Cool Things To Do In Margate | Updated 2020
This fun seaside town still has plenty to offer travellers
Margate, a quintessential British seaside town on the Kent coast, makes a great day trip from London & the South East. Sometimes called ‘Shoreditch On Sea’, Margate has a wealth of history and recent investment that makes it a great destination all year around beyond summer walks along the sand. Sadly, a few of Margate’s main attractions like Dreamland (awesome for arcade games and summer festivals) and the Turner Contemporary are temporarily closed due to Covid, but Margate still has lots of fun ways to while away the time. Margate is a few hours drive from London, or you can get the train from London Kings Cross in an hour and a half.
1. Margate Sands
Margate Sands (the main beach), is a great place travel for all those quintessential British seaside activities, like metal detecting (we’ve never done it but we get jealous every time we see one), hiding behind a windbreak, chilly swims, sandcastle building, pretending to be trapped in quicksand and eating questionable prawns from a little beach huts. In all seriousness, it’s actually very beautiful, with the bay commanding great views across to the Turner Contemporary and the sunset turning the sand shades of iridescent pastel as the tide goes out.
2. The Shell Grotto
Margate’s Shell Grotto is plain weird in a really fun way and definitely not to be missed. Descending down the stairs in a non-descript looking house, you enter into a series of interconnecting chambers that are completely covered with mosaics made from seashells.
At Flotsam Towels, we’re lovers of a good story and the narrative of this place is that it was discovered by accident in 1835 and no one knows why it was built, how old it is or exactly where all the shells come from. All this adds to the beauty of this unique and intricate work of art made from over 4.6 million seashells.
You’ll need to pre-book well in advance due to Covid on their website- we tried the day before and tickets were limited.
3. Catch the Bus to Botany Bay
If you have a little more time, we’d recommend catching the 8A Stagecoach 15 minutes along the coast to Botany Bay, a romantically named beach with golden sand and imposing (and very photogenic) chalk stacks you can walk between, following the curve of the sea with tidal rock pools providing unexpected treasures. There’s lots of tasty places for snacks, like Morelli’s Gelato and the awesome Stark Restaurant up the road in Broadstairs, but you’ll need to pre-book as they’re currently only accepting reservations for two.
4. Sample Some of Margate’s Amazing Bars & Restaurants
Margate is a great place for foodies to to travel, with a wealth of tasty places to eat and drink. We’d recommend doing a combination of some advance booking for food due to Covid and some bar hopping to make sure you still get to soak up those beautiful seaside views. For the beach town traditionalist, there’s harbourside shacks selling fresh prawns and mussels and Peter’s Peter’s Fish Factory on the Parade (so popular it has a queue around the block) is great for getting a takeaway to eat on the sand. For those looking to sample something a little more upmarket, we’d recommend the small plates at Angela’s of Margate & some delicious seafood with a view at Buoy & Oyster. If you can’t get a table at either, Buoy & Oyster do an equally delicious looking takeaway menu & Angela’s has a sister restaurant called Dory’s with outside tables that overlook the harbour.
Sam Town | Flickr
5. Find Another Time, & Margate’s Independent Art Galleries
Margate is a pretty arty place with a bunch of different contemporary galleries like The Pie Factory dotted around the seaside town. It’s also attracted lots of creatives who have travelled down for a bit of escapism from recent times, which adds to the overall artsy vibe.
Sadly, the Turner Contemporary is currently closed until 2021, but lots of the smaller galleries remain open with precautions in place, and visiting safely is a great way to support local businesses. Our favourite art installation in Margate is Antony Gormley’s Another Time, partly because of the narrative, and partly because it’s impossible to shut because of Covid. Another Time is a series of cast iron figures that explore the experience of being human, placed in seas and bodies of water around the world. The Margate sculpture appears around three hours before low tide on the foreshore, with Gormley commenting that the project is “an attempt to bear witness to what it is like to be alive and alone in space and time”. We love the sculpture because it succeeds as a contemporary sculpture to do similar to what Turner does with his paintings, being wild, lonely and beautiful, and at the same time creating a space to reflect on nature and our place within it.
6. See Margate Through Other People's Eyes
As you might have guessed, Margate has had quite a number of people of interest throughout history and if you remember to look up, you’ll find the town is dotted with blue ceramic plaques that give visitors a teaser of its past, from being the location of Turner’s school to the venue of Morcambe’s (of Morcambe & Wise) wedding. Our favourite isn’t actually a blue plaque at all and is unexpectedly on the side of some public toilets next to the bandstand on the beachfront. The location turns out to be the site that T.S. Eliot penned the first draft of everyone’s favourite A-Level poem, the Wasteland. Jokes aside, peering into Margate’s cultural history through it’s muse-like landscapes allows travellers to see the town through the perspective of different people, from poetry to painting to the anonymous creators of secret underground caves.