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Even though I lived in many places in the UK, northeast Kent is the only area I truly miss. Beautiful beaches, white chalk cliffs… You can’t get bored with the abundance of hidden gems and things to do in Thanet.
Whether you’re a local, planning a trip or looking for a staycation inspiration, this guide will help you navigate between the best attractions in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate.
Navigate to where you want to go:
Thanet at a glance
Thanet is located on the northeastern tip of Kent and comprises three towns: Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate.
Best time to visit Thanet
If you want to avoid the biggest crowd but still enjoy sunny weather, consider visiting Thanet in late spring/early autumn. One of the biggest myths is that there is nothing to do during colder months. In fact, Thanet offers plenty of activities even in autumn and winter! Check out the Screamland event at Dreamland, Bonfire Night fireworks, and Christmas markets. If you’re lucky, you might get to see a Coca-Cola Christmas Truck too.
How to get to Thanet
The easiest way to travel from London to Thanet is by taking a high-speed Southeastern train from St Pancras to Margate, Broadstairs or Ramsgate. The trip takes about an hour and thirty minutes.
How to get around Thanet
The most convenient way of getting around Thanet is by choosing a bus route called The Loop, a circular bus route that passes through Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate in a continuous cycle. There are many hidden gems worth exploring along the route. It also stops by Westwood!
Things to do in Thanet
1. Coastal Explorer Packs
If you want to spend time in Thanet differently, check out the Coastal Explorer Packs. They’re perfect for everyone, especially for those interested in things like learning how to use a compass or make a sundial. Packs will also help you find interesting legacy stories. All you need to is rent a bag for £5 with proof of ID at:
- Margate – Visitor Information Centre, Droit House, Stone Pier, CT9 1JD,
- Broadstairs – Lillyputt Mini Golf, Victoria Parade, CT10 1QL, or
- Ramsgate – Visitor Information Centre, Customs House, Harbour Parade CT11 8LP.
2. Bathe on a beach
As we get just a few days of beautiful, warm weather in the UK, people flock to the beaches around the country to enjoy the sunshine. While main sands are packed with people during summer, there are plenty of deserted, secluded coves around.
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly or Instagram-worthy beach, check out Minnis Bay, Palm Bay, Botany Bay, Kingsgate Bay and Joss Bay. They’re my favourite beaches in Thanet, sandy, quiet and away from buzzing town centres. All of them have a cafe on site (or fairly close to the beach) which makes them a perfect spot for a family day out.
3. Go on a shopping spree
While each of the towns has many local, independent shops to offer, they share one big shopping centre between them – Westwood Cross. It’s located in between three towns and offers a wide range of popular chain stores, many restaurants and a cinema.
4. Follow the Vikings – cycle (or walk) along the Viking Coastal Trail
Viking Coastal Trail is a 32 mile (51.4 km) long circular route around the Isle of Thanet, which can be easily divided into shorter, manageable sections. With a vast variety of different things to explore, historic places to discover and dramatic scenery around, this activity is perfect for everyone, also for families with children.
If you decide to choose a stretch that goes along the coastline, make sure to check tide times beforehand. Some of them might have ends cut off or be underwater during high tide.
RELATED ARTICLE: If you want to know what to expect along the route, don’t forget to check out this article from my walk from Margate to Broadstairs.
Things to do in Margate
5. Lunch at Old Kent Market
Fancy trying something new? Are fish and chips too boring? I get you. You’re here to explore new things, so what’s the point of getting the same food you could get back at home. Old Kent Market is a little hidden gem with its variety of delicious food and unique atmosphere. It was refurbished a few years ago and transformed into a local community hub, where you can find stalls with amazing, but not overpriced, food from different parts of the world. It’s located just a few steps from Turner Contemporary, which is why this is a great place to stop for lunch.
6. Turner Contemporary
Turner Contemporary is award winning, one of the leading art galleries in the UK. It was named after Joseph Mallord William Turner, English Romantic painter and printmaker. He lived shortly in Margate and produced a series of drawings of the town and surrounding areas. Art gallery is now located on the site of a boarding house where Turner once stayed.
