Just 10 minutes away from Canterbury is the bohemian seaside town of Whitstable, famous for its oysters and shingle beaches. This charming port offers a wide range seafood restaurants, picturesque lanes, artisanal bakeries, boutique shops and art galleries.
My first visit to Whitstable was last August in an ill-fated attempt to rehome a Goldendoodle from Dogs Trust in Canterbury. After a two and a half hour drive in Friday traffic, delayed by a number of accidents on the M1 and M25, I got to the rehoming centre with ten minutes to spare. Fortunately the Dogs Trust staff were so empathetic about my long trip that they let me spend as long as I wanted with Bruno. Alas, no matter how much time I was willing to spend walking this one-year-old Goldendoodle boy, he was just not that into me. I didn’t have him at hello.
Crestfallen, I decided to drown my sorrows – and avoid rush-hour traffic up hellish highways – by the seaside I had sighted on my way in. Lured by the sea’s siren call, I couldn’t come all the way to Canterbury without dipping my toes in the sea.
Just a ten-minute drive and I was at Whitstable, a charming Kentish seaside town in the Oyster Bay of England. I enjoyed this fly-by visit on a summer’s evening so much so that a few weeks ago I dragged Mr. O with me.
To avoid the Bank Holiday madness on the motorways, we left around after 10am on a Saturday with Doodles and our guest for the day Bella in tow. With a steady flow of traffic all the way from Milton Keynes, we made it to Whitstable in two hours. As we drove through the high street, I was buzzing with the holiday feel radiating from the sun-seeking crowds. Summer dresses, florals, vest tops, shorts, flip flops. For the first sunny Bank Holiday in a long time, the British were out in their droves to make the most of the weather and what Whistable had to offer.
And there was so much to enjoy from lunching al fresco to scoring bargains at the town’s many boutiques and independent shops.
After walking the whole length of the high street, we headed for the harbour. If shopping is your thing, then there are yet more opportunities thanks to do the pop up stalls at the Harbour Market with goods from driftwood ornaments to jewellery, from dog accessories to a wide variety of food.
A good two-hour walk called for a solid lunch and of course I had to head back to the Harbour Garden Cafe. Never one for lobsters, I opted for the old favourite: mussels with a side of chips while Mr. O stuck to his usual burger – even by the coast! This is the place to relax on a sunny afternoon, whether you’re having a bite or just cocktails by the coast as you indulge in a spot of sunbathing and people watching.
Walk east past the harbour and the Lobster Shack with al fresco seating, you can follow Marine Parade lined by pastel coloured seaside huts to Tankerton Beach – perfect for stretching your legs post-lunch and some more people watching.
By the time we walked back and settled outdoors at Mussel Shack to have some ice cream we had had our fill of sunshine and fresh sea air. It was time to say goodbye to Whistable and head home. As we walked to the car park, even the doodles were looking sad to leave.
As for me, I was marvelling at how you can discover a town while seeking out a dog and come back a year later with two in tow!