Planning a Whitstable day trip? Find out the best places to visit, restaurants, shops and insider tips to make the most of your day.
Last week I hopped on a train from London to Whitstable. It’s one of the first day trips I’ve been on since lockdown lifted and travelling became an option again. Whitstable in Kent is one of those places people seem to have endless happy memories of.
Tales of eating their body weights in fresh oysters (and then remarking on how incredibly cheap they were too!) Stories of walks along the beach, basking in the sunshine and breathing in the salty sea air.
So off we went to do the same! Armed with plenty of recommendations and a few ideas of our own, we were ready to soak up all of Whitstable’s charm and beauty.
28,000 steps later, I find myself sat in front of my laptop with a memory card full of photos and a lot of handy tips to share with you. I’ve narrowed it down to a list of the best things to do in Whitstable, including my pick of the best cafes, some lovely restaurants and food experiences, and some money saving tips for when you book your train tickets too.
First up, I’d recommend watching the video of our trip. Then scroll down for my Whitstable travel guide. Let me know if you have any questions about planning a trip to the seaside.
London To Whitstable Guide: The Ultimate Whitstable Day Trip
Places To Visit In Whitstable On A Day Trip From London
There are lots of beautiful places to visit in Whitstable. As it’s such a walkable town, you’ll be amazed at how much you can fit into one day. I’d recommend arriving around 10.30 / 11am and leaving late afternoon or after dinner (I mean, who wouldn’t want to squeeze in one more fabulous meal after all!)
Let’s kick off with a few key spots that I’d recommend visiting on your Whitstable day trip…
This cute seaside town is famous for its working harbour. As you wander the water’s edge, check out the fisherman’s boats coming and going, while gaining a glimpse of what this town is famous for – fresh fish and seafood.
If you fancy getting out on the water, head to the huts on the far side of the harbour. There are a mix of boat trips on offer, from 20-minute sightseeing cruises to 40-minute trips out to see Whitstable’s famous sea forts. For an extra special tour, you could book a trip on Greta – one of the oldest Thames sailing barges left in Britain.
Whitstable Harbour is also home to several black huts selling gifts and artwork. It’s a lovely place to meander, while taking in the hustle and bustle.
Plus, this is a town where you’re never far from ocean-fresh seafood. In the centre of the harbour are Crab & Winkle and the Harbour Garden Café – two great spots for fresh Whitstable oysters, mussels, lobster and fish.
Colourful Beach Huts
As you’ll know if you read this blog regularly or follow me on Instagram, I adore colourful places! A rainbow coloured life is a happier life! I couldn’t wait to walk from Whitstable towards Herne Bay to see the vibrant rows of beach huts. Just look at them…
To reach these beach huts, follow the promenade from Whitstable Harbour, towards The Lobster Shack restaurant, then along the beach towards Herne Bay. In around 10-15 minutes you’ll reach Tankerton Slopes where the adorable beach huts are located. I had a wander around, picking my favourites and snapping photos of the mix of styles and designs.
I visited on a sunny day in September, and a few of the beach huts were in use, with people relaxing on their terraces, enjoying picnics, or getting warm and dry after a dip in the sea. It looked like an idyllic way to spend the day.
For something a little bit different, you could walk back via Whitstable Castle, which dates back to the 1790s. It’s well worth a visit if you can squeeze it into your day.
Whitstable Beach is pebbly rather than sandy, and divided into lots of sections with wooden groynes (sea defence posts) that go way out into the ocean. There’s something really nice about this, as it means you can find your own section away from other people! Kids paddled in the water, and a few brave adults appeared to be doing lengths a little way from the shore.
The beach itself is massive – both long and wide. It’s worth noting that there are pretty huge shifts in the beach areas depending on the tides. Before my visit, someone recommended I check Whitstable’s tide times, and I was pleasantly pleased to learn that the tide would be quite high for most of the time we’d be there.
By the evening, the tide was out, which changes the views dramatically. At low tide there’s a long sand bar nicknamed ‘The Street’, which stretches about half a mile from Tankerton Beach into the Thames Estuary. I heard from locals that it’s amazing to walk right out along the spit and look back at the land. Just watch out for the tide coming in again!
Best Shops In Whitstable
Oh how I loved wandering up and down the main streets of this adorable seaside town. From a cheese shop specialising in wheels of the good stuff from around the British Isles, to traditional sweet shop selling rock that’ll break your jaw, and boujis clothes boutiques where it’s safer to window shop, than see the prices, this is a place where charm and character oozes from each colourful shopfront. While I’d recommend exploring in your own time, here are a few of my favourite shops to visit in Whitstable…
The Whiting Post
Swap your boring jeans and t-shirts for colourful clothes, eye-catching patterns and a bit of vintage quirkiness. This is one of the best places to visit in Whitstable for anyone who wants to inject a bit of fun into their wardrobe.
Flory & Black
Gifts, lights, vases, homeware and more. This is gorgeous little shop where you’ll probably buy something you fall in love with, but definitely didn’t need!
The Cheese Box
This is a tiny store with all the cheese you could dream of. I’ll admit that I’ve been dreaming about that cheese tower in the window ever since we passed the shop -it’d be perfect for our wedding!
Grain & Hearth
The queue for this artisan bakery said it all, but I still did some window shopping! If you get peckish for a pastry, cake or fancy picking up a delicious loaf of sourdough, this is the place to go.
Bookworms, listen up! If you love getting lost in a good novel, you’ll love perusing the shelves of this traditional book store.
Best Cafes In Whitstable
Without a doubt, this is the place to go for the best coffee in Whitstable. This independent café on the corner of Oxford Street and Middle Wall, is inspired by the Melbourne coffee scene, and wow was the coffee good! The café also sells bags of coffee and quirky books, as well as being in the ideal spot for people watching.
