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A London to Dover day trip is one of the easiest and most popular ways to see the renowned English countryside and the towering White Cliffs.
If you’re from England, you’ve definitely heard of the White Cliffs of Dover. Perhaps it’s your first time in London, but you’ve caught wind of these gigantic chalk faces that line the coast of the British Channel?
A Day trip to Dover from London is one of the top day trips from London by train.
Either way, it’s something you should get the chance to experience at least once in your lifetime. Not only is it a scenic surprise, an adventure and a day out in nature. It’s also a chance to discover the lesser-known history of Britain.
This guide details how to get to Dover cliffs from London and the different routes you can opt for. As well as the best times to visit, and what to know for planning a journey here.
You’ll also find an added bonus of some charming activities to do in the area that are absolutely perfect for a lovely day trip.
What Makes the White Cliffs of Dover Famous?
The Dover cliff faces reach a height of 107 meters, and continuously show off incredible, ever-changing views.
During the stormy months, the seas below look jagged and striking. While summer shows off warm days to watch the boats sail past and fantastic walking trails to embark on.
The White Cliffs of Dover hold an important part of England’s history. They’re arguably one of the most iconic natural landmarks in the UK, with the white chalk cliffs of Dover standing as a symbol of protection.
With an extensive view of the English Channels, protectors of the nation could easily spot invasion.
The cliffs are situated at the point where the UK is closest to continental Europe. They are so spectacular that when the days are clear, they can be spotted all the way from the French coast 21 miles away.
Along with history, it’s obvious that the cliffs are famous for their striking white faces, which is made up of chalk.
The chalk is a soft, fine-grained form of pure limestone. This layer of chalk has been made over millions and millions of years. And not only is it beautiful, but it’s an important part of keeping the ecosystem thriving.
Best Tours of the White Cliffs of Dover
Whether you’re looking for a day trip from London to Dover, an adventure in the Dover Castles or a full-day extravaganza, you can find the perfect tour below.
White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury | Day-Trip from London
The journey alone is good enough. You’ll then make your way to the White Cliffs of Dover, to enjoy an insanely gorgeous coastal walk.
Although you’re on a tour, you’ll have an hour of free time to take in all the beauty on your own.
If you’re just keen on just spending time at the cliffs, you can opt to stay there for some extra hours. The rest of the group will leave for Dover Castle.
Next up, a trip to Canterbury. A walking tour will introduce you to all the history that the town holds.
Walk along streets lined with ancient buildings, visit a cathedral and take some time to explore the charming town.
From London | Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and Dover
This tour is absolutely fantastic for travellers who are up for the challenge of seeing as much of England as one can in a day. Escape the hustle and bustle of London and head to the countryside!
In this full-day tour, you’ll travel past an iconic London district that features the Royal Observatory and visit Leeds Castle in Kent.
Then head to the White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury Cathedral. It’s truly going to be a day filled with one adventure after the other.
Right before Dover, you’ll stop in Kent to explore the quaint little villages and unusual buildings. In Dover, you’ll see the famous White Cliffs and Dover Castle dominating the town.
Canterbury Cathedral, Dover Castle, and White Cliffs
This is another excursion that leaves from London for a full day of exploration. Visit the historic Canterbury Cathedral, and see the jagged White Cliffs of Dover.
The tour finishes back in London, where you’ll see maritime Greenwich and enjoy a River Thames boat ride.All while your guide shares the history of the town.
In this full-day tourThen travel to the spectacular White Cliffs, where you can take a walk along the clifftops.
During your walk, take a look out onto the English Channel, and maybe see if you can spot the French coast.
After you’ve been blown away by White Cliffs, discover the history of Dover in the iconic castle.
Admission to the castle is included in the price, and you’ll have some free time to learn about whatever attracts your attention the most.
Best Way to See the Dover White Cliffs
Given that this is a day trip from London, a coastal walk or hike is the best way to optimise your time and see most of the scenery.
Around every turn, you’ll experience new kinds of views. Whether that be the lusciousness of the hillsides, or by turning in the westward direction to hear and see the rumbles of the ocean.
