Consider the oyster
Discover The Best Things To Do in Whitstable
If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll be spoilt for delicious things to do in Whitstable. Shuck an oyster at Whitstable’s annual oyster festival, cycle the Crab and Winkle Way, eat fish & chips on the beach or watch the fishing boats haul their nets as you taste cockles and mussels.
What to Eat, Drink and Where to Stay in Whitstable
Wonderful Whitstable. If you haven’t yet discovered this quirky and charming traditional seaside town on the north Kent coast, then you’re in for a real treat!
Our handy mini guide to the best things to do in Whitstable including where to stay, eat, drink and shop, is guaranteed to whet your appetite and help you plan your next foodie weekend break.
Of course, there are lots of fantastic things to do in Whitstable but for food lovers, in particular, it makes a fabulous weekend destination. Better still, for stressed-out city types, Whitstable is an easy day trip from London. Hop on the train at St Pancras or Victoria station and within 90 minutes, you could be sitting on the beach drinking a beer and eating Whitstable’s famous oysters.
#1. Eat Whitstable Oysters
Everything about this quirky town revolves around this juicy mollusc. Whitstable’s famous native oysters are at their best from September through to April. You’ll see oyster shacks and seafood stalls dotted around the town and the historic harbour. A day trip to Whitstable simply wouldn’t be complete without stopping to buy half a dozen oysters and a glass of fizz to wash them down.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: Try The Forge (near the Fisherman’s Huts) or the Whitstable Oyster Company in the harbour.
#2. Dine at Wheelers Oyster Bar
This is definitely one to tick off your foodie bucket list. Wheelers Oyster Bar in Whitstable is a local institution. It’s the town’s oldest restaurant and allegedly, the oldest seafood restaurant in the country. It may be old fashioned but it serves up outstanding gastronomic delights worthy of its reputation.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: Unless you’re extremely lucky and get a last minute cancellation, you will need to book months ahead to secure a table during the summer season.
#3. Picnic on Whitstable Beach
If you’re not the plan ahead sort, the good news is that you can buy takeaway seafood from Wheelers Seafood Bar. Ordering a seafood platter is a great option if you want a ready-made picnic to take to the beach.
#4. Visit Whitstable Oyster Festival in July
Whitstable Oyster Festival is the big event in the town’s annual calendar. The festival takes place in July. It is one of the best summer foodie days out you can have in Britain. Watch the Landing of the Oysters, the Oyster Parade and listen to live music as you eat and drink your way around the town.
#5. Have a Pint at The Old Neptune Pub
For drinks, it has to be The Old Neptune pub. The white clapboard alehouse is situated right on the beach. Sip a pint while looking out to sea and out towards the Isle of Sheppey.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: The Pearson’s Arms and The Peter Cushing are also decent pubs.
#6. Go For Afternoon Tea at Whitstable Castle
The Orangery Tea Rooms at Whitstable Castle, with its wonderful gardens, is the ideal place to stop for cake and a pot of tea. The Castle Afternoon Tea offers the traditional English afternoon tea experience with finger sandwiches, scones and cakes (£20 per person) or you can have a cream tea (£4.95).
#7. Buy an Ice Cream From Sundae Sundae
You’ll see the queue outside the door of this tiny ice cream shop. The retro shop, where the ice cream is all homemade, will take you back to your childhood with its sticks of flavoured rock (fish & chips rock anyone?), fudge and pebble sweets.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: Don’t walk out without buying the salted caramel cone.
#8. Stop For Tea & Cake in The Tudor Tea Rooms
You can’t miss the late-medieval Tudor Tea Rooms on Harbour Street. The mullioned windows and timber façade are a bit of a giveaway. It’s the place for a scone and a pot of tea. The Tea Rooms were once a favourite haunt of the late actor, Peter Cushing, who lived in Whitstable until his death in 1994. The town had such a fondness for the Sherlock Holmes actor they named a local beauty spot, near the bottom of the High Street, Cushing’s View.
