I had heard great things about Broadstairs in Kent, but wasn’t sure what to expect when we had a day to spend there over Christmas. Our eventual destination was Margate (and you can read about that in this post), but we decided to spend our first night in Broadstairs, a place we had never been.
For those who don’t know the area at all, Kent (often described as The Garden of England) is on the southeast corner of England and full of beautiful scenery, castles and of course, gardens. It’s also easy to get to, by train or rail, and it took us less than two hours to get there from our part of London.
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and parked our car in the middle of the town (not something you can do quite so easily in our home town of London!). We decided an ice-cream was a must (how could we not, when were right next to Morelli’s, a 1950s styled ice cream parlour?) and then we dropped into the Old Curiosity Shop Cafe where we all enjoyed a hot drink too.
We loved this small cafe with its own well – said to be used by smugglers in the past to store their wares, and which has a real skeleton at the bottom of it (fortunately it’s no longer used to pull up water). Broadstairs was known to be a haven for smugglers in the 18th century and there are said to be a maze of tunnels and caves still in existence which were once used regularly. There are also a number of Titanic themed items on show at the cafe.
Once we had some energy, we decided to go for a walk. We were right next to the horse-shoe shaped Viking Bay which was really lovely and right next to the harbour, and had a wonderful, brisk walk along the shore, picking up seashells, and just enjoying the tranquility of it all (along with the fresh air of course). The whole Thanet area (Broadstairs, Margate and Ramsgate) boasts a grand total of 15 spectacular sandy beaches, and also has more Blue Flag beaches than any other district in England.
Viking Bay was huge – we couldn’t believe the size of the beach – and it must be perfect for families in the summer, when I think there are lots of things going on such as rides and surfing. It was even lovely in winter – and Robert just had to dip his feet in to try the (very) cold sea!
After our seaside wander, we decided to have a look around the town which was really charming with its narrow streets and lovely array of shops, restaurants and pubs. There was also a fabulous looking tiny cinema (we were really sorry this was closed).
We then got back in our car and drove to the Botany Bay hotel, which was a real find and in the most glorious location, right on top of the bay (the views from our room were lovely). We stayed in a lovely family suite which was huge and which we thought was pretty good value (£135 including a great breakfast). The kids had single beds and there was a huge TV too, plus more than enough space to play some games.
As we only had a day in Broadstairs, we did not have time to visit the Bleak House museum (Charles Dickens used to live and work in the area, as you might have been able to tell from the Dickens references in the piece), or the Crampton Tower Museum (we’ll just have to come back). But the next morning we did have the most glorious walk along Botany Bay which was so beautiful that we’d recommend you go there as soon as you can!
What was really fantastic was the chalk. I know that sounds odd, but this whole area (like Dover, which is not far away) is edged by remarkable chalk cliffs and you can see the most wonderful chalk stones on the shores (see the picture from Viking Bay above for an example). At Botany Bay, we were also amazed by see towering chalk stacks. They were absolutely beautiful, and looked like something quite otherworldly.
We walked for a long time, enjoying the unseasonably good weather, the views, and at one point a flock of birds flying together over the water. It was a joy.
I can quite understand why Broadstairs was a popular Victorian seaside resort – and also why it would still appeal today. It’s all very walkable, with gorgeous scenery, clean beaches and enough to do to keep all members of the family interested (including mini golf). If you walk along to Kingsgate Bay, you can seven see Kingsgate Castle, which we came on quite by chance. It’s that kind of a place.
Find out more about this area from the Visit Kent website, and don’t miss our post on our trip to Margate (and watch our video!)