A town guide to Broadstairs
PUBLISHED: 12:33 21 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:19 21 July 2016
With plenty of places to eat and drink, award-winning beaches and a relaxed, nostalgic feel, Broadstairs is one of the best places to spend some family time this summer
Broadstairs is arguably the best place to visit in Kent if you want to head to the beach this summer. With seven bays surrounding the town, including the Blue Flag award-winning Joss Bay, Botany Bay and Stone Bay, and the pristine sandy beach of Viking Bay right at its heart, it’s easy to see why this place has attracted beach lovers for hundreds of years.
Much like Cornwall and Devon, Thanet is really flying the flag for clean beaches and sea water quality. With a total of seven Blue Flag beaches this year, Thanet only just trails its West Country rivals – which have eight each.
So, with some of the best seaside spots in the country, and with a charming and relaxed feel to this lovely town, Broadstairs is unsurprisingly popular at this time of year.
But there’s much more to it than its beaches. The town, which takes its name from a set of steps carved into the chalk cliff which once led up to the 11th-century shrine of St Mary, is experiencing a renaissance thanks to the ongoing trend for vintage and seaside nostalgia.
Holidaymakers and day trippers are flocking back to the quintessential British seaside resorts they had previously snubbed and new cafés, bars, shops and restaurants are benefiting from the extra business.
Of course Broadstairs has always had its fans. None more famous than Charles Dickens, who frequently visited and spent many summers at his holiday home Fort House, atop the cliffs.
Thought to have been the inspiration for Bleak House, it later changed its name to mirror the story and is now a hotel and wedding venue with a tea room, a smugglers’ museum and the perfectly preserved study where Dickens once worked. The town is so proud of its connection with the author that it celebrates with a Dickens Festival each June and boasts the lovely Dickens House Museum. One of the ways the town has honored his memory is with the creation of a four-mile walking route between ‘Turner’s Margate’ and ‘Dickens’ Broadstairs’.
Much of the Turner and Dickens Walk follows an ancient footpath between St Peter’s and St John’s churches and you can begin at either the Margate Harbour Arm, next to the Turner Contemporary, or Broadstairs Promenade, outside the Dickens House Museum.
Scenes from the pair’s works, lives and times are displayed at three points along the route. Working with local children and other residents, Broadstairs mosaic artist Martin Cheek has installed a series of colourful panels.
Along the way you’ll also be able to see Drapers Mill and Crampton Tower, and pass through parts of Thanet that are steeped in archaeological history.
Visit www.visitkent.co.uk for route details.
Shopping and eating
There are plenty of great places to eat and drink. A few to consider are the popular harbourside pub and restaurant The Tartar Frigate (01843 862013), Aqua 43 (01843 862559) with its excellent fish and chips, Wyatt and Jones (01843 865126) and the rather fun and quirky Fish & Beer (01843 863003). For a seaside step back in time, try Morelli’s Gelato ice cream shop and Bessie’s Tea Parlour. There are a number of little retro, homeware and clothing stores to explore, a couple of our favorites being Arrowsmiths and La De Da Boutique, and a big out of town shopping centre, Westwood Cross (CT10 2BF), for all your modern shopping needs.
Tip: you may struggle to get a signal here on your mobile, so relax and enjoy the peace!
Andrew Webb, Kent Surf School
What it is you do?
My name is Andrew Webb and I own Kent Surf School, along with my wife Gemma. I took over Kent Surf School in 2012 but I have been surfing since the age of 13. It’s taken me all over the world surfing different waves and meeting new people. When I’m not working at my business I work as a qualified first aid instructor at East Kent College, teaching first aid courses, which I’m also very passionate about. I’m also a chairman of Kent Surf Club.
How long has there been a surf school at Viking Bay?
Since the late 1960s there has always been a hire centre for water sports here and in the late 1980s surf skis were hired. It was run from the far end of the beach and was organized by my late friend, Rick Beugg, who sadly passed away in 2015. He gave up the surf ski concession in 2005 to another friend, Dan Chapman, who put in place the name Kent Surf School. The surf school was born. I took it over in 2012 and we have grown the business every year. In 2015 we put through planning and secured a larger premises on the beach.
