A town guide to Whitstable

PUBLISHED: 16:12 10 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:12 10 July 2017

Whitstable Grotters at the Oyster Festival

Whitstable Grotters at the Oyster Festival

Archant

It’s an easy place to fall in love with, so take some time out this summer to experience the many wonders of Whitstable

Browse the huts in Whitstable Harbour VillageBrowse the huts in Whitstable Harbour Village

There are few towns that so easily capture the hearts of visitors. Beautiful and beguiling, Whitstable’s stunning pebble beaches, relaxed pace of life, great shopping and unique, creative atmosphere make it a place worth falling in love with.

Discovered some years ago by the ‘Down from London’ set, Whitstable continues to attract families priced out of the London housing market and those seeking second homes for weekend getaways.

This, combined with a reputation for being a bit ‘posher’ than some of its neighbours, has kept the town’s property market soaring for years. In fact, house prices have risen by an astounding 70 per cent in the last 10 years, the third highest price rise in the country.

But for those of us who grew up in Kent, Whitstable was a favourite long before the Londoners moved in. It’s always been a popular choice for family day trips to the seaside, and a well-deserved reputation for seafood has also long attracted foodies. The prices may have gone up and there may be more high-end shops and trendy eateries than 25 years ago, but the character of the place is as charming as ever.

Just spend half an hour sitting beside the busy working harbour and you’ll see life as it has been here for hundreds of years.

It is little wonder this seaside gem attracts creative people. The incredible sunsets, the fresh sea air and the supportive local arts community mean that it is home to artists, photographers, musicians, poets and authors.

Mandy SmithMandy Smith

Any given weekend there is a list of events going on, with local bands playing the pubs, poetry readings in the cafés and art exhibitions. Visit the Horsebridge Centre for film screenings, plays, exhibitions and classes, and if you’d like to explore the area’s literary side, visit in May for the annual WhitLit festival.

Eating and shopping

For such a small town, there is so much packed into Whitstable. Harbour Street is a good starting point but explore further as many of the town’s hidden gems are away from the main shopping area.

Potter around the independent shops and boutiques to your heart’s content, but don’t miss some of our favourites: Rock Bottom Records, Peekaboo Kids, The Clothes Horse, Duma lighting, Valentines Vintage and Harbour Books (see our postcard from Whitstable).

And Whitstable Harbour Village, based in huts at the far end of the harbour, is a wonderful place to browse, with a bustling community of local artists, artisans, retailers and food and drink producers.

The busy working harbour remains virtually unchanged over the yearsThe busy working harbour remains virtually unchanged over the years

Seafood fans will be in heaven, with a number of great local fish restaurants and seafood bars offering fresh treats. Famous for its oysters, it’s almost a crime not to try some of the native shellfish grown in beds just off the main beach. But there’s something for everyone.

Some of the best places to eat around the town are The Whitstable Oyster Company, The Pearson’s Arms, Wheeler’s Oyster Bar, Samphire, Birdies, The Beach Café, The Oxford and Alimo.

Another suggestion is a visit to Whitstable Castle where you enjoy the public gardens and have a snack in either the orangery tea room or the tea gardens across the road, with a lovely view over the beach. And nearby Seasalter boasts not one but two highly respected pub restaurants, The Sportsman and The Oyster Pearl.

What’s on in Whitstable?

Mandy Smith and her brother Tim have recently launched a website publicising Whitstable’s many exciting events and small businesses. Born in Whitstable but having only moved back to live in the town three years ago, she wanted to celebrate the area’s unique independence and creativity.

A wealth of indepdents on every streetA wealth of indepdents on every street

“My Grandad spent most of his working life in the harbour,” she says. “He worked in the oyster sheds when he was a teenager, as a trawler man for many years and he ran a shellfish stall outside the Duke of Cumberland. He could still be seen working in the harbour when he was in his 80s.

“My brother and I spent many a school holiday staying with our grandparents, so over that time I have seen Whitstable change greatly. When telling people I was going to Whitstable, over the years their response has gone from ‘where?’ to ‘oh, how lovely.’ How things change!”

The duo first launched What’s On Whitstable (WOW) as a Facebook page in 2014. With nothing else like it locally, the page’s popularity quickly grew and, along with WOW’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, has continued to grow ever since.

“We had talked about creating the WOW website for two years. Tim is a web developer for small businesses, so along with my marketing and PR expertise, we have created a great website to support the town and all that it offers.”

So as an expert on local events, what is Mandy looking forward to in Whitstable over the summer?

“The Oyster Festival tends to see the start of a great series of events and activities throughout the summer. One of my favourite events is Harbour Day which this is year on 5 August. This year the event is being organised for the first time by Whitstable Maritime and it coincides with the Smack and Barge Race, which is always a fabulous sight to see.”

