By Sarah Hayman
You won’t be the first or last to fall head over heels for the glorious seaside town of Broadstairs. Sitting on the Kent coast, it has long drawn royals and famous faces. Here’s how to join them…
For centuries the royals have retreated to the English coast for a spot of R&R, and Broadstairs was one of young Queen Victoria’s favourites – before she ascended to the throne. It’s said the Duke of York even gifted Her Royal Highness a white donkey named “Dicky” to amuse her on the sands. And while the neighbouring towns of Margate and Ramsgate have had their ups and downs socially and economically (most recently returning to favour), Broadstairs seems to have stood the test of time.
Considered the “jewel in Thanet’s crown”, its beauty and traditional charm has brought hundreds of tourists and even artists over the years. Charles Dickens described the coastal town as “delightful” and “fresh”, Turner said “the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe” and Augustus Pugin chose neighbouring Ramsgate as the place to call his home.
If you’re still looking for a last-minute summer staycation, here’s why you should choose Broadstairs.
What are the top things to do in Broadstairs?
The coastline is a string of secluded bays, chalk stacks and clifftop walks which could easily fill your itinerary for a long weekend or a week. Viking Bay is the main attraction, with a host of bars, restaurants and cafés. But if you want something more peaceful then Stone Bay, Louisa Bay, Botany and Joss all offer Blue Flag and/or Seaside Award status. Visit Rook’s Butchers, The Thirty Nine Steps Deli and the Bottleneck wine shop to create your own picnic hamper of local produce (all a stone’s throw from one another on Charlotte Street).
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One of the joys of Broadstairs is just wandering. Head to York Street to stroll past quaint and colourful houses, span pictures of Union Square’s cute fisherman’s cottages, and pass by Queen Victoria’s former summer residence at Pierremont Hall and Park.
For an arts and culture fix, follow the signs for the four-mile Turner and Dickens Walk. Start in Broadstairs with the Charles Dickens Museum – inside the writer’s former home – stop by Bleak House, and end in Margate at The Turner Contemporary. Then, if you’ve time, spend the afternoon in Margate’s old town ducking into vintage shops and nibbling fish and chips (Peter’s Fish Factory on the seafront is voted as the best for a batter fix). It’s a short cab ride back to Broadstairs, or just five minutes on the train.
Being a seaside town, there is an inevitable variety of water sports in Broadstairs, from sailing and surfing to paddle boarding and kayaking. If you’re a beginner then both Kent Surf School (at Viking Bay) or the more established Joss Bay Surf School, offer equipment hire and lessons. Bodyboards, kayaks, surfboards and paddle boards are all available by the hour (£5-20). For those more comfortable on dry land, play a round or two at North Foreland Golf Club (north of the town centre), or play a classic seaside game at LillyPut Mini Golf on Victoria Parade.
There’s almost always something going on in this small but special town – grab a copy of Busy Broadstairs or check this website for more details.
Which are the best places to eat Broadstairs?
Nowhere in Broadstairs is a suited and booted affair, but a refined experience can be found at Wyatt and Jones, under the old York Gate. Opt for a table with sea views and take your pick from the seasonal menu of British dishes, if you’re visiting on a Sunday then the 38 day rib eye roast with Yorkshires as big as your head shouldn’t be missed. For the more adventurous diner take in the seasonal six-course tasting menu at Stark, whose slogan “good food laid bare” really does sum up this rustic, intimate option.
Unsurprisingly for a seaside town, you’ll do well here if you’re a fish fan. Samworth & Mee has a daily menu and specials that heavily feature locally caught produce, or for the traditional experience grab your fish and chips from Star of The Sea and head to the promenade.
On a sunny day, try and book a table on the veranda at Posillipo for superb Neapolitan cuisine – the signature ‘linguine Posillipo’ with fresh local clams, mussels and king prawns shouldn’t be missed.
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No trip to the seaside is complete without an ice cream, of course. Morelli’s (on Victoria Parade) has been serving up the best gelato in town for almost a hundred years – sit inside for a trip down memory lane by way of formica tops, pink leatherette booths, knickerbocker glories and an original soda fountain. You’re in good company here – Mary Berry featured the parlour in her Absolute Favourites book and BBC series.
Where should I stay in Broadstairs?
There’s a good selection of bed and breakfast options in Broadstairs and the Airbnb scene is on the rise, offering a range of interesting and period properties. The Boat House offers the perfect location just moments from the beach and restaurants, its quirky curios are a pleasant reminder of your seaside location and the onsite parking is a big bonus. The firm favourite, though, has to be Eagle House, with an unrivalled location right on Viking Bay Beach, Chiappini’s coffee shop and ice cream parlour on your doorstep and a private balcony perfect for evening sundowners.
If you want to wake to the calming sounds of the shore without the worry of cooking your own breakfast, The Royal Albion Hotel is hard to beat. Standing since 1776 and a regular haunt of Charles Dickens himself, the hotel has recently undergone major refurbishment and now offers 21 rooms all to a high standard. Pick of the bunch is the Superior Sea View room with private balcony.
The Yarrow, previously the Thanet Technical College – famous for supplying waiting staff to Buckingham Palace and nurturing British talent such as Gary Rhodes – has now opened its doors to visitors and offers comfortable suites all in easy walking distance to the main town and bay.
If you’re not concerned with a sea view and want an intimate, boutique experience then Belvidere Place is great. Positioned just off the high street in a Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse, Belvidere’s charm lies in its interiors, individually-styled rooms and a luxury home from home feel. Ren skincare, Egyptian cotton sheets and breakfasts made-to-order make it the perfect place to rest your head after a long day on the sands.
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