#9. Walk Along Whitstable Seafront
One of the best things to do in Whitstable is simply to walk along the seafront. From colourful beach huts, to piles of glistening oysters shells and groynes, there is so much to see along the way. Around the harbour you’ll find an array of seafood shacks and restaurants and little wooden huts selling local arts and crafts.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: Make sure you walk to Tankerton Slopes where a 750-metre long spit of shingle known locally as The Street, emerges at low tide. Walk its length and you’ll get a wonderful view of Whitstable at sunset. This part of the coast is known for its sunsets. Just down the coast in Margate is where Turner came to paint.
#10. Eat The Best Fish & Chips in Whitstable
A trip to the seaside wouldn’t be complete without eating fish & chips. There are a couple of fish & chip shops in Whitstable. Despite its no-frills exterior, Ossie’s Fish Bar produces great fish & chips. Wrapped in paper they are perfect for taking to the beach.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: V.C. Jones on Harbour Street with its red and white fish & chips sign always has a queue outside it. Alternatively, try the Fish & Chip night at The Pearson’s Arms.
#11. Buy British Cheese at The Cheese Box
Don’t miss the excellent cheese shop on Harbour Street. The Cheese Box specialises in British cheese. It has a tiny cheese bar where you can order a glass of wine and indulge in some cheese tasting.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: For local Kent cheeses try Ashmore, a hard cheese, or Bows Brie, a soft cheese that’s made in Canterbury.
#12. Drink Kent Sparkling Wine
Kent is one of the major wine producing regions in the country and home to some beautiful English vineyards. Buy a bottle of English sparkling wine from The Offy on the High Street and take it to the beach to watch the sunset.
#13. Go Crabbing With The Kids
One of the best places to go crabbing in Whitstable is on West Beach. Buy a crabbing line and a bucket from Sundae Sundae, attach a piece of bacon and sit on a groyne while you dangle your line in the water.
#14. Cycle The Crab and Winkle Way and Eat Lunch in Canterbury
The Crab and Winkle line was the world’s first passenger railway linking Canterbury to Whitstable harbour. Nowadays, you can hire bikes and cycle or walk along the Crab and Winkle Way through the Blean Nature Reserve to Canterbury.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: Reward yourself with a delicious lunch at The Goods Shed in Canterbury before heading back to Whitstable.
#15. Buy Fresh Fish From Whitstable Fish Market
The Fish Market is located in Whitstable’s historic harbour on the site of the goods sheds for The Crab and Winkle line. You’ll see the fishing boats come in with their daily catch so shopping for seafood doesn’t get much fresher than this. Choose from a selection of sustainable fish and shellfish including Whitstable oysters.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: Directly above the fish market, you’ll find the popular Crab and Winkle restaurant.
#16. Learn How To Cook Seafood
If eating delicious seafood makes you want to perfect your cookery skills, take a fish and seafood cookery course with Mark Stubbs, the head chef at Wheelers Oyster Bar. On Wednesdays, when the restaurant is closed, he runs the Shoreline School of Cookery.
#17. Enjoy Michelin-Starred Dining at The Sportsman
Drive along the old coastal road between Whitstable and Faversham and you’ll find The Sportsman. Kent’s award-winning Michelin-starred pub lies between salt marshes where sheep graze and the Thames Estuary, leading to the North Sea. Its slightly weathered exterior belies the mouth-watering dishes serious food lovers come to taste.
Telegraph readers will already be familiar with self-taught chef, Stephen Harris, who writes a weekly column for the newspaper. His cooking is all about provenance and technique. Drawing his inspiration from the landscape all around him, he even collects buckets of water from the beach to make his own salt. There are two tasting menus including a shorter 5-course one for £55 per person.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: Stephen Harris published his much anticipated cookbook The Sportsman in 2017 in which he writes about the Kent terroir and shares the age-old and modern techniques he uses to perfect 50 British classics.
#18. Admire The Local Artwork
Whitstable has long attracted artists. If you visit for the Oyster Festival you can follow an art trail. It will lead you to art galleries such as the Fish Slab Gallery in Oxford Street. It was once a fishmongers’ and the marble slab is still intact.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: Wandering around the town look out for street art by Catman, Whitstable’s own Banksy. You’ll find ‘Drink Local’ on Harbour Street.
