The enchanting Isle of Thanet
The summer holidays are just around the corner, and where better to spend them than on the exciting and enchanting Isle of Thanet? There are all sorts of new things to see and do in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, and plenty to keep everyone entertained throughout the warmer weeks ahead.
Thanet has much more going for it than you may think. Londoners have been escaping here from the hustle and bustle of city life for over 200 years. Back then it was their chosen destination for a relaxing break beside the sea, and not much has changed now except that visitors are now privy to a fantastic expansion of activities, amusements and wonderful food and drink across the area. The atmosphere is laid back, the beaches are beautiful, the sea air is fresh, and as for those romantic Turner skies…Turner himself remarked that “the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe…”, and you’d still be hard pressed to find an equivalent anywhere abroad, let alone the UK. It’s no wonder they’re so famous.
Perhaps the ultimate UK destination for families, Thanet is jam packed with opportunities to engage and delight curious little minds. From leisurely walking and traffic-free cycling along the 32-mile Viking Coastal Trail, to scuba diving and sea safari for more adventurous junior explorers, there is an activity on offer to suit every family member regardless of age or physical ability. And, when relaxation calls, there are 15 sandy beaches to choose from on which to simply sit back and soak up the glorious atmosphere.
Thanet for Families
Thanet is the perfect place for families to enjoy some time together, with lots going on throughout the year, and especially over the summer. Why not try some of these great activities?
- Easy Sunday Family Workshops at Turner Contemporary // 16 & 30 Jul
These family workshops are great fun, allowing some true creativity to emerge. There are two workshops: Plaster of Paradise and Skilful Sculpturists. In the first, you can create patterns and shapes in sand to cast in plaster and uncover it like a fossil to keep forever. In the second, you can create your own 3D masterpiece using everyday materials.
1pm to 4pm, price £4.50
- Folk Week // 11-18 July
Folk Week is always a great time of enjoyment in Thanet, and because there are always fantastic children’s activities to join in with, there is never a dull moment, even for the smallest member of the family. Activities include family Ceilidh at the Pavilion every lunchtime, circus skills workshops, games with Wonda the Modern Day Mermaid, magic shows with Mr Trix and much more.
- The First Hippo on the Moon at The Theatre Royal // 23 July
Based on the number one best selling book by David Walliams, this delightful children’s show performed by Les Petits Theatre Company is funny, clever, and memorable too.
- Milkshake Live at Margate Winter Gardens // 15 July
Starring Milkshake favourites Bob the Builder, Little Princess, Noddy, Fireman Sam, Shimmer & Shine, Pip from Pip Ahoy!, Winnie and Wilbur, Wissper, Milkshake’s very own Milkshake Monkey and two Milkshake! presenters, this all singing, all dancing, musical masterpiece, will take audiences on a journey through the world’s favourite fairy tales.
Thanet For Everyone
Thanet’s three main resorts – Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate – each have their own personality and style, and each of them hark back to Georgian and Victorian times when their true worth was first discovered. The striking 18th- and 19th-century architecture in all three resorts suggests a vintage feel, but with an undeniable element of kitsch and cool too. This blend of retro tradition and modern development is what’s needed to keep an area alive and thriving and it certainly works for Thanet, which is characterised by a wide range of exceptional and independent places to shop, eat, drink and stay – each with their own spin on their cultural and social surroundings.
The chalk cliffs – at 19 miles, the longest continual stretch of chalk cliffs in the country no less – that edge the Isle of Thanet (which is a misnomer, actually, as the ‘isle’ its moniker suggests has been part of the mainland since the 17th century) offer up a string of secluded, sandy bays that are completely unspoilt and allow for some great walking, cycling and exploration. The rockpools and the rare chalk reefs are teeming with wildlife, plus these are the best and the closest surfing beaches to London, so if catching the waves is your bag, you need look no further.
