Whitstable Oyster Festival, Whitstable, Kent, (July)
The seaside town of Whitstable really comes alive each summer for its annual Oyster Festival in July. It’s a key date for foodies in Britain who come to enjoy the town’s party atmosphere all in homage to the world famous Whitstable oyster.
Whitstable Oyster Festival is on my top 10 list of foodie days out in Britain. I love it. It’s a fabulous fun-filled festival not just for food lovers but for all the family.
Whitstable may be a traditional seaside resort but it has an adorable quirky and colourful personality. The festival offers a delightful pick and mix of good old-fashioned family entertainment, traditional British seaside fun and a giant seafood party by the sea.
Think all things oyster related but also picnics on the beach, crabbing, kite flying and brass bands. Due to its popularity, the festival has now spread from Whitstable harbour to Tankerton Slopes so you can walk along the promenade and enjoy all the festivities.
All you need is a cheap day return ticket by train and a glorious sunny day. Don’t go home without buying an ice cream from Sundae Sundae.
Discover Whitstable’s Oyster Heritage
You can’t beat the Whitstable Oyster Festival for a great family day out by the sea in Britain. School is out, the sun shines brightly in the summer sky and all across this lovely town, there are oysters waiting to be gobbled up and bottles of fizz to be popped open.
Thousands of visitors make the annual pilgrimage to this traditional Kent seaside town which is characterised by its colourful beach huts and grotters, piles of oyster shells that glisten like jewels on the beach at twilight.
The popular seafood festival may have been running since 1985 but the cultivation of oysters in the area goes way back to the Roman occupation.
Like wine and lavender, we have the greedy Romans to thank for the proliferation of this juicy bivalve which is known for its naughty by nice aphrodisiac qualities. They loved them so much that they exported great quantities from our shores to Rome.
The British native or ‘flat’ oyster for which Whitstable is known, spawns from May to August so it can’t be eaten at the festival itself.
The oysters shucked at the festival are the more common rock oyster first introduced from the Pacific specifically for farming but they are grown in Whitstable.
Watch The Landing of The Oysters
Whitstable Oyster Festival kicks off each year with the ‘Landing of the Oysters’ on Long Beach. The oysters are brought ashore for a formal blessing before being distributed to the town’s restaurants.
This echoes what took place in Norman times when local fishermen would celebrate every summer with a festival of thanksgiving for the plentiful fish in the sea.
Take Part in the Oyster Festivities
As you’d expect, there’s an oyster eating competition which is very popular, an oyster parade and oyster stalls all along the harbour and promenade.
Other activities include the ‘Mud Tug’, a tug-o-war on the beach, morris dancing and live bands who perform on the Harbour stage.
Go to the Food Festival on Tankerton Slopes
Whitstable Oyster Festival has become so popular that it now supports a food fair of its own. This usually takes place on Tankerton Slopes.
You’ll reach the slopes if you go beyond the fishing harbour and continue walking along the promenade. Once past the rows of candy-striped beach huts, the slopes come into sight. As you’d expect, there’s Kentish cider, music and a few well-placed benches from which to enjoy the great view looking out to sea.
Cycle The Oyster Bay Trail
Cyclists can visit Whitstable Oyster Festival as they pedal along the Oyster Bay Trail. The cycle path runs between Swalecliffe and Reculver past Tankerton Slopes and Herne Bay. It’s mostly on flat surfaced paths and is just under 7 miles long.
- Whitstable has its own train station so it’s an easy day trip by train from London (trains leave from either Victoria or St. Pancras station)
- Bring your walking shoes – you can walk everywhere in Whitstable but there are also great walks along the coast
- Walk along the Crab and Winkle Way for lunch at The Goods Shed in Canterbury
- Head to the Whitstable Oyster Company for dinner. It’s in an old warehouse right on the beach
- It can get very busy so if you don’t fancy the crowds, weekends in the autumn can be a lovely time to visit when there’s still a buzz around the harbour
Oysters should smell of the sea and nothing else – ‘if in doubt, throw it out’.
Where to Stay in Whitstable
The Hotel Continental – a 3 star hotel directly facing the beach (ask for a sea view). It’s a 10 minute walk into the centre of Whitstable
Ready to plan a weekend break in Whitstable? Check out these recommendations for the Best Places to Stay in Whitstable.
Whitstable Oyster Festival is a fabulous doggy day out for me. Do they have a dog show?
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.