FUN FACT: New £20 note features Turner Contemporary alongside Margate Lighthouse. It is the first contemporary building placed on any note.
Opposite the art gallery, you can see an iron statue, a part of “Another Time” art installation by Antony Gormley. This is one out of hundred sculptures dispersed all around the world. It’s visible from the gallery’s first-floor balcony and from the shoreline during low tide.
RELATED ARTICLE: There is a place in England where you can find hundred statues like this in one place. Check out an article about “Another Place”, an art installation made by the same artist.
7. Shell Grotto
Come over to discover mysterious Shell Grotto, an ornate subterranean passageway with almost every wall and ceiling covered in mosaics made of 4.6 million seashells. It was discovered around 1835, and it was open to the public three years later. Nobody knows when it was created and what was the reason behind it, even the event of discovery itself is shrouded in mystery. Everyone who loved the trip to enigmatic 70 ft (21m) of winding passages can also get a souvenir in a gift shop.
8. Underground Margate – Margate Caves
If you enjoyed Shell Grotto, you will love visiting Margate Caves, too. They began as a small chalk mine in the early 1700s, but over the time, they were also used as a wine store, grotto and air-raid shelters during the First and Second World Wars. Caves were repeatedly opened to the public and closed back again. They were reopened again in 2019 and have been welcoming visitors ever since.
9. Have fun at Dreamland
You can’t say you’ve been in Margate unless you visited Dreamland, one of the oldest amusement parks in the United Kingdom. Locally, it’s known for its football match events, concerts and seasonal events like Screamland, a popular Halloween themed event. In recent years, it’s become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Margate.
FUN FACT: David Guetta recorded his latest song, “If You Really Love Me (How Will I Know)”, in Dreamland.
Dreamland first opened in 1880, which makes it one of the oldest amusement parks in the UK. Following closure in 2005, being under multiple arson attacks, it was redeveloped and reopened in 2015.
10. Wander around Margate
Margate has many interesting things and historic landmarks to see. If you start near the Main Sands, you’ll be able to see a Jubilee Clock Tower built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It has a Time Ball that drops at 1 pm every day and is one of a few working time balls in the world.
Further away you’ll find yourself in a buzzing Margate Old Town, abundant in lots of independent, vintage shops, pubs and local cafes.
A few minutes away from the time centre, you can find a Tudor House, the oldest building in Margate, dated back to 1525. It’s believed that the Tudor House would have been one of the largest buildings in Thanet, and would probably have belonged to a wealthy yeoman farmer. It was due for demolition in the 1930s until they found original Tudor beams. Thanks to this discovery, the house was restored and opened to the public.
If you prefer a walk by the sea, you might find yourself near the Walpole Bay Tidal Pool – the largest saltwater pool in the UK. It’s a brilliant spot for outdoor swimming and learning paddle boarding.
Things to do in Broadstairs
11. Surf at Joss Bay
Have you ever tried surfing or paddle boarding? If you’re in the area for longer and can swim, this might be an interesting idea for an active afternoon. You can book lessons and hire equipment at the surfing school located on the beach.
Joss Bay is a popular destination for surfers and one of the best surfing beaches in Thanet, alongside Botany Bay and Viking Bay.
12. Follow Dickens
Charles Dickens visited Broadstairs very often and wrote “David Copperfield” there. That’s why many places in town revolve around him.
Among them you can find Dickens House Museum, where he was a frequent guest. Girl who lived there was an inspiration for Betsey Trotwood. Bleak House is a place where he lived, and wrote not only the “David Copperfield” but also the essay called “Our English Watering Place”.
Not to forget about the annual Broadstairs Dickens Festival – it’s been happening every June since 1937!
