Best wildlife and nature reserves in Kent
Kent isn't called 'The Garden of England' for nothing. This south-eastern county’s rolling green hills and beautiful scenery are more than a match for its ancient buildings and historic sites.
The wonderful nature reserves in Kent are the pinnacle of its natural charm. Overflowing with flora and fauna and boasting miles of footpaths and cycle trails, these protected areas are popular with both tourists and residents alike. Whether you’re in search of blissful peace and a sense of wilderness, a chance to capture those family memories, or to go wildlife spotting, Kent’s nature reserves are the place to do it. We’ve compiled this list of the top places to experience wildlife in Kent, to save you time trawling online for your options. So, all that’s left for you to do is get a sturdy pair of shoes on, dust off the binoculars and step through the garden gate to discover Kent’s hidden gems for yourself.
Elmley National Nature Reserve, Isle of Sheppey
Elmley is an estate and nature reserve based on an island in the Thames. The vast area is made up of 3,300 acres of glorious wilderness, soul-stirring skies and breath-taking wildlife that provide a truly inspirational escape. You can use their cars as a hide and enjoy excellent opportunities to spot hares, lapwing, redshank, merlin, marsh harrier and more.
The entrance contribution to Elmley is just a few pounds per car, but please note that dogs are not allowed on the reserve (except registered assistance dogs). Be sure to check out The Cowshed Cafe which is open for drinks and light lunches on Wednesdays to Sundays from 9:30am until 3:30pm.
Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, Sevenoaks
Renowned as a birdwatching haven, Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve has so much in its locker. It’s home to serene lakes, beautiful woodland and marshes, a wonderful visitor centre and elemental gardens made up of two distinct parts: the Butterfly Memorial Garden and the Wild Area. Repurposed for conservation from a former quarry, this pioneering nature reserve covers 73 hectares and comprises five lakes surrounded by woodland. It is a great site for watching dragonflies and damselflies and also has a diverse community of plants, fungi, and some of the best night-time wildlife in Kent including bats and glow-worms.
The nature reserve remains open daily dawn till dusk, though the visitor centre is open 10am – 4pm, seven days a week from 1st April. Be sure to make the trip to the visitor centre as it hosts displays and exhibitions at the museum, meaning it is very popular with children of all ages, especially those with a passion for nature. There’s also a charming shop and tea bar, which makes it a great place to spend a day out with the whole family. Parking will set you back just a few quid throughout the week, so it’s not only an educational day out, but a cheap one too!
Cooling Marsh Nature Reserve, near Cooling
Cooling Marsh Nature Reserve is a few miles west of Kent Coast Holiday Park on the Isle of Grain. A spectacularly scenic and serene place, you're likely to have 10 times more sheep than people for company. The views here are contrasting and endearing, with the Kent countryside showcasing all its glory inland with fields full of animals that can inhabit this untouched paradise. Across the estuary, you'll spot the imposing Thames Gateway Port, a massive hive of activity that hosts loads of ships delivering goods for London and beyond. Nevertheless, the atmosphere here is one of a fresh sea breeze and lush countryside, allowing you to truly escape the hustle and bustle on an outing that's handily accessible from our Kent holiday park.
Oare Marshes Nature Reserve, near Oare
The Oare Marshes Nature Reserve is a coastal landscape of desolate beauty and an absolute must visit. The area consists of a variety of terrain including grazing marsh (one of a few left in Kent), reedbed, open water scrapes, saltmarsh, and seawall. These habitats support a dizzying potential for bird species throughout the seasons and is of international importance for migratory, overwintering and breeding wetland birds. With the right timing you can expect to find species such as barn owls, marsh harriers, avocets, and some rare American waders.
Oare Marshes Nature Reserve is accessed via a narrow road leading from the town of Faversham. Be sure to leave in good time as the car park is quite small (about 10 cars) and can fill up on weekends. The money for the car park goes towards the reserve so you know your contribution is going to a good cause.
RSPB Cliffe Pools, near Cliffe
Located on the north-western coast of the Hoo Peninsula and just a half hour drive from our Kent Coast Holiday Park, Cliffe Pools is a beautiful landscape of stunning wetland and open horizons. This RSPB run site is the ideal destination for long summer walks thanks to several trails of varying lengths that give spectacular views of the ever-present River Thames. We recommend taking the coast path which gives plenty of opportunities for a spot of birdwatching on the marshes and passes a derelict explosives factory, and other magnificent industrial heritage.
For visitors to the nature reserve, there is a free car park at the end of Salt Lane which is open daily from 10am-4pm - just follow the signs for the RSPB Cliffe Pools. There’s also a great village pub in Cliffe named “Six Bells”, for those in need of refreshment after a roam around the marshes. The reserve also welcomes responsible dog owners, so it’s a great place to take the pooch, but bear in mind that you are sharing this nature reserve with very rare ground-nesting birds.
Dungeness National Nature Reserve, Dungeness
Dungeness is a unique and strange setting with a landscape reminiscent of science fiction films. The atmosphere is totally unique and even just the walk from the car park to the power station is an unforgettable experience. We recommend walking the two-mile circular trail around the reserve which lies in the shadow of a nuclear power station and is dotted with the scenic remains of old fishing boats. The area is understandably popular for photo shoots and photographers, so you’ll be sure to get a great snap or two.
The Dungeness National Nature Reserve is also teeming with wildlife and has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There are friendly RSPB staff on hand, as well as scenic lookout places and hides. The Reserve is open daily (excluding December 25 and 26) from 9am - 9pm and there is also a visitor centre which is open 10am - 5pm (4pm November - February). Parking is free of charge and there is a lovely pub and fresh fish shack for you to enjoy some local produce before you head back!