Move over Sussex and The Cotswolds, Kent is quickly becoming the Londoner’s perfect escape from it all. And if you’re craving a taste of this beauty too, our ultimate travel guide has got your back.
Not only the Garden of England, Kent is a hot spot for a short break to discover sandy, beautiful beaches, quaint village pubs, historic castles and enchanting towns and cities. The Kent coast itself is a year-round destination - icecream and sunbathing in the summer and pub roasts and cold water swimming when it’s a bit more bracing.
You could even just be drawn to the area due to its foodie reputation with both high-end and delightfully casual dining options spilling from towns such as Whitstable, Margate, Broadstairs or the county town of Maidstone.
Banish thoughts of ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hats (unless that’s what you are into) and get ready for a thoroughly modern county with charming nods back to the past. This historic part in the south east of the UK has plenty of attractions to offer to suit all ages and budgets - on a warm day you could easily be in Europe, without the need for passport queues.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, welcome to House of Coco’s Ultimate Kent Guide. You can get into Kent in less than an hour by train or car from London making it the perfect day trip or weekend away. So, what are you waiting for?
Some Quick Facts About Kent
- Kent has the largest population of all the English counties making it a vibrant and diverse place to visit.
- You’ll find over 65,000 small businesses in the county meaning you can avoid the chains and shop local, knowing that your pounds are going where it counts.
- Kent has over 350 miles of coastline taking in sandy beaches, those iconic white cliffs of Dover, a desert at Dungeness and plenty of cute seaside villages and towns besides.
- Kent is often called the Garden of England and is famous for its fresh produce. Depending on what time of year you visit you can enjoy ripe apples and plums or freshly hopped local beers as well as local meats and cheeses.
- Kent is easily accessible from London - with a journey to Margate taking less than an hour and a half - perfect for a day trip or weekend break.
When To Visit Kent
Despite what you may think, Kent, including the Kent coast, is a fantastic year-round destination and our ultimate Kent travel guide is set to convince even you, fair-weather traveller!
While the beaches swell with day-trippers in the summer, a brisk Spring visit can bring just as much joy and help you to secure hot ticket tables at foodie destinations in favourite Kent towns like Whitstable, Margate and Folkestone.
Out of season, towns like Tunbridge Wells and Canterbury are also delightful with decorated shopping streets and, in Canterbury, the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Canterbury Cathedral, St Martin’s Church and the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey.
Kent is not short of English history spots providing year-round entertainment with historic castles both medieval and with the Second World War connections such as Hever and Deal Castle.
Of course, summer is where Kent really shines - from the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Kent Downs to sundowners in front of one of Margate’s famous sunsets. On a sunny day, you’d be hard-pressed to visit a more beautiful place in England to catch some rays and eat some delicious local food.
Where Is The Nicest Place In Kent
This is a loaded question as Kent is a large county and home to plenty of beautiful places. We have a soft spot for the Kent coast (all 350 miles of it). From the Old Neptune Pub nestled on the pebbled beach at Whitstable for a Whitstable Bay Blonde beer to the eerie stretch of desolate beach at Dungeness - there is a coastal spot for every occasion.
You may not have heard the name ‘Thanet’ but you’ve certainly heard of the three towns that make up this part of Kent which is closer to mainland Europe than to London. Composed of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, this part of the county of Kent has been drawing Londoners down for day trips and weekend breaks for centuries. If it was good enough for Queen Victoria, it’s certainly good enough for your next trip to visit Kent!
Margate is also known as Shoreditch-On-Sea due to its gritty artistic nature, thanks largely to Tracey Emin’s connection with the town. In addition to the Turner Contemporary, you’ll come across numerous art galleries and murals across town.
On a warm day, a takeaway drink from Little Swift or Xylo, drank on the sea steps, can’t really be beaten - throw in some chips from Peter’s and you have yourself the perfect end to a day trip. Margate is not without its fine dining however with everything from freshly made pasta at Bottega Carouso to seafood at Angela’s .
People used to travel to the sea to recoup and this is still possible nowadays. Book ahead and get yourself a 90-minute massage at Haeckels House. Don’t rush off afterwards as they’ll sit you in their seaview sunroom with a cuppa to soak in the relaxing vibes. Find the Spotify playlist to listen to at home to continue the blissed-out feeling.
Broadstairs is Margate’s fancier neighbour with a horseshoe-shaped bay and sandy beach to enjoy. With plenty of English history, the town is the perfect visit for those interested in Charles Dickens but has plenty of foodie joy if you are not!