There are a number of trails you can choose to take. If you’re arriving from the St Margarets Bay, the Dover visitor centre has a popular route called the South Foreland Walk.
It’s one of the most scenic routes you can take. It’s a 6-mile loop route that takes you through the stunning wildlife and scenery along the coast.
There will be plenty to see and do along the way. Keep an eye out for the Exmoor ponies that are native to the British isles.
At some point in your journey, you’ll spot the Dover castle, standing out in the distance as it has for many years. If you’re visiting in May, you can feast your eyes on an array of blooming wildflowers.
If you like this you’ll also like my day trip to Canterbury from London guide.
Where Are the Best Views of the White Cliffs of Dover?
While the walk along the coast is a must, it’s not the only place to really appreciate the beauty of the cliffs.
You might not get the chance to climb all of the cliffs on the walking journey. So while you’re in Dover, be sure to check out these alternative viewpoints for an even crazier spectacle.
Views from Coastguard
Make your way down to the beach in St Margaret’s Bay, where you’ll feel like a mouse looking up from below. You’ll really get a feel of how tall these cliffs are from down on the beach.
Sitting next to the beach is Britain’s nearest pub to France, the “Coastguard”. Take this opportunity to grab a pint, along with the mandatory fish, mushy peas and chips, and take it all in.
Shakespeare beach can be reached by walking down 100 steps to arrive on the shores. It actually happens to be a particularly popular beach for swimmers.
It’s also a great spot to see the cliffs from a distance.
It’s possible to take strolls along the stretch of sand and catch glimpses of the chalky cliffs.
If you decide to head to the beach for an extra viewpoint, be sure to check the weather out first. If it’s misty or cloudy, you won’t have any views of White Cliffs.
The Top of the Walking Path
The top of the walking path shows off one of the best views of the rolling green hills, the endless horizon and chalk edges dropping below.
On the way up you might need to give yourself a break to catch your breath. But this is the perfect time to catch an alternative view of the rocky heights.
Secret Wartime Tunnels
So this isn’t exactly going to show off views of White Cliffs. But what’s cooler than seeing them from the inside?
The wartime tunnels bury deep into the cliffs, complete with a history tour and real-life film footage from back in the day.
What to Expect with a Visit to Dover
Upon arriving in Dover, expect to be greeted by a vibrant port town. The town features a quaint city centre, two museums, olden-day houses and many whimsical attractions.
While Dover is perfect for a day trip from London, it’s almost too cute to not spend a couple of nights at. Although there are some small beaches below the cliffs, don’t expect a day at the beach.
They’re not usually known for being good spots for day lounging. Rather, the main attraction is the sightseeing spots and epic coastal walks.
Expect to spend most of your days outdoors (with a windbreaker being essential). Be sure to fuel up on wholesome food before the trip, you’ll be doing a lot of walking and I mean a lot and wandering around. The coastal paths provide miles worth of hiking and walking.
Wondering What to Do in Dover?
If you’re not heading off on a tour of White Cliffs, you can use your time to explore the quirky, whimsical places in Dover.
Port of Dover
Crazy enough, the Port in Dover is the second busiest port in the whole of England, and one of Europe’s busiest. It’s hugely popular for being an award-winning cruise line port, as well as a business hub.
It also forms an important part of the town’s history. Just picture the olden days, when ships and travellers were docking here and discovering new lands in England.
Do the White Cliffs of Dover Walk
The walk along the White Cliffs is around a 10-mile journey. But don’t let that put you off. It doesn’t mean you need to be a hiking enthusiast or fitness junkie. You can turn the journey into an appropriate length for your preference.
The walk shows off the geology of the region, fascinating scenery, forever-changing views and wildlife.
If you like this you’ll also like my visiting Seven Sisters Cliffs from London guide.
See the South Foreland Lighthouse
The white-washed Victorian South Foreland lighthouse is a beauty to look at, and has scrumptious views from the top, but it’s also steeped in history.
