Places to visit in Kent
Known as the ‘Garden of England’, Kent lives up to its nickname through its lush, green countryside of hop farms, orchards, flower-filled villages and other rural backdrops. The county’s landscape is instantly recognisable thanks to the famous ‘oast houses’, a uniquely Kentish feature of conical roofs capped by a white vent to draw in air and dry the hops on the upper floors of barns and houses.
However, Kent is a county of two-faces. As well as the soft rural Kent of National Trust houses and quaint villages, there is also the coastal Kent of fortifications, majestic white cliffs and towns terrific for seaside fun. We have compiled this list of the best places to visit in Kent to help you experience both sides of the county, so make sure you don’t miss out on these Haven-approved destinations.
As scenic as it is significant, the small but historic university city of Canterbury is a treasure trove of culture. As the seat of the Church of England, Canterbury’s pride and joy is the world-renowned Norman and gothic cathedral. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was the scene of one of the pivotal moments in English medieval history: The murder of the Archbishop Thomas Beckett by supporters of King Henry II which caused Canterbury to become a medieval pilgrimage site.
There’s so much to captivate visitors in Canterbury, whether it’s the ruins of the castle and city walls, Roman mosaics or the impressive Westgate, the largest medieval city gate in England. We recommend exploring the town by taking a punt or river tour along the River Stour, which not only allows you to hear the history, secrets and backstories behind the sights, but also lets you to lie back and relax as you float serenely downstream.
Whitstable is a seaside town full of character and charm with an authentic old-fashioned atmosphere kept alive by its active fishing industry. In fact, fisherman have been harvesting oysters (the local specialty) in the area’s waters for two millennia. The shellfish are just as delicious now as they ever were, and the produce is honoured every July at the Whitstable Oyster Festival.
Anyone visiting Whitstable should make sure to take a stroll around the working fishing harbour and market and sit down to eat at one of the superb fish restaurants in the town. Even if seafood isn’t your thing, there’s plenty to keep you busy with pebble beaches on either side of the harbour, and the Old Neptune, a pub located directly on the beach itself. Whitstable is undoubtedly one of the most unique places to visit in Kent.
The gateway to Britain from continental Europe, Dover is a major port which connects the British mainland with France and Belgium. For those approaching from the water, the first thing that comes to greet you on the English Coast is the dramatic, sheer white cliff face, one of the most spectacular natural phenomena of the British Isles. Yet the cliffs are also wonderous when experienced on land, especially when taking the remarkable walking path along the grassy clifftops, a route that runs all the way Kingsdown eight miles away. On a clear day, you can see France from atop the cliffs as well as two shipwrecks and a beautiful species of blue butterfly fluttering about the meadows.
Dover also has its fair share of historical intrigue in the form of the 12th-century Dover Castle, the largest in England, a Roman Lighthouse that is one of England’s oldest buildings, and the 18th century artillery emplacements and secret WWII tunnels. All of this can be experienced on a day trip to the wonderful town that has inspired many patriotic poems and songs.
Medway is one of the most up and coming destinations in the South East, combining celebrated heritage with a rapidly emerging cultural scene. Taking its name from the magnificent river that flows through its heart, Medway is made up of three towns that each brings unique features including museums, cathedrals, galleries, festivals, beautiful riverside walks, and natural wonders.
Rochester is perhaps the most culturally rich section of Medway thanks to its castle with a 12th-century keep and towers that are some of the tallest in the country, remaining in great nick despite their great age. If history is your thing, then make sure you don’t miss out on Rochester Cathedral built in 604, the Historic Dockyard of Chatham which includes a climb-on-board Victorian Sloop and a WWII destroyer or Gillingham’s compelling Royal Engineers Museum and Fort Amherst, Britain's largest Napoleonic fortress.
There are also micro-breweries, a range of waterfront dining options, farmers markets, shopping centres and a range of charming contemporary shops to be found in Medway as well as an array of activities for kids such as escape rooms, a laser tag arena, trampoline parks, a JCB digger-themed adventure park and a range of water sports to try.
At the very edge of the Garden of England lies Margate ‘The Original Seaside Town’, waiting to welcome you. From traditional holiday-town charm and sandy beaches to world-class art galleries, a cool café culture and tempting retro shops, Margate is a real blend of traditional seaside and chic Bohemian culture. Highlights include the internationally acclaimed Turner Contemporary gallery, the Harbour Arm full of stylish spots to eat and drink, and Dreamland, the great British seaside amusement experience with historic rides, amusements, and eateries.
Plunge deeper into town and you will find the fascinating Tudor House, childhood toys at the Hornby Visitor Centre, and the mysterious Shell Grotto's subterranean passages. There’s plenty to do in Margate, undeniably one of the best places to visit in Kent.