Moving to the Kent coast? Five of the best Thanet towns to explore

Picture of Paul Travers

Paul Travers

The migration of city dwellers leaving the big smoke for sunnier climes has created something of a renaissance for moving to the Kent coast, particularly Thanet. No longer “God’s waiting room”, these towns have developed their own identity and are unapologetically non-conformist.

Who is moving to the Kent coast?

We all know why people flocked to the coast in search of a new start during the pandemic. But what’s really interesting is that the even earlier adopters – the ones who took the plunge long before it was hip – have spawned a second and third wave of coastal converts. We’re seeing the same story happening: “My brother/sister/friends moved here a year or so ago, and we’ve been visiting regularly. We love it so much, so we decided to move here”.

But does the reality match up to expectations? Well, yes, it does.

Head out at any time during the day or night, and it’s easy to see the attraction. The colourful streets in some colonial sociable coastal towns are awash with groovy coffee shops & independent artisan bakeries, with new additions seemingly springing up every few months. These all sit comfortably alongside established retailers, specialist restaurants, antique shops and fish merchants.

Exploring the coastline is an absolute pleasure, and to stumble across an undiscovered bay or beach is a thrilling treat. And as a bonus,  it’s also home to some of the region’s hottest of hotspots for property investing.

From madness to mind

You’ll find a beach or bay to suit your mood, so let’s explore.

Margate

There’s an arty rawness about this place. If you’re old enough, think Shoreditch circa 1999, but with fresher air and a few more amusement arcades. No wonder that Margate has earned itself the nametag of Shoreditch-by-Sea.

There’s so much to see and do here, and if the Kent coast had a capital, Margate might be it. A litany of newly opened bars and coffee houses are around every corner: The Love Cafe is excellent and offers all-day dining and evening cocktails, while The Greedy Cow in the old town serves up seasonal dishes. Sundowners bar on the seafront offers just that – a chance to enjoy a cocktail while watching the sun as it dips below the horizon.

Back in the old town, you can explore some fabulous antique and salvage shops: ideal for picking up those retro bits and bobs to fill your newly acquired home. Paraphernalia on King Street is a great place to start.

Margate’s architecture is stunning. At one end of the bay is the Grade 2 listed Dreamland. This former amusement park has been restored to its 1950s funfair glory, making it a great family spot to while away a few hours. It also doubles as a music venue hosting some highly charged events. Faithless, Kodaline and Reef are just some of the acts to have graced the stage over the summer of 2022.

At the other end of the bay, the contrasting Turner Contemporary gallery sits near the quayside. The venue is arguably the pilot for the renaissance of the arts scene in Margate, with influence from Tracey Emin, one of the town’s notable residents. Between these two landmarks, the handsome old Victorian housing stock remains with a nod to its gentrified past.

Margate has one of the best stretches of sandy beach and is a Mecca for day-trippers from London. The train takes just under 90 minutes from St Pancras, and it’s just a short walk from the station to the shore.

The Turner Contemporary gallery building

Why we moved to Margate…

A few years ago, Edie Langley and her family decided to make Margate their home. After starting two successful businesses in the town, The Albion Rooms hotel and The Love Cafemoving to the Kent coast full-time seemed a natural fit. So what’s it like?

How long have you wanted to move to Margate, and why?

“We’d planned to move to Margate for around 2 years, mainly because it was impossible to run our businesses here from London. Now we can make them work the way we want and the way that the people here would like, and really immerse ourselves into work and the local community.

Did you know the area before, and what was the appeal?

“My partner and his band, The Libertines, bought a dilapidated hotel in Cliftonvillfive around 5 years ago and have turned it into an incredible boutique hotel and bar, The Albion Rooms. Every time I came down with my kids to see the progress, there was a new restaurant, cafe or pop-up bar, which felt really exciting. I love that Margate is full of a vibrance and good vibes.”

How’s the Love Cafe doing now? I think you’ve been open for well over a year. Was that a good move for you? I must confess I’ve eaten there and it was excellent.

“Well, I’m glad you liked it. The Love Cafe has had many ups and downs since we set it up just before the second lockdown. That really floored us and very nearly killed the business, but we kept it going somehow. Now that we’re here, I’m really excited to bring it to life again. I want to make it a beautiful, cosy community hub full of music, events and, of course,  great food and drink.”

Is there anything you think Margate needs or anything you’d change about the place?

