Charming Seaside Towns
The British coast is dotted with many charming seaside towns and villages, and a large number are within easy reach by train from London. While most visitors and a lot of locals tend to head for Brighton – especially on bank holiday weekends – there are many other choices for a day trip or weekend break that avoids crowded beaches and busy streets. Last year we ventured to explore the faded but trendy and upcoming town of Margate. This year when the forecast for the May bank holiday weekend looked surprisingly sunny and warm, I booked a lovely little Airbnb in Broadstairs for a weekend escape from London. Although we had cycled from Margate to Broadstairs along the Viking Coastal Trail during our previous visit, however we did not have the chance to discover the town and beaches that surround the area further.
Taking the Train From London
Taking the fast train from St Pancras Station (I recommend to book tickets in advance as they are generally much cheaper!) we were whizzed past bright yellow rape flower fields and apple groves. We had taken our folding bikes onto the train and once we got off at the station in Broadstairs we just rolled downhill to our cute fisherman’s cottage at the edge of the town centre. It was just big enough for the three of us, Jerome slept on a fold out sofa bed in the kitchen living room and our room was up a creaking wooden staircase. It suited our needs perfectly as we knew we would not be spending much more time than the nights for sleep in the cottage.
Fish and Chips for Dinner
The cottage was only a short stroll from the local high street and the beach. Jerome had already spotted a Fish and Chips Restaurant on our way down from the station, but to our surprise, the Seafarer Restaurant closed its door at 20:00 a thing unheard or thought of in London and we were lucky to get the last order in for the day. The classic English seaside dish was by far not the best we ever had but it filled our empty tummies and was a bargain compared to London prices.
Viking Bay Beach
After dinner we walked towards Viking Beach, past pubs filled with locals giving their best performance at karaoke and the blinking lights and sounds of a typical seaside games alley. The main part of town is built high up on the chalky cliffs and the sandy beach nestles below in a natural cove. The tide was low and the a few boats lay stranded on the muddy seabed in the harbour area. A string of coloured light bulbs illuminated our walk accompanied by the screeching of seagulls and the smell of salt and sea in the calm but slightly chilly, evening air. It does not take long to wander the main alleys of Broadstairs, but we discovered other restaurant options, some interesting shops and a café for breakfast. After purchasing some drinks in a convenience store – again the local supermarket closes early too – we headed back to our cottage for card games before bedtime.
Breakfast at Beaches Cafe
On Saturday morning we went to Beaches café where we had a tasty breakfast in the tiny but well decorated dining room. Over muesli and bacon sandwiches we discussed our plans for the day and decided to cycle to Margate along the coast for some fun on the many nostalgic rides at Dreamland, which was closed and we had sadly missed the previous year, Jerome had been very keen to go ever since.
Picturesque Stone Bay
Cycling along the top of picturesque Stone Bay we could already see some sun seekers outside their beach huts and kids on the sandy beach building sand castles and dipping their feet into the calm sea. The white chalk cliffs of the Kent coastline shone brightly in the distance and could just about make out the still rotors of a giant wind farm in the North Sea. Leaving the outskirts of Broadstairs behind we had to cycle a short distance, uphill, along the main road before the bike path turned into a private, gated community with its mix of traditional country homes and modern villas.
Kingsgate Bay Beach
Thanet’s main attractions are without a doubt the many sandy coves and beaches that lie hidden amongst the chalk cliffs and a large number are rarely very crowded, even on the hottest days of the year. After freewheeling downhill we stopped at the bottom for a wander on Kingsgate Bay Beach. Its outstanding feature is an archway set in the cliffs formed by natural erosion over thousands of years. It is fun for both kids and adults to walk through this wonder of nature at low tide to discover what lies behind. Happy to have sand beneath our feet we took off our shoes and strolled towards Kingsgate arch. The chalk cliffs towered high above and upon closer look we noticed the flint stone rocks between the chalk and caves where the surface had worn off faster than others. Flowers had found cracks to spread their roots adding some colour and foliage to the otherwise bare rocks.
Rock Pool Discoveries
Once we were through the arch at Kingsgate Bay we found an abundance of rock pools with crabs, sea anemones and other tiny sea creatures. The perfect place for kids to explore what lives and grows in the sea that surrounds the island. There was already a selection of kids with buckets and nets in their hands engrossed in collecting shells and other treasures. Sadly we had other plans but we knew we could come back to enjoy a proper day on the beach there sometime.
Pretty Botany Bay
We returned through the arch and along the beach to pick up our bikes. From there on, the bike path meanders along the coastline, an easy ride even for kids, high on the cliff tops with the sea always in sight. Pretty Botany Bay was also busy with beach goers a popular sandy cove with the additional peace of mind for many mums and dads thanks to its lifeguards during the warmer season. Jerome kept cycling ahead on his new bike (it was actually supposed to be mine but he stole it from me) and soon enough we reached the tidal pool at Walpole Bay and the outskirts of Margate with its Victorian apartment blocks.
We only briefly glanced at Margate beach and the small fun park for little ones that we had enjoyed on our visit the year before. Margate beach is an easy weekend escape thanks to its proximity to the train station with access from London, which also makes Margate beach a busy place to be on a sunny weekend. Margate Dreamland can be found right behind the sandy beach and we chained our bikes to the railings, ready for some fun on the nostalgic rides at the fun park. Read more about our enjoyable afternoon at the fun park in our next post.
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