So we know that nature lovers and watersports enthusiasts can find something to do in Thanet – wake boarding, jet skiing, scuba diving and waterskiing to name but four – but what about those who are more interested in the arts? Unsurprisingly, the area’s culture quotient is rising as fast as its other attractive perks. Margate’s arts scene was put firmly on the map by Tracey Emin, who grew up there and who credits the area for inspiring many of her major works; J.M.W. Turner we know adored Thanet’s mesmerising skies; and Charles Dickens had a decades-long connection with Broadstairs, and is celebrated there at the Dickens House Museum, which is housed in a cottage that’s noted as the author’s inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. There is something very special about this thought-provoking peninsula that inspires artists, musicians and authors alike – the Turner Contemporary has put Thanet firmly on the world’s art map; Margate’s Theatre Royal is the country’s second-oldest theatre with an acclaimed stage that welcomes productions from all over the world; and Broadstairs Folk Week, held every August, is a musical extravaganza of both local and international acts.
There is history here too. Thanet is where it all began – the first Saxons, Hengist and Horsa, chose this spot to settle in, and from there the rest of history unfolds itself, story following story. This is also where St Augustine first stepped foot in Britain, bringing Christianity with him from Rome.
Thanet was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, fast becoming the place to be; a haven away from the smoke and smog of London. Today however, thanks to a huge regeneration of culture, cuisine and charm, not to mention those glorious Blue Flag beaches, a quirky dose of kitsch, and increasing numbers of high-speed routes out of the capital, Thanet’s pull is now spreading further and a whole new generation of seaside lovers are being lured by its irresistible sense of cool.
Facts About Thanet
There is so much to say about the Isle of Thanet – so much to do, to see, and to experience. Here are just some of the fascinating facts that belong to our special little peninsula:
- The Thanet coastline, that wraps around Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, is 19-miles long.
- That 19 miles incorporates 15 stunning sandy beaches.
- Six of those stunning beaches are Blue Flag winners – Minnis Bay in Birchington, West Bay and St Mildred’s Bay in Westgate and Botany Bay, Kingsgate Bay and Stone Bay in Broadstairs.
- They also lay claim to four Seaside Awards beaches – Westbrook Bay, Margate Main Sands, Viking Bay in Broadstairs and Ramsgate Main Sands.
- In the three main resorts, there are bays that have sand even at high tide including Margate Main Sands, Viking Bay and Ramsgate Main Sands – each of which is well equipped with excellent family facilities.
- Thanet is the ideal place to learn how to surf, or to use a stand up paddle board. There are two professional surf schools – Kent Surf School in Viking Bay and Joss Bay Surf School.
- The water is a wonderful viewpoint from which to see wildlife too – regular boat trips, or kayak safari will reward you with views of seals, other marine mammals and seabirds.
- If you prefer dry land, why not hire a bike and cycle (or walk) the Viking Coastal Trail. This is a 32-mile circular route, but don’t panic, it can be broken down into smaller, more manageable sections, and much of it is traffic free, so it’s an ideal outdoor pursuit for children.
- Finally, playing games on the beach is a pastime that many Thanet visitors and residents enjoy. There is a dedicated sports areas for beach volleyball, tennis, handball, cricket and football on Margate Main Sands.
Coastal Explorer Packs
If you want to do something really different that will also take you to some of the most interesting places in Thanet – and teach you and your little ones something along the way too – then hiring a coastal explorer pack should be on your to do list.
These expedition style bags can be hired in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, at three key locations. Inside the bag you will find a magnifying glass, specimen pots, a net, a compass and everything else you’ll need to get going. With your bag in hand, you have 12 great activities to complete that include making a sundial, creating beautiful beach art and even carrying out rocky shore research. These coastal explorer packs are a product of ‘Discover Thanet’s Coast’, a Thanet District Council coast and heritage engagement project delivered through Coastal Communities Fund support, with the aim of enhancing the heritage and coast-led tourism offer in Thanet.
Deamland Has A New Look
One of the biggest draws in Thanet, and in Margate in particular, is Dreamland. A vintage theme park that dates back to the 1920s, its latest reincarnation has involved a whopping £25-million revamp and consolidated Margate’s position as a veritable seaside mecca.
Although one of the most recognisable new Dreamland features is the installation of some cutting-edge new design – most notably a brand new 15,000-capacity music venue that will inevitably draw crowds from London and all over the South East – the park has remained true to its retro roots, just with a restorative injection of polish and shine. New rides include a beautifully restored 1940’s waltzer and a Brooklands Speedway roundabout from the 1930s, and other amusements that are core to the Dreamland experience, such as the big wheel and the Scenic Railway, have been renovated and refurbished.
