Make The Most Of The Sunshine
We don’t get much sunshine in the UK – not compared to other countries around the world, anyway. Last year, the UK averaged 1,493 hours of sunshine, which equated to around 62 days, so we need to make the most of every daytime hour of sun and get out and about a bit more. Here are some of our favourite places in Kent when it comes to enjoying your time outdoors.
If there’s one thing that Kent does well, it’s beaches. We have 350 miles of coastline, so there is sure to be something that suits you, no matter what your preference when it comes to sandy, rocky, or fossily places to enjoy the warm weather.
Botany Bay // Broadstairs
Botany Bay is so well loved and famous that people come from miles around to visit. And why wouldn’t they? With rock pools to explore and fossils to find, plus plenty of sand to play on when the tide is out, Botany Bay is a full family day out.
Joss Bay// Broadstairs
Joss Bay is a lovely sandy beach about 30 minutes’ walk from Broadstairs itself. There are chalk cliffs to explore and the swimming is safe due to the shallowness of the bay. In July to September, when it is particularly popular, there is even a lifeguard on duty for added safety. Surfers love Joss Bay and there is a surf school here should you want to try it out. Nearby you’ll find shops, cafés and lots of coastal walks.
Viking Bay // Broadstairs
Viking Bay was the 2015 Seaside Award winner, which shows just how lovely this particular Broadstairs beach really is. It’s a gorgeous spot for family days out thanks to the tidal pool which makes keeping an eye on the little ones a much easier task. There are two different ends to Viking Bay; one where you can enjoy a traditional day out at the seaside with swimming and playing in the sand and the other where you can indulge in more adrenalin-inducing activities such as surfing and belly boarding.
Dymchurch Beach // Dymchurch
Dymchurch Beach is a mixture of sand and shingle that sweeps across the coastline and offers a great deal of seaside charm. The beach – a Blue Flag award winner – runs from Dungeness to Hythe, and its wide expanse is popular with everyone from kite surfers to sand castle builders. Dymchurch itself has an amusement park as well as cafés and a comfortable pub, so you can spend the whole day here (perhaps with a trip on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway too).
Minnis Bay // Birchington
Minnis Bay is a secluded little place that offers separate areas for those who want to swim and those who prefer to try their hand at water sports. Children are well catered for with a play area and lots of sand for running about on. There is a lifeguard on duty during busy periods and if you want to step away from the beach for a moment, the coastal cycle and walking routes make for a nice change.
Sunny Sands // Folkestone
You can already get a pretty good idea of how enjoyable this Folkestone beach can be thanks to its name, but add to this delightful description Folkestone’s plethora of shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants – and of course the happenin’ Harbour Arm – and you’ve got the ideal day out. This beach is well known for being one of the best around to make sandcastles on (there is even an annual sandcastle competition), and since it is one of the closest sandy beaches to London, it does get busy so if you want to bag a good spot, you’ll want to get there early.
Margate Main Sands // Margate
When you think of a traditional Kentish (or even British) seaside, Margate Main Sands is probably the one that pops into your head, even if you don’t know it. This massive curve of golden sand, backed by restaurants, bars and shops selling beach-friendly toys is both beautiful and fun. The added benefit of the amusements, children’s rides and the opportunity to go surfing makes this a superb choice for a family day out.
Deal Beach // Deal
Dean is a long, pebbly beach with a pier that dates back to the 1950s (the pier itself is where you can find a great little café as well as fishing decks if that’s your thing). Although perhaps not the best spot for sunbathing due to the stones, it is a gorgeous place to go for a stroll. At one end lies the fabulous Deal Castle (cared for by English Heritage) and at the other you’ll find Walmer Castle (another English Heritage property). In between you can spot drawn up fishing boats resting quietly, and of course, skimming stones always has a certain appeal.
