A day trip to Herne Bay
- Credit: Love Herne Bay
When this time of year rolls around, our thoughts tend to drift towards the seaside. Follow us on a whistle-stop tour of one of our favourite coastal towns....
Less well-known than its more exuberant neighbours, Herne Bay has managed to retain the nostalgic charm of the British seaside resorts we all grew up with. With an impressive two miles of coastline, a shingle beach that appeals to young families, a pier and retro amusements, it’s unsurprisingly popular in the summer months, when it also fills up with water sports fans. A top destination for wind surfing and jet skiing, this is the place for an action-packed day out.
But if you’re here to just stroll along the seafront and soak up the atmosphere, you won’t be alone. Take in the sunken seafront gardens, iconic clock tower, refurbished pier and the colourful beach huts. If you’re here on the right summer’s day you might even catch a Punch & Judy show or live music on the bandstand.
Things to do
There’s much more to Herne Bay than the beach, but it’s a great place to start. Find a sandy spot and build a few sandcastles, paddle in the water and make the most of the summer sunshine. There’s plenty along the seafront to keep the whole family entertained. The recently restored pier used to be one of the longest in the UK but a section was broken off decades ago, leaving the unusual sight of the pier head now standing alone offshore. Following the demolition of the 1970s pavilion a few years ago, the new-look attraction has a helter-skelter on the end, along with lots of food and drinks stalls – including the brilliantly named Beer On The Pier. There’s a little retail village too, with beach huts selling all sorts of gifts, treats and homeware.
For genuine beach huts, head along the seafront towards Hampton Pier, where you can pose for photos in front of the row of traditional pastel-colours, or for the best view of the town, walk along the Neptune’s Arm harbour wall.
Just a few steps from the beach you’ll find the Herne Bay Seaside Museum, home to collections of everything from an old Punch and Judy set to postcards and photographs of the town’s past as a leading holiday destination. Run by the Herne Bay Museum Trust, it hosts an ever-changing programme of exhibitions and events.
Walk the coast
There’s nothing better than a long walk or a bike ride along this stretch of scenic coastline. It’s not very challenging and you can choose to head in the direction of Whitstable or Reculver. The payoff if you walk the five miles to Whitstable is the excellent shops and eateries – plus you’ll pass Tankerton’s pretty beach huts along the way. A walk in the other direction is a more sedate three miles and passes Beltinge Cliff and Bishopstone Cliffs nature reserve, where you can look out for wildlife including sand martins and skylarks. Eventually you’ll come to Reculver Country Park, with its clifftop paths, playpark and a visitor centre outlining the area’s history. Reculver Towers is the main attraction here – a striking pair of 12th-century church towers set right on the edge of a cliff, it’s probably one of the most photographed sights in Kent.
Visit the animals
Just a short drive from Herne Bay, in the village of Herne, the Wildwood Trust has been a key feature of this part of Kent since 1999. It’s set in 40 acres of woodland, which used to be the site of a small zoo. Now it’s a wildlife park and conservation charity, and it’s home to more than 200 native birds and animals – both species which live in the British Isles today and those which we sadly lost. So you can expect to see red squirrels, deer, foxes, badgers and owls, but also lynx, beavers, bison and a pack of wolves. There’s a fabulous adventure play park for children with zip wires, forts and a huge slide, and plenty of special events are held throughout the year. But the big attraction at Wildwood has to be the bear enclosure, where you can climb across it high inside a rope bridge to get an unrivalled view of rescued Eurasian brown bears, Fluff and Scruff.
Where to eat and drink
The options when it comes to eating out in this seaside are really good too, with everything from traditional fish and chips to a noodle bar. Check out the excellent A Casa Mia for Italian, A La Turka for Turkish, Sri Lankan food at The Bay Leaf Coffee House café, Toast café at Beach Creative, The Green Door Deli and the 1940’s style The Vintage Empire, among others. And for a drink or two, head to The Wine Bar, which also serves great food, the award-winning Four Fathoms micropub and The Firkin Frog. Don’t miss out on fish and chips on the seafront, from the likes of Kings Fish Bar or Shakey Shakey, or a proper seaside ice cream from Scoops or Makcari’s.
Sandwiched between Margate and Whitstable, and just a twenty-minute drive from Canterbury, this town has easy access to everything you could possibly need. In Herne Bay itself you’ll find the twin-screen Kavanagh Cinema and the King’s Hall – a popular venue for live music and entertainment. A town with a keen interest in the arts, there are plenty of events on the calendar. Try the annual Herne Bay Swing and Jazz Festival, usually held in August, the Herne Bay Cartoon Festival (July and August) and the Herne Bay Festival (31 July to 27 August), which culminates in a fireworks extravaganza. The refurbished bandstand holds music events throughout the summer season and you may even spot the odd Punch and Judy show.
Just off the M2, with direct trains from London Victoria taking around one hour and 25 minutes, it’s an easy place to get to for a quick weekend away. And if you’re thinking of a more permanent move, you’re not alone – it’s an up-and-coming property hotspot. Expect prices to start at around £150,000 for a one-bedroom flat and at £300,000 for a three-bed semi-detached house, with larger, detached homes currently on the market for up to £1.5 million