Our top pick is a coffee and Kimchi Cheese Toastie at Fort’s followed by drinks at the bookshop-turned-bar The Chapel. Broadstairs is an easy seaside walk from Margate or Ramsgate making it the perfect destination for a weekend stroll and taking in those coastal views.
The final town in Thanet is the Royal Harbour of Ramsgate with - you’ve guessed it - a beautiful protected harbour as well as sandy beaches.
Overlooking the beach is the beautiful Georgian Albion House - a great place to stay. Have an elevated pub roast or simply a glass of wine with a view.
In town, cosy pubs like The Ravensgate, The Honeysuckle Inn and The Bedford Inn keep locals in tasty craft beers and are a welcome spot for a weekend visitor.
Where do the famous people hang out in Kent? Margate and Ramsgate are known enclaves for musicians - especially a hotspot for 00s musicians who enjoy the Camden-Hawley-Arms-Heyday feel of the Libertines’ run Wasteland bar at Albion Rooms.
Places To Stay In Kent
Kent is home to many Air BnBs but whether you are looking for a luxury place to stay or something a little cosier, there’s plenty to choose from across the county. Here are some of our top picks of places to stay in Kent.
In Royal Tunbridge Wells we love the fun of Smith & Western - a cowboy-themed restaurant with themed rooms, yes - really. A stone’s throw from The Forum music venue, this is the perfect place to stay for a weekend away in Kent - don’t miss the America-sized cocktails!
In leafy Tenterden, we adore the Woolpack Hotel for its delicious pub food and rustic, cosy atmosphere. A short drive from Rye on the Kent/Sussex border, this country village packs a lot of charm and is home to the quintessential English sparkling wine Chapel Down.
For a luxury place to stay, our ideal Kent weekend away is at the design-forward luxury Kent hotel The Rose in Deal. Each room is beautifully designed, comes with touches like homemade shortbread and is just upstairs from the delicious dark wood bar and restaurant. Whatever the weather, The Rose is a port in a storm and one of the best hotels in Kent.
Talking of a luxury place to stay, the Georgian Albion House in Ramsgate is grand and then some. Overlooking the Ramsgate sandy beach and harbour, this regal hotel was good enough for Queen Victoria so it’s definitely up to your standards. Don’t skip out on their renowned Sunday Lunch and have a cocktail in the lounge for us, it’s another of the best hotels in Kent.
Margate may be a bit of a nightmare for accommodation but seek out the rooms above the George & Heart pub. Each of the rooms has been designed by a local artist bringing the circular economy nature of this small seaside town to the fore. We rate their cocktails as well, you may never leave.
For a seaview in Margate, the new design-led Fort Road Hotel is turning heads and converting people to seaside visiting off-season. Their downstairs bar also casts a moody, arty shadow perfect for contemplating your next art piece.
In the beautiful medieval city of Canterbury we rate the historic Abode Hotel for its view of the World Heritage Canterbury Cathedral, open fires and hearty dining options. You are in the thick of the city’s cobblestone streets so it’s the perfect place to crash after a day of shopping and eating and drinking. Close to Canterbury, don’t overlook the comfy gorgeousness of The Pig in Bridge Place , a redbrick gem with musical history.
In creative Folkestone is a truly creative AirBnB hidden in a courtyard garden with resident chickens. The Potting Shed Overnight is an absolute gem of a stay in a converted 1956 vintage Citroen van. A short walk from the town’s shops and foodie restaurants, this is a unique place to stay.
If the weather is holding up, you may want to jump in the camper van or pitch up a tent in Kent and it’s certainly the county for it.
Lilyroo’s Camping is a short drive from both the medieval town of Sandwich and the foodie delights of Deal and can accommodate campervans, pitched tents or offer accommodation in luxury furnished bell tents. Lilyroo’s boasts a full bar and evening pizza oven making it the ideal get-together for a group of friends.
A simple but delightful camping option is Kingsdown Camping with sweeping views of Kingsdown Bay and a bracing coastal walk from St Margarets At Cliffe just outside of Dover (famous for the fact that your phone will think that you are in France, that’s how close you are!). During the summer months, Woolton Farm near Canterbury offers 3 self-catered properties and eight furnished bell tents nestled in a fruit orchard.
What Is Kent Famous For?
Food, food and then more food. Kent is a food paradise thanks to its climate and arable land - you can eat locally and well across the county.
Plan to eat seasonally as much as you can and you’ll be rewarded with fresh salads, the ripest tomatoes you can imagine and local cheese and meats.
