Whitstable is a town on the north coast of Kent in southeast England. It's famous for its oysters, and grew up in the 18th / 19th centuries as a fishing port, general harbour and seaside resort. It's nowadays governed as part of the city of Canterbury, and in 2011 had a population of 32,100 in its constituent communities. These extend from Seasalter to the west through Herne Bay to the east.
All the London airports have similar travel times to Whitstable, as by public transport you have to head into central London then come out again. (It's almost as quick to fly to Paris CDG IATA and take Eurostar.) By hired car, Gatwick (LGW IATA) or London City (LCY IATA) are closer: that's more of a factor on the return, when you have to consider traffic congestion on M25 to reach your flight.
Trains from London Victoria run every 30-60 mins, taking 80 min via Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Sittingbourne and Faversham, where the train may divide. You need to be in the portion running along the north coast to Whitstable, Margate and Ramsgate. The other portion heads south to Canterbury East and Dover Priory.
Trains from London St Pancras run hourly and take 75 min via Stratford, Ebbsfleet, Gravesend, Rochester then the same route to Whitstable and Ramsgate. From the continent by Eurostar, change at Ebbsfleet.
1 Whitstable station has toilets and a coffee machine and that's about all. It's only a quarter of a mile east of High St.
There are no direct buses from London. National Express runs from London Victoria to Canterbury, change there; those buses continue to Ramsgate or Dover.
The Triangle bus runs every 15 min from Canterbury to Whitstable (30 min) then Herne Bay then back to Canterbury; and vice versa.
Stagecoach Bus 36 along the coast between Whitstable and Margate is not running in summer 2020.
There isn't a bus station in Whitstable. Buses stop along High St then east along Tankerton Rd towards Herne Bay.
From London get onto M2. From west of the city that will involve cutting across from M25 via M26 to M20, then near Maidstone use A229 to reach M2. At Faversham M2 becomes A299, follow signs into town along Thanet Way. A299 continues east to Ramsgate.
Parking can be difficult in Whitstable.
The Triangle Bus is the best option along the coast between Whitstable, Tankerton, Swalecliffe, Hampton and Herne Bay. It doesn't reach Reculver.
The eastbound trains run half a mile from the coast, stopping at Chestfield & Swalecliffe and Herne Bay, before heading across the fields to Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate.
Abacus Cars are the local taxi firm, +44 1227 277728 or 277745; from Herne Bay call 283666 or 283777. There's also Uber in this area.
Crab & Winkle Way is a 7.6 mile walking and cycle route between Canterbury and Whitstable along the track bed of the C&W Railway. This opened in 1830 to bring coal and minerals to Canterbury, but has a good claim to be the world's first steam-hauled passenger railway. (The Stockton & Darlington Railway steam-hauled passengers for the opening ceremony in 1829, but for the next five years those passenger trains were drawn by horse, slower but less liable to shed wheels or fatally explode.) The C&WR used the wheezing locomotive Invicta, now in the town museum. It couldn't cope with the line's gradients, so static cable engines hauled trains uphill. The route always struggled financially, especially once the direct coastal London-Ramsgate railway arrived in 1860, but "the Crab & Winkle" continued to carry passengers to 1931 and freight to 1953.
- Stroll round the harbour and fish market, which is active daily 08:00-17:00.
- 1 The Street is a shingle spit which at low tide extends half a mile out to sea from Tankerton beach - unusually, at right angles, so you get well away from shore. Keep an eye on what the tide is doing, because it floods behind you and can cut you off.
- 2 Horsebridge Arts Centre, 11 Horsebridge Road, Whitstable CT5 1AF, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-18:00, Su 10:00-17:00. Arts and community centre with exhibitions, talks, film and classes. They don't do theatre.
- 3 Whitstable Castle, 15 Tower Hill, Whitstable CT5 2BW. Grounds daily 10:00-17:00. Mansion built in 1790 then added to and added to. It was refurbished in 2010 and is not open for sightseeing, but is used for exhibitions and events such as weddings. But you can enjoy the grounds, play area and Orangery Tearoom.
- A blue plaque at Seaway Cottage on the seafront west of High St commemorates the actor Peter Cushing (1913-1994). He lived here with his wife Helen Beck from 1959; she died in 1971. Cushing's roles included Dr Who, Sherlock Holmes, Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, and dozens and dozens of Hammer horror films where according to the critic Robert Ebert he always stood between Vincent Price and Christopher Lee and declared "But good heavens, man! The person you saw has been dead for more than two centuries!"
- 4 Whitstable Museum and Gallery, 5A Oxford Street, Whitstable CT5 1DB, ☏ . Th-Sa 11:00-16:30, also W in Jul, Aug. Museum in 18th C building shows local history, seafaring, and local celebrity Peter Cushing. Adult £3, child free.
