Back in Britain, I’ve been lucky enough to always have family living by the sea; I’m half Cornish so have a lot of relatives there, my gran lives in Exmouth in Devon and my dad has lived in Herne Bay for the last 7 years.
I actually first visited Herne Bay on a geography school trip, where we had to do really fun things like measure parts of the beach to see how the sediment was dispersed. But I’m delighted to tell you that there are other things to do in Herne Bay besides this – in fact, it’s a fun place for UK staycations!
Herne Bay has the classic seaside atmosphere that a lot of British towns retain. I’m talking old arcade games, plenty of seagulls and photogenic beach huts. There’s also a pebble beach and water so cold you won’t want to get in, but it all adds to the spirit of a good British beach holiday, right? 😉
As I’ve spent so much time in this town over the last seven years but have never written about it, I thought I’d create this list of the best things to do in Herne Bay, just in case you all fancy visiting!
Bondi Beach it is not, but it’s got a unique kind of charm, and with direct (albeit slow) trains from London Victoria and Bromley South, it’s easy to reach from the capital.
The Best Things to do in Herne Bay
Reculver Tower and the Roman Fort
Probably the most famous thing to do in Herne Bay is to check out Reculver Tower. These 12th-century church towers were part of a larger church building; the towers were all that was preserved, as they acted as a landmark for sailors. We visited here on my geography school trip too, although I just can’t remember exactly why.
There’s also a Roman Fort built upon the same site. I’ll be honest, there are many more impressive castles in Kent, but it is still worth checking out while you’re in Herne Bay. Nowadays, you can’t see too much of the 2000 year old fort nowadays, although the foundations are still visible.
The site is operated by the English Heritage and is free to enter – it has the wonderfully British opening times of ‘any reasonable time during daylight hours’.
Snap A Photo of the Beach Huts
Herne Bay has some of the most photogenic beach huts in the country. Lining the pebble beach, they’re great for Instagram photos. They are all privately owned, so do be respectful while looking at them – but if you visit in the winter, they’re likely to be closed up.
See the Clock Tower
In the middle of the town, with the sea as a backdrop, is one of the oldest purpose-built clock towers in the world. It was built in 1837 and since then has been a significant landmark of Herne Bay.
Try Your Luck at the Arcades
Like many British seaside towns, Herne Bay is home to lots of arcades. Ranging from penny machines to other high-tech games that I have no idea what they do, any arcade game fanