Things to do in Whitstable on a day trip from London
This Whitstable guide is filled with the best things to do in Whitstable, from walking along the seafront, delicious oysters to Instagram worthy candy coloured beach huts. A day trip to Whitstable has all the making of relaxing day by the sea.
Whitstable is a coastal town famous for its native oysters, but there is so much to discover in this quirky Kent seaside town.
With direct trains from London taking 70 minutes, this makes Whitstable the perfect day trip from London, plus it's a massive a foodie destination too.
The ‘Gram’ made me do it!
The facade of Wheelers Oysters bar on Instagram made me visit Whitstable, but the friendly smiling locals and calming pebble beachfront makes me want to return for more of this quaint British seaside town. Plus bring friends!
I would be lying if I said that I wanted to explore more of the English seaside towns and their pebbly beaches.
I’m Jamaican and grew up playing in miles of golden sand and turquoise blue waters. So I’ve always side-eyed the pebble beaches of the U.K. I scoffed snarkily, when my English friends would invite me on trips to Brighton or Hastings, that I would take them on a trip to seven Mile Beach in Negril, rated one of the best beaches in the world.
But at after seeing the picturesque pink facade of the Wheelers oyster bar on Instagram. I caved you guys.
And I tell you my FOMO was at fever pitch with wanting to visit this place and visit I did.
And I can say that a day trip from London to Whitstable was worth the ‘hype’. And this is from a girl that side-eyes most thing she sees on Instagram.
So first, let me break down what to expect when visiting Whitstable on a day trip.
You’ll probably go for the I.G. photos and stay because the town is so freaking relaxing and the people welcoming. They smile at you and say good morning (which is unheard of in London. If someone smiles at you on the tube in London you’re never quite sure what is happening).
After living in London for such a long time some smiling at me kinda throws me off my game - seriously, why are you smiling, why are you so happy, what meds are you on and can I have some?
Anyway, Whitstable has a huge community and welcoming vibe.
Getting off the train from St Pancras early in the morning, the town still felt a little sleepy, it was extraordinarily quiet, and I could smell the salty sea air as I walked closer to the town centre.
As I walked closer, all the hassle and worries of London disappeared into a distant hazy memory.
Whitstable is where go to get away from the bustle of London, a place that forces you to slow down and just take it all in. From the smell of salt in the air, the seagulls flying overhead, to the sound of the pebbles being rustled under the weight of your feet as you walk towards the water.
I will show you how to make the most of your day trip to Whitstable by showing you some of the best things to do in Whitstable.
Whitstable should be at the top of your list if you’re a stressed-out Londoner.
Where is Whitstable Kent
Whitstable is a seaside town on the North coast of Kent in South-East England.
It’s famous for its ‘Native Oysters’ which were collected from beds beyond the low water mark from Roman times until the mid-20th century.
There is even an annual Whitstable Oyster Festival, which takes place in July.
How to get to Whitstable from London
Whitstable is located in Kent, so makes it a perfect option for a day trip from London.
High-speed trains from London St Pancras International to Whitstable takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
There are also trains from London Victoria to Whitstable that take 80 minutes.
For a slightly quicker journey, I opted for London St Pancras station.
I booked my train ticket via Trainline at £20 return, but tickets can cost up to £30 if booked last minute.
Once in Whitstable, it takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the beachfront.
Wondering what to do in Whitstable Kent read on!
Things to do in Whitstable
Wander along Whitstable seafront
One of the best things to do in Whitstable is a walk along the seafront. From colourful beach huts, pubs, pebbles to piles of glistening oyster shells, there is so much to see along the waterfront.
The main draw to Whitstable is its pebble beaches separated by groynes to stop erosion every 40 or so metres.
When I visited during the early morning, the tide was low, and I mean low enough for you to walk out onto the exposed mud and look at the seabed.
Which I was kinda bum about. However, after a quick shandy in a cute trailer cafe, where I stayed for an hour I perked up.
Walking back to the seafront, I could see that the tide had risen and all at once it was as if everyone in Whitstable was taking a dip in the sea.
There were teenagers with their wireless speakers on the walkout platform to the sea blasting the latest tunes as they swam and played in the sea.
Young families with chunky little babies having their ‘first’ - dressed in their first swimming costumes and the first time being in the sea. With little barbecues on the go everywhere.
It was hard to not just lay on the beach with a cold drink from the Old Neptune and enjoy the cool breeze and sun (grey skies for the U.K.). You can’t have it all.