Harbour BooksHarbour Books

Visit www.whatsonwhitstable.com

Whitstable Oyster Festival: 22-24 July

This month it’s all about oysters. July usually sees thousands of visitors flock to the world-famous annual Whitstable Oyster Festival but, after more than 30 years, the news that this year’s event was under threat came as a shock late last year.

After concerns were raised by residents about issues including noise, anti-social behaviour and litter, the organisers have agreed to rein in the festivities and this year will see the launch of a new scaled-back version.

The event will run for three days rather than its usual 10 and will be considerably smaller than the 2016 festival, with everything finishing by 9pm each evening. Events that have been cut include the parade, the outdoor film screenings, the firework finale and The Shuck – a venue which hosted music and comedy nights throughout the festival.

Instead it will focus on its traditional roots, opening with the ‘Landing of the Oysters’ and a procession along Tankerton Slopes ending in the famous oyster-eating competition.

Other events over the three days will include crabbing, a treasure hunt, a tug of war and the Whitstabubble Beach Party, and the festival will close with the lighting of the ‘Grotters’ – stacks of oyster shells built around candles on the beach.

There will also be a selection of new events so check the website for details, www.whitstableoysterfestival.co.uk

Property prices

Prices in Whitstable have shot up over the past decade. Expect to pay upwards of £150,000 for a one-bed flat and between £220,000 and £400,000 for a two-bed terraced house. Three-bed semis are on the market for between £290,000 and £500,000. Larger properties are priced right up to £1.9m.

Getting there

On the coast, between Seasalter and Tankerton, Whitstable is only a short drive from Canterbury. It’s accessible from the A2/M2, off the M20. The town centre station has regular trains to London, which take around an hour and 20 minutes.

Sat nav: CT5 1DB

Postcard from Whitstable

My name is Keith Dickson, I am the owner of Harbour Books in Whitstable. The shop was set up in the mid-nineties in a time before Amazon and big discounting by chain stores - a much easier time to be a bookseller!

Having started small, the shop gradually expanded to fill two floors of the building. We now sell a mixture of full price and discounted books, as well as cards, toys, gifts and stationery.

Competing with online retailers is not really an option, so you have to give people something they can’t find on the internet. A good knowledge of our customers and the kinds of books they will appreciate so they can find something every time they walk in the shop is essential.

We also want the shop to be somewhere children can feel comfortable spending time so we have recently created a seating area and doubled the size of our children’s section. We hope this will help children to see bookshops as a fun place to be and will encourage them to go into bookshops as they get older.

We have been in the town since before it became fashionable and so have seen the way the High Street and Harbour Street have changed and developed. Obviously with tourism come the problems of parking and crowds in the summer but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

We now have a wonderful blend of the old and the new; there are butchers and greengrocers but also galleries, clothes shops, fantastic restaurants and two rather marvellous bookshops!

While I welcome the tourism and the visitors, I love the town most when it is quiet. I love walking down the street just as the shop keepers are arriving and preparing for the day.

I love the beach in the early morning and I love scuttling away into the peace of the backstreets away from the hustle and bustle of the main roads.

Search ‘Harbour Books’ on Facebook and follow @harbourbooks on Twitter

More from Out & About

Our county’s best known spots have been jumbled up and it’s up to you to get them back in the right order

Read more
Thursday, November 26, 2020

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

Read more
Tuesday, November 24, 2020

You’ve got 10 minutes to identify where in Kent the likes of Raven gap, Hollow-dweller’s stream and Yew crossing place refer to - let us know how you do!

Read more
Thursday, November 19, 2020

Gardens across the county and beyond are offering virtual garden visits. So take a step into some of Kent’s most enchanting gardens from cottages to country estates with these virtual tours

Read more
Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Our county can boast some of the most celebrated and downright unusual protected monuments in the country | Words: Jack Watkins - Lead photo: Historic England

Read more
Thursday, November 12, 2020

Can you distinguish your Colchesters from your Canterburys and your Margates from your Merseas? Take our quiz to test your knowledge of Essex and Kent!

Read more
Monday, November 9, 2020

From rambles through the Kent Downs to pretty village walks and urban strolls, this guide to some of Kent’s prettiest walking routes is essential for the intrepid adventurer

Read more
Thursday, November 5, 2020

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

Read more
Thursday, November 5, 2020

Flint, ragstone and timber – these are the materials that built Kent and gave it its distinctive face. Here we explore some fine local examples

Read more
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Here are 10 tales to make you shiver as we celebrate All Hallows’ Eve | Words: Stephen Roberts - Photos: Manu Palomeque

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

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

Latest from the Kent Life