Broadstairs: The best of British bays and beaches

Michael Edwards enjoys a short UK beach break at one of the “freshest and freest little places in the world” – Broadstairs in Kent.

Viking Bay Broadstairs - The best of British bays and beaches
Viking Bay

Broadstairs has seven bays, one for every day of the week and is among the best of British bays and beaches. Viking Bay is the golden swathe of sand at the heart of the town. A traditional stretch of bucket-and-spade, Punch and Judy beach that even has a tidal pool.

Surfers have their best chance of catching a wave at Joss Bay. Louisa Bay is a quiet cove with rock pools while Kingsgate has its smugglers’ caves. Though Botany Bay with its white chalk stacks has the best smuggler’s story, the tallest of stories. It was there that Joss Snelling, the Broadstairs Smuggler claimed to have happened upon 61 kegs of spirits whilst going for a walk when challenged by revenue officers. Somehow, he escaped gaol and got away with a fine.

Writers have been drawn to Broadstairs’ tranquil beauty. Daniel Defoe, Oscar Wilde and D.H. Lawrence all found inspiration. But it was Charles Dickens, first visiting in 1837, who adored Broadstairs the most. He bought the crenelated Fort House, writing every morning in a first floor room whilst in residence. Later the mansion was renamed Bleak House in his honour.

Whilst on holiday in Italy in 1844, Dickens pined for his beloved Broadstairs and complained that the light of the sunsets failed to compare with those back on the Kent shore.

Dickens House at Broadstairs - The best of British bays and beaches
Dickens House

Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield was based on a Broadstairs character, and her home is now the small Dickens Museum. Most Junes, since 1937, the town has been filled with bustles, crinolines, and mutton-chop whiskers as people dress-up for the annual Dickens festival.

Although Dickens was generally complimentary about Broadstairs, calling it, one of the “freshest and freest little places in the world,” he was critical of narrow winding streets scarcely wide enough for two horse-drawn carriages. In fact, those winding, narrow streets have been Broadstairs’ saviour. The big chain stores have had to stay out of town at Westwood Cross Shopping Centre.

Broadstairs is filled with small independent shops: art galleries, boutiques, cafes, quaint pubs and restaurants. Arrowsmith is the sort of emporium that Dickens would have recognised, overflowing with artwork, cards, clothing, gifts, jewellery and so much more.

Morelli’s is legendary around these parts. Serving Italian inspired Gelato, the ice-cream parlour opened in 1932. Nowadays, it sticks to the pink leather banquette make-over of 1952. The sun canopy and Lloyd Loom chairs capture the spirit of an age when ice-cream was an innocent pleasure. On colder days, warmers such as hot weather and rich Italian coffee are popular.

Bay tree hotel Broadstairs - The best of British bays and beaches
Bay Tree Hotel

High on the Eastern Parade, Bay Tree Hotel, has idyllic views across the sandy beach and white chalk cliffs of Stone Bay. New owners Alistair and Robert have given the 1896 family home a sympathetic makeover with the help of local designer Suzy Nina.

The 10-room boutique hotel, features generous sized rooms whose decor makes the most of the ocean light. Each room is named after a woodland tree. English Oak, on the first floor, features a free-standing bath and a balcony.

Open to non-residents, with seating in the Library Bar, lounge, restaurant or front-garden, visitors call in for afternoon tea with those views over Stone Bay.

The Bay Tree Hotel provides rest and refuelling for those on the Viking Trail, a 32-mile cycle route that takes in Thanet’s spectacular and historic coast where Saxons, Saints and Vikings have all landed.

Botany Bay Broadstairs - The best of British bays and beaches
Botany Bay

The trail then heads inland to explore Thanet’s charming villages too. Walkers can split the trail into shorter portions. The four miles from Broadstairs’ Dickens House to Margate’s Turner Contemporary gallery walks through spectacular Botany Bay. It’s a walk that can begin with coffee at Morelli’s and lunch at the Turner Contemporary’s cafe run by local restaurant Barletta.

Victoria Gardens run along the cliff top and pretty promenade giving views across horse-shoe shaped Viking Bay. Charles Dickens would smile at a traditional British seaside town that has retained its charm over the decades.

Broadstairs: The best of British bays and beaches fact file

For more information about the place mentioned in this review see



If you enjoyed this content, you’ll find many more UK beach breaks and seaside escapes on our Travel channel.

Last modified: January 13, 2022

Written by 4:23 pm Around The UK, Travel

travel newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive the latest news, reader offers and competitions from our team.


Thanks for subscribing to 50connect's weekly newsletters. We look forward to sharing some great content and competitions with you.

Kind regards,

50connect team