Minster Leas // Minster-on-Sea
Unlike its bigger cousins in Leysdown and Sheerness, the Minster Leas on the Isle of Sheppey is a much quieter, more relaxing kind of place. There is a small café selling ice creams and hot and cold drinks, as well as some pubs where the food is as good as the view. When the tide is out you might even be able to spot the SS Montgomery – a ship that sunk during World War II – poking out of the sea, and on a clear day you can spot the amusements in Southend.
Sandwich Bay // Sandwich
Sandwich Bay is a long beach and a sandy one too, and if it’s just beach you want, this is the spot to go to as the amenities are a little further away. That does mean that you can often find a nice, private spot even on the sunniest of summer days, and for some that is exactly what they are looking for. For added bonus adventures there is the Pegwell Bay Nature Reserve that backs onto the beach, but watch out for the north end of the beach since this is often used by naturists.
Dover Harbour Beach // Dover
Dover Harbour Beach is a great spot to sit and watch the world go by, or to take part in water sports and other fun and more energetic activities – there is everything here. The beach is shingle, and it is sheltered by the harbour walls keeping it free from too much of a breeze. Your view is out over the port where you can watch the ships go in and out, and of course you can also get a great look at the famous white cliffs and even up to Dover Castle. There is plenty of parking here as well as cafés and restaurants.
Hythe Beach // Hythe
The pebble beach at Hythe is such a pretty spot for a stroll or to sit and enjoy some real relaxation time. If you’d prefer not to walk along the stones, the Victorian promenade is an ideal alternative, offering a good wide lane for cyclists and joggers as well as those wanting to go a little more slowly.
Dumpton Gap // Broadstairs
Dumpton Gap is another lovely Broadstairs’ beach, although it is perhaps a little less known than the others. It is sandy, quiet and surrounded by a stone promenade on three sides. You can even hire a beach hut to really get a taste of what a day at the beach used to be like (and could be like again). Dogs are allowed here all year round, so if you have a pet and don’t want to leave them at home, Dumpton Gap will be the best place to go. Enjoy a picnic lunch or buy something at the beach café. You might even want to attempt the walk to Ramsgate, which is possible when the tide is out.
Tankerton Beach // Whitstable
Tankerton is a Blue Flag award winning shingle beach with grassland behind it that the kids love to play on. When the tide is out a natural causeway known as ‘The Street’ is revealed, and a trip along that will offer you the opportunity to explore some exceptional rockpools.
West Bay Beach // Westgate-on-Sea
West Bay Beach is also called St Mildred’s, but whatever you prefer to refer to it by, this sandy and pebbly beach is a real treasure trove for children and adults alike. There are loads of rockpools and the sea is perfectly safe to paddle in since there are lifeguards on duty during the summer season. Toilets, cafés, toy shops and souvenir shops are all nearby, so all you need to do is turn up and find your spot on the beach to begin enjoying your day out; everything you could want is there for you.
Going out to a park for the day is a fantastic idea. You can be as active or as relaxed as you like, and if you’re going with children they can run around and have fun either exploring the parkland, playing on climbing equipment, or in some cases following specially marked trails. When the sun is out, the park is the place to go.
Betteshanger Park // Deal
Betteshanger Park is a whole day out adventure in the sunshine, and with 250 acres to explore, there is always going to be something fun to enjoy. As well as the chance to simply get out in the fresh air and see what you can spot in terms of wildlife (there is a lot of it here in this regenerated parkland), there are also other activities to take part in including geocaching, archery, birds of prey events, obstacle courses and orienteering. Some activities are available all year round and some are only there for special occasions and during school holidays, but no matter when you go you can always guarantee to discover something new.
Bewl Water // Lamberhurst
Bewl Water is surrounded by an astonishing 800 acres of High Weald wonder so there is no chance you can go there and see (or do) the same thing, even if you visit multiple times which is what people tend to do. Boat trips, fishing, gentle strolls around the reservoir and into the woodland beyond are all part of a day out there. As well as that, you might like to attempt the 12.5-mile Bewl Water walk (which doesn’t have to be walked, but can be run, jogged, or cycled too) which takes you all around the edge of the water. The Boat House Bistro will see to your hunger pangs, and then you can head off again to try more things such as the adventure playground, a trip on the Bewl Belle, the row boats, canoeing or pedalos!