The Old Neptune is the U.K.’s only pub on the beach. The sea is also surprisingly warm, so don’t be afraid to dip your toes in.
Do Some Watersports
Do Some Watersports if you’re feeling brave.
You can also do some water-sports closer to Whitstable Harbour. At Oyster Coast Watersports, location to the east of the harbour, you can hire kayaks and paddle-boards by the hour.
One of my top tips for visiting Whitstable would be to arrive early. Because if you visit on a lovely day, by midday the beach will be packed.
Top Tip: Swimming is only possible two hours each side of high tide. This is because the sea retreats by up to a kilometre at low tide to expose the muddy (though oyster-packed) seabed. Get information about high tide times from the BBC Tide Tables.
The seafront and the beach huts are two of the top places to visit in Whitstable UK.
Instagram worthy colourful Beach Huts
Whitstable’s beach huts are everywhere on the ‘Gram,’ and you can snag yourself some cute shots by then.
Facing the seafront, to your left, you have small but beautifully decorated huts. And if you keep walking for five/ten minutes, you’ll find a plethora of beach huts all lined up in rows.
Each one different with its brightly coloured stripes and décor.
These tiny beach huts sell for several thousand pounds, and there are constantly waiting lists to buy them too. They’re expensive but cheaper than flats in London.
After visiting the colourful beach huts walk towards Whitstable Harbour. Whitstable is known for its oysters, and in July, they celebrate with annual Whitstable Oyster Festival. Which is a celebration of all things oyster that culminates with the crowing of an Oyster King and Queen.
There you’ll find the working harbour that is predominantly used by whelk and oyster fishermen and is home to several good restaurants and shacks.
Just like the colourful beach huts, you’ll find brightly coloured fishing boats of the Whitstable fleet moored around Whitstable’s Harbour.
Whitstable is famed for its oysters which were first discovered by the Romans two millennia ago. The oysters have been harvested by the Whitstable Oyster Company since the 1400s.
Address: Harbour Market Whitstable, The South Quay, Whitstable Harbour, Kent, CT5 1AB
Opening Hours: 10 am — 4 pm (Thursday – Sunday only)
Explore Whitstable Harbour Market
Along the harbour, you’ll also find the Harbour Market Whitstable, which features about 35 traders selling everything from coffee and ice cream to handmade jewellery and artwork. Harbour Market is an open-air market that showcases British made locally created goods and fine art.
Where to eat in Whitstable Kent
The Whitstable Oyster Company’s Fish Restaurant, on the harbour, is an excellent upmarket place to grab some oysters if you’re on the beachfront. The Oyster Company is in a former oyster store on the beach, with long rustic trestle tables, photos of fishermen and rafters. The menu changes daily with lots of fresh fish besides rock oysters.
The Oyster Company is said to be one of the best places to eat in Whitstable.
The Lobster Shack, found at the northern end of the harbour, boasts great sea views and a simple menu with favourites such as fish/scampi and chips and baked lobster with garlic and parsley butter.
The Forge is the hipster shack on the beachfront shack, which serves local beer and the freshest oysters. Where you watch the skilled staff shuck oysters right in front of you. All oysters sold at the famous old shack are local to Whitstable and grown on the nearby sea bed.
I tried out a quarter dozen of the native oysters delicious with a splash of hot sauce. Hot sauce makes everything better - just ask Beyonce.
The Oyster bar and The Forge are two great places to eat in Whitstable.
Pro Tip: When there’s an R in the month, its native oyster season (rock oysters are available all year). Whitstable’s famous native oysters are at their best from September through to April.
Go shopping along Harbour Street
The first thing you’ll realise when wandering through Whitstable Town centre and along its high street is that the place is filled with independent shops.
Lining the high street (aka Harbour Street), you’ll find antique shops, cafes and bric-à-brac shops. Which is a great way to spend a couple of hours on your visit to Whitstable.
Shops in Whitstables to visit
For antiques visit Geoff Laurens Antiques the cutest little shop selling furniture, specialising in painted furniture. Anchors Aweight Vintage a treasure trove of vintage items from clothing, books, china and even fabrics. Seagulls & Flamingos an interesting little shop selling every nick nack under the sun - cards , teacups, photo frames and more.
Here are a few restaurants in Whitstable you should check out.
If you’re looking for gifts, this is the place! All the things are handmade focusing on small brands, individual crafts people, sustainability and ethical manufacturing.
The Whiting Post
The Whiting Post is for lovers of colourful and quirky clothing that expresses their personality. It has a retro vibe.
