Margate is a place that’s been on my list to visit for a while now. Going to the seaside is always a fun day out, but let’s be honest Margate has become majorly blogger friendly over the last couple of years. Since it’s regeneration, the return of the pastel paradise that is Dreamland Amusement Park, not to mention the opening of some hipster friendly eateries, Margate has had an Instagram makeover and is suddenly the place to be.
Of course, I’m never one to let social media intrigue get the better of me for too long, and so I was itching to visit for myself and see what all the fuss was about. When GB’s brother told us he was directing a play which was previewing in Margate before heading to the Edinburgh Festival, we jumped at the chance to see the play ahead of time and spend some time exploring Margate while we were at it. Seeing as Kent was still high on our list of possible places to move to, and any time exploring was beneficial on that front, we decided to make a weekend of it and booked up an Airbnb for the night.
As it turns out, the fuss is absolutely deserved of this little seaside abode. Yes it’s the epitome of British seaside tackiness, yes it’s undoubtedly more enjoyable in the sunshine, and yes the beach is your typical Brits abroad scenario, but that’s all part of the charm right? Margate also boasts some great quirky shopping, with loads of vintage and antiques (which I was LOVING), plenty of tasty food joints (just make sure you check closing times before you visit :-() and epic ice cream. What’s not to love? Well… there is a lot of seagulls. Bloody huge shark eating ones at that. Ones which poo on your head rather unapoligetically right before you’re about to head out for the night – doh! They say it’s good luck don’t they?
We were rather last minute with our accommodation (what’s new?) because we only decided a week before that we were going to stay overnight. I’m guessing it must have been due to the school holidays and the fact it was a weekend in July with a relatively good weather forecast because every hotel and B&B in the land was booked up. If you do want to try out one of the towns seaside hotels (I’ve heard The Reading Rooms is good) make sure to book ahead unlike us. We fell back on our failsafe option – Airbnb – and once again weren’t disappointed. This time we just booked a room within a large three storey house. Normally I find the concept of staying in someone elses home along with them a little strange, but this was essentially a holiday home for a young couple from London and they were super friendly so it wasn’t an issue at all. The house was immaculate and the room really comfortable, plus the bathroom (with roll top bath) was right next door to us. You can see the listing here if you fancy checking it out – I’d definitely recommend it! It was also in a GREAT location as we were so close to everything and never had to walk too far. The house was on King Street which is home to most of the quirky shops, antiques places and vintage stores I’d been keen to visit. The Turner Gallery was just around the corner, as was restaurants and bars and the beach was only a short walk.
Talking of the shopping, I was definitely in my element here, much to GB’s dismay. Streets were lined with chairs, vintage signs and old rustic suitcases (we really should have visited before the wedding) and the shops were all super cute. I fell in love with a few in particular which I’ve detailed below but I’m sure there were plenty more which we didn’t make it to (there’s only so many times you can drag your husband into a retro paradise before he starts showing signs of needing re-fuelled).
Fox and Spindle
The perfect mix of seaside brights and quirky souvenirs, but with enough hipster charm to ensure you’re not going home with any tat, Fox and Spindle is home to some lovely clothing and homeware designers. Think quirky patterned cushions, Custard Cream handbags, funky sunglasses, and light bulb shaped glasses that suddenly your kitchen collection seems lost without. The owner was also really friendly and chatted away to us about Margate and what we should do while there, which made visiting an even nicer experience. Definitely worth a visit, and you’ll be kicking yourself if like me you didn’t come home with any of those mini beach huts!
Fox and Spindle, 16 King St, CT9 1DA
Right next door to Fox and Spindle, is Paraphernalia – a vintage rummagers heaven. This ‘bit of everything’ treasure trove is packed from floor to ceiling (quite literally) with everything from furniture to crockery, to antiques to retro cameras and even old fashioned jukebox’s. There was so much to see, I could barely contain myself.
Paraphenelia, 8 King St, CT9 1DD
The Light Keeper
I believe this shop had only just opened the weekend we arrived, so we can say we were one of the first to visit. It was GB who wanted to venture over, and at first I was thinking ‘a shop full of lights – this will be dull’ but to the contrary it was a delightful old dungeon, lit up with every different quirky kind of light you could imagine. As well as doorknobs, rose gold coat hooks (dreamy) and so much more. Another must visit if you ask me.
