative paddle and fly a kite. It's endearingly pretty, backed by wood-slatted buildings and beach huts, and overlooked by cliffs to the east. There's a small harbour, and lots of sailing boats flapping in the wind (the Whitstable Yacht Club overlooks the seafront).

Beyond the beach

A 30-minute drive inland from Whitstable is Canterbury, with its medieval centre, Norman castle and magnificent gothic cathedral, in which Edward the Black Prince is buried and it's said Thomas Beckett was murdered.

Family fun

Whitstable is pretty and cheery, with pocket-sized, distinctive wooden houses, interesting bric-a-brac shops and lots of splendid fish restaurants. Whitstable harbour is an entertaining, lively place, with lots of clanking masts, a fish market, and a stall where you can buy little pots of prawns, whelks and other fresh seafood, or just have a drink whilst overlooking the bobbing boats. You can learn to sail or windsurf with the Whitstable Yacht Club (, who offer taster courses and equipment hire. At low tide the conditions are ideal for learners, and they also have simulators for more advanced levels.

Splashing out

On the old coastal road between Whitstable and Faversham, set amid a haunting landscape of saltmarsh, lies a Michelin-starred pub, The Sportsman ( Self-taught chef Stephen Harris is passionate about the provenance of food and about making haute cuisine accessible, affordable and unpretentious. Hence this remarkable, desolately set place serves up fresh produce, locally sourced, fresh and beautifully cooked, and inexpensive to boot.

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