A town guide to Broadstairs

PUBLISHED: 10:02 05 August 2019

Broadstairs' main beach is the magnificent, family friendly horseshoe-shaped Viking Bay (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Broadstairs' main beach is the magnificent, family friendly horseshoe-shaped Viking Bay (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

It’s like nowhere else in Kent and its seven sandy bays make it the perfect location for a summer staycation. Let’s bask in the beauty and character of Broadstairs

One of our best-loved seaside resorts, Broadstairs has an interesting history - featuring Viking raids, a religious shrine, smugglers and one of our country's greatest authors - as well as some of our county's finest beaches.

Set between Margate and Ramsgate, it's not seen as many of the economic ups and downs suffered by its neighbours, instead remaining a family favourite with an irresistible charm that quietly draws visitors back year after year.

The town's main claim to fame is its exquisite central beach - the sheltered, horseshoe-shaped Viking Bay. With soft golden sands, safe swimming and lovely surroundings, it's only a few steps away from several popular cafés and offers nostalgic children's amusements during the summer season.

Often busy with happy families on fine days, it's a far cry from the incident which gave the beach its name. It was along this stretch of coast that Viking raiding parties first landed in the south east.

It wasn't the only time that Broadstairs provided an important landing place. In 1815 it was where Major Henry Percy landed with the captured French eagle standard - proof of our victory at the Battle of Waterloo. And as a smuggling hotspot, Broadstairs also saw a great deal of contraband come ashore. A network of caves still exists in the area's cliffs today.

Although Viking Bay is its central beach, it's just one of the seven sandy bays that make up Broadstairs - along with Botany Bay, Stone Bay, Louisa Bay, Joss Bay, Kingsgate Bay and Dumpton Gap.

Each has its own distinct personality, with Joss Bay best known for surfing and Botany Bay known for its caves and stunning white chalk stacks. Blue Flag Awards - only given to the country's best and cleanest beaches - went this year to Stone Bay and Botany Bay, with Dumpton Gap, Joss Bay, Louisa Bay and Viking Bay each receiving Seaside Awards. The North Foreland, with its famous lighthouse, rises between Stone Bay and Joss Bay.

Often said to resemble a West Country fishing village, pretty Broadstairs has been casting its spell over visitors for centuries, but undoubtedly the most famous person to fall for it was author Charles Dickens.

Broadstairs Folk Week (photo: Manu Palomeque)Broadstairs Folk Week (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Having holidayed there as a child, he would later go on to spend his summers at the property now known as Bleak House, looking out over Viking Bay. Considering it a refuge from hectic London life, he described the town as his family's 'English watering place' and even wrote much of David Copperfield during one of his stays.

Fans of the writer can explore the Charles Dickens Museum, housed in a little cottage on Victoria Parade, which the man himself knew well and used as the inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. And every June the town celebrates this special connection with the colourful and costumed Broadstairs Dickens Festival.

Another big celebration is being held in August. The incredibly popular Broadstairs Folk Week (9-16 August) has been attracting music-loving visitors since 1965 and offers hundreds of events in various venues across the week (see our Postcard from Broadstairs).

Exploring the town is a delight in itself, with the attractive Victoria Parade and Victoria Gardens, and the grid of little streets above the promenade peppered with eateries and independent stores.

The majority of the pubs and restaurants can be found on Albion Street. Look out too for Harbour Street, which leads down to the sea and passes through the medieval York Gate arch - which once held huge wooden doors to be closed in times of threat from the sea.

Viking Bay is an RNLI lifeguarded beach (photo: Manu Palomeque)Viking Bay is an RNLI lifeguarded beach (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Shopping and eating

There are plenty of interesting stores to browse, including Kit, La De da Boutique, Serendipity interiors, Bumble's Antiques, Arrowsmiths, Sweet Yesterdays and the Broadstairs Book Shop.

Out-of-town shopping centre Westwood Cross has all the expected big brands and plans for a massive new housing development, Westwood Village, have been approved for just opposite the centre.

