Whitstable with kids: Family day out in Kent

Whitstable with kids: Family day out in Kent

24th March 2020

Every now and then, the craving for the sea comes over me. Actually, the craving for tropical beaches is quite a regular one but there’s something about being by the coast which satisfies me whether a bracing day in the UK or relaxing on white sand.

Girl relaxing on the shingle beach at Whitstable looking out to the sea on the Kent coast - my tips from our trip for Whitstable with kids

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So after a weekend where every plan we made seemed to get cancelled or fall through, I decided to whisk myself and Minnie off to Kent for an overnight trip – giving us an afternoon and most of a day by the seaside, discovering what there is to do in Whitstable with kids.

As it was pretty last-minute, pouncing on this lovely house on AirBNB, I did a very quick blitz of research. In the end, we spent most of our time on the beach looking for shells, or wandering around the streets – and that really is the joy of Whitstable.

But that’s certainly not all: here are my top tips for things you can do in Whitstable for kids.

My daughter crouched on the beach at Whitstable in Kent looking for shells - my tips for things to do in Whitstable with kids View from the beach at Whitstable onto boats just offshore - my top things to do in Whitstable with kids and the north Kent coast View of the seafront at Whitstable My daughter's hands full of broken shells and shingle after a day on the beach - my tips for things to do in Whitstable with kids My daughter's feet in the shingle on the beach - my tips for things to do in Whitstable with kids

Explore Whitstable beach

It goes without saying, really… The beach here is shingle so you won’t be building sandcastles – you have to head further along the coast towards Margate for sand – but there are some fantastic shells to find, and crabbing too with one of the best spots at West Beach.

If the weather’s good, there are great waves for older kids to paddle in plus watersports to try.

Wander Harbour Street

This is one joyous stretch of shops you won’t be able to resist going into. For kids, try Buttercup boutique, Harbour books and Peekaboo kids, for toys, clothes and activities.

For adults, there’s vintage treasures galore, from The Whiting Post to The Clothes Horse, Mosaic and Flory & Black.

The shops of Harbour Street in Whitstable My daughter looking at brightly coloured homewares on brightly coloured shelves in one of the shops in Whitstable's Harbour Street

Then there’s food… Sugar Boy sweetshop, full of retro sweets, The Cheesebox for (unsurprisingly) cheese and What’s Up Cupcake, open Thursday to Sunday only (as I discovered on the Monday morning) plus some lovely looking restaurants. There’s also Sundae Sundae for ice creams.

Hit the harbour

If shops aren’t your thing (or aren’t your kids’ thing), head down to the harbour instead for a browse of the stalls on the front.

More are open at weekends, but you’ll find a few stalls open most days in the summer with everything from Ordnance Survey map print homewares to silk kimonos, buckets and spades and fresh seafood.

Arrow signs reading beach in a basket of one of the stalls at the harbourfront in Whistable Seagull pokes its head above a crate by the harbour at Whistable My daughter looks at a sign showing a cornet of chips advertising fish and chips in Whitstable

Have fish and chips in Whitstable

This seaside town still has a working harbour, so you won’t be short of good fish – VC Jones is one of the best-known, the Crab & Winkle on the harbourfront is a bit more stylish or simply pick up your choice from the fish market and eat at one of the little tables, or on the shingle nearby.

Whitstable’s summer oyster festival is famous, but you can get shellfish outside those few days as well: cockles and winkles in the harbour, as well as oyster stalls here and along the seafront.

Wheeler’s Oyster Bar in the town was being refurbished when we visited, but you can still stop in for seafood at the bar there too.

The pink and blue exterior of Wheeler's oysters in Whitstable Oysters on ice at a stall in Whitstable Pile of snail shells on the beach with shells at Whitstable

Find the street art in Whitstable

Whitstable has its own Banksy, aka Catman, whose street art appears on walls around the town.

We stumbled across one or two as we wandered around, including the Whitstabubble bubble blowing boy, but you can find a few more around Harbour Street and Oxford Street if you keep your eyes peeled.

My daughter looks at the Whitstabubble boy - discovering street art in Whitstable

Everyone from the Queen to the Mona Lisa have popped up in some of his Whitstable Street art – head to Terrys Lane and Clifton Road for a few more pieces to get you thinking.

Whitstable castle

The castle, once known as Tankerton Towers, was an 18th century family home. It’s now a wedding and events venue, but there are some lovely gardens to visit.

Hire bikes

As well as heading off to see what you discover, you could explore the six-mile Crab and Winkle Way along a disused railway line to Canterbury.

It’s uphill on the way there, so you can do some freewheeling on the way back. There are some gateways on the route, so this isn’t one to try if you’re towing a bike trailer.

Or the Oyster Bay trail, which links Whitstable, Herne Bay and the Roman site of Reculver is almost completely flat and you’re unlikely to meet much traffic, so this is a great one with younger kids.

Kent Cycle Hire has child bikes from £18 per day and tagalongs or trailers to hire from £16, as well as adult bikes from £23.50 per day and child seats. It’s worth booking in advance if you’re not bringing your own.

View out to the sea on the north Kent coast in Whitstable

Discover Whitstable’s history

The town also has a small museum, with an eclectic collection featuring local history from diving (Whitstable is the home of helmet diving) to actor Peter Cushing, who lived in the town for 35 years.

You’ll also discover more about shipbuilding, steam railways and how to trade ice. Open Wednesday to Saturday during July and August, plus school holidays, and on Thursdays to Saturday otherwise.

Retro sign showing a girl at the beach in Whitstable Beach house with lobster decoration outside in Whitstable

Explore the Kent coast

You can while away quite a long time wandering around Whitstable itself and relaxing on the beach, but if you fancy a change of scene, the gorgeous Kent coast is on your doorstep.

Go to Herne Bay, only five miles along the coast with its own beaches, traditional seaside attractions and Wildwood animal park.

Or for more ideas of things to do in Kent with kids, here are 30 to tempt.

First published 2016, updated 2020


The best things to do in Whitstable with kids - my top tips from our trip to the Kent coast on a family-friendly stay, from the beach to hiring bikes and some quirky independent boutiques #whitstable #kentwithkids #kentuk #mummytravels

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