You know the drill, you've checked the weather app on your phone and the forecast is good which means one thing... day trip! We've gathered together details on some of the best seaside spots near London, how to get there and - crucially - where to eat.
Margate & Broadstairs
Margate’s food scene is humming and, if Broadstairs is a little behind that, it still has Sunday Times critic, and local, Marina O’Loughlin to boost its credentials. Come for the culture - the game-changing Turner gallery is nearly a decade old now - and stay for the natural wine bars. To get to both, take the fast train from St Pancras.
Where: 21 The Parade, Margate CT9 1EX
At Angela’s it’s all about sustainably sourced seafood with delights like ray knobs and aioli on the regularly changing menu. Around the corner, sibling business Dory’s is a deli/seafood bar serving up dishes like crab tart and raw gurnard with blood orange with a super view over the beach. Book ahead for Angela’s but Dory’s is walk-in only.
Follow them on Instagram: @angelas_of_margate
Where: 49-51, Marine Terrace, Margate CT9 1XJ
Margate favourite Barletta now has the rooftop space at Dreamland and they've taken over the cafe space at Turner Contemporary. You'll find dishes like cod with courgettes and anchovy cream and a cracking cocktail list - get a jug of Tinto de Verano for the table to share.
Follow them on Instagram: @barlettamargate
Where: 16, 18 King St, Margate CT9 1DA
These intertwined businesses see chef/owner Kate de Syllas in charge of the wine list at the former and the sushi menu at the latter Due to current constrictions they’re only opening Hantverk as Big Naturals is too tiny for social distancing. Choose from a bento, sushi or kaiseki menu, depending on the day.
Where: 2-4 Broad St, Margate CT9 1EW
“Heroically wondrous” declared critic Grace Dent of this indie Italian restaurant. With plenty of space inside and out you'll find superlative pasta and Italian peasant fare that’s deeply rooted in the co-owner’s Neapolitan background.
Follow them on Instagram: @bottegacaruso.
Where: 44 High St, Margate CT9 1DS
This multi award-winning restaurant serves up a mainly seafood menu focusing on day boat caught fish from local ports. Local crab might come with a yuzu mayonnaise while asparagus is served with whipped cods roe and lemon rapeseed oil. They also do a takeaway fish and chips service, Beach Buoys, for eating on the beach.
Follow them on Instagram: @buoyandoyster
Where: Unit 3, Harbour Arm, Margate, CT9 1AP
Anything that mixologist Felix Cohen does comes with our strong recommendation, so you should hotfoot it to his current cocktail popup at Harbour Arm. Right now, it's taking over the evening spot at Mala Kaffe from Thurs-Sat.
Follow them on Instagram: @daisy_margate.
Where: 8 Cliff Terrace, Margate CT9 1RU
Forts opened last summer starting with a takeaway menu of coffee and sarnies before progressing to an eat in spot with dishes like nduja fried eggs, black pudding and apple scotch eggs and more on the menu. Look out for their new cafe opening in Broadstairs soon.
Follow them on Instagram: @fortscoffee
Where: 7-8 Marine Dr, Margate CT9 1DH
Enjoy a biodynamic wine list along with charcuterie and cheese platters at this bar/deli with amazing sea views.
Follow them on Instagram: @littleswiftct9.
Where: Harbour Arm, Margate CT9 1AP
As with Folkestone, the harbour here has been taken over with all manner of interesting food and drink ventures. Enjoy a drink at the Lighthouse Bar or the Harbour Arms and try out the taco shop Dive (chef Ben used to be at Big Naturals) where fish tacos and margaritas are the order of the day.
Where: 30 Reading St, Broadstairs CT10 3AZ
This lovely bakery/cafe is run by Chef Stephen who is ex-Odettes and Hibiscus. Expect to find organic sourdough, pastries, sausage rolls , sandwiches, cakes and great coffee.
Follow them on Instagram: @staple_stores.
Where: 1 Oscar Road, Broadstairs, Kent CT10 1QJ
This teeny Michelin-starred restaurant keeps it simple - with tasting course dinners only. A summer dish might be Confit duck leg, liver parfait, pickled cherry, hazelnut - whatever you get will be wonderful. Bookings open in 60 day windows and go like a flash.