Folkestone Lower Leas Coastal Park // Folkestone
The Lower Leas Coastal Park is set out in lots of different levels, terrains and landscapes to make exploring it all the more exciting. On top of that, there are three distinct areas: The Wild Zone, The Fun Zone and The Formal Zone. The Wild Zone has been allowed to grow more naturally, so if you want to collect leaves and go minibeast hunting, this is the area to head to. The Fun Zone is where the adventure playground is, and it is an impressive place indeed. Climbing walls, zip lines, slides of all types, a shipwreck climbing frame, rocking boats and the list goes on. This is the largest free adventure playground in the South East, so it’s entirely possible you’ll stay in this spot all day if you have kids who love to run around. The Formal Zone is more landscaped, and this is where the lovely blooms can be spotted. With a café and cycle routes too, this is a great day out.
Pegwell Bay // Ramsgate
Pegwell Bay is a tranquil spot that offers beautiful views across to Ramsgate and Deal. The views are one reason to visit, but the relaxing feeling you get from being this close to nature, the play area and the picnic spot all help to make this a wonderful place to visit. The Nature Reserve itself is a haven for gorgeous wild flowers in the summer (including orchids) and wading birds in the winter (such as dunlin and grey plover).
Knole Park // Sevenoaks
You may have visited Knole before, the one-time country residence of Henry VIII and Vita Sackville-West, but have you ever explored the surrounding parkland? Knole Park in the heart of Sevenoaks consists of 1,000 acres of stunning countryside. A golf course runs through it, but there is so much space that you don’t have to come into contact with the golfers if you prefer to stay away. It’s the wild deer that really have an appeal, and they are perhaps what Knole Park is most famous for.
Shorne Woods Country Park // Shorne
Just outside of Gravesend is the magnificent Shorne Woods Country Park. This is a quiet, peaceful little haven that is fun for all. The site includes the eco-friendly visitor centre and café, a sensory garden, orienteering, fishing lakes, a trim trail and picnic and play areas – not to mention 292 acres of rolling woodlands, wetlands and meadows that can be explored via a variety of waymarked trails.
Trosley Park // Vigo
The little village of Vigo near Meopham has a lot going for it. One of those things is that, right at the far end, you can find Trosley Park. Trosley Park covers 170 acres of beautiful woodland and chalk downland on the North Downs and provides some spectacular views. There are three waymarked trails – the Downland Trail is very steep in parts, while the Woodland Walk is much gentler. The Trosley Trail is an easy access route suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. All provide spectacular views over the downs. There’s also an outdoor trim trail should the steep paths not prove tough enough.
Swanley Park // Swanley
There’s a lot to do at Swanley Park which, although found in the centre of Swanley, is a safe and quiet space to play. Younger children will love the tiny railway, the bouncy castle, the paddling pool, play areas and sandpits. For older children and adults there is a boating lake and gardens (including a spectacular wild flower garden) to explore. The café does a range of hot and cold food, and depending on what day you decide to visit there might be other activities going on as well including concerts, model yachting competitions, the circus and running races.
Mote Park // Maidstone
Mote Park covers 450 acres, and 30 acres of that is the spectacular lake that makes for the ideal centrepiece to walk around. Mature trees, wildlife, play areas, a BMX track, Segways, model boats and railway and a café mean that coming here is a lot of fun every time.
White Horse Wood Country Park // Detling
White Horse Wood is set within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and offers beautiful countryside, local history and panoramic views. This is another park just off a busy road (the A249 at Detling), and yet once you enter the park itself and begin to walk away from it all, the outside world simply disappears. Walk far enough and you’ll come across the medieval ruins of Thurnham Castle. You might even spot the clues that suggest an Iron Age settlement was once in this area.
