Thanet, which protrudes nose-like from the north east of Kent, has three main towns, Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, which are strung along its coastline and, unlike the shingle on the rest of Kent’s shoreline, have soft sandy beaches and maintain an identity quite distinct from the rest of the county.
Margate’s wide beaches and sheltered harbour draw day-trippers and holidaymakers. Its amusement park, Dreamland, is a unique attraction and in the process of being restored. There's also the new Turner Contemporary art gallery, which has a lively programme for children and regular family workshops, many free of charge.
Walk into the Old Town where vintage craft and design shops will halt parents in their tracks. Then head to Shell Grotto where the spooky series of caves and passages, that is entirely coated in shells, will fire up your imaginations as you explore the building together.
Food: New cafés offering local seasonal food and shops selling vintage knick-knacks have sprung up, and there is much to keep children occupied for a day or two. Start with breakfast at Fort’s Café in Cliftonville, which serves brilliant breakfasts and burgers.
Then, stop by the Harbour Arm, which has a diverting range of cafés and galleries.
Further along the coast, Broadstairs offers retro holiday fun. Children will love the variety of flavours and sprinkle toppings at Morelli’s icecream parlour, which is still decked out in its original Fifties finery.
The beach is a sheltered, sandy suntrap and Lillyput minigolf, with shark and windmill holes, is nearby.
Nature lovers and fossil hunters should hook-up with the entertaining and knowledgeable Rock Doc (details found here) who takes groups on shoreline safaris explaining the geology and forages for wild foods.
Wannabe surfers should head for Joss Bay where the surf school offers lessons including stand-up paddleboarding.
Next stop is Ramsgate, a busy harbour and marina and the best place to jump into a powerboat to go searching for seals with Horizon safaris.
Many are found snoozing on the sandbanks at low tide, and the boat takes you right up to them, nose-to-nose.
Food: Head either to Eddie Gilbert’s for fish and chips (the fish is bought from local fleets) or Age & Sons, a lovely family-run café and upstairs restaurant, which serves sustainable, seasonal food in a converted wine warehouse.
In the café, children have been thoughtfully provided with their own ‘Artists in Residence’ wall to occupy them while their parents wind down with a drink.
Travel time: Thanet is located just off the M2 and is just 1 hour and 30 minutes drive from London.
Useful links: For more information on Thanet, including beach activities, galleries, and family events, visit thanetcoast.org.uk.