Eat out at places like Posillipo, Wyatt & Jones, Aqua 43, The Yarrow, Samworth & Mee, Restaurant 54, Albarino and Chiquito. For coffee and a snack, visit Kafiene, Smiths, The Funicular Coffeehouse or Bessie's Tea Parlour.

Fine dining can be had at tasting kitchen Stark, which is one of the top-rated restaurants in Kent. Morelli's Ice Cream Parlour on Victoria Parade is practically legendary, having opened in 1932.

And enjoy a drink at Houdini's Magic Bar, The Tartar Frigate, The Charles Dickens, The 39 Steps Brewhouse, The Four Candles, The Chapel, Mind The Gap, Yard of Ale or Neptunes Hall.

Heading off along Viking Bay for a fish and chips lunch - what could be nicer? (Photo: Manu Palomeque)Heading off along Viking Bay for a fish and chips lunch - what could be nicer? (Photo: Manu Palomeque)

Postcard from Broadstairs: Broadstairs Folk Week

My name is Jo Tuffs and I'm Festival Director for Broadstairs Folk Week. I joined the committee as a volunteer in 1995 and when the previous director left in 2003 I took the plunge and became Folk Week's director.

Folk Week has grown enormously since it was founded by Jack Hamilton 54 years ago. He got off the train in Broadstairs and decided it was the best place to start an English traditional dance festival.

It now offers around 450 events - concerts, workshops for all ages in music, song and dance, ceilidhs, late night dances, free music in pubs, a craft and music tent, festival bar, campsite, Morris dancing displays, a parade and a full range of activities for families. The festival takes over almost every venue in the town.

Some of this year's acts will be familiar faces that have been coming for years - Simon Care and the band Banter spring to mind, and of course our festival patron Tim Edey is always amazing.

Out of the new performers this year I'm really looking forward to seeing Amythyst Kiah from America, fiddle player Ryan Young from Scotland and also Kitty Macfarlane.

What I love about Broadstairs is how you can stand at the top of the High Street and see the blue horizon of the sea and a white ship usually sailing by. It's basically a Cornish fishing village stuck on the end of Kent, with amazing beaches. When it comes to shops, Arrowsmiths has a lovely range of jewellery, clothes, gifts and cards, and brand-new shop Plantlets is fantastic - full of cacti and succulents.

Albarino tapas bar and restaurant is a real treat (try their chickpea and fennel chips!) and there's a great choice of pubs, including Folk Week singalong venue the Neptune's Hall and micropubs galore - try Mind The Gap with its train theme and the newly revamped Magnet.

Visit: www.broadstairsfolkweek.org.uk

More from Out & About

As the world slows down, we turn our eyes to the skies in search of the best places to watch some celestial wonders this summer

Read more

Here are 12 places that may have flown under your radar before but are well worth seeking out

Read more

Kent is blessed with fine and indeed famous country houses, but over the decades has lost as many of its grander houses as it retains. A new book by Martin Easdown reveals 120 examples that have simply disappeared

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Take our quiz to see if you can decipher the town or place in Kent from the emojis

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Enjoy three of Kent’s best and most loved cycle rides which take in lots of the county’s beautiful coastlines

Read more

We look ahead to the end of lockdown and to a quiet seaside resort we can’t wait to visit again – Herne Bay

Read more

Hythe and New Romney, with their peaceful marshes, abundant wildlife and beautiful coastline, are the perfect places to explore when we’re allowed to travel again

Read more
Friday, June 12, 2020

We’ve gathered six of the best dog-friendly pubs in Kent to enjoy a bite to eat after a scenic stroll

Read more

Try these Kent-themed ideas for the ultimate ‘stay-cation’ – without having to move further away from home than the garden gate

Read more
Monday, June 8, 2020

Picnic baskets at the ready because we have gathered 10 of the best places to enjoy a picnic in stunning rural Kent

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Latest Competitions & Offers

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life