Haysden Country Park // Tonbridge
There is always something to do at Haysden Country Park because of the two lakes, 65 hectares of space, the stretch of the River Medway that runs through the park, the nature trail and the historical trail and the designated cycle route that takes you from Tonbridge Castle to Penshurst Place. It’s the events that really make this park special though, including building bug houses, fishing competitions, walking, triathlon training and pond dipping.
Sometimes a bit of action and a bit of (maybe sneaky) education is what is called for on a sunny day out in Kent. Never fear, there are dozens of places to visit when you don’t want to be cooped up indoors all the time. Here are just a few suggestions for you to try out.
Port Lympe // Lympne
90 species and over 760 different animals, and you’ve got an African safari in Kent. It’s really quite spectacular, and whether you choose to walk around or jump into the Jeep, you will get a great view of anything you’re there to see. Of course, there are children’s play areas for when they need to run off a bit of steam and some great places to eat too. If you really want to make the most of your time at Port Lympne, you can choose to stay overnight in one of the special safari lodges – you might even get to feed some of the animals too.
Leeds Castle // Maidstone
Leeds Castle has been called ‘the loveliest castle in the world’ and as you walk from the entrance to the site itself, you can’t fail to be impressed. It really is lovely, and that’s inside and out. Visiting Leeds Castle isn’t just about the building though, as special as it is – the maze is certainly a highlight (as is the grotto you can only visit by getting to the end of it), and if you catch the birds of prey events while you’re visiting you’ll love it even more. For those who need to rest their tired legs, the land train will take you to and from the castle for a small fee.
Kent Life // Sandling
Kent Life is a fairly small but perfectly formed farm near to Maidstone. It’s a hop away from the M20, making it a breeze to get to, but the country feel you get when you’re there makes it feel like a million miles away from the rest of the world. There are plenty of animals to see, some of which you can hold in Cuddle Corner, as well as an adventure playground, indoor soft play, lovely tea room and paint a pot activities.
Dover Sea Safari // Dover
Jump aboard one of the various Dover Sea Safari trips and be in for an adventure. You can choose from the White Cliffs & Beyond trip, Secret Seals, Maunsell Forts, or the Goodwin Sands & Seals trip, and each one comes with a full itinerary, a knowledgeable skipper and lots to see and do. Make sure you bring your camera to snap some shots of this once in a lifetime adventure.
Historic Dockyard // Chatham
Once a real working dockyard, the History Dockyard Chatham is now home to many different ships, boats and even a submarine that visitors can explore. There are special events taking place throughout the year, and for drama fans you can even visit the set of the BBC’s Call The Midwife.
Kent Surf School // Broadstairs
This award-winning surf school based in beautiful Broadstairs offers surfing lessons and other water activities whilst promoting water safety and an appreciation of nature. Join in with a pre-arranged class or speak to the experts to determine which aspects you need to know more about, and they will try to create a bespoke training time just for you.
Rare Breeds Centre // Ashford
There is a huge amount to do and enjoy at the Rare Breeds Centre. Start with the cute farm animals and work your way through birds of prey, play areas, soft play, trailer rides, the butterfly tunnel, woodland walks, creepy crawly world and an excellent restaurant to re-energise in afterwards!
Bedgebury National Pinetum // Goudhurst
Bedgebury National Pinetum is all about peace and tranquillity so a day out here is always going to be something to remember for all the right reasons. Look out for the many birds and butterflies that live in the area and make sure you take a walk off the beaten track to discover the hidden secrets that Bedgebury has to offer. There is even a treasure hunt to follow if you’re feeling more adventurous.
Kentish Lady River Tours // Maidstone
The Kentish Lady River Tours take you up and down the River Medway into Maidstone. It’s a great way to see the town (and the route into it) from a different perspective. You can combine this boat tour with a trip to Kent Life (the dock is walking distance from the farm) or Allington Castle, buying a ticket that offers you the boat ride along with a guided tour of the historic site. There are one-hour trips and three-hour cruises (which include a meal) to choose from.