- 5 Herne Bay is a small resort five miles east of Whitstable. Little reason to linger, the isolated end of the derelict pier is not an uplifting sight. You come for the sake of the coast walk from Whitstable then return on the bus, or vice versa.
- 6 Reculver Country Park is two miles east of Herne Bay, a length of grassy cliff-top that is an SSSI - Site of Special Scientific Interest. The imposing towers are of the ruined medieval church of St Mary, built besides a Roman fort - they're maintained by English Heritage and free to visit in daylight hours.
- See Ramsgate for the Isle of Thanet, sundered from the British mainland by the channels of the River Wantsum (which flows out just east of Reculver) and the River Stour. Or so it was until medieval times, but the Wantsum is now little more than a ditch which passing motorists won't notice.
- Walk along the beach. A pebble beach with groins runs along most of the seafront with a concrete path alongside.
- Boat trips sail from the harbour. Depending on conditions and length of trip, they may take in Herne Bay "island" pier, the outlying sandbanks where seals haul out, the offshore wind farms, or the two Maunsell forts built in World War II further out. (Both forts were used in the 1960s as pirate radio stations, Shivering Sands as Radio Sutch and Red Sands as Radio Invicta.) Boat operators include Whitstable Boat Tours, Oyster Coast Watersports and Greta.
- Playhouse Theatre, 104 High Street, Whitstable CT5 1AZ, ☏ . Box Office M-Sa 10:00-12:00. Rep theatre, the Lindley Players are the resident troupe.
- Whitstable Oyster Festival is in late July. The next is probably 23-26 July 2021, tbc.
- There are many good craft shops and artists studios, as well as a variety of small independent shops.
- Co-op Food on Oxford Street is open daily 07:00-22:00.
- Wheeler's Oyster Bar, 8 High St, Whitstable CT5 1BQ, ☏ . F-Su 10:00-16:00. Charming long-established oyster parlour, serves other seafood.
- Pearson's Arms, Horsebridge Rd, Whitstable CT5 1BT, ☏ . M 12:00-15:00, Tu-Sa 12:00-15:00, 17:30-21:30, Su 12:00-18:00. Cosy gastropub, the bar food downstairs is fine but it's the upstairs restaurant that scores.
- Whitstable Oyster Fishery Co, Horsebridge Rd, Whitstable CT5 1BU, ☏ . M W-F 12:00-14:30, Tu 12:00-19:00, 18:00-21:00, Sa Su 12:00-21:00. Spacious cafe has shellfish starters and fish mains.
- 1 The Old Neptune, Marine Terrace, Whitstable CT5 1EJ, ☏ . Su-W 11:30-22:30, Th-Sa 11:30-23:30. A rustic 19th C pub with fine ales, classic British grub and live music at weekends. It truly is on the beach not the prom, teetering on wooden piles, and the original Neppy was washed away in 1897. They rebuilt Neppy 2 from the timber strewn around.
- 2 The Peter Cushing, 16–18 Oxford Street,Whitstable CT5 1DD, ☏ . Daily 08:00-23:00. JD Wetherspoon pub in a former Art Deco cinema. Good selection of bar food.
- Shepherd Neame Brewery is in nearby Faversham and offers tours. Six of their products are badged for the town, the most distinctive being Whitstable Bay Oyster Stout.
- There's not much B&B as most visitors day-trip. The few are around High St, not along the prom where you'd expect to find them.
- Duke of Cumberland, High St, Whitstable CT5 1AP, ☏ . Good local pub with 8 rooms. Serves Shepherd Neame beers, and live music F Sa until 00:30 is audible in rooms. No parking. B&B double £90.
- 1 Hotel Continental, 29 Beach Walk, Whitstable CT5 2BP, ☏ . Art Deco hotel on the seafront, clean and comfy. Also rents eight beach huts. B&B double £120.
- 2 Marine Hotel, 32 Marine Parade, Whitstable CT5 2BE (half a mile east of centre), ☏ . Smart seafront hotel, slick and welcoming with good restaurant. B&B double £130.
- 3 Premier Inn Whitstable, Thanet Way, Whitstable CT5 3DB (junction of A299), ☏ . Reliable budget chain hotel, on the retail park at junction with Thanet Way a mile south of town centre. Double (room only) £45, breakfast £10 pp.
- 4 Crescent Turner Hotel, Wraik Hill CT5 3BY, ☏ . Bright modern hotel above town. No dogs, though you'll hear them yowling in the adjacent kennels. B&B double £100.
- Lots of self-catering accommodation, eg The Ventings.
As of Jan 2021, Whitstable has a 4G signal from all UK carriers. 5G has not yet reached this area.
- Margate for a different kind of coastal town.
- Faversham for the national fruit collection and breweries.
- Canterbury is a must-see, a historic city and UNESCO World Heritage site.