Very much a family-friendly day out, smaller children are catered for at the all-new Teddy and Betty Land, where the park’s mascots take centre stage hosting stage shows and ushering little people onto brand new rides including Betty’s Beehive – a brilliant figure-of-eight rollercoaster that’s safe and suitable for small people. Characters arriving for play dates on special Thursdays throughout the summer at Teddy and Betty Land include Peppa Pig and family, Chase and Marshall from PAW Patrol and Captain Barnacles and Kwazii from the Octonauts.
Besides a creative makeover, Dreamland have hugely upped their food and drink game too. Hungry crowds set to flock there this summer can grab a bite to eat (or five!) at a contemporary food court serving exciting street food from all over the world before heading to a ‘tree-top’ bar on stilts for refreshment. Not forgetting the irresistible pull of a good old pub, the team behind Dreamland’s transformation has also renovated seafront favourite, the Cinque Ports, which sits adjacent to all the action.
Dreamland is open every Friday to Sunday until 24th July, before opening seven days a week during peak season.
Thanet Events: July
There are all sorts of brilliant events taking place across Thanet during July – will you manage to attend them all?
- Margate Festival // 8 Jul-8 Aug
Take an art detour around Margate to discover exhibitions, performances, workshops, talks and experiences.
- Broadstairs Summer Fireworks // 19 & 26 Jul
Who says fireworks are only for November? This July sees some spectacular displays across Thanet. There are activities from 6pm, music from the bandstand from 8pm and the fireworks themselves start at 9.45pm.
- Ramsgate Festival // 22-30 Jul
The Ramsgate Festival is three days of events in the form of theatre, music, film, talks, competition, a heritage treasure trail, a market, art exhibitions and plenty more besides.
- Ramsgate Week // 23-28 Jul
Easily recognised as the alternative to Cowes Week, Ramsgate Week sees the town playing host to a full programme of racing events. For more information, contact Temple Yacht Club on 01843 591766.
- Summer Seashore Safaris // 26-30 Jul
Thanet’s chalky shoreline is a wonderful place to explore for young and old. The rockpools are teeming with life, and you can pick up an identification sheet plus all the equipment you need to become proper seashore explorers. The safaris last for a full two hours, and everyone is invited to join in, although it is particularly recommended for 4-11 year olds. It is a free event, but a donation of £1 per person is suggested. The safaris are taking place at:
26 Jul – 8.30am – Minnis Bay, Birchington (CT7 9QP)
27 Jul – 8.30am – West Bay, Westgate (CT8 8QZ)
28 Jul – 9.30am – St Mildred’s Bay (CT8 8TP)
29 Jul – 9.00am – Eastcliff, Ramsgate (CT11 8DG)
30 Jul – 10.00am – Western Undercliff, Ramsgate (CT11 9PH)
Bookings open in July: http://nekmpa.org.uk/whats-on/2017-events-and-activities/
- Kent’s Marine & Coastal Wildlife // 29 Jul-3 Sep
Free exhibition celebrating the intriguing marine and coastal wildlife of the local marine-protected areas with captivating images supplied by coastal wardens and guardians, and the SEAS Photography (South East Archive of Seaside Photography) archives of the Thanet coastline.
Thanet Events: August
If you thought July was a busy month for Thanet, take a look at August’s lineup!
- Broadstairs Summer Fireworks // 2 & 23 Aug
Everything starts at 6pm, and there is music from the bandstand from 8pm. The fireworks over Viking Bay start at 9.45pm.
- Margate Soul Weekend // 4-6 Aug
This weekend of live soul music celebrates Margate’s relationship with the 70’s and 80’s UK soul scene.
- Margate Carnival Parade // 6 Aug
This fun annual parade starts at 3pm.
- Broadstairs Folk Week // 11-18 Aug
This is Broadstairs Folk Week’s fabulous 52nd year! It is a mix of music, dance, workshops, displays and more.
- World’s Biggest Bouncy Castle at Dreamland // 12-26 Aug
Need we say more? Who can resist a bouncy castle…and when it’s the biggest in the world, it’s even better.
- Broadstairs Water Gala // 23 Aug
Victorian-themed fantastic day of entertainment with raft race, fancy dress, teddy bears picnic, crafts and trade stalls, fun fair, music and firework finale.
For further information, please visit www.visitthanet.co.uk.