Follow them on Instagram: @starkbroadstairs.
Where: 9 York St, Broadstairs CT10 1PD
Run by locals Jenny and Joe, the menu here started focusing on sharing boards and now has all manner of delights on offer including puntastic sarnies - the Squid & Nancy comes to mind. They've just redone the restaurant and the new menu sounds great - cod ceviche with cultured buttermilk dressing & salted kohlrabi anyone?
Follow them on Instagram: @thetablebroadstairs
Where: 23-27 Harbour St, Broadstairs CT10 1EU
While they get their seafood restaurant done up (it reopens in September), Wyatt and Jones's popular popup Flotsam & Jetsam will continue selling cones of fritto misto, mussel and cockle popcorn and carabinero prawn skewers. From the end of June Wyatt & Jones To-Go will start up for the summer (cooking fresh seafood over the coals to take away and enjoy on the beach).
Follow them on Instagram: @flotsamandjetsamofbroadstairs
Also: at KG Winters, they're doing takeaway Jjang Jjang bowls with miso brownies for dessert.
For the best coffee head to Cliffs Margate which is also a record shop and hair salon.
Heavy night and in need of a pick-me up? You'll be wanting the Full English at The Dalby Cafe.
Staying over and looking for a great meal in? Try Mesa Ni Aiza's amazing Filipino food.
Plus: look out for Sargasso reopening this summer - they've now got the Brawn team running things.
Whitstable & Seasalter
This Kent seaside town’s such a popular spot with Londoners you’re bound to bump into someone you know between the beach and the oyster bar. It’s only a short distance along the north Kent coast to the foodie place of pilgrimage at Seasalter. Trains take about an hour and half to Whitstable from Victoria.
Where: 61 Harbour St, Whitstable CT5 1AG
Cafe by day, pop-up by night, what you get on the menu can vary wildly according to the day of the week, so there's Pie & Mash mondays, full roast lunches on Sundays and - perhaps the most interesting - their Little Katsu Kitchen at the weekends with bento boxes, potsticker dumplings, bao buns and more.
Follow them on Instagram: @cafeandkitchen
Where: Wed-Sat at the Old Coal Yard, Belmont Road, Whitstable CT5 1QP
Given a rave review by Marina in The Sunday Times, David Brown’s van is the place for the best fish finger sandwiches in Whitstable, along with treats like devilled crab and pea tart or Bloody Mary prawn cocktail buns.
Follow them on Instagram: @brownseventsvan
Where: 48 Harbour St, Whitstable CT5 1AQ
This popular tapas spot hopes that with a bit of sunshine, the sea and their Spanish menu that you'll be transported to the Med via Kent. They're serving up heavenly croquetas, impeccable tortilla and more.
Follow them on Instagram: @harbourstreettapas
Where: The East Quay, Whitstable Harbour, Whitstable CT5 1AB
Fresh local oysters and lobsters are the order of the day - you couldn’t be closer to the sea if you tried. They’re also the folk behind The Oyster Shed on the South Quay. Here you can also enjoy the food from their summer BBQ shack.
Follow them on Instagram: @thelobstershackwhitstable.
Where: Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent CT5 4BP
This ‘gastropub’ of legendary repute could be in the dullest of spots and would still be worth the trek from London, but its position by the seafront in Seasalter elevates it to most favoured seaside spot status. Your only problem will be getting a table.
Follow them on Instagram: @sportsmankent.
Where: 8 High St, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1BH
Covid social distancing restrictions at what’s billed as ‘the oldest restaurant in town’ means they can’t currently open the restaurant to dine in, but they are doing beach picnics which is just the ticket. That includes prawn and crab tartlets, their own smoked salmon, dressed crab, salads and more. Check for ordering ahead details.
Follow them on Instagram: @wheelersob.