Whitstable Produce Store
Looking for locally produced foods? This is a great place to pick up a bottle of local cider, chutney or jam. Alternatively, you could grab a cuppa and a cake and take a seat in the courtyard at the side.
Best Ice Cream In Whitstable
Before our day trip to Whitstable, I asked for a few tips. Sundae Sundae was one that several people recommended, so I knew it must be seriously good. This tiny store on Harbour Street is the best place to visit in Whitstable for ice cream, sorbet and specially-created sundaes.
There was one big question on my mind though – what flavour to go for! After much deliberation (and the advice of the shop assistant) I went for the sea salt caramel. It was absolutely delicious, with salty, crunchy chunks of caramel packed inside the smooth ice cream.
Best Place For a Drink In Whitstable
The Old Neptune
The Old Neptune, a.k.a ‘the pub ON the beach’ is without a doubt the best place to go for a drink on your day trip to Whitstable. It’s literally right out on the beach, which means it boasts spectacular views of the ocean and the beach area too.
Locals know it as The Neppy, and as you walk from the harbour area towards it, you’ll understand why many are so fond of this pub. Time it right, and you could catch sunset over the water too.
Places To Eat In Whitstable On A Day Trip From London
Whitstable is famed for its food scene. My advice? Arrive hungry and stay as late as possible. Hopefully you can fit in several tasty meals during your day trip!
Wheelers Oyster Bar
If you love seafood, you’ll be in your element. Wheelers Oyster Bar is one of the most famous places to eat in Whitstable, but sadly it was closed on the day we visited. My mum, who hasn’t visited for 10 years, still recounts how incredible the crab tarts were from Wheelers; so good she bought three last time, so she could enjoy the taste of the sea, well after her trip had ended!
Looking for a backup option, we headed to The Forge, a casual seafood shack right on the sea wall. We picked up half a dozen oysters for £10, doused them in tabasco and shallot vinegar, and walked a few steps to the pebbly beach. The oysters were massive, super fresh and mind-blowingly cheap!
We also picked up a cod and chips for £8.95, to keep our energy levels up. The scent of vinegar mingled with the salty sea air – the true smell of a British seaside trip! I With seagulls swooping overhead, we knew we had to eat fast and protect our food. No trouble there though – we’d worked up quite an appetite after a busy morning of exploring/
The Whitstable Oyster Company
For dinner we booked a table at The Whitstable Oyster Company (also known as the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company), a large restaurant, with two dining rooms, plus an outside terrace. We’d heard good things about the fresh fish and seafood on offer here, and I’m happy to report, we were not disappointed.
We shared a black truffle taramasalata to start, then Macca ordered the cider and cream mussels for his main course. For my main I chose the pan-fried Thornback Ray wing with butter and capers. This is a local fish, which is really meaty. The cooking of the fish was excellent, it flaked away in small buttery slithers. Accompanied by a glass of Chapel Down English white wine, this felt like a lovely place to round off our day trip to Whitstable.
I’d love to return and spend a weekend in Whitstable, partly to eat my way around all the other spots I wanted to try! If you’re looking for other places to eat in Whitstable, I’d recommend taking a look at these:
Independent family-run bistro in the heart of Whitstable, with a focus on local and sustainable food. The fish pie and baked cod come highly recommended. This is also a popular place for brunch in Whitstable.
Harbour Street Tapas
Spanish tapas joint, with a small-ish menu of tasty plates. The grilled tiger prawns with chilli, ginger and garlic get my vote, as do the lamb cutlets. Yum!
The Lobster Shack
Beach bar vibes, with lots of outdoor seating and views of the Thames Estuary. If the sun is shining, this is a great spot for seafood, BBQ’ed meat and fish and local beers.
Also, if you’re planning your day trip in the summer, each year towards the end of July is the Whitstable Oyster Festival. Whitstable comes to life for a weekend of celebrations, to honour this British seaside town’s love of oysters.
How To Get From London To Whitstable By Train
One of the best things about Whitstable is how easy it is to get there. There are several direct trains each hour from London to Whitstable, departing from London St Pancras International and London Victoria.
My best advice for booking cheap train tickets for your day trip to Whitstable, is to book as far in advance as possible, and travel at off peak times.
You could also save money by picking up a National Rail Railcard. We ordered a Two Together Railcard before this trip, which was only £30, and after seeing the huge saving on our ticket, I honestly don’t know why we didn’t get one sooner. This Railcard is perfect if you travel with one particular friend, family member or your partner regularly, and can save up to a third on train tickets. They work digitally, and it takes minutes to set up, so it really is a no-brainer! You can find out more about the different Railcards available here.
We booked off peak day return tickets and left London Victoria at 9.40am and arrived at Whitstable train station just after 11am. You can check times and ticket prices on the National Rail website here.
It’s worth noting that travelling by train is a little different right now. You must wear a face covering while in train stations and on-board public transport. I’ve got quite used to this, and don’t find it uncomfortable at all, but I would recommend buying a comfortable mask, with some decent breathing space. London’s train stations have plenty of places to apply hand sanitiser, and at all of them, you must adhere to the social distancing policy of 1 metre + from other passengers.
On both journeys, the train carriages we travelled in were almost empty. I felt confident travelling by train, and enjoyed taking in the views of the Kent countryside on the journey. Once we reached Whitstable train station, the walk to the harbour area took around 15-20 minutes.
A big thanks to National Rail for collaborating with me on this project. If you’d like to find out more, you can read about National Rail’s safer travel pledge here.
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