For fish and chips
For fish and chips visit V.C. Jones, with its red and white sign, there was always a queue outside when I would walk past. So I never got to try their fish and chips. If the queues are too long there, try The Pearson’s Arms.
Harbour Street Tapas
Harbour Street Tapas is the place to experience a little taste of Spain in Whitstable. I know something very different.
So, if you’ve had your fill of Whitstable’s finest oysters and fish and chips, book a table here. On the menu of Harbour Street Tapas are small sharing plates, traditional Spanish paella and delicious desserts.
You might have seen the front of this shop on Instagram. But what’s on the inside is just as good as the outside. There is always a queue outside the door of this tiny ice cream shop, but it’s worth the wait.
Sundae Sundae is a retro shop, where the ice cream is all homemade. There are quite a few flavours, but my favourite was rum and raisin. You can’t go wrong with this classic flavour.
Samphire’s a family-run bistro, in the heart of Whitstable that is warm and informal. The menu is seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms, allotments, fisherman and producers in Kent and the South East.
The Instagammable Wheeler’s Oyster Bar
You’ll have recognised this one from the ‘Gram’. It has brought hordes of Instagrammers to Whitstable.
But is the food there worth the hype of the exterior? Yes, yes, it is.
I was really surprised how small the inside of the restaurant was, but I was determined to try the oysters there.
Going off the recommendation of my server who has been working in Wheeler’s the last 20 years.
I had 6 oysters. Three wild Whitstable Native oysters and 3 rock oysters cooked in Guinness tempura batter (after spying a family eating them on the beach and asking where they got it from).
Man, I tell you the oysters were amazing, especially the battered oysters. They had such a rich, full taste and were freshly made.
If you are visiting Wheelers try them. Because they were so good, I had to have another half dozen oysters.
There is also every type of seafood you can imagine in the oyster bar, you can even build your own seafood platters.
Wheelers Oyster Bar is also the oldest restaurant in the town. If Wheelers is fully booked and you still what to try some delicious oysters visit The Forge next to Whitstable Harbour.
The Wheelers Oyster bar is one of the best restaurants in Whitstable.
Pro tip: Wheeler’s Oyster Bar is tiny, so if you want to have dinner there make reservations in advance. It’s also BYOB, but there’s the conveniently placed named ‘Offy’ across the road. Where you can buy your wine from. It’s also cash-only, but an ATM is a minute away.
8 High Street, Whitstable, +44 (0)1227 273 311.
You can grab a coffee from Blueprint coffee bar on Oxford Street they serve a range of ethically sourced coffees. It’s a part coffee shop/part book shop that you can peruse as you wait for your coffee.
Admire Whitstable Street Art
Being a seaside town, Whitstable seemed to have an artsy, relaxed vibe. I passed by several unique and quirky art as I was walking along Whitstable’s Harbour Street and peeked down the side streets.
I discovered several of the stencil art/paste up pieces designed by Unify, a street artist known for his work around London (including Shoreditch).
You’ll also see street art by Catman, Kent’s own Banksy. You’ll find ‘Drink Local’ on Harbour Street.
There is an interesting local art at the Fish Slab Gallery in Oxford Street. Which was once a fishmongers’ and the marble slab still intact.
I hope you like my list of things to do in Whitstable.
Explore the Alleys of Whitstable
Look for the quirky smuggler’s alleys. Smugglers used these as an escape route when trading in illegal tobacco and spirits.
Also check out Squeeze Gut Alley, that gradually gets narrower as you go further down the alley.
Visit Whitstable Castle
After relaxing on the seafront and exploring the town centre, why not discover Whitstable Castle.
The castle is another things to see in Whitstable, the original name for Whitstable Castle is Tankerton Towers, it's a small castle 10 minutes’ walk from Whitstable Harbour.
Originally constructed in the 1790s, and developed and improved by successive habitants over the years, Whitstable Castle is found at the top of the small hill to the east of Whitstable’s harbour.
The Castle’s tower is its oldest feature, built of brick and flint, with the adjoining extension wing constructed in Georgian Gothic style. The Castle also houses a popular tea room.
Address: Whitstable Castle and Gardens, Tower Hill, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 2BW
Opening Hours: Gardens: 7am – sunset; Tearooms: 10am – 5pm
I had a great day trip from London to Whitstable, but I think a weekend in Whitstable is also doable if you wanted to explore more of Kent. By visiting other coastal towns in Kent like Dover or Deal.