A town guide to Herne Bay
PUBLISHED: 13:20 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:45 21 June 2018
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Discover this peaceful, undiscovered seaside town on Kent's popular coast. Herne Bay is shining. In association with Canterbury City Council and Hello Herne Bay
Hot on the heels of its trendy neighbours, this small seaside town is on the verge of massive change. You won’t find hordes
of Londoners ‘down for the weekend’
and it’s not (yet) a popular spot for buyers of second homes, but all that seems likely to change very soon.
Wedged in between two of the most hip and happening towns in Kent – Whitstable and Margate – Herne Bay benefits from the same stretch of stunning coast, the same journey time from London and the same nostalgic seaside feel. If you want to get there first, now is the time to discover this pretty resort for yourself.
The history of Herne Bay is similar to many other Victorian seaside towns. There was little apart from a few fishermen’s cottages and inns until the early 1800s.
Named after what was once its larger neighbour, the ancient village of Herne, the building boom happened around 1830, thanks to the Victorian trend of healthy seawater bathing. The first pier was built not long after and as town planners began laying out a long promenade and a multitude of squares and terraces, the widow of a wealthy Londoner funded the building of a 75ft tall clock tower
on the seafront. It’s still one of Herne Bay’s landmarks and is thought to be the oldest freestanding clock tower in the world.
The original pier, however, made out of wood, would not survive for long and would go on to have several incarnations over the years.
Herne Bay’s biggest attraction is the seafront. With two miles of coastline, a sand and shingle beach, colourful beach huts and seafront gardens, it’s the epitome of the classic British seaside.
Add in some fish and chips, rides on the newly refurbished pier and a bandstand and it’s as close to the ‘good old days’ that you remember from your childhood as you’re likely to find.
Visitors still flock to it in the summer and, thanks to some well-planned regeneration work, the pier is once again the place to be – after several years of neglect. There are traditional rides, a Helter Skelter, stalls, amusements and the Herne Bay Pier Village with retail units and fantastic food and drink huts.
Also on the seafront, discover the memorial statue to pilot Amy Johnson, erected in 2016. The lifesize bronze stands looking out to sea, towards the place where she crashed her plane in 1941. At the time of her death she was a household name, having become the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930.
And don’t miss the chance to walk along Neptune’s Arm if it’s a calm day. The offshore breakwater is part of the flood defence, but its long walkway out to sea also offers some lovely views.
From here you’ll also get a better look at the pier head – the derelict end of the pier that was cut off from the part used today.
Keep up to date with what’s going on in Herne Bay by following Hello Herne Bay on Facebook.
Eating and shopping
Explore the little stores and boutiques of this town and find gems like Heavenly Home gift shop, Briggsy’s Antiques Emporium, Ollie B’s Pet Boutique, Ophelia, Maison Classique vintage fashion, La De Da clothing boutique and record shop Bside the Cside.
Don’t miss art galleries like Beach Creative and One New Street, look out for the town’s regular markets and take time to explore the retail huts in the Herne Bay Pier Village.
There are all sorts of food options, including contemporary Indian restaurant Shad, a new café called Toast inside Beach Creative, Bay Leaf coffee house, A La Turka, The Vintage Empire, The Wallflower Café, The Cowshed, Very Vintage, The Four Fathoms pub, Alice and the Hatter themed café, The Green Door deli, The Wine Bar, Charie’s Bistro, The Pier fish and chips, Mortimers and Parkerville microbar. Don’t miss out on the food and drink offerings at the Herne Bay Pier Village, including a Champagne and oyster bar.
Things to do
Set in nearby Herne Common, Wildwood animal park features more than 200 native British species, including several animals that no longer live in the wild. The most popular residents are probably the wolves, lynx and the two rescued European brown bears.
Set on the edge of a cliff, the dramatic twin towers at Reculver are all that remains of a 12th-century church. Also on the site are the ruins of a much earlier structure, with part of the wall of an ancient Roman fort still visible. It’s an English Heritage site but free to visit and the visitor centre in the neighbouring Reculver Country Park is run by Kent Wildlife Trust.
The Seaside Museum
One of Herne Bay’s best-loved attractions is the Seaside Museum in William Street. Established in 1932, a visit here sends visitors back to a time when the beach was packed with day trippers and holidaymakers. There are exhibits including Punch and Judy puppets, seashore finds and items from the Roman fort at Reculver. The museum also holds events and special exhibitions.
Beach Creative is Herne Bay’s community art gallery with art studios, meeting rooms, galleries and workshop space. Several groups meet here and classes are held for both adults and children. A recent addition to Beach Creative is its new café, Toast.
Explore the town on foot with the help of this helpful cultural trail, taking in places like the historic Ship Inn, the statue of Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, who tested his bouncing bombs in the sea off Herne Bay, and the Victorian fountain set in the sunken Waltrop Gardens.
There’s a lot going on in the town but its two biggest annual events are Sci-Fi By The Sea (17 June) and the fun-filled Bayfest (28 July to 27 August). The Herne Bay Classic Motor Show Kent come to the coast on 19 August 19 along central parade.
Postcard from Herne Bay: The Sewing Club
I’m Angela Pressley and I own a sewing school in Herne Bay called The Sewing Club. My background is in the fashion and textile design industry and after graduating in textile design, I worked for many different design houses in both Italy and London.
After I had my two children I decided to set up my own business to give me flexible working hours and use my sewing and design knowledge. Getting out and meeting new people to spread the word of sewing has always been my primary motivation, and we have a good giggle too.
I established the school in 2007. Initially I was teaching from my home studio, local schools and local village halls, but when the opportunity to have my own studio came up in 2014 at Beach Creative, I was there immediately working out where all my machines, cutting tables and large stash of fabric would go. My sewing school runs weekly courses, one-off workshops, parties and private lessons. There are five weekly classes for adults, mornings and evenings, and children’s classes are Fridays after school and Saturday mornings. We cater for all levels from beginners to advanced and teach everything from bag making, soft toys and patchwork through to tailored-to-fit garments and Roman blinds.
I love Herne Bay because it’s not a big town, has a friendly atmosphere and it’s by the sea. There are many independent shops and an ever-growing community of artists and crafters wanting to put Herne Bay on the creative map.
My favourite thing is that you can wander around the town and experience a really traditional seaside resort. Take in a fun fair in the Memorial Park, walk up Beach Street and check out the galleries at Beach Creative, Bay Art Gallery or the Seaside Museum, then pick up a piece of vintage furniture from Briggsy’s Antique Emporium. Then off to Makcari’s for Italian gelato, a game of mini golf and a stroll up the pier. Check out the thriving little businesses in the pier huts and finish off with a helter skelter ride. For an evening meal I recommend A Casa Mia, where I can practise my Italian and eat delicious, simple food which I know is the real deal.