#19. Go For Sherry and Tapas on Harbour Street
Harbour Street Tapas is the place to experience a taste of Spain in Whitstable. If you’ve had your fill of Whitstable’s best fish and chips and its finest oysters, book a table here for something completely different. On the menu are small sharing plates, traditional Spanish paella and mouthwatering desserts such as chocolate tart served with marmalade ice cream.
#20. Walk Down Squeeze Gut Alley
You can’t fail to be amused when you read some of the street signs in Whitstable. Many hark back to the town’s smuggling and boat building history. Squeeze Gut Alley is one of the best. As you walk along the sea wall, look out for The Favourite, where Whitstable’s last oyster fishing yawl is laid to rest.
Other Places to Eat in Whitstable
There’s no shortage of restaurants and great places to eat in Whitstable. You will definitely not go hungry. Try these:
The Royal Native Oyster Stores – a seafood restaurant that’s right on the beach. It has a lovely outdoor terrace.
Samphire – a popular bistro on the High Street.
Birdies – a double-fronted brasserie on Harbour Street.
The Lobster Shack – hidden away on the far perimeter of the harbour (look out for a building nearby with restaurant painted on its roof).
Jo Jo’s – located just outside Whitstable on Tankerton Slopes.
Best Places to Eat Near Whitstable
The Goods Shed in Canterbury – This beautifully converted former goods shed next to Canterbury station is sheer foodie heaven. It houses a restaurant where the food has Spanish influences, a farmers market and food hall.
The Fordwich Arms in Fordwich – A gastro pub next to the River Stour. Chef-patron Daniel Smith was recently awarded the Observer’s Young Chef of the Year.
The Sportsman in Seasalter – Stephen Harris’ award-winning seaside pub. Winner of the National Restaurant Awards 2017 and Gastro Pub of The Year for 2 years in a row.
Local Food & Drink To Bring Home With You
- Local Kentish ales produced by the Whitstable Brewery or Shepherd Neame Brewery
- Punnets of cherries and local fruit (Kent is known as the Garden of England)
- Bottles of English sparkling wine and Kentish cider
- Kent gin – try Anno Kent Dry or Chapel Down Pinot Noir Gin
- Seafood, seafood and seafood
Where to Stay in Whitstable
Although it’s long been ‘discovered’ by London’s creative crowd, hotels in Whitstable are thin on the ground. You won’t find a boutique hotel in town but maybe that all adds to its unique charm. You will, however, find two decent 3-star hotels with 5-star sea views.
The Hotel Continental is close to Whitstable Harbour and a handy 10-minute walk into the centre of town. Slightly further out, overlooking Tankerton Slopes, is The Marine. This handsome property is owned by local brewery, Shepherd Neame so local Kent ales are served behind the bar.
Foodie Travel Guide Tip: If you stay at The Marine hotel, make sure you book a room on the first floor where all sea-facing rooms have their own balcony.
For totally unique accommodation try Whitstable’s fisherman’s huts overlooking the beach. They’re really popular so you do need to book well ahead. If you’re looking for group or self-catering options, Whitstable does have an abundance of lovely holiday cottages for rent. We’ve got our eye on Valentine House, a stylish holiday home that’s just minutes from the sea.
Ready to book accommodation in Whitstable? Check out our guide to The Best Places to Stay in Whitstable.
Things to do Near Whitstable
Visit Brogdale Farm Near Faversham
Brogdale Farm near Faversham is, infact, one of the largest orchards in the world. Its role is to protect the nation’s heritage fruit varieties. Brogdale is a really interesting place to visit. Knowledgable volunteers lead tours of the orchard and there is an excellent programme of themed events that take place throughout the year.
Tour Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham
With over 300 years’ of brewing history beer explorers should make a bee-line for Shepherd Neame brewery in Faversham. The brewery tour will take you on a journey of Britain’s brewing history and introduce you to some of the brewery’s most iconic beers including Whitstable Bay lager and Spitfire.
Shop For Local Kent Produce
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The Foodie Travel Guide
Sally is the founder and editor of The Foodie Travel Guide. She travels around the UK and beyond in search of the best foodie days out, tasting experiences and delicious places to stay. She loves a glass of English sparkling wine, afternoon tea with friends and escaping London for gastronomic adventures.