It was first lit in 1843, and just 16 years later it became the first lighthouse to use electricity to light the way.
Mrs Knott’s Tearoom
Right outside the lighthouse, you’ll come across this quintessential tearoom. The tearoom offers a fun and quirky environment to enjoy a cuppa. With its 1950s vibe, it’ll be as if you’ve stepped back in time.
Choose your own style of teapot and brew some tea from actual leaves, and not mass-produced tea bags. Don’t forget to try one of their homemade cakes – they are to die for.
Fly a Kite
Wondering what to do at the White Cliffs of Dover on a breezy day? Embrace your inner child and enjoy the magnificent outdoors.
There are plenty of great spots on top of the cliffs to launch your kite, and it’s a good way to take advantage of the windy weather.
Deep Fan Bay Shelter Tour aka The Churchill Wartime Tunnels
Put on a hard hat and get ready to delve into the darkness of these WWII tunnels. They were excavated for artillery batteries and have been opened to the public since 2015.
It’s beyond fascinating and not something you get to do often – you should definitely try to squeeze it in.
England’s largest castle can’t be missed in the distance. Just like the cliffs are an iconic part of Dover, so is this historic castle, which has been the town’s first line of defence. Step inside this medieval palace and wander through the vividly recreated rooms.
This visit goes hand in hand with the Deep Fan Bay Shelter visit.
Tip: Wondering how to get to Dover Castle from London? Easy! Just take the southeastern line from London Victoria or St Pancras International. It’s then a half an hour walk or cab ride to the castle.
Picnicking at the White Cliffs of Dover
During the warmer, sunnier months, packing a picnic for the White Cliffs is essential. You’re not going to find a better view, and after all that walking, it’s the perfect time to take a refreshing break.
Try to pick up some local goodies from Mrs Knott’s Tearoom, or some fresh produce from Dover Market Square.
Walk from Dover to St. Margaret’s Bay
Walk along a quiet, scenic path from the Dover Cliffs to St. Margaret’s Bay. With panoramic views and coastal cliffs revealing dramatic landscapes, what more could you ask for?
If you like this you should also read my White Cliffs of Dover walk guide
See the Exmoor Ponies
The herd of Exmoor ponies is a delightful feature of the cliffs in Dover. And the flower-rich grasslands are these babies’ favourite snacks.
Without these ponies grazing on the grasses, they wouldn’t be as lush and luxurious as they are today.
If you come across these ponies, do yourself a favour and catch it on film. They’re just so cute!
With a town holding this much history, it’s no surprise that they’ve got a great museum to tell the tales of the lands.
It was constructed in the mid-19th century, however, it lost two-thirds of its collection due to shelling during WWII. Despite that, there’s still plenty of artefacts and history to get lost in.
Situated 2 miles from Dover, Samphire Hoe is a park that was constructed using 4.9 million cubic meters of chalk marl. The chalk matter was gathered from the Channel Tunnel excavations.
Today, people come to the park for gentle bike rides, strolls on the coast and to admire the wonderful views of the cliff faces.
It’s also a great place for bird watching. Keep an eye out for house martins, peregrine falcons soaring above the cliffs and tiny rock pipits.
London to Dover Day Trip | What to Bring
How to Get from London to Cliffs of Dover
The White Cliffs is the perfect destination for a day trip to Dover from London or a weekend away. Getting to the White Cliffs of Dover from London is super simple.
How Far is Dover from London?
The White Cliffs in Dover are just 77 miles away from the bustling city of London, which makes it an awesome destination for a day trip.
Given that London is one of the most visited cities in the world, with plenty of residents, you can easily explore the Dover area and discover its beauty by travelling from the capital city.
Getting from London to White Cliffs of Dover
There’s no need to worry about getting to White Cliffs of Dover. You have four options to choose from.
London to Dover Bus
Many Londoners don’t have cars, so taking the National Express bus is a perfect option. And guess what? It’s also the cheapest route, costing you from around £5.
The busses leave from London’s Victoria Coach Station, three times a day. However, be prepared for the three-hour drive.