Is Kent a good place to learn to surf?
People have learnt to surf in Kent since the 1960s. There used to be a surfing competition run at Viking Bay called the Big Chill. It’s a popular beach due to the shelter of north winds and picks up some great swell. Northerly winds are the best time to surf in Kent as the wind pushes the swell down the Channel and creates some really good waves. It’s a hidden gem.
What are some of your aims?
My aim is for people to enjoy surfing and to create that relaxed surfer attitude to respecting the water and environment, as well as respecting other people in the water. I have created a surf club (www.kentsurfclub.co.uk) and we aim to get a community of surfers together to teach the young generation. The environment is a major thing to all surfers so we try to educate and encourage young people to respect the beach and the sea. Sea safety also is a big aim and being a volunteer RNLI crew member I feel a responsibility to encourage all who use the water to be safe.
Can anyone, at any age, get involved?
We recommend anyone who wants a lesson has to be able to swim 50m and have a basic level of fitness to paddle a board. The oldest we have taught is a 70-year-old but kids can do lessons at eight years old. We can go as low as six on private nipper lessons.
The Morelli family has been making its fresh gelato for five generations. The iconic flagship store, perched above the horseshoe curve of Viking Bay, opened in 1932 and is arguably the oldest ice cream parlour in the UK.
It’s a vintage delight with its shell pink interior, juke box, leatherette booths and Lloyd Loom chairs.
For many, Morelli’s is synonymous with Broadstairs, and a walk on the beach is always topped off with a scoop, a sundae or a coffee.
But the company has grown considerably from its humble beginnings in Broadstairs. Bibi Morelli, the current chairman, has been instrumental in expanding the company globally, with franchise branches across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as a summer pop-up store at Dreamland in Margate, a shop in Covent Garden and the latest opening in Portobello Road. But the company’s heart is always in Broadstairs.
“I cherish memories of growing up in Broadstairs,” says Bibi. “As a child I watched my father and his team make the fresh gelato early every morning. Litres and litres of soft, swirling, creamy deliciousness! And then the thrill of a larger-than-life sundae, with furry monkeys, pink umbrellas, toppings and wafers and a delicious array of flavours. The magic of Broadstairs and the fun of Morelli’s, this is what inspires me to share our experience with people in places where this simply doesn’t exist.”
The nostalgic Broadstairs parlour has become a bit of a media darling, with appearances on TV (The One Show and EastEnders) as well as a location for The Lady In The Van, where those with a keen eye will notice Dame Maggie Smith enjoying the classic knickerbocker glory.
5 - 12 August Broadstairs Folk Week
Now in its 51st year, this hugely popular music and dance festival is a week-long celebration with more than 500 events including concerts, workshops, parades and fairs. The first of the events take place at the festival’s campsite on Friday night, with concerts, dances and a sing-around. The main festival begins on the Saturday with around 70 events that day alone. And there is plenty to entertain families too, with 11 August being declared Pirates Day with a pirate-themed family Ceilidh, a pirate afternoon event at the pavilion and a late-night dance with Blackbeard’s Tea Party. Visit www.broadstairsfolkweek.org.uk for tickets and details.
17 August Broadstairs Water Gala
Celebrating the best of the English seaside, the annual Water Gala is a free family event held at Viking Bay. You’ll find a teddy bear’s picnic for the kids, as well as traditional beach competitions, a family funfair, sand sculptures, jetski and air displays, stalls and live music. The event ends with a firework finale over the bay. Visit www.broadstairswatergala.co.uk
Property is fairly pricey in popular Broadstairs, unlike some its neighbouring towns, with another increase of asking prices by 14 per cent over the last year. On the market at the moment you can find a one-bedroom flat for around £140,000, a two-bed terrace for between £185,000 and £275,000 and a three-bed semi between £220,000 and £375,000. Larger detached houses are available up to nearly £2million.
Broadstairs is accessed via the A2/M2 onto the A299 Thanet Way. It’s set on the coast between Margate and Ramsgate. The train station is at the top end of the High Street and offers links to London Victoria via Chatham and Charing Cross via Ashford. Sat nav: CT10 1QS