Dotted with old fisherman’s cottages, smuggling tunnels and attractive bays spread with golden sand, Broadstairs offers a nostalgic glimpse of the traditional English seaside resort, while simultaneously bringing it firmly up to date. This charming coastal town on the Isle of Thanet, so-called because it was once separated by water from mainland Kent, makes for a simply idyllic holiday destination on the east coast.
The town began to grow in popularity from the mid-19th century onwards, and was famously a favourite haunt of the writer Charles Dickens, who wrote some of his novel “David Copperfield” at Bleak House, formerly Fort House, overlooking Viking Bay. Many Broadstairs hotels share similarly fine views of the seafront, or are set just back, ensuring that if you reserve a room you can be out having fun on the sands within minutes.
Broadstairs derives its name from the steps that used to lead up from the beach to the 11th century shrine of St Mary on the cliffs. The cliffs are still riddled with caves and tunnels that served as convenient hiding places for smugglers in centuries past. To the north and south respectively are Margate and Ramsgate, also immensely popular resorts during the warmer months, while Broadstairs lies only 20 miles from both Canterbury and Dover, and 60 miles from the M25. Margate hotels, as well as hotels in Ramsgate, can provide excellent value and a similar range of attractions in the area.
Where to stay in Broadstairs
You can find a Broadstairs hotel within moments of the beach, with picturesque panoramas from the windows, or if you prefer you can stay in the town itself. The main street is flourishing with independent stalls and cafes, and you’re never far from an ice cream parlour.
There are also hotels in Broadstairs located on the outskirts, in the gorgeous countryside, so you can be within a short drive of the beach and town while enjoying some pleasant rural isolation. Broadstairs hotels with car parking, or pet-friendly hotels, are commonplace. There are plenty of luxury properties and spa hotels in the Broadstairs area, too, should you want to take the amenities up a notch.
Things to see and do in Broadstairs
In Broadstairs, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to seeking out a place in the sun. The town has no fewer than seven dreamy bays that are idyllic for sunbathing, swimming or dining. Several of them hold Blue Flag status. The main beach is at Viking Bay, which is shaped like a horseshoe and lined with amusements, restaurants and traditional pubs. It is also usually the busiest beach in Broadstairs, and hosts regular fireworks displays during the summer.
Foss Bay is a popular spot for surfing lessons, and many Broadstairs hotels are equipped for storing boards and wetsuits. Botany Bay, meanwhile, slightly to the north, is one of the most photographed sites in Broadstairs. Fossil-hunting and rockpooling are common activities among the dramatic chalk stacks here when the tide is out.
Should you somehow tire of the beach scene, there is no shortage of other attractions in Broadstairs, both historic and cultural. The most well known is the Dickens House Museum, which traces the celebrated Victorian novelist’s long connections with the town and looks at how Broadstairs influenced his work. It is housed in a cottage believed to have served as the inspiration for Betsey Trotwood’s home in “David Copperfield” and besides memorabilia from Dickens’ life and career you can also see manuscripts detailing his impressions of Broadstairs, a frequent holiday destination. You can see another of Dickens’ writing studies at Bleak House on the cliff top, where there is also a Smuggling Museum. Some of the most charming guesthouses and hotels Broadstairs has to offer are located in this part of town.
The Broadstairs Dickens Fest, when locals and visitors dress in period costume for a town-wide series of events, has been a popular attraction since the 1920s. Meanwhile, the annual Water Gala showcases the best of the English seaside with family-friendly entertainment, fireworks and even air displays.
Another unique Broadstairs attraction is the Crampton Tower Museum near the railway station. Thomas Crampton was a talented engineer who created innovations in locomotive engines, waterworks, submarine telegraphy and even designed drills intended to be used for the Channel Tunnel. The museum illuminates his life story and work, with a number of fascinating exhibits.
If you are driving your own vehicle, or you have arranged car hire in Broadstairs, then Canterbury makes for an excellent day trip idea. This historic city, with its famous cathedral and theatre scene, is full of superb restaurants and pubs, along with more than a few quirky shops, and is just a short drive away.
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