For the Victorians among us, a trip to the Kent coast-side towns of Margate and Whitstable would be an exotic getaway out of smoggy London. Yet these days, Kent’s quaint sea-side towns seem to hardly lure visitors. The 21st century appears to have hit the coast hard, as we flock to the continent, opting for sunny Spain rather than windy Whitstable.
When travelling by train through the Kent countryside to reach Margate, it is almost uncertain as to why anyone would not want to see what Kent has to offer. The train passes through fields and farms, all interlacing together to create a patch-work of green and yellows. Upon arrival to Margate however, a different story is told. The train station’s enormous size serves only to highlight its emptiness and to show Margate simultaneously as what it once was and what it has declined to.
Leave the train station and the sea becomes immediately visible. The salty wind hits you, just as the shock that such a sandy, long stretch of beach can be found in unassuming Kent. Yet, one only has to avert their eyes away from the beach for a moment to see the reason why so many holiday makers have severed their ties with this Kent sea-side town. Greasy-spoon cafes, run down arcades and empty shops clutter the seafront. Not to mention the derelict condition of many hotels and B&B’s that show how Margate has aged.
The town shows Margate clinging to their popular past. The buildings are worn and dated and depressingly reflect the decline in Margate’s tourism. The only saviour to this Kent town is the beach itself – yet even then, it’s hard to ignore the eye-sore, aged buildings.
While Margate shows where Kent went wrong, Whitstable is a testament to what Kent did right. This sea-side quirky town is a pure delight to visit. Its beach is pebbly and not as naturally impressive as Margate’s, but the town itself is a thriving community. Walk along the sea-front and the sweet smell of fresh fish hits you magnificently.
Whitstable is well-known for its fresh fish culinary delights, so it is to no surprise that the sea-front is full of market stalls and restaurants all offering the fine opportunity to taste Whitstable’s biggest export: oysters. Through the town, independent shops are in the majority, making a trip to the high street a refreshing experience. The main allure of this coastal town is the people that inhabit it. Whitstable’s strong sense of community is felt by any visitor.
It is with dismay, that some of Kent’s coastal towns have declined so dramatically since their hey-day as popular tourist resorts. While Margate’s derelict sea-front acts as a grim reminder of the town’s struggling tourist industry, the beach itself is a sight and experience that makes the visit worth while. Luckily, Whitstable’s unique and friendly atmosphere make the Kent coast a must visit.