13. Have fun at Revolution Skatepark and Climbing Centre
You might not find a better indoor skatepark and climbing centre in Thanet than this one. If you’ve never been in a place like this, you can book a lesson first to see what it is all about! It’s perfect for everyone since you can use not only skateboards but also BMX, rollerblades or scooters. As for the climbing part, it’s great for all types of indoor climbing. Kids are invited too!
14. Spent day outside
You can find a few hidden gems in Broadstairs, especially if you know what to look for. Start with Victoria Gardens overlooking Viking Bay and Louisa Bay, followed by charming St Peter’s, historically a village, now an area in Broadstairs, with a magnificent Norman Church. Let’s not forget about lovely narrow lanes, cozy cafes, and, of course, beautiful white cliffs and sea views. This town won’t disappoint you.
Things to do in Ramsgate
15. Go underground along Ramsgate Tunnels
History of Ramsgate Tunnels goes back to 1863, when the underground railway was opened. In 1939, after threats of the World War II, tunnels were extended to create an underground city, which also became the most extensive underground public shelter system in the country.
If you want to visit the tunnels, you can book a tour around the premises. You’ll be able to see where the underground town was with your own eyes! Tour is up to 1.25 kilometres and lasts around 1 hour 30 minutes. Wear warm clothes, it’s only 11 degrees down there!
16. Discover Italianate Glasshouse
This rare greenhouse is another hidden gem of Ramsgate! It’s located on Ramsgate Eastcliff in the King George VI Memorial Park and has no connection to Italy whatsoever. The name refers to its centrepiece, an oracle fountain imported from Italy. Inside the Glasshouse, you might find rare Agave plants that can be used to make Tequila and take decades to bloom – that’s quite an interesting find! The park is also a home to many birds with green ring-necked parakeets among them.
17. Don’t miss the Ramsgate Royal Harbour
You can’t visit Ramsgate without going on a walk along the harbour. It’s the only Royal Harbour in the entire country! George IV granted this title in 1821 because he received such a friendly welcome every time he visited the town.
Ramsgate Main Sands is located just by the harbour. You can also find many hotels, shops and pubs on the opposite side of the road. I’d recommend visiting the area at dusk, when all lights are slowly getting lit up. The views are amazing.
18. Visit Ramsgate Maritime Museum
While you’re already near the harbour, don’t forget to check the Maritime Museum too. It’s in the Clock House on the quayside and focuses strongly on Ramsgate. This building is also the place where Ramsgate Meridian was calculated. You’ve heard right! Ramsgate had its own Mean Time, 5 minutes and 41 seconds ahead of Greenwich. It was abandoned in 1848 in favour of GMT.
19. Take a trip down memory lane in Micro Museum
The only computer museum in Kent is located here, in Ramsgate. All items were found, bought and rescued by the owners over the last 40 years. There are hundreds of items on display all the time, with some of them dating back to the 1940s! The admission fee includes the possibility to play original games or retro versions of the old classics on over thirty different consoles and computers.
20. Admire Pugin Architecture
Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, the international architect, is probably the most famous resident of Ramsgate. He’s best known for his magnificent interiors, furnishings and fittings of the Houses of Parliament. Pugin’s connection to the town and his contribution to the townscape made Ramsgate famous for a long time. There are many remarkable landmarks, both designed and inspired by Pugin.
The best example of his work is St Augustine’s Church, a perfect model of his true principles of architecture. Adjacent to the church is another building he designed, The Grange, the house that became his family’s home a few years later. It was rescued from demolition in 1997 and now it’s available to visit for everyone.
21. Visit Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum
Manston played a crucial role during both WWI and WWII because of its close location to the Channel and being only 10 minutes flying time from the enemy’s coast.
This unique museum is an ongoing project dedicated to the history of Manston Airfield and has two iconic planes on display: Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane. It also houses many different objects that represent both the aircraft and local history.
While the museum is completely free, you can book a flight in the Spitfire Simulator for £30. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried it!
Have you ever been to this part of Kent? Do you think I missed any key attractions in Thanet? Comment down below!