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One of Britain’s best beachside resorts and less than an hour away from London by train, Margate is a joyous mix of amusements, arts and an awesome sandy beach.
Located in Kent, Margate has become increasingly popular in recent years with both day trippers and people relocating to the area to escape the city ‘rat-race’.
There are so many things to do in Margate – from modern art at Turner Contemporary Gallery to the Bansky mural at Dreamland or cheap as fish and chips on the beach, there is something to suit all tastes and budgets in Margate.
One of the best days out in Kent, here is our guide to the best things to do in Margate:
Table of Contents
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 from London St Pancras International, London Charing Cross, London Stratford International and London Victoria rail stations.
Depending on the station, the journey duration by train from London to Margate is usually between 1.5-2 hours.
A day return train ticket from London Victoria to Margate costs as little as £14.50 per person, if booked in advance and using a National Railcard.
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 Margate train station.
Packed with day trippers and locals during the summer months, it is best to arrive early if you want a good spot on Margate Sands.
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.
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 Margate 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 and giant blow up bananas blowing along whilst in Margate!
3. Turner Contemporary Museum
The Turner Contemporary gallery opened in Margate in 2011 and was the main catalyst for cultural change for the area. Incredibly, last year (2022), around 4 million people visited the Turner Contemporary so it has been a huge success story and tourism boost for Margate.
Named after J M W Turner, the lauded landscape artist who resided here during several periods of his life, Margate’s Turner Contemporary Museum 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).
A combination of permanent and temporary exhibitions, the Turner Contemporary is free to visit but donations are greatly appreciated. The Turner Contemporary Gallery is open 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday; opening times correct as of summer 2023.
Address: Turner Contemporary Museum, Rendezvous, CT9 1HG
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), Dreamland Margate 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.
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).
New for 2023, the recent Banksy Margate Valentine’s Day artwork is to move to Dreamland permanently. The Bansky mural, called “Valentine’s Day Mascara”, first appeared in Margate town mysteriously one night and shows a 1950s housewife with a bruised eye, trapping a man (likely her husband) in a freezer.
Check the Dreamland Margate website for opening hours (many of its outdoor attractions are only open in Spring and summer although there are lots of indoor events in Autumn and Winter).
Address: Dreamland Margate 49-51 Marine Terrace, CT9 1XJ
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5. The Old Kent Market
The Old Kent Market is possibly the easiest building to spot in Margate as it is bright red and near the seafront!
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 The Old Kent Market, from south east Asian food through to a veritable feast of vegan options. They also lay claim to have the UK’s smallest pub inside, The Little Prince.
Popular during the holidays and weekends, The Old Kent Market is one of the most fun things to do in Margate and is open daily from 10am to 8pm – times correct as of summer 2023.
Address: The Old Kent Market, 8 Fort Hill, CT9 1HD
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.
To note lifeguards are on duty here during the peak tourist season only.
On your coastal walk here from Margate, 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 pub 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.
Address: Botany Bay, Marine Drive, Cliftonville, Broadstairs CT10 3LG
We rate the Viking Trail from Margate to Ramsgate via Broadstairs as one of the best walks in Kent; read more here >
7. Fish and Chips, Margate Sands Beach
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).
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 Lanes Fish Inn (try saying that with a mouthful of battered sausage!) is also recommended online.
Peter’s Fish Factory Margate, 12 The Parade, CT9 1EZ
Holly Lanes Fish Inn, 2A Holly Lane, Cliftonville, CT9 3NA
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8. Margate 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.
Other popular vintage wear shops in Margate include Handsome Freaks (a short walk from Turner Contemporary) and Pie in the Sky Vintage Emporium.
Pie in the Sky Vintage Emporium, 20 The Centre, CT9 1JG
Handsome Freaks, 10 Broad Street, CT9 1BN
Peony Vintage, 12 King Street, CT9 1DA
9. Margate Shell Grotto
Open since the late 1830s, the Shell Grotto in Margate is perhaps one of Kent’s most unique tourist attractions – comprising 70 foot of tunnels and made from almost 5 million shells, the Shell Grotto is now a Grade II listed building.