Where: The Royal Native Oyster Stores, Horsebridge, Whitstable, Kent CT5 1BUQ
This atmospheric Dickensian oyster store is now one of the town’s most popular restaurants. On the ground floor it’s a slightly more formal affair with platters of oysters alongside pan fried Thornback Ray and grilled lemon sole. Upstairs there’s more of a laid back cafe vibe - with chowder and half pints of prawns on offer
Follow them on Instagram: @whitstableoystercompany.
This outlying Essex island has been a popular holiday destination since Roman times. Now it’s a perfect spot if you want a quick seaside jaunt out of London, but want to avoid the crowded beaches of nearby Southend. It’s easiest by car, although you can take a train to Colchester where it’s a half-hour bus journey out to the island. Make sure you’re aware of tide times, as the island’s cut off twice a day.
Where: 129 Coast Road, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8PA
Certainly Mersea’s best well known foodie destination - this no frills space is an old oyster shed which serves up local seafood. It’s currently closed for eating in, due to Covid restrictions, but they're doing an extensive takeaway menu including seafood platters complete with Mersea Island wine.
Follow them on Instagram: @the_company_shed.
Where: East Rd, East Mersea, Colchester CO5 8TQ
This shop and cafe opened in 2019 and, luckily for them, they have inside dining, marquee dining and alfresco dining - whatever you fancy. It’s a good place to pick up local food to take back home with you. Coffee comes via local roasters in Chelmsford and the homemade cakes are great.
Follow them on Instagram: @merseabarns.
Where: 37 High St, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8QA
This fish and chip arm of the West Mersea Oyster Bar is still open and doing business. We loved our scampi and chips on a visit last summer, and they also do seafood platters to take down to the beach too.
Follow them on Instagram: @Merseaislandfishbar
Take the fast train from St Pancras and you can be wandering along the seafront in Folkestone in less than an hour. Head to the Folkestone Harbour Arm, where lots of the interesting food traders are, and, on a clear day, you might even be able to spot France across the Channel.
Where: Harbour Approach Rd, Folkestone CT20 1QQ
You can’t go wrong if you try here for food and drink, whether you fancy a glass of fizz at the Lighthouse Champagne Bar, cider ice-lollies to go from the Bathtub & Gun or loaded fries with seitan and vegan cheese from Dr Legumes. Newer openings include Wildbox cocktail bar and The Meat Shack for your brisket and BBQ delights.
Follow them on Instagram: @fstonehbourarm
Where: 5 Church St, Folkestone CT20 1SE
Grace Dent declared this "an unpretentious labour of love" in her fulsome review of this family-run business. The menu is both seasonal and local, so you might find asparagus from down the road and their own home smoked salmon alongside gorgeous English and French cheeses. As the name suggests, the wine list is strong, roaming all over the world.
Follow them on Instagram: @thefolkestonewinecompany
Where: 2-4 The Old High Street, Folkestone CT20 1RW
For most of the past year they've been sneding folk away with Basque-inspired pinxtos to enjoy on the seafront - triangles of oozy tortilla, piquilo peppers with anchovies or courgette ribbons with almonds and olives. Chef Gianni Modena trained at Arzak for a year and this summer has just opened the dine-in restaurant of his dreams.
Follow them on Instagram: @pickuppintxos
Where: 4-5 Fish Market, Folkestone CT19 6AA
Rocksalt couldn't be in a more seaside position - it's practically in the sea - making it a perfect spot to enjoy dishes like Folkestone crab and rice cakes or a seafood mixed grill. If you're after something more casual, there's a sibling restaurant, The Smokehouse fish & chip shop, on nearby Back Street.
Follow them on Instagram: @rocksaltfolkestone
Also: Check out The Lift Cafe at the foot of Folkestone's (non-functioning) funicular for breakfast butties and cream teas.
Grab a stool at Thong Dees Thai for some excellent Thai street food.
Camber & Rye
The Cinque Port town of Rye used to be on the sea, but now it’s two miles inland. That doesn’t stop it being a charming spot to spend a day out of London. It’s about an hour by train from St Pancras and there are regular buses from Rye to the gloriously wide beach at Camber Sands which should take around 20 minutes if the roads aren’t jammed with visitors.