The Light Keeper, Margate, CT9 1EP
Apart from the slightly dodgy door sign – is that Jane? This shop was a nice little vintage find – with both clothing and homeware and general bits and bobs. It’s just around the corner from The Light Keeper and next door to a furniture and antiques market which I forget the name of, but which was also worth a look. It’s great that they are all so close to each other as you can just amble around from one shop to the next.
Just Jane, 28-30 King St, CT9 1DA
Finally, Etc is a plant shop which sells vases and homewares as well as organic beauty products, and of course an abundance of greenery. It’s on Hawley street which is a little further along from the rest of the shops (but by no means a long trek) and despite GB saying it looked like the type of shop you could get in every street in London, I still wanted to check it out. I was glad I did, even if just for the lush green prettiness.
Etc, 35 Hawley Street, CT9 1QA
Eat and Drink
I have to admit that when it came to food this weekend, we weren’t on top form. We’d researched a bunch of places that sounded good/ had been recommended and so we planned to head to one of those for dinner, but on arriving around midday we decided some proper fish and chips were in order. Considering we were in a seaside town, it took us a lot longer than it should have to find anywhere that could serve us fish and chips. There was one place just opposite the seafront called Peter’s Fish Factory that had a massive queue winding out the door (surely a good sign) and upon seeing the menu and a glimpse of the inside of someone’s box on the beach, it did look mighty good (and very cheap) but it’s only a takeaway, and we were keen to sit in after walking quite a bit and with the weather looking ominous. We eventually settled for a pub – The Hoy – which Google told us was famous for their fresh cod dishes, and although it was good, it wouldn’t be what I’d describe as traditional fish and chips that you normally get at the seaside. We were later recommended the Buoy and Oyster on the high street, which we’d walked right past because the sign outside described it as a cocktail bar (?) so maybe check that out if you’re in the same position as us. Generally It seemed the idea with fish and chips, was just to do a takeaway box and eat it on the beach.
Our luck on the food front didn’t get much better that day. Having had a so-so lunch, we were really looking forward to a proper dinner. With the play starting at 7pm, we decided we’d eat afterwards so we could work up an appetite and have a few drinks beforehand. The play finished around 8pm, and afterwards we stayed for a Q&A and a few drinks, and then headed off around 8.45 when hunger set in. What we didn’t realise however, was that every. single. restaurant. in Margate closes at 9pm or before. Yes, 9pm!! I guess we’re used to eating later in London, but even at home it would be rare for somewhere to actually close its doors (not even last orders) by as early as 9pm. We couldn’t believe it! Roost, GB Pizza Company, and Meat were all out, and even the pubs were no longer serving. In the end we managed to find an Indian which thankfully took refuge on us, as I was starting to get the hunger pang grumps, and although the staff were lovely and the food mostly good, I chose the Passanda (normally my fave) and unfortunately it was the worst Passanda I’ve ever eaten and I couldn’t finish it. It basically came out bright orange and both looked and tasted a bit like a curry version of Mac and Cheese. Now I love Mac and Cheese but not as a curry – it was just weird, and I’ve never known a Passanda to have cheese in it before. At least the Nan bread was good…
Anyway, one place I definitely can recommend is Forts Cafe, where we went for breakfast the following morning, determined to have at least one good meal while in Margate. This place had been recommended across the board and it didn’t disappoint. It’s family run, and while it won’t win any awards on style (it has a proper old school caff vibe – which is kind of charming, but don’t go expecting anything plush), the food was incredible, the service friendly and it’s up at the top of the hill overlooking the sea so on a sunny day (like Sunday definitely was) you’re guaranteed some gorgeous scenery to go with your fresh juice and tasty breakfast.
Forts Cafe, 8 Cliff Terrace, CT9 1RU
Two full breakfasts with sourdough later, we were confident our bad luck on the food front was over and we soaked up the sun with a walk along the seafront marvelling at those amazing blue skies.