Be sure to take in a farm shop - or three. Our favourite is Mackanade in Faversham for local flowers, fruit and vegetables and the cheese counter of dreams.
Ideally located next to Canterbury West train station, The Goods Shed is the ideal stop-off after your weekend visit to Canterbury to buy a train picnic for the journey home. We particularly love the pastries and bread from Little Sugar Bakery.
Kent is home to over 100 breweries, from established spots like Shepherd Neame in Faversham and Gadd’s in Ramsgate to crafty newcomers.
In Thanet we love Northdown Brewery with its taproom easily accessible by local bus for pizzas, comedy and pints during the summer months. Right on the seafront you have microbrewery and pub Xylo and over in Canterbury Floc Brewing’s epic taproom is a welcome addition to the city.
Alternatively, head over to the sleepy town of Sandwich for excellent beers at Time & Tide Taphouse or Folkestone for a pint of Docker’s tongue-in-cheek DFL (a derogatory term for visitors/new residents - Down-From-London!) American Pale Ale.
If beer isn’t your thing then Kent is home to a number of illustrious vineyards such as Chapel Down in Tenterden and Woolton Wines. Also at Woolton Farm, you’ll find the home of local favourite Kentish Pip Cider.
New for 2023 are both wine and cider tours on the farm including guided walks and tutored tastings. Both offer wine and cider flights to pair with local cheeses.
Kent is also not shy when it comes to the world of fine dining with many Michelin stars across the county. Nestled on Margate’s Harbour Arm the small but mighty Sargasso bar offers seasonal plates and won the Bib Gourmand in 2022 - be sure to book in advance for views looking back on Margate and wonderful local fayre. Also in Margate, for seafood lovers is Angela’s pintsize restaurant on the Old Town cobbles.
For high-end pub vibes, you can’t go wrong with the ever-famous Fordwich Arms just outside of Canterbury, on the River Stour. Its sister restaurant the Bridge Arms also received the Michelin star nod, growing the options for really top-notch dining in the county.
Weekend Breaks In Kent
Hopefully we’ve shown you that Kent is the place to be for a short weekend break in the UK. The county is diverse and has something for everyone - whether you are interested in the art of Margate and Folkestone, shucking oysters in Whitstable or exploring quaint countryside villages in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Less than an hour and a half drive or train will take you to the corners of this beautiful place and public transport in most major towns and cities will enable you to explore without a car. Hitting the road in Kent, however, is well worth it with places to explore en route and farm shops to bob into to buy picnic items and souvenirs.
Places To Visit In Kent
In addition to the towns and villages, we’ve mentioned so far we wouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the arty town of Folkestone. Away from the high street, Folkestone has invested a lot in the Arts and in its Creative Quarter. This cobbled part of the town leads down to the vibrant Harbour Arm with delicious restaurants, galleries and vintage shops.
In Folkestone we particularly love this hidden gem : The Potting Shed Speakeasy - be careful who you tell as this spot really is special. Nestled in the back of a beautiful homeware store is this 15 seater cocktail bar. Dimly lit with rules of no phones or photography, the spirit-forward drinks will transport you back to the days of Prohibition. Be sure to book your table in advance to receive the clandestine password and keep your eyes peeled for special burlesque nights to remember.
The next morning, grab a coffee from Steep Street Coffee House and take a walk along the coast taking in some of Folkestone’s outdoor art collection while making your way to sleepy Sandgate. Grab another caffeinated beverage from Orchard Lane before making your way back into town walking through The Leas Park with beautiful views of the sea.
Even more off the beaten track is the desolate beauty of Dungeness - Britain’s only desert and Europe’s largest expanse of shingle. Sure, that doesn’t sound super exciting but hear us out. This unique landscape needs to be seen to be believed - it’s quiet, a little spooky and a great place to shoot a music video - or some shots for your Instagram.
Be sure to visit the unusual concrete World War Two Sound Mirrors - another one for the ‘gram.
Our top weekend break pick
This has got to be a weekend in Thanet - but avoid the accommodation nightmare that is Margate and look for options nearby (our top picks are above) - the bus and local taxis will happily ferry you around this part of Kent that actually used to be an island! Explore each of the three towns with a coffee in hand (we rate coffee shops like Cliff’s, Fort’s, Staple Stores, Skinny Dip, and Union), weaving in and out of historic side streets and vintage shops.
If visiting in the Spring/Summer months, bring the car and get out to a local car boot fair for well priced gems that no-one else has before descending on a cafe for a fry up - you deserve it after all that hard work…
Now, go - enjoy Kent before everyone else hears about it!