Town guide to Broadstairs, Kent
- Credit: Archant
Forget the long drive to Cornwall this summer and soak up the nostalgic seaside atmosphere closer to home at beautiful Broadstairs
Visit beautiful Broadstairs for the first time and you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a Cornish fishing village.
This historic coastal town, set around the stunning sandy beach of Viking Bay, is full of character and never fails to charm its visitors.
Charles Dickens famously had a long love affair with the town. Having stayed in Broadstairs as a young man, he eventually chose Fort House as a summer residence for his family.
He wrote David Copperfield while staying at the imposing property and after his death it was renamed Bleak House in his honour.
Now converted into luxury bed and breakfast accommodation and a wedding venue, with tours exploring Dickens’ original study and the smuggling museum in its cellar, Bleak House was recently put up for sale and could be yours for a little over £5m.
The town’s relationship with the famous author is celebrated at the Dickens House Museum, set in a cottage that he himself had used as inspiration for the home of Betsy Trotwood in David Copperfield.
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Staffed by volunteer guides, it has a collection of his personal items and letters. There’s also a hugely popular week-long Dickens Festival, held every June. Having celebrated its 80th anniversary earlier this year, the festival continues to attract visitors from all over the world.
The gorgeous, sandy beach of the horseshoe-shaped Viking Bay is ideal for family days out and is a popular place for water sports too. Home to Kent Surf School, it’s common to see people surfing, kayaking and riding stand-up paddleboards here. For the children there is a safe tidal pool for when the tide has receded and a range of seasonal rides and entertainments.
Also, thanks to a small local charity called Beach Within Reach, there are two all-terrain wheelchairs available to hire from the Bay Inspector, making Viking Bay accessible for all.
But it’s by far the only beach in the area. Fifteen sandy bays mean that Thanet rivals Devon and Cornwall and figures released late last year confirmed that Thanet’s visitor economy grew by 19 per cent in 2015 alone.
If exploring Thanet is on your to-do list, then a trip to Broadstairs is the very best place to start.
More expensive than some of its neighbours, Broadstairs is a very appealing town for house hunters. Prices start at around £115,000 for a one-bedroom flat, with two-bed flats priced between £150,000 and £450,000. A three-bed semi can cost upwards of £240,000 and four-bed detached properties begin at £400,000. Larger houses with sea views are available right up to £1.9million.
Eating and shopping
With its traditional seaside feel, fish and chips go down well here and fresh seafood is on many menus. For a small place there’s a surprising number of great places to eat and drink. Some to look out for include The Tartar Frigate, Wyatt and Jones, Samworth and Mee, Restaurant 54, Aqua 43, Greek Taverna, Raindell’s, Posillipo, Reef, Yama’s and the wonderful new tasting kitchen Stark (see our postcard from Broadstairs).
Take tea at Bessie’s Tea Parlour, You & Me and the Old Curiosity Shop, enjoy a pint at The Yard of Ale, The Four Candles and The Chapel, and indulge in an ice cream sundae at Morelli’s and Chiappini’s.
Out-of-town big brand shopping is taken care of at Westwood Cross Shopping Centre, while the town itself leans towards little independent traders, including traditional hardware store HE Harrington’s (which is said to have been the inspiration behind The Two Ronnies’ famous ‘four candles’ sketch), as well as La De Da boutique, Sweet Yesterdays and Arrowsmiths.
Broadstairs boasts several art galleries, antiques shops and even has its own boutique cinema, The Palace Cinema, seating just 111.
11 to 18 August:
Broadstairs Folk Week
Broadstairs Folk Week is one of the most popular music events in Kent. The festival takes place across the whole town and there are dozens of events planned for each venue. The schedule packs in a huge amount of entertainment including music, dancing, child-friendly events and much more. This year, acts set to appear include Lau, The Urban Folk Quartet, Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, Noble Jacks, Faustus and The Dylan Project.
Single concert tickets are available so you can see your favourite act, or if you want to go for total immersion there is the option to buy a weekend or even a full week festival ticket. Tickets are available with or without camping.
Broadstairs Water Gala
Celebrating the best of the British seaside, the annual water gala features traditional beach competitions, entertainment, a family funfair, an air display and a spectacular firework finale over the bay. Expect live music, water sports, sea shore discovery walks, Punch & Judy and walkabout characters for children to meet. The events are held on Viking Bay beach and in Victoria Gardens and Promenade.
29 September to 1 October:
Broadstairs October Food Festival
A popular three-day food festival featuring a range of Thanet and Kentish foods including cheeses, meats, artisan breads, pickles, cakes and pastries, all washed down with Kent wines, ciders and ales.
Now in its ninth year, the Broadstairs Food Festival will include celebrity chats, cookery workshops, children’s activities and more than 100 stalls. Set in Victoria Gardens, overlooking the sea, there will also be a pop-up restaurant, food trail and a cookery demonstration theatre.
Broadstairs is on the coast between Margate and Ramsgate. It’s reached by car via the M2 and A299. It has a well-connected train station, with trains from London Victoria and Charing Cross, as well as a high-speed train from St Pancras (around 85 minutes) and Ashford.
Sat nav: CT10 1QS
Postcard from Broadstairs
My name is Ben Crittenden and I opened Stark restaurant in Broadstairs with my wife Sophie in December 2016. Stark is a 12-cover restaurant where we offer a six-course menu with an optional matching wine flight. The menu changes pretty much weekly - some dishes daily, depending on availability - allowing us to use produce when it’s at its best. The idea is to offer the area something different to an already thriving dining scene in Broadstairs.
I’ve been working in restaurants since leaving school at 16. Completing an apprenticeship at Marchesi’s in Broadstairs (now closed), I then worked for Gary Rhodes in London for two years but the place I learnt the most - and which has the biggest influence on the food I cook at Stark - was working at Michelin-starred The West House in Biddenden. I spent six years working alongside chef patron Graham Garrett, so I’ve been pretty lucky to work in Kent’s best restaurant and we’re hoping to bring some of that to Broadstairs.
What I really love about Broadstairs is it’s always got such an amazing atmosphere here and I believe that’s because pretty much all the businesses are independently run so everyone helps each other out. There are some really good cafés popping up - You & Me down from us is really nice. There are also some really cool micro breweries and bars opening up like The Chapel, The Gap, The Thirty Nine Steps (not so micro anymore) and Houdini’s Magic Bar.
But what brings it all together is the amazing coastline and beaches that set Broadstairs above anywhere else in the county, country or even the world!