Broadstairs has so much to offer, from summer festivals and rock pools on the beach to the best ice cream parlour for miles - you certainly won't be bored
Broadstairs is my absolute favourite place in the world. You could say I’m biased, because I spent much of my childhood there, but I’m in good company: Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor between 1837 and 1859. He wrote some of David Copperfield when he stayed in Bleak House, which overlooks Viking Bay. They’re obviously pretty proud of him in town, as a festival is held in his honour every summer. Other famous visitors include Queen Caroline (her visit in 1802 was followed by an impressive roll-call of royalty), Bernard Shaw, George Eliot, Ted Heath and John Buchan. Buchan, of course, wrote The 39 Steps: those steps are in Broadstairs, coming up from one of the beaches.
There are loads of nice places to eat and drink, and it doesn’t seem so commercialised as some places I could mention. It’s also quite sheltered and so enjoys better weather than nearby resorts. In fact, because of its clear air and fair weather, Broadstairs has long been a place where patients have been sent to convalesce.
Steeped in history, the town has stacks to offer, with little flint houses, museums, sandy beaches (seven of them), rock pools, all kinds of shops, walks, gardens and events and festivals. The aforementioned Dickens Festival is held in June, Folk Week is in August, and there's a raft of other free events throughout the summer.
Guide to the beaches
The main bay, Viking Bay, boasts a small harbour and children’s amusements (swings and trampoline) on the beach, and when the tide is out, the rock pools are revealed. A walkway is built around these, making them a bit easier to get to. There are loos and refreshments, a first aid station, and access is either by steps, a lift, or you can walk right on at the harbour end. All in all, it's an ideal family beach. Remember the windy ‘woo-hoo’ Eon advert? That was filmed around Viking Bay.
Louisa Bay is a quiet little cove, which has chalets, rock pools and a café. It does have disabled access but this is via a rather steep ramp. Dumpton Gap has chalets, a promenade, toilet, café and a few rocks. Disabled access is via a steep slope (again). When the tide is out, and if you’re feeling energetic, you can walk round to Ramsgate from here. Kingsgate Bay is another quiet cove, which has caves to explore, chalets and a café.
Three of the beaches have Blue Flag Awards. Stone Bay has rock pools and a promenade, café, chalets, toilets and disabled access; and Botany Bay is a bit bigger than Louisa Bay, with a café, lifeguards, loos and disabled access. Joss Bay is the place to head if you want some fun – Joss Bay Surf School is based here, and you can hire kit as well as have lessons. The beach has disabled access, lifeguards, parking, deckchairs, café and toilets (including disabled loos, open from just before Easter until September). In the summer months, dogs are not allowed on any of the Blue Flag Beaches during the day.
Where to stay
If you want to stay in Broadstairs itself you’re probably looking at a B&B. These have all had rave reviews:
The Victoria: Wow! Surely you can’t beat this for location – it’s right on the seafront. Very popular, so if you want the front bedroom with the best view, book early. Winner of a Silver Award and rated four stars with Enjoy England. (23 Victoria Parade)
South Lodge: this is an o-l-d house – built in 1866 – but very comfy nonetheless. It’s situated a mere 10 minutes' walk from the station, about five minutes from the centre and six minutes from the beaches. The owners are very much ‘arty’ and you can see Christa’s paintings all over the house. Winner of a Silver Award, and graded four stars with Visit Britain. (19 The Vale)
Number 68: only 100 metres from the clifftops and five minutes from the centre, this is another place with glowing reviews. Again, this is graded four stars, and the winner of a Silver Award. (68 West Cliff Road)
Where to eat
Osteria Posillipo Pizzeria: a busy but brilliant Italian bistro on the cliff top, with a terrace overlooking the sea. Dishes include fresh seafood. It was rated one of the best in the UK by celebrity chef Antonio Carluccio. (14 Albion Street)
Broadstairs Tandoori: a plain but inexpensive Nepalese. (41 Albion Street)
Charles Dickens pub: on the cliff top, with sea views. Great pub food, including a range of Sunday roasts. (Victoria Parade)
Tartar Frigate: seafood restaurant above an old flint pub on the harbour. (Harbour Street)
Oscar Road cafe: tiny but highly-rated café. (15 Oscar Road)
Morelli's: if you’re after an ice cream, you can’t beat this original, classic Italian ice cream parlour, which makes its own ices, serves good coffee and now has a branch in Harrods. (14 Victoria Parade)
Where to drink
Neptunes Hall: a typical traditional pub, which serves Shepherd Neame real ales and has many original interior features. (1 Harbour Street)
Wrotham Arms: a good back-street boozer, selling Shepherd Neame ales with live music at weekends. It’s also a B+B, only a minute from Viking Bay. (9 Ramsgate Road)
How to get there
Yes, you can drive, but there are regular trains from London, and if you're near Edinburgh or Manchester then you can fly to Manston airport with FlyBe. Yay!