In the bottom right hand corner of the UK is the beautiful little town of Whitstable; nestled on the Kent coast, waves lapping its shores and more oysters than you can shake a stick at (if that is indeed what you wish to do with oysters – but I’d recommend just eating them).
Unlike most sensible folk, we decided to explore Whitstable in the depths of windy, rainy, rather chilly November. The perfect time to visit any seaside town…
It was to be Little Miss’ (then 20 months old) first time ever seeing a beach. We were incredibly excited to introduce her to the game Tidal Chicken (a staple from my childhood when visiting the Grandparents way up north in Sunderland), chish ‘n’ fips on a bench freezing to death by the sea (again, my bonkers Scouse mother to thank for that lovely tradition) and in my Other Half’s case, playing board games by cozy fires in pubs while the parents sip pints and the kids sip something suitably non-alcoholic. (Not going to lie, his childhood traditions seemed significantly less harsh than mine!)
Whitstable did not disappoint. We had a brilliant time and Little Miss fell in love with “the bitch” (rather unfortunate toddler pronunciation) at first sight.
A stone’s throw from London (only an hour via a direct train – HS1 from St Pancras or Stratford Int’l) or an hour’s drive from the M25 make it within easy reach of most South East families for a cheeky weekend away.
If you’re coming from further afield or wanted to stay for longer, Whitstable is also perfectly placed for exploring more of the Kent coast and countryside, only a 20 minute drive from historic Canterbury and the picturesque Kent Downs to name but a few.
A popular holiday spot, there’s BnBs, hotels and holiday rentals by the bucket load in and around Whitstable but we opted for our first ever Airbnb experience. Safe to say we are now complete Airbnb converts and have already used it again since.
It was a ten minute walk to our cottage, the Belmont Retreat, from the station and a further ten minute walk from the cottage to the centre of town.
It was a warm and beautifully refurbished two-bedroom annex that had once upon a time been the kitchen and maid’s quarters to the large house. There were bunk beds in bedroom 2 (with space for a travel cot though we had to take our own) decked out with everything you need for a self-catering weekend away, including carrot cake, eggs, bread and milk in the fridge on arrival. Our hosts kindly provided a highchair even though it wasn’t listed on the property details and there was wifi available too.
The cottage looks out onto a lovely garden (complete with sullen tabby cat, much to Little Miss’ joy as she sat watching him each morning from the window) but guests do not have access.
Our hosts were brilliant; so friendly and welcoming; they had thought of everything.
Where to eat:
Whitstable is renowned for it’s seafood and is a place of real foodie pilgrimage (ie, the Other Half’s heaven).
The famous haunt is Wheeler’s Oyster Bar, but unfortunately, they don’t have highchairs. We considered trying to time a visit with naptime, but booking is essential here at weekends and we thought it would be just our luck that Little Miss would refuse a nap and have a full on meltdown. So sadly, we gave Wheeler’s a miss.
However, top of our list, taking into consideration the food, price and how they were with families, were the following:
Incredibly friendly staff, delicious food (different lunch and evening meal menus) and perfect with toddlers and kids. They had highchairs, colouring pages and chalk boards and although they didn’t have a children’s menu, they were helpful in finding a solution for Little Miss, even finding out ingredients for us (she has allergies) without so much of a sigh. Highly recommended, especially for brunch.
Windy Corner Stores (£)
Brilliant in every way. Great coffee, endless options for breakfast and brunch, including a children’s menu with everything from jam on toast to homemade hummus with homemade bread. There’s also a toy box for them to raid and keep them amused and highchairs.
Whitstable Oyster Company (££-£££)
If you’re looking for somewhere with white table clothes for a slightly more up market lunch, this is the one for you. Still incredibly family friendly with toys for kids, highchairs and patient, friendly staff; the food is delicious, fresh and worth every penny.
The Smack Inn (£)
This small, cosy pub (originally two fishing cottages in the 1800s) is slightly off the beaten track between the seafront and the high street. If you’re visiting during the Spring and Summer months, there’s a large beer garden out back, otherwise it’s a lovely, cosy bolt hole with a burning log fire, board games, cards, a toy box for younger ones to tip out onto the floor and local ales in which to hide from the 20mph winds and rain. The owners are lovely and welcoming, as is their chocolate Cocker Spaniel. Live music on Sundays.
The Forge (£-££)
The best fish and chips in Whitstable by far. Outdoor seating only, just off the seafront promenade – so wrap up warm if you’re there in the Winter but still definitely worth a visit. Highchairs are available and a variety of fish from battered cod and scampi to oysters. (Bacon butties are also available if you’ve got some fussy non-fish eaters in your tribe.) The Forge is open all day and also offers a take away service.
Things to do:
About a ten to fifteen minute walk north-east from the centre of Whitstable, the castle is a must. With beautiful gardens (with cement paths, great for kids with scooters) and an awesome pirate ship playground, it’s sure to be a winner. Complete with small café on site as well.
Only a few minutes’ walk from the castle down a gentle sloping path, you’ll find the long stretch that is Tankerton Beach with brightly coloured beach huts, a small café, toilets & baby changing facilities.
Antique and Trinket Stores
As with mostly quaint little towns in Britain, there’s plenty of small gift shops, antique stores and children’s books and toys shops. You could easily while away an afternoon (children allowing) meandering up and down the streets, popping in and out of all the little shops.
We found there was plenty to do in Whitstable to fill the weekend. And let’s face it, with littles in tow, generally everything takes twice as long anyway and it’s best to plan half as much as you usually would. But just in case you are proud parents to the world’s best-behaved kids and you find yourselves twiddling your thumbs after a day, Canterbury, Herne Bay and Isle of Sheppey including the Elmley National Nature Reserve are near by.
- If you have kids in a buggy, don’t forget your rain cover. It’s incredibly windy in Whitstable and even if it’s sunny, the rain cover helps shield little ones from the gusts – especially during blessed naptime.
- Bring a bike lock for the buggy so you can lock it up on the promenade while you toddle down to the tide. This is less about people stealing your buggy (we felt very safe in Whitstable) and more about the wind blowing it away!
- There’s a great sense of community amongst the locals, so don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything going on that weekend. For example, we ended up joining the locals on the beach for a Bonfire Night celebration rather than trekking to the big pubic bonfire about a fifteen, twenty minute drive away.
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Originally published on Mini Travellers.