Most incredibly, no-one really knows the origins of the Shell Grotto – it was discovered fully constructed and was possibly used previously as a temple or even as a meeting place for a secret sect.
To visit the Margate Shell Grotto, you have to ‘shell out’ £4.50 per adult, as of summer 2023 – note that the Grotto is a small dark underground space with limited ventilation so is not for everyone.
Address: Margate Shell Grotto, 33 Grotto Hill, Cliftonville, CT9 2BU
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10. Hornby Visitor Centre
Love model trains? Enjoy tiny stations? Well, The Hornby Visitor Centre may well be THE best thing to do in Margate for you.
An incredible collection of Britain’s best love train sets and toys, the Hornby Visitor Centre also features other famous brands of childhood playsets including Scaletrix, Corgi and Airfix.
Costing £5 per adult and with access to the ‘Just the Ticket’ cafe included, make tracks to the Hornby Visitor Centre, open daily from 10am to 4pm.
Address: Hornby Visitor Centre, Westwood Industrial Estate, Westwood, CT9 4JX
11. Margate Caves
Originally opened to the public in 1839, the Margate Caves initially came about after being used commercially as chalk mines in the 17th century.
Alas the Margate Caves fell out of favour in recent years as a visitor attraction and after a period of closure, recently reopened for new generations to explore this cavernous complex.
Over 90 metres long and up to 12 metres high at their tallest point, the Margate Caves cost £4.50 per adult (‘dig deep’ into those pockets) to explore as of summer 2023.
Address: Margate Caves, 1 Northdown Road, Kent CT9 1QH
12. Other Kent Beaches and things to do near Margate
Folkestone in Kent
The coastal town of Folkestone is one of Kent’s most popular towns for day trippers and overseas tourists. In fact, so many people visit here from the capital that they are known as ‘DFLs’ – ‘Down from London’.
Folkestone is a historic port with incredible beach views, seaside walks and an alfresco art scene. Throw into the mix an array of beachside bars and harbour front hang-outs and you know you are in for a fine day out in Folkestone.
From cobbled streets and ‘Sunny’ sands to fresh fish and chips, here is our guide on the best things to do in Folkestone, Kent >
Ramsgate in Kent
A charming coastal town in Kent, Ramsgate was named in 2023 as one of the ‘coolest places in Kent’ by The Times newspaper. Just over an hour from London by train (from St Pancras), there are plenty of seaside things to do in Ramsgate.
Boasting the spectacular Royal Harbour and Marina, incredible hilltop views and walks, Ramsgate is perfect for a spot of rest and recreation.
Ramsgate also has dozens of pubs overlooking the water primed for a perfect sunset pint accompanied with the freshest fish and chips.
Whitstable in Kent
One of the best English seaside escapes and just over an hour’s train ride from London, there are so many wonderful things to do in Whitstable.
A fishing town primarily known for its delicious oysters, boutique shops and colourful beach huts, Whitstable has stunning sea views, incredible seafood and is genuinely one of the prettiest coastal towns in England we’ve visited.
Broadstairs in Kent
A short train ride from Margate (less than 10 minutes), Broadstairs is a cute and charming coastal town with incredible hilltop views overlooking Viking Bay.
Always popular, Broadstairs is a quintessentially British beachside spot with several bars and restaurants overlooking the bay, a busy harbour arm and loads of traditional favourites like fish and chip kiosks and ice cream stalls. It is kind of like Margate but smaller and with a much more serene setting.
Whilst in Broadstairs, you can visit the Charles Dickens Museum which showcases Dickens links to the Broadstairs region, housed in the cottage that was said to be the inspiration for Betsey Trotwood’s house in his famous David Copperfield novel.
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
Other blogs you might like
- Things to do in Whitstable
- Things to do in Ramsgate, Kent
- Things to do in Littlehampton Beach
- Things to do in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
- Things to do in Brighton – a perfect day trip
- Things to do in London Bridge
- Things to do in Folkestone, Kent
- Things to do in Hastings
- Visiting Margate on a ‘microgap’ with Visit England
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