29 May 2023

How To Spend a Perfect Day in Margate and Broadstairs

I made the most of the sunshine on Saturday by heading to the coast — more specifically, to the Kentish towns of Margate and Broadstairs. I was much too late to find any available accommodation in Margate (Fort Road Hotel would have been my top choice) but thanks to the high-speed trains, you can pack in a lot on a day trip. Read on for my one-day Margate and Broadstairs itinerary, including a walk along the Viking Coastal Trail and other things to do and places to eat, drink and shop.

10:00 Coffee stop and quick shop in Broadstairs

I booked a return train ticket to Margate but hopped off one stop early in Broadstairs, arriving just before 10:00 am. My first priority was coffee and I made a beeline for Forts Cafe, which is a stone's throw from the beach. As well as the house Tastyboi espresso, roasted by Origin, Will Pitts' colourful cafe and its sister location in Margate serve some excellent coffees from a range of guest roasters. I opted for a piccolo with a natural Rwandan coffee from Bailies, which I got to go in my new 4oz KeepCup, as well as a chocolate-chip cookie to keep me going. Check out this post for more details about my Kent coffee experiences.

If you are starting this itinerary later or doing it in reverse and are looking for somewhere for lunch or dinner in Broadstairs, check out Flotsam & Jetsam (fish and chips), Wyatt & Jones, Kebbells and Stark. And for gelato, look no further than Morelli's, which has been around since 1907!

I also stopped by a few of Broadstairs' independent shops, like KIT (clothes and accessories) and Kope & Loko (lifestyle), and peeked into the Palace Cinema.

10:30 Following in the footsteps of Vikings

The main reason I detoured to Broadstairs was so I could walk along the Viking Coastal Trail to Margate  — an easy-to-follow six-mile route. I was able to walk along the beach the whole way but check the tide times because some parts — such as the cliff arch at Kingsgate Bay — become inaccessible when the tide is in, and walking up and down the steps onto the cliff path is quite tedious.

It was a beautiful day for a walk by the sea on the soft golden sand and I loved the views of the beach huts and stark chalk cliffs. Following the route in this direction also meant that I had better light for photography, as the path led me north to Botany Bay and then west to Margate. It took me about 1h45, walking quite briskly but with plenty of photo stops.

12:15 Lunch in Margate

The reason I wasn't dawdling too much on my walk was that I really wanted to have lunch at Dory's, a small seafood restaurant on Margate's seafront. Dory's sister restaurant, Angela's, does take bookings and, thus, is usually fully booked, especially on sunny Saturdays, but Dory's is walk-in only. Luckily they had a seat for me at the counter where I enjoyed my cucumber gazpacho, lobster roll and lemon meringue pie. There's a wonderful relaxed atmosphere and the staff are friendly and accommodating.

13:30 Coffee break

A visit to Margate wouldn't be complete without a visit to the excellent Curve Coffee Roasters. Since my last visit, they have relocated to The Centre, a colourful regenerated shopping precinct. Their new cafe is spacious and airy and has a big offering of their own coffees available on espresso and hand-brewed filter coffee. I had a fruity single-origin Peruvian coffee as a pourover, which tasted great. A wide selection of retail bags of coffee beans and Curve merch is also on sale.

After Curve, I headed over to the Margate location of Forts. I had, of course, already had lunch but the brunch dishes I saw at the cafe looked great. I must also make sure I arrive less caffeinated next time so that I can try the tasting flight (espresso, piccolo and filter). Instead, I had a pourover brewed with a Special Guests coffee from Colombian producer Nestor Lasso, which had delightful lemon and cherry notes. "But who's the roaster?" I asked after being told the coffee was from Special Guests. I was definitely being a bit slow there!

I didn't have time to visit Cliffs on this trip, but I've been before and the cafe and record shop is well worth a visit if you're in the Cliftonville neighbourhood. 

14:30 Art and culture at the Turner Contemporary

The Turner Contemporary is a modern art gallery located right on the seafront. It's free to visit and they usually have very good exhibitions. I loved the colourful, abstract paintings of Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes, which will be there until September 2023. The gallery shop is also a great place for arty and/or Margate-themed gifts and souvenirs.

15:30 Browsing Margate's indie stores

Speaking of shopping, Margate has a whole host of interesting independent stores, particularly lifestyle and vintage/antique shops. Here are a few that caught my eye: Aarven (ethical homewares), Haeckels (natural skincare), Harbour & Tide (lifestyle and gifts with a seaside theme), Lost Property (vintage and antiques), The Margate Bookshop (you can guess), Papillon (homewares), Ramsay & Williams (vintage and ice cream!) and Zigzag (shoes).

16:30 Beach time

After all that walking, it was time for a rest. I headed to Margate's Main Sands, a wide, sandy beach, which was very busy that day. Although it was sunny, there was a strong wind and I decided not to bring my swimming costume and towel, although I did dip my toes in the water. You can rent deckchairs and — crucially – windbreaks, and I even spotted a beach-side sauna!

17:00 Fish tacos and margs in Margs

Dive was another eatery I was really keen to visit. Located on the Harbour Arm, the tiny restaurant has a simple menu consisting of tacos and other Mexican food. I knew they were fully booked but thought that if I showed up early, I might get lucky. Alas, all the tables were taken but I managed to persuade the lovely staff to let me perch on a stool where I enjoyed superb fish tacos, tortilla chips and a margarita overlooking the water. If you can't get in to eat, they do serve margaritas to go, which you can take up onto the roof for an even better view.

As well as Angela's and Dory's (mentioned above), other dining options to consider include Buoy & Oyster (which I've been to before), Sargasso and Bottega Caruso. Booking in advance is advised. For a more casual bite, try ong-established beachside seafood stall Mannings Seafood and Peter's Fish Factory

18:00 Cocktails by the sea

I couldn't quite tear myself away from the sunshine and sea air just yet so I stopped off for a last drink at Little Swift, a bar and deli next door to Dory's, before heading back to the station. My coastal negroni was the perfect way to toast a great day by the sea. They also serve various platters if you need a nibble — or more — to accompany your drink. Over in Cliftonville, Daisy is another great option for an aperitif or two.

Getting there and around

I took the high-speed train from St Pancras, which takes about 1h30. It calls at Stratford International but on summer weekends, you'll have a better chance of getting a seat if you board at St Pancras (both of the trains I took were extremely busy). My return ticket was about £40. The stations in both Margate and Broadstairs are very central and it's easy to explore both towns on foot.

Want to plan your own day trip to Margate and Broadstairs? Check out my Google Map, including all of the places featured in this itinerary.

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