Awesome day out in Kent with kids: from London with train and bike
A day out in Kent with kids from London, is such a lovely and easy break from the city chaos that I wonder why we didn’t explore this area earlier.
Many people live in London without a car, but unlike many other cities such as Rome, my hometown, days out by train from London are easy and cheap. If you have a bicycle then you can easily reach even some of the less connected areas.
We sold our car when our Twins were 8 months old and we never feel we missed it.
The Kent area is south east of London and offers several places to visit. You can visit a beautiful Kent coastal town, but in general all of the Kent seaside offers evocative scenery ranging from endless beaches, cliffs overlooking the sea, and colourful villages where relaxation and slowing down the pace are the main activities of those who come to visit.
As I said there are several day trips out in Kent that you can consider. In this post I will illustrate how to spend a pleasant day exploring some of the best beaches in Kent: the coast between Margate and Ramsgate.
Below you have the overview of the itinerary after you arrive in Margate. (click and save the map for easier access)
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Don’t be fooled, this day out in Kent with kids is ideal in the summer, but it’s also perfect in any season with a beautiful sunny day.
Day out in Kent with kids: London to Kent by train
Kent offers one of the best seaside resorts in the UK near London. In summer, you can divide the itinerary proposed here over the weekend in order to have time for some beach life.
From London on weekends there are at least 3 Southeastern trains every hour from London St. Pancras and 1 from London Victoria.
We took our bikes, but the distances we covered were really small, you will not have much issue if you prefer to walk. For us this was a practical way as Liam and Santiago (4 years old) are getting tired easily.
Southeastern lets you take your folding bike on any train any day. However, you can only take non-folding bicycles on the train without limitations on weekends or bank holidays (off peak). During working days, you will not be able to take your non-folding bike on trains arriving in London at peak time (7-10 am) or leaving London at peak time (4-7 pm)
There is no wagon dedicated to bicycles, but on a Sunday we had no problem finding a place where they bothered no-one.
HOT TIP: Don’t have a bike?No problem! Beside all the other London cycling hire schemes, more focused on short commutes, there is also the Brompton hire scheme. In various locations, for £ 11.50 a day, you can rent a Brompton folding bike and keep it all day. If your kids are already capable of riding a bike, they shouldn’t have a problem with a Brompton.
In about an hour and a half from St. Pancras (a little more from London Victoria) you will reach some of the best beaches and coastline near London. In St Pancras station there is a convenient lift to reach the platforms. Margate station, where you will arrive and Ramsgate from where you will leave have no steps.
One way ticket London – Margate
Cost £ 13.50 off peak
Time 90 min more or less
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Day out in Kent with kids: 1 day itinerary
London – Margate
The day starts early, if you can, take a train around 8:30 in order to arrive in Margate around 10:00. We started cycling from Hampstead, and in 20 minutes we were at the station.
Margate is a classic British seaside town. A fairly touristic vintage place with an iconic amusement park, which is home to the oldest wooden roller coaster in the UK.
However, in recent years it has been rejuvenated with injections of modernity. Art galleries, modern cafes, and hipster shops try to remove that old patina that sometimes loses its retro charm, becoming only cheap.
For lovers of architecture and art, a stop at the Turner contemporary (designed by David Chipperfield) is a must. Admission is free and you can admire works by local artists in a sober but progressive setting that celebrates the mix of local culture and international creativity.
If you prefer the mystery of the past, you could stop at the Shell Grotto, an underground cave discovered almost 2 centuries ago. Completely covered with shells it has not yet been discovered what its use was but it is a really fascinating space.
After a ride in Margate, and a visit to Dreamland (the amusement park), it’s time to continue along the viking coast trail to Botany bay
Margate – Botany bay
3.4 miles almost flat, paved but off road
The first part of the itinerary is very scenic and above all very easy, almost entirely flat. About twenty minutes should be enough. However better to consider at least double, you will surely stop an indefinite number of times to capture beautiful landscapes.
Botany bay is a residential area, not a village. The attraction of the place is the very pretty beach which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful beaches near London.
Not having a train station to connect it directly with other villages means it is less touristic, or perhaps I should say it is less targeted by those looking for the typical beach day trip from London. Botany Bay is ideal for a relaxing staycation and should be part of your list of secluded UK getaways.
Once in Botany bay, depending on the season, you can spend a few hours in the sun on the beach below the cliffs or simply delighting in the landscape from above.
This is also a great place to spend some days with really little kids. The conditions seem all much more favourable for a good outcome, rather than our disastrous attempt of a beach holiday with 13 months old.
Here you will find a very nice hotel, the Botany Bay Hotel, where you can stop for lunch. If the weather is nice, they are also serving food in the outdoor spaces.
Botany Bay – Broadstairs
From Botany Bay to Broadstairs it is again just over 3 miles. Following the viking coastal trial, but with some ups and downs that will take a little longer, especially if you bring a child in the back seat.
On the way you will meet another quiet and very pleasant bay: Joss bay. Here, if you are passionate you can stop and learn surfing at the school. After that the journey continues for a part by road until reaching Broadstairs.
Brodstairs is another pleasant Kent coastal town. It is looking a bit dormant as if it had dozed off at the time when Dickens choose it as his favourite travel destination.
Park your bike and you can enjoy photographing the colourful beach huts on Viking Bay, visit the small Dickens museum, or just stroll along part of the Viking trail that overlooks the beach, stopping for a coffee in one of the various places.
Broadstairs – Ramsgate
4 miles a little up and down
From Broadstairs you will travel the last part of the itinerary. The Viking trail is actually a 32 mile circular route. From here it reaches the other side of the coast until it arrives in Birchington-on-sea.
In this itinerary we only cover the Margate – Ramsgate part.
Ramsgate offers a great number of restaurants and pubs (including the biggest Whetherspoons in the Royal Victoria pavilion just on the beach) and lovely antique shops.
Something else that makes it famous, is a big network of civilian wartime tunnels that you can visit in an hour and half guided tour.
By now you should be at the end of the day and from the harbour you will have to pedal a bit uphill to get to the station
One way ticket Ramsgate – London
Cost £ 13.50 off peak
Time 75 min more or less
Best Kent seaside hotels
This itinerary is absolutely feasible in a day even for beginner cyclists. However in the summer it can be pleasant to stop for the weekend. In this case you will have a wide choice of hotels, here are 2 we personally visited and stayed in.
Botany Bay hotel
This is the hotel we chose for our stopover. As the name suggests it is fantastically positioned directly in front of the clifftop. The hotel offers simple and functional but clean rooms, and some of the 30 rooms available offer sea view.
The breakfast is plentiful and varied with a buffet and à la carte dishes. (during covid 19 restrictions, the buffet is completely replaced by table service)
The restaurant is also open for lunch and dinner. This hotel is a lovely place if you appreciate nature and breathtaking landscapes. However it is certainly not for you if you prefer the bustle of a seaside town
Be aware: there is no lift
The Royal Albion
The Royal Albion is the perfect alternative to the Botany bay hotel if you want a hotel in a less isolated location. Perfectly located in the centre of the beachfront town of Broadstairs, it offers simple rooms, some with stunning views of Viking Bay.
On the front, the hotel restaurant opens onto a very spacious terrace with various levels, perfect for warm summer evenings.
I hope you will enjoy this day out in Kent with kids. If you also want an option for a day trip in the country side from London, but just using the tube, then you can read about the perfect day in Old Amersham