From Dover, you’ll take a 16-minute transfer bus to St Margaret’s at Cliffe. And then it’ll be another 16-minute walk to the cliffs.
London to Dover Train
The average journey between London and Dover is around 1 hour 55 minutes, so a fair bit quicker than the bus.
You can choose to leave London from St Pancras International, Victoria or Charing Cross. Train tickets will cost you around £40 – £70.
You’ll arrive at Walmer Station, where you’ll then hop on a bus for 13 minutes to St Margaret’s. The buses leave every 2 hours. Again, you’ll embark on a 16-minute walk to the cliffs.
I got the train from St Pancras International to Dover Priory, which took one hour on a direct train.
I also got an open return ticket which costed £51. I found this to be the quickest and easiest route to from London to Dover by train.
Once you get to Dover Priory, you’ll have a 20 minutes walk before arriving at the start of the trail to the cliffs.
If you’re taking the train or bus, you’ll definitely be doing a fair share of walking, which is all part of the adventure! The walk will take you past the Pines Garden Team Room and Museum.
London to Dover by Car
Maybe you have a car, or you’ve rented one for your holiday, or have a friend with a car and you’re planning a trip to the cliffs together.
Driving is the easiest way to get to Dover and the fastest. It’s just a 1 hour 15 minutes drive.
You can either drive via M20, the A2 and M2 or A20 and A21.
Best Time to Visit the White Cliffs of Dover
The best time to visit Dover depends on your personal preferences. But you’re going to be spending all of your time outdoors, like me it’s best to go when it’s drier and warmer. It’ll also improve the beautiful views and scenery.
The cliffs are pretty busy during this period, and tourism is at its peak. But it will not fell crowded.
If you’re a winter baby, the cliffs can be marvellous in the winter. With light snowfall, the waves crashing against the shores and cosy clothing, it can be quite spectacular.
But keep in mind, daylight hours are fewer in the winter months, and you’ll need to factor this into your transport plans.
White Cliffs of Dover Weather
If you’re keen on visiting the cliffs in good weather the ideal time would be the end of May to the beginning of October. Although no rainfall is not guaranteed, it’ll be less likely than in the winter months.
The warmest time of the year in England is generally July(which is when I visited the cliffs).
Temperatures reach, on average, 23°C during the day and drop to 13°C at night. It’s comfortably cool, and the best you can expect for UK weather.
In the winter months, from around November to February, temperatures range from 4°C – 5°C. There’s also more of a chance to see ground snow.
Dover’s wind patterns are pretty unpredictable, with the windiest month being December, and then January and February.
The average wind speed is around 11.8 knots, which is considered a moderate breeze. But this can be a chilly breeze, so even if it’s nice, sunny and warm outdoors, the cold breeze might get you.
Top tip: Hotels and guesthouses are a lot cheaper during the winter months, so you might as well steal the opportunity to spend a weekend away here.
White Cliffs of Dover Day Trip | Opening Hours and Prices
While transport is going to be your main expense, there are a few other costs you need to factor in for your journey.
While there is no entrance fee, you’ll need to pay a parking fee. Keep in mind, parking spots are limited and if you don’t get there early enough, you may have to park in St Margaret’s Bay.
Car park: 07:00 am – 19:00 pm
Takeaway kiosk: 10:00 am – 16:00 pm
Toilet: 09:00 am – 18:00 pm
£5.00 per car
£7.00 per motorhome vehicle
Ready to Embark on Your London to White Cliffs of Dover Journey?
A London to Dover day trip is one of the easiest and most popular ways to see the renowned English countryside and the towering White Cliffs.
If public transport or driving is not an option, fear not! The Dover White Cliffs tours I’ve mentioned in this guide have got you covered. So, you really don’t have any excuse for not planning a trip here.
As well as seeing an out-of-this-world view, you’ll also be jumping right into the history of the country.
Complete your visit with a trip to Dover Castle, or ask a friendly local guide to share their historical knowledge about this fascinating landmark.