“I think Margate has the perfect mix of tradition and trendy. I also like the fact that it’s constantly evolving, which keeps me on my toes.”

Can you see this being a long-term home for you, and why?

“We planned to test it for 2 years to make sure we wanted to be here. But as it stands, I don’t see us going back to London.
My sons are in amazing schools and thriving with life by the sea”.

 

Seasalter to Whitstable

These were a property pundit’s paradise. Seasalter isn’t the first place that springs to mind when moving to the Kent coast is on your mind. Being off the tourist trail means it’s often overlooked, and you can see why it’s such a closely guarded secret. Over the years, increasing house prices in Whitstable (which is just up the road) pushed would-be buyers slightly further afield.

Sealsalter beach and house
The seafront and houses at Seasalter

The town’s ripe-for-improvement 1950s architecture created a new crowd of locals with an appetite for renovating and restoring. Imagine watching those dramatic weather systems rolling across Whistable Bay and Sheppey from behind a big picture window.

It’s not a party place by any stretch of the imagination, and that’s just how the locals like it. If you’re looking for a place to just be, then Sealsalter is for you. But when you do venture out, and if you can get a table, The Sportsman is absolutely worth the trip. This hugely popular restaurant deserves its reputation for superb local and seasonal dishes.

Bracing long walks are a must, and a two-mile coastline-hugging route from Seasalter drops you in the middle of Whitstable. Here you can go into full tourist mode, exploring the historic harbour, abundant seafront eateries, quirky local shops and boutiques. Whitstable kickstarted our love affair with the Thanet coast and really put this part of Kent back on the map.

The marina and quayside at Whitstable
The marina and quayside at Whitstable

City types have flocked here for decades for affordable second homes with easy London connections via rail and road. The phenomenon is now being replicated along this entire stretch of coast, causing sharp rises in house prices. Thinking of a stay to whet your appetite? Try renting one of the fisherman’s huts along the quayside. It’s a great starting point.

 

Broadstairs

“Viking Bay”, as some of the locals know it, is a former fishing village with traceable roots back to the 1400s. It’s lost none of its charm or historic air, and has direct trains to Stratford and St Pancras in London. Leading away from the centre are streets full of larger houses where city types have decamped to enjoy a slightly slower pace of life.

Broadstairs is like a smaller, quieter version of Margate, with a sheltered bay and wonderful sandy beach that pulls in locals and DFLs alike. Behind it are some wonderful historic buildings and homes that have become very desirable over recent years.

A well-established restaurant scene takes care of things socially, particularly with Italian influences. Posillipo Pizzeria overlooks the front, as does the always-busy Morelli’s classic gelato parlour. Don’t worry if you’re a fish and chip devotee: you can pick up a great value takeaway at Harbour Street Fish & Chips. For an authentic seaside experience, eat them out of newspaper as you sit on the harbour wall admiring the view back toward the town.

Royal Ramsgate

This former hub of shipping and “refuge from a storm” is a hugely important feature of Kent’s coastal history. The town can be traced as far back as 1274, and you can discover more about the local heritage on the Ramsgate website. In 2022, it’s full of artists and creative types rubbing shoulders with the yachting fraternity and seasonal visitors.

If you’re looking for sustenance, there’s a long list of places to dive into when you arrive. Another highlight among the many Italian restaurants located around the Kent coast, Il Tricolore is highly regarded for its Mediterranean-style seafood. Or, for something a little different, the equally popular Shaky Shaky Fishbar on the High Street offers a lovely vegan alternative for a fish-and-chip menu. Finally, no day at the harbour would be complete without tucking into a pot of fresh shellfish. Cannons fish stall has a huge selection, and even sells single oysters for an easy introduction to novices.

Could you see yourself moving to the Kent Coast & Thanet?

If you really could see yourself moving to the Kent coast, don’t miss Courtstairs Manor in Pegwell Bay. Just 15 minutes along the Esplanade from Ramsgate, this Gothic revival manor from the end of the 1800s is now home to just seven unique apartments and seven brand new houses, each individually designed. These eco-friendly homes are like nothing else along this stretch of coastline and sit on the doorstep of everything you’d want to explore. Prices start from £375,000.

Just 14 unique homes sit behind private gates at Courtstairs Manor – 7 unique apartments converted from the original building, and seven brand new mews houses.

Click here to find out more and book a viewing.

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