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8 epic things to do in Margate, Kent (2021 guide)

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One of Britain’s best beachside resorts and less than an hour away from London by train, Margate is a melting pot of amusements, arts and an alluring sandy beach. Located in Kent, Margate has become increasingly popular with both day trippers and people wanting to escape the rat-race – working remotely from the beach and cafes, commuting into London as and when required (amen to that!).

Once grimy and now gentrified (in a good way), Margate has seen many cosmopolitan (and cosmetic!) changes over the years, with the introduction of the Turner Contemporary and the reopening of the iconic Dreamland. All budgets and tastes are catered for here, from a cheap day out with fish and chips on the beach to a refined alfresco bite and overnight stay overlooking the harbour.

Here is guide to getting the most out of Margate and why it is one of the best days out in Kent:

Top things to do in Margate, - postcards
Margate Pier and Harbour company
Top things to do in Margate. The bus cafe red bus

Things to do in Margate

How to get to Margate

Margate is easy to reach by train and the station is just a few minutes walk from the seafront. There are frequent and direct high speed trains trains from London St Pancras International, London Charing Cross, London Stratford International and London Victoria rail stations, and the journey duration is usually between 1.5-2 hours.

1. Margate Sands

The focal point of Margate, this gloriously sandy beach is one of the best in Kent and is one of the first sights to greet you, when walking downhill from the train station. Packed with day trippers and locals during the summer months, it is best to arrive early if you want a good spot. Deckchairs and all manner of beach furniture are available to hire, and there are lots of bars, cafes, children’s and ice-cream spots  all within easy walking distance. 

Top things to do in Margate - Margate beach
tidal pool on Margate beach

2. Margate Harbour Arm

A little further up from Margate Beach, the Harbour Arm offers splendid coastal views plus lots of food and drink kiosks, restaurants and local artist galleries. If it is later in the day and the sun is over the yard Harbour Arm, sip a sneaky sunset pint at the Lighthouse Bar or Be Beached cafe. At the end of the harbour arm, enjoy panoramic views and  get up close to the bronze statue of the local shell lady.

Randomly, because of the beach tide, this area is also a bit of an inflatable graveyard, as the ocean currents drag away inflatable items from the main beach – so keep an eye out for floating unicorns, giant blow-up bananas etc.

Margate Harbour Arm

3. Turner Contemporary Museum

The Turner Contemporary gallery opened in Margate in 2011 and was the main catalyst for cultural change for the area. Named after J M W Turner, the lauded landscape artist who resided here during several periods of his life, the gallery overlooks the sea with massive interior windows offering a respite from the weather on wet and windy days (which are fairly frequent in the UK).

Turner Contemporary Museum Margate Kent

A combination of permanent and temporary exhibitions, the Turner Contemporary is free to visit but donations are greatly appreciated. Note the gallery is closed on Mondays (except when a British bank holiday).

Turner Contemporary Museum Margate Kent

4. Dreamland, Margate

Vibrant, retro and kitsch in equal measures (in a good way), Dreamland Margate puts the ‘amusing’ into amusement park. Originally opened in 1870 (albeit in a much smaller form), it has changed immensely over the years. After several periods of closure, Dreamland bounced back bigger and better than ever before in 2015 and thankfully, it appears to be back for good now, coming into form over the Summer months hosting festivals, gigs and other popular events.

ferris big wheel Dreamland, Margate

Whilst it is free to explore the park, you have to pay to go on the rides – you can either buy single tickets or unlimited passes. If rides aren’t your thing, there are various food and drink options including a Dreamland rooftop bar which overlooks the beach. The Roller Room / Disco at Dreamland also looks loads of fun (alas, we can’t skate).

Dreamland, Margate
roller disco Dreamland, Margate

5. Old Kent Market

Based in an old cinema, this lovingly restored food and drink favourite hosts several permanent dining options stalls, as well as several pop-up arts and crafts stalls. Something for all tastes can be found inside, from south east Asian food through to a veritable feast of vegan options.

The old kent market Margate

Most noticeably, there is also a converted old red Double Decker bus (the ‘Open Top Seaside Special) serving all manner of fried goodness.

The old kent market Margate inside and big red bus
The old kent market Margate food stalls, cafes and restaurants

6. Botany Bay

A 45 minute coastal walk from Margate (or a 30 minute bus journey) will bring you to Botany Bay, an ionic and historic Kent bay, regularly used as a period filming location in movies and TV series. Recognisable and renowned for its bright white chalk cliffs, this is also a sublime swimming spot and a nice spot to escape the tourist hordes that you’ll likely encounter on Margate Beach in the summer months. Lifeguards are also on duty here during the peak tourist season

Botany Bay kent

On your coastal walk here, keep an eye out for Neptune’s Tower, a historic folly (looks like a castle) dating from around 1760. We’d also recommend visiting the clifftop boozer (bar) the Captain Folly, which is also castle like but obviously much more modern – the coastal views from the Captain Folly beer garden must make it one of the most scenic pubs in Britain.

Botany Bay kent

YOU MIGHT LIKE: Ramsgate to Margate walk – the Viking Coastal Trail >

7. Fish and chips

One of life’s best pleasures – in our (un)expert opinion – is British fish and chips on the beach, served out of (newspaper) with lashings of salt, vinegar and a side of mushy peas (if you haven’t heard of mushy peas before, just try them – you won’t regret it).

fish and chips margate  Peter’s Fish Factory

There are lots of places to get fish and chips, although based on the queues we witnessed, Peter’s Fish Factory is the most popular (possibly because it is only a one minute walk from the seafront). Holly Lane’s Fish Inn (try saying that with a mouthful of battered sausage!) is also recommended online.

8. Vintage shops

Margate Old Town is filled with quirky independent vintage and antique shops. Check out Peony Vintage owned by Georgie Roberton, who is passionate about ethical fashion and handpicks every single item of clothing and accessories herself.

Peony Vintage clothing shop Margate Kent UK
Peony Vintage clothing shop Margate Kent UK

Where to stay in Margate

The Sands Hotel
Boutique hotel just 4 minutes’ walk from the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery with waterfront terrace and views of the beach. Check out prices and availability for The Sands Hotel

The Crescent Victoria Hotel
Stylish hotel just a 5-minute walk from the beach with garden, a terrace and a bar. Check out prices and availability for The Crescent Victoria hotel

The Penthouse Margate
Modern penthouse apartment with sea facing balcony, living room and a fully equipped kitchen. Check out prices and availability for The Penthouse Margate

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