A town guide to Broadstairs
- Credit: Archant
Dig out the bucket and spade, slap on the sun lotion and head to beautiful Broadstairs this summer
If you fancy spending some time at the beach this summer, think again before you book an expensive trip abroad or trek all the way down the A303. Kent may be known as the Garden of England but its coastline is right up there with the best of them.
With the Isle of Thanet boasting numerous beaches – including six with Blue Flag Awards this year – a visit to this beautiful part of our own county
is a real treat for those who crave the big blue. And what better place to base yourself than beautiful Broadstairs?
There are seven bays surrounding the town, including the pristine sandy beach of Viking Bay, the stunning Botany Bay with its rocky backdrop and Joss Bay - Kent’s best surfing beach.
The town itself takes its name from a set of steps carved into the chalk cliff which once led up to the 11th-century shrine of St Mary and began as a coastal hamlet that sprung up alongside the older inland village of St Peters. Broadstairs became a hot bed of smuggling, with the notorious local gang of Joss Snelling responsible for the Battle of Botany Bay – in which 18 men were killed in 1769. The gangs were finally stamped out in the mid-1800s and wealthy families began to move into the area, building their seaside residences. The town began to expand, attracting professionals and plenty of artists, drawn to the area’s beauty and seclusion.
One such creative in search of a peaceful holiday home was Charles Dickens. Escaping from the smog of London, Dickens was one of many Victorians seeking fresh sea air. He visited frequently throughout his life and spent many summers at Fort House.
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The building is set on top of the cliffs, with breathtaking views of both the town and the sea, and is thought to have been the inspiration for Bleak House. It’s since been renamed Bleak House and is now a boutique hotel and wedding venue.
The town has plenty of attractions for the modern visitor. Dickens fans can learn about the man himself at the Dickens House Museum and the nearby Crampton Tower Museum is a fascinating museum looking at the life of a local railway designer. Just north of the town is the North Foreland Lighthouse.
Built in 1691, it stands on a promontory of the nearly perpendicular cliffs. One of the last lighthouses to be automated, it continues to safeguard shipping and seafarers to this day. The cottages at its base, which once housed the lighthouse keepers, are now holiday cottages.
Blue Flag Awards 2018
England’s cleanest beaches were revealed earlier this year. Handed out by Keep Britain Tidy, the prestigious Blue Flag Awards began in 1987 when just 12 beaches across the country were deemed worthy of the accolade. This year Kent alone scored 10 winners, with Thanet being home to six of them.
These winning beaches are all clean, safe and meet the highest environmental standards, as well as the tough international bathing water quality standards. Blue Flag beaches also have to run a minimum of five educational activities to make people aware of the importance of looking after the natural environment.
Broadstairs is the perfect base for exploring Minnis Bay, West Bay, St Mildreds, Botany Bay, Stone Bay and the newly awarded Margate Main Sands.
Joss Bay, which is popular with surfers, has been stripped of the rating it enjoyed last year, although it hangs on to its Seaside Award. Although Broadstairs’ main beach, pretty Viking Bay, doesn’t have the accolade, it’s still a superb place to take children and has golden sand and a safe tidal pool. There are all sorts of seasonal rides and entertainment, as well as water sports.
Shopping and eating
Think retro seaside fun rather than a shopping mecca but there are still plenty of little independent stores to browse, including La De da Boutique, The Beach Boutique, Arrowsmiths, Sweet Yesterdays and Card Shack. Out-of-town centre Westwood Cross takes care of all the big-brand shopping.
When it comes to eating out there’s everything from traditional fish and chips to fine dining. Some to try include Stark, Wyatt & Jones, Aqua 43, Reef, The Yarrow, Taylors, Samworth & Mee, Restaurant 54 and The Greek. For lighter snacks, visit Kafeine Coffee Shop or Bessie’s Tea Parlour.
There are some great little places for a drink too, with the fabulous Houdini’s Magic Bar winning the newcomer of the year category in our Kent Life Food and Drink Awards 2017. And if micropubs are your thing, don’t miss the 39 Steps Brewhouse, The Four Candles, The Chapel, Mind The Gap and Yard of Ale.
• Broadstairs Folk Week (10-17 August). It’s a huge celebration of folk music and creative arts, which attracts fans from all over the country and involves more than 500 events at various venues across the town. This year the highlights are set to include workshops, children’s events and concerts from the likes of Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri, Forest of Fools and Tankus The Henge. There’s a festival campsite in the grounds of Upton School and tickets can be bought for either separate events or the whole festival. Visit www.broadstairsfolkweek.org.uk
• Broadstairs Autumn Food Festival (28-30 September). Held in Victoria Gardens and on the seafront promenade, the festival will include more than 100 stalls of regional produce, along with cooking demonstrations, a vintage tea parlour and entertainment.
Other annual events include the Spring Food Festival, held in April, and the world-famous Dickens Festival, held each June.
Postcard from Broadstairs
My name is Sally Proudfoot and I am the owner of The Beach Boutique, which opened in November last year. I stock chic, bohemian, stunning beachwear and casual daywear. I cater for all shapes, sizes and ages – everyone is beautiful and I like to make everyone feel confident. My amazing kaftans are my favourite, full of poms-poms, fringing and tassels. Customers say the clothing in the shop is very ‘Ibiza’ with all the bright colours.
Previously I owned a successful tanning and beauty salon in Essex and at weekends I spent my time at my apartment in Broadstairs – where I decided I would semi-retire full time. However after a few months my mind was ticking and I had noticed a gap in the market. So with my business head now firmly back on I set to work creating this funky boutique with grey washed paint floors, chandeliers and sparkly glitter mirrored furniture.
I find Broadstairs a very calming place to be and I am lucky to be able to work in such a wonderful environment. The locals are so friendly and there is a real sense of community. I love Joss Bay, which I have been visiting from a very young age.
My favourite restaurant is Wyatt & Jones, the food is British and cooked to perfection, and Rook’s the butcher is a must for pies and pasties. My dad would be very disappointed if we didn’t stop there before our trip to the beach. Serene Hair and Beauty salon perform the best treatments and the perfect bouncy blow dry. And of course no trip to Broadstairs is complete without an ice cream from Morelli’s Gelato.