Wildwood Trust // Herne Bay
The Wildwood Trust is an animal park in Herne Bay that focuses in native British wildlife. This is the place where you can see bears, wolves, Arctic foxes, bison, deer, owls, foxes, red squirrels, wild boar, lynx, wild horses, badgers and beavers to name just some of the 200 different animals that live here. As well as the animals, this is where you can find Kent’s biggest drop slide in the adventure playground!
The Crab and Winkle Way // Whitstable
If you really want to explore Kent on a lovely sunny day then the Crab and Winkle Way will help you do just that. It’s a lovely walking (or cycling) route that runs for seven almost traffic-free miles from Whitstable to Canterbury (or, as the literature puts it, from oysters to cloisters).
Penshurst Place // Tonbridge
Penshurst Place is a 14th-century manor house that offers a fascinating and often surprising insight into how we used to live. Set in the most magnificent of gardens that includes formal landscaping and a wild nature trail, not to mention the fabulous wooden play area, this is a day out that can easily be enjoyed in the sun. Don’t forget to visit the lovely toy museum on site too!
Groombridge Place // Tonbridge
Groombridge Place opened to the public in 1994 (it was previously solely a private residence) and since then it has grown to become one of the best loved attractions in Kent. There is always something different happening here including outdoor performances and lots of themed events. The main attraction has to be the Enchanted Forest where children can play to their hearts’ content in totally natural and safe surroundings, discovering nature as they do. If you have a head for heights don’t miss out on the treetop walkway, the highest of its kind in the country (it’s 20 metres up).
The Hop Farm // Paddock Wood
Oast houses are an important symbol of Kent, and at The Hop Farm in Paddock Wood you can see the largest collection in the world. This is where families used to journey to from London in order to spend their summers picking the hops, but you don’t have to do any back-breaking work when you visit in the sunshine; instead you can have lots of fun on the giant jumping pillows, playing Combat Laser Quest, watching live magic shows and movies in the 4D theatre and seeing all the animals too.
Kent & East Sussex Railway // Tenterden
The Kent & East Sussex Railway (KESR) runs from Tenterden to Bodiam (where you can hop off and explore the National Trust castle there) with stops at Rolvenden, Wittersham and Northiam on the way. The chance to ride in a real steam train or diesel engine (there are different timetables for each one and if you time things well you can travel out on one train and back on another) is always exciting, and the ones at the KESR are lovely examples. Watch out for special days such as the Day Out With Thomas and the Pullman fish and chip suppers too.
Dreamland // Margate
Dreamland is the kind of amusement park that Kent was crying out for after it closed in 2003. With no one else coming to provide the much missed entertainment, it was down to Dreamland itself to re-vitalise itself and re-open, which it did on 19th June 2015. Since then, more and more rides have been added and the famous Scenic Railway has been brought back to its former glory.
Eagle Heights // Eynsford
Eagle Heights is a place where you can see some of the most amazing animals in the world including snowy owls, huskies and different birds of prey. This is one of the UK’s largest bird of prey centres, so if you love to watch majestic eagles, hawks and similar birds soaring, a visit to Eagle Heights has to be on your to do list.
Chiddingstone Castle // Edenbridge
Chiddingstone Castle is actually a Grade II listed historic house which was built (or rather, re-built) during Victorian times. The site itself, however, does have Tudor origins, so perhaps ‘castle’ is the right word after all. The house is set in 35 magnificent acres of Kentish countryside and inside you will find a huge assortment of items collected by former owner Denys Eyre Bower over his lifetime. It’s a fun place to visit just for this, but there are also plenty of other events that take place here across the year, so if you are looking for something in particular, you may find it here.
Riverhill Himalayan Gardens // Sevenoaks
This perfect Kentish garden is full of the unusual. From exceptional British sculpture to den building exercises, secret pathways and even a real live yeti, you and the children can learn a huge amount in just one trip here. There is a café on site where you can have a hot lunch or afternoon tea (ingredients for everything are locally sourced where possible) and if you want to visit the café without going to the garden itself, you can enter free of charge.