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I’d been hearing mixed things about the seaside town of Margate in Kent for a few years, I’d heard that it’s been dubbed ‘Shoreditch by the Sea’ (I do love Shoreditch!), and even Kent’s Copenhagen (I also love Copenhagen!), but I’d also heard that it’s still fairly run down. I’m pretty stubborn and I like to make my own mind up about places so when I saw a return train ticket to Margate from London on The Train Line for just £20.00 I figured I didn’t have much to lose and I should visit Margate on a day trip from London.
A high-speed South Eastern train leaves St Pancras International station in London and within 1 hour 30 minutes, it arrives at the tip of Kent in Margate.
As we pulled into Margate, Dreamland – Margate’s amusement park and a popular thing to do in Margate can be seen at the side of the track and this is the first sign of how Margate is very much a typical English Seaside Town.
Margate train station is basic but has all it needs, plus free toilets which is always a bonus. I left Margate train station and saw the sea straight away, as a girl who grew up in the UK at the furthest point from the sea (aka right in the middle of England), this made me pretty happy. What didn’t make me as happy was the unfortunate-looking council high-rise block and huge amounts of graffiti on the walls nearby (I say graffiti over street art).
It was also pretty cloudy and a bit chilly despite the UK being in the midst of a heatwave but I wanted to keep my spirits high, I don’t like not liking a place, so I went for a walk alongside the beach taking in the many humongous seagulls, the typical seaside fairground rides on the beach that I hadn’t seen for years and the smell of hot doughnuts coming from the stalls. I decided to slightly ignore the empty, closed down shops that were lining the road the other side of the beach and the grey clouds above.
By the time I had reached the end of the beach I was pretty close to the Turner Contemporary Gallery. I’m not a huge fan of Galleries however I saw that it was free to enter, I was still pretty cold and it didn’t look like there was much else to do in Margate at this point so I went in.
The Turner Contemporary Gallery is only quite small and having opened in 2011, it’s still fairly new which shows from its interior and exterior as it’s pretty different to the rest of the architecture in Margate. When I visited there was an exhibition called Animals & Us which is running for the next few months, this is pretty much all I saw in the museum as the other galleries were closed for private events but it seems that they hold a specific exhibition at all times and if Animals & Us is anything to go by it’s definitely worth heading into the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate to check out the exhibition they have on as I really enjoyed it.
I didn’t spend too long in the gallery but it was now lunchtime and although the sun was peeking out behind the clouds it was still pretty grey.
I wanted a healthy Vegan lunch and I had seen Beet Bar recommended on Google, I also happened to pass a sign pointing me in the direction of Beet Bar so I followed the sign into a car park and there was a beautifully decorated cafe in front of me. Beet Bar is a plant-based cafe, mainly selling drinks and smoothies but they also had food on offer. I got the Raw Thali Bowl which was an array of delights (plus some not so delightful things like Sauerkraut!). I really loved it here though, it so pretty and calm, full of plants, crystals and good music. Plus it has an awesome Las Vegas inspired Margate sign in it!
The heatwave was back and on leaving Beet Bar the sky was now completely blue! I’d heard that Margate has a lot of cool shops, especially vintage shops in its old town and I was pretty sure that I’d seen photos of quirky shopfronts online, all of which made me think that this is where it gets its reputation as a ‘Shoreditch by the Sea’ so I decided to head into the streets to see what I could find.
Admittedly I did come across some vintage shops but as I’m saving to travel full-time I wasn’t tempted by them, however, if this is your thing you would find them quite appealing I think. I also noticed some nice bars and pubs, but then I took a turn up the main high street which is where all of the chain shops and food outlets are and it just looked like any other English Town (it really reminded me of Dover Town actually), with a Poundland, a Subway, a McDonald’s, plus more closed down and abandoned shops. It was a bit of a shame and put a sour taste of Margate in my mouth.
I headed back to the beach as it was perfect beach weather now. There were lots of school groups out which I found weird and most were sitting on the beach. Margate’s beach is pretty nice and did surprise me, mainly thanks to it being all sand. So many non-British people moan about the beaches here because they’re rock or shingle but Margate’s beach is golden and so soft!
At this point I really wasn’t a fan of Margate, I didn’t know what else I could do there. Obviously I knew that going on my own wasn’t the greatest idea, I wasn’t going to Dreamland which is the high of most people’s visit to Margate and I wasn’t in a position to check out its bars and pubs, of which it seems to have a few cool and quirky ones, so I sat on the beach and read my book until I chilled out a bit.
Whilst daydreaming/reading my book it hit me that not everywhere has to have a lot going on. I can go somewhere and just chill, I don’t need to stomp around a gazillion streets, go up to a view-point, find the cool Instagram shot, do an activity etc like I do on my many city breaks. It is normal to arrive somewhere, take it in, wander about, chill and then go home.
I decided to take another walk of Margate and re-take some of the pictures I had taken earlier in the morning with the grey cloud as it was now literally bright blue skies, and because of my realisation, I started not to mind Margate so much.
I walked down the Harbour Arm (essentially Margate’s Pier as it doesn’t have one anymore) and noticed that this would be a really good place to sit in the sun had I been with some friends. I noticed The Sands Hotel and Buoy and Oyster Bar, both of which were in beautiful old buildings with terraces overlooking the beach. On the other side of the beach close to the train station I came across The Bus Cafe and a row of pop-up cafes and bars which were really cool and unique for Margate. I noticed how much the water was glistening in the sun and the man-made swimming pool that has been created within the sea, and to fully make myself feel better I bought 6 hot doughnuts for £3.50 because no trip the seaside is complete without doughnuts, am I right??
It still reminded me of why I’m not a huge fan of England though, Margate is, unfortunately, is quite run down and feel’s a bit forgotten too. I feel like if you lived there it would be hard to break out of a rut, you’d get stuck there due to limited possibilities and this also showed when I was walking around.
Overall, I’m glad I went on a day trip from London to Margate as otherwise, I’d always be wondering what it was like, however, I’m not keen to go back and I wouldn’t recommend going on a solo trip to Margate. Hike the White Cliffs of Dover in Kent solo but don’t visit Margate on your own!
With that being said, if you were to go with friends to Margate to visit Dreamland, visit some of the bars and explore the quirky shops together it would be a good day out. In fact, my friend Kara went quite recently to do just that which you can read about here! And Twins That Travel also show what a good time they had in Margate in this post and visiting nearby Botany Bay the day after sounds like the perfect 2 days in Margate.
Plus, The Shell Grotto is another unique thing to do in Margate which I didn’t do and I have heard is cool.
Additionally, if you are not British, you’re visiting London for a few days and want to get out of London on a day trip to the beach, I would recommend Margate because just a few hours here will give you a real insight into the British Seaside- run down, trendy or not. Just be sure to get some Fish and Chips at Peter’s Fish Factory as well as some hot doughnuts on the beach.. and be careful of the huge seagulls!
Let me know what you think! Have you been to Margate, do you agree with me? Have I convinced you to go or put you off going?
For trains to Margate, have a look at The Train Line as I find this the easiest place to compare times and prices.
For more Day trip from London ideas have a look at these posts:
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I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a total travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010 and has visited over 55 Countries. (Yes I’m a Country Counter!)
I love travelling, visiting new places and meeting new people but what I also love is sharing my experiences to help you travel better which is why I pour so much love into this travel blog.
I hope to inspire you to visit new places, make you realise you don’t need to spend that much money to travel and give you helpful tips on how to get to places and what to do there!
In the Summer of 2018, I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time so if this is your dream too, follow along because I post lots of content around how I did it. And it really is amazing!
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