Things to do in Dover
Dover boasts perhaps the most beautiful and certainly the most iconic coastline in Britain. However, the town is also home to numerous attractions, mostly historic and cultural in nature, to add to its natural wonders.
Throughout the 20th-century, the White Cliffs of Dover became a symbol of hope and freedom, having been used for defence in both World Wars. The town is now perhaps best known as one of Europe’s busiest international ferry ports and the nearest port to France in the UK. While some might simply pass through the town on their way to other destinations in Kent and London, that would be to miss out on the many things to do in Dover itself. There’s more than enough for a full day out at Dover, so while it may be over an hour’s drive from our Kent Coast Holiday Park, it’s well worth it! Check out our list of the best things to do in Dover for more inspiration.
Stride along the White Cliffs of Dover
There are few greater sights than the beaming White Cliffs of Dover. The cliffs stretch for eight miles along both sides of the town, with a visitor's section purchased by the National Trust in 2016. The views from here are panoramic, magnificently encompassing the scale of the English Channel, with France’s northern coastline easily visible on a clear day. In the foreground, you’ll see the bustling Port of Dover, constantly ferrying people back and forth across this historic waterway.
You can park steps away, making this a great place for a picnic in the sun. You can tie in a walk along the cliffs with a visit to historic Dover Castle, also perched high up. Look out for helicopters too, with the coastguard’s helipad slightly raised above the walkway. As you explore, take in the symbolic value of a structure that for many represented freedoms during the darkest of times in the Second World War.
Explore Dover Castle
If the White Cliffs are Dover’s natural wonder, then the castle is its man-made one. The most impressive landmark in the town has now been commanding the gateway into the country for nine centuries since the reign of King Henry II. The fortress was originally built to conceal a weak point in the country’s defences and show off its power. Indeed, it’s no less impressive today and is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Dover.
With historic highlights such as the secret wartime tunnels, its vast labyrinth interior and interesting facts relating to the Romans and the Cold War, it’s a great place to explore and learn more of Dover’s heritage. When you step inside this vivid medieval palace you can enjoy first-hand what it would have been like to take a seat on the king’s throne and meet characters from Henry II’s court. On summer weekends be sure to see the gun firing drills and explore the Battlements Walk in the sunshine, with wonderful views out towards The Channel.
Try your hand at kayaking on Dover Beach
Dover Beach is a scenic stretch of pebbly beach tucked between the dominant White Cliffs of Dover. The beach is surrounded by harbours which are a year-round hive of activity. Tourists and locals alike join to enjoy the fresh sea air, fantastic views of the ferries and cruise ships coming and going, and water sports. There are also various vendors of refreshments, including seafood stalls and a range of excellent, competitively priced restaurants.
We recommend strolling along the esplanade to take in the view of Dover Castle up on the cliffs. On a clear day, the distant shoreline of France may even be visible. The beach and waters are surprisingly clean given their popularity and there’s plenty to do with swimming, body boarding and kayak hire all possibilities on fine weather days. For those with an interest in the lifeboats, there is also the RNLI station with their Severn class on display in the dock.
Discover maritime history at Dover Museum
Dover is famed as one of the most important ports in British history and this rich seafaring heritage is brought into light at the Dover Museum. The museum’s informative displays document the history of the local area with plenty of interesting or curious objects, left over from Roman, Saxon, and Tudor times, as well as those from the Second World War.
Immerse yourself in Dover’s past millennia with six scale models charting the town’s development, from its humble beginnings as a Stone Age farming community to its current form. Perhaps the centrepiece of the whole museum is the bronze age boat, discovered in September 1992, that’s thought to be some 3,500 years old. This is a must for all those with an interest in the history of maritime.
Discover the 1,800-year-old time capsule of the Roman Painted House
Built around 200 AD, the Roman Painted House of Dover once formed part of a large mansion used as accommodation by those braving the Channel crossing. This is probably the best-preserved Roman House in England, comprising some 50 individual structures and more still could be uncovered in the.
The house takes its name from its frescoes, including several unique painted walls, which are supposed to be the most extensive Roman paintings discovered north of the Alps. In total, 400 square feet of frescoes have survived the centuries with motifs relating to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, as well as an elaborate under-floor heating system. As well as the many displays, there is a garden area available for you to use as a picnic spot.
Discover early 20th-century travel at Dover Transport Museum
The only transport museum in Kent is found in a charming building in Dover’s suburb of Whitfield. This one-of-a-kind museum has entertainment for kids and parents alike and is run by a team of friendly and knowledgeable volunteers.
Entering the building is like stepping into another era, as you are met by a 1924 Aveling & Porter steam roller, a 1929 Dennis GL charabanc (motorised precursor to a bus) and a curvy AEC Reliance coach dating from the late-50s. There are also more unusual pieces such as a genuine Romany wagon from around 1930, in addition to a collection of vintage cars. As with most attractions in Dover, the Transport Museum also nods to the World Wars with its exhibition showing off a prefab Anderson Shelter, which is fascinating and educational for kids studying war era Britain at school. The museum is open Wednesdays, weekends and bank holidays in summer, and only on Sundays in winter, so be sure to time your visit right.
Learn about the history of radio at South Foreland Lighthouse
If the actual Dover Castle didn’t fully satisfy you then the castle-like South Foreland Lighthouse is sure to. First lit in 1843, this whitewashed Victorian building near St Margaret’s Bay is now a National Trust monument.
However, South Foreland Lighthouse is more than just a pretty façade - in 1859 the lighthouse became the first in the world to use an electric light. Later, the tower was used as a radio station, receiving the first ever ship-to-shore message in 1898, and international transmission across the channel in 1899. While the light was turned off in 1988, you can head inside to learn about the building’s scientific heritage, as well as the Knott family, a long line of keepers who operated this signal. If you are in Dover and want a good walk along the White Cliffs, this makes for the perfect final stop on your journey.
How to get to Dover from us
The iconic coastal location of Dover is around a 60-mile drive from our Kent Coast Holiday Park. As a result, it will require a little time on the road to get there, but it’s well worth the drive to see the spectacular sites listed above. Here’s how to get there:
Heading west out of Kent Coast, take 2 right turns to get onto Avery Way
Get on the M2 in Kent via the Ratcliffe Highway, A228 and A289
Follow the M2 and A2 to Whitfield Hill/A256 in Whitfield for about 45 miles
At Whitfield Roundabout, take the 4th exit onto Whitfield Hill/A256
Follow the A256 to your destination in Dover (about 3 miles)