There’s no better way to celebrate the start of the British Summer than a trip to the coastline and with the Weather here in the UK seriously hotting up, the time is now!
Whitstable is the seaside town that every Londoner needs to visit this Summer. Forget Brighton and it’s overpriced ice creams and crowded cafes, Whitstable is a relatively untouched gem of the South-East and MUST visit this year.
A few Weekends back Josie and I decided we needed a break from the City and having discovered Whitstable can be within an hour on the train from London with Southeastern Railway it was an easy decision. The huge benefit of travelling via train as opposed to flying is that the ‘pack’ can come with us and so we hopped on a train from St Pancras International with the two dogs in toe.
The scenic journey allowed Josie and I to catch up on emails and then there was a 10 minute stroll from the station in Whitstable to our Hotel, the Marine, our home for the next 3 days.
It was a timely reminder that we really must make the most of the places on our ‘doorstep’, it’s all too tempting to look abroad for Weekend getaways, but with such beauty within an hour from London, why bother with the expense and stress of a trip to Gatwick!
Nothing beats an ice cream whilst sat on the sunny British shores!
The two handsome chaps had the time of their lives chasing seagulls on the beach!
The Marine Hotel is a short 10 minute walk from Whitstable station and ideally placed for exploring the town. The biggest plus is they are dog friendly and so both Dexter and Dickens were allowed to camp out in our room!
Comfy and clean rooms, with a very homely and British feel – coupled with a great brekky and friendly staff, the Marine was perfect for what we needed.
The Hotel has some spectacular views of the coastline and with the sea in touching distance, it’s the ideal base from which to explore Whitstable.
Whitstable is renowned for it’s fresh fish but in particular their oysters, farmed and caught locally. Oysters divide opinion, but if fresh and served up with a slice of lemon and drop of Tabasco, they are quite delicious.
With lots of oysters available in Whitstable, be sure to read the signs and visit a registered vendor of Whitstable’s own oysters. There are lots of vendors selling oysters from further afield, which I am told are less fresh and less authentic.
The Forge is nestled in amongst the quays just off the beach and has a very rustic vibe. It’s a family run affair with Mother and Son serving up some of the finest oysters around, alongside some fantastic fish and chips.
You simply can’t leave Whitstable without trying one of these bad boys!
Alongside the oysters, I went for some freshly battered scampi and chips, Josie went for her usual battered sausage! The chips could have been a little crispier, but otherwise it was the perfect fuel for a day exploring the coastline.
I know, I know.. more fish and chips?! But seriously, a trip to the British seaside is never complete without a good fish and chips and with so many great options here, we decided to ‘sample’ some chips from the local chippie and sat on the beach, basking in the sunshine.
Ossie’s Fish Bar is 5 minutes from the beach on Whitstable high street a great option for a quick snack or for a takeaway lunch to be eaten right by the sea, a real hidden gem!
When visiting Whitstable it’s easy to concentrate on the beaches and coastline, but when venturing into town we stumbled across Whitstable Castle & Gardens, a stunning set of gardens surrounding the castle and spot of tranquility.
Whitstable Castle is an impressive structure dating back to the 1790s and houses a quintessentially British tearooms – an ideal place for an afternoon cuppa.
The gardens themselves are well worth exploring with a variety of flowers in bloom this time of year, they are incredibly ‘Insta Worthy’ !
There is an abundance of seafood restaurants in town, many of which looked very nice, but we decided on Birdies half way up the main high street, a french inspired bistro.
Birdies had a great vibe and atmosphere, with only a few covers it was buzzing with people and the smell of homely food.
The menu is written up daily on a couple of chalk boards scattered amongst the place and with new dishes added daily, it’s a proper bistro.
To start, Josie went for homemade meatballs with breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and chopped chives, her dream starter! I decided on the king prawns and they definitely didn’t let the side down, some of the freshest prawns I have eaten within the UK.
When it came to the mains it was a real toughie, both Josie and I were immediately drawn to the beef wellington, but confident she would struggle to finish and that I would still have my ‘taste’, I went for the fish stew.
The beef wellington did give me food envy and was delicious in every way. I guess the only criticism could be the lack of real sides, with only roast vegetables on offer, it was screaming out for a good old fashioned mash potato!
The fish stew was a combination of king prawns, mussels, smoked haddock and salmon and was a real winner. It felt like the ‘taste of Whitstable’ in every mouthful and I can honestly say some of the freshest fish I have eaten.
A sharing dessert of Eton Mess really hit the spot and was the perfect finish to a great evening!
Any Weekend trip away requires some thought in terms of packing and what to bring, here are my essentials for any trip to the British seaside:
1. Swimmers – Even if the sea is a little chilly, you can’t visit the beach without a quick dip! My go-to brand this Summer for some real ‘stand out’ shorts is Leo Joseph London.
2. Sunnies – Wishful thinking I know, but don’t get caught out if the British Summer decides to make an appearance! Current favourites of mine are from Oliver Peoples.
3. Trainers – With so much to see and explore in Whitstable, pack a pair of comfy trainers for all the walking. Especially handy when trying to navigate the pebbly beaches.
4. Layers – With the weather being unpredictable as ever, be sure to pack a light jumper. The sea winds can pick up and you don’t want to be caught cold.
5. Beach Towel – Sun or no sun, it’s worth bringing a towel for a chill on the beach or even a seaside picnic.
6. Day Bag – An essential for any Weekend break, a backpack to carry all the above and more. Check out a new favourite of mine, Made In Global.
Weekend retreats are a great way to switch off and there is a lot to be said for some fresh seaside air and homely food! For me, Whitstable remains one of Britain’s hidden gems and is a fantastic alternative to the much busier beaches of Brighton and Eastbourne and arguably more accessible, under an hour with Southeastern from London.
If you fancy booking a trip to Whitstable or somewhere else in East Sussex or Kent, check out the advance purchase day return offers from Southeastern this Summer, starting from as little as £10! Find out more here.
Where are your favourite places for a Weekend retreat?
*This Blog Post was written in collaboration with Southeastern Railway, however all views and opinions shared are very much my own*