Where: New Lydd Rd, Camber, Rye TN31 7RB
A regular inclusion on Best UK Hotels lists, this seaside hotel is just across the road from Camber Sands. To enable social distancing, the dining room’s only open for overnight guests and members. Jay Rayner gave it the food here a great review just before the first lockdown.
Follow them on Instagram: @thegallivant
Where: 10 Military Rd, Rye TN31 7NX
The kind of country inn that’s catnip for Instagrammers, this pub serves up a great selection of small and larger plates - think fish platters and steaks using local Sussex beef. They pride themselves on their local connections and suppliers - "for every £1 you spend with us about 60 pence returns back into the local community".
Follow them on Instagram: @globeinnrye
The Landgate (reopening July 2021)
Where: 5-6 Landgate, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7LH
You’ll definitely need to book ahead to secure a table at this popular restaurant. Expect to find plenty of local produce on the menu, from salt marsh lamb to foraged alexanders in the cod fritters.
Follow them on Instagram: @landgatebistro
Where: 37 The Mint, Rye TN31 7EN
There’s something about a seaside fish and chips that’s just light years better than anything you’ll find in London, and this Rye chippy gets the thumbs up from its legions of fans.
Where: Gungarden, Rye TN31 7HH
While social distancing rules remain in place, this pub - better known as The Wipers - is now a beer garden only, but what a lovely beer garden it is. Enjoy local wines, beers and ciders - the food is supplemental, more a case of quality snacks then anything else.
Follow them on Instagram: @yprescastleinn
Hastings & St Leonards
A seaside town of two parts, St Leonards and Hastings are parvenus when it comes to seaside cachet, but as a result they’ve got more of a quirky vibe than their neighbours Eastbourne and Brighton. You can get the train journey there down to under 90 minutes if you go via St Pancras and change at Ashford.
Where: 52 Kings Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings TN37 6DY
This restaurant and wine bar was opened in 2019 by former Evening Standard food writer Ben and his wife Kate. Sustainability is at the heart of what they do, so expect a very locavore menu with lesser-used cuts of meat. The wine list specialises in natural, biodynamic and low-intervention wines. The duo are also behind Boat Yard - the cafe and bar at Hastings Contemporary Art Gallery - and are involved in Heist Market, a food and drink collab which will feature a bar, restaurant and more and is opening this summer.
Where: 1 St Johns Road, St Leonards-on-sea, East Sussex TN37 6HP
This 18th-century pub has recently had a new lease of life, opening last summer with James Hickson and Sam Coxhead, who previously worked together at Great Queen Street, The Canton Arms, and St John. They went straight onto the 50 Best Gastropubs list with their dishes of rabbit nicoise and onglet tagliata.
Follow them on Instagram: @the_royal_st_leonards
Where: 3 Mercatoria, Saint Leonards-on-sea TN38 0EB
The menu at this lovely local spot changes incredibly regularly, so expect to find dishes made from whatever was good at the fishmonger or grocer that morning. So there might be fresh white crab with buttery new potatoes, samphire grass & lemon mayo or even Blue Cheese Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline & Poached Pears.
Follow them on Instagram: @stclementsstleonards
Where: 28 Norman Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex TN38 0EJ
This pop-up turned permanent restaurant does a nice line in Neapolitan sourdough pizzas given a local twist with ingredients like pepperoni from Kent charcuterie Moons Green. All pizzas can be made vegan and there’s a short but interesting wine list too. Both inside and outside dining available
Follow them on Instagram: @tommyspizzeria1.
Where: White Rock, Hastings, Saint Leonards-on-sea TN34 1JY
Newly open on Hastings Pier this South East bakery's kiosk sells the best pastries (we've tried their delivery service and it's ace). Look out for their afternoon tea box and special picnic packs - perfect for the beach.
Follow them on Instagram: @frankoniahastings.
Plus: look out for Goat Ledge on the seafront serving up fish baps, katsu fries and more.
Badger Inc is worth keeping an eye for their supperclub series with The One Armed Chef.
Subscribe to hear the latest from Hot Dinners