Squeezing in lunch before we left, we sat outside on the pier at a cafe bar called Be Beached. It’s extremely kitsch, full of pink picnic tables, deck chairs overlooking the beach and giant fabric umbrellas. It’s one of a few cafe’s and bars by the harbour arm and on a sunny day, does certainly make a great spot for lunch. You never can expect amazing quality in these little towns, so I’d say the food was to be expected – tasty but nothing amazing. It was a little overpriced, and the service was pretty lax (just young kids on their school holidays from what I could tell) but it was a nice enough choice.
Be Beached, Margate Harbour Arm, CT9 1AP
Other places we spotted but didn’t have time to check out; The Greedy Cow (good breakfasts, plus burgers and lunch grub later on), The Cupcake Cafe (which apparently does a great brunch), Roost (which was where we were hoping to go for dinner – BBQ’d chicken, mac and Cheese etc), Mala Kaffe (cute coffee and fika scandinavian cafe also at the harbour arm) and GB Pizza Co (apparently the best pizza place in town).
Our favourite pub definitely had to be The LifeBoat which was recommended to me by someone I work with. Luckily it was just around the corner from our accommodation and was a relaxed and laid back place to grab a drink before dinner. If you’re into beers – this is the place for you. They brew their own and had a broad range of different craft beers, and although tiny, the inside is traditional and homely.
We had a list of a few things we wanted to check out over the weekend, but mostly we were keen to make it a relaxing one, as we’ve both been pretty busy of late so we didn’t want to feel pressured to fit everything in. As it happens though, Margate is pretty small and so you can easily tick off the main attractions within a weekend. Apart from the shopping side of things I was keen to visit Shell Grotto, which is an interesting historical cave that was discovered in the 1800’s having been decorated from floor to ceiling with shell patterns. Still no-one knows who created it, but it’s quite amazing to look at.
Other than that, we both wanted to take a trip to Dreamland – a must – and of course hit the beach at some point.
Dreamland is exactly what it says on the tin – retro, fun and tacky in the best possible way. After the old amusement park was under threat of being closed down, the town petitioned to have it regenerated and that led to the quirky, pastel lovers dream that the space now is. It’s your typical seaside amusement park, with rides, arcades and ice cream stands, but on top of that, Dreamland has a roller disco (I know!), plenty of great food outlets, and an abundance of very Instagram worthy spots. One thing to note is that its totally free to enter, something they keep fairly quiet and I almost bought the £14 day tickets online after reading it was £17 on the door. But this is only for an all day unlimited ride pass, which you might not need. You can go on in for free – eat, drink and play the 2p slot machines to your hearts content, and then buy tokens should you want to go on any rides. There’s also fairground games which you can pay cash for – we did attempt to win a giant pink doughnut cushion but failed miserably (something I was quite glad of when it came to getting the train home) – and plenty to keep you occupied without having to pay. We spent Saturday afternoon here seeing as it was a bit grey out and it was loads of fun.
On Sunday, it was an absolute scorcher, and we were really glad we’d left the beach day for then, as you can see just what a difference a day makes in the photos above. After having breakfast at Forts and wandering along the seafront, we made our way back down to the beach for a paddle (well I had a paddle, I couldn’t persuade GB to get in). It was heaving, and it honestly felt like we were in the Costa Del Sol as everyone was bikini clad and in swimming. My paddle confirmed that the water was actually pretty warm, and I was cursing myself a little for not taking my swimmers and a towel with me.
Margate beach is really clean considering the invasion of people that were taking advantage of it all weekend, which was something I was pleasantly surprised about. The water was really clear too and, despite the fact I’m pretty sure my ten or so minutes paddling in the water in an off the shoulder dress were to blame for some dodgy sunburn the next day (ouch), I was really glad I’d ventured in. You can’t go to the seaside and not dip your toes in right?
One last ice cream on the walk back to the train station saw an end to our Margate weekend and we were left pretty smitten with the place to be honest. The sunshine definitely helped, but it’s a lovely day out if you ever get the chance.
I think it has also solidified in our minds now that Kent is the right place for us to move, as there’s something really appealing about having both Margate and Whitstable only a stones throw away come the weekends. We might well change our minds again but for now we’re focusing our search on Rochester and Kent commuter towns – wish us luck!
Have you ever been to Margate? I’d love to hear if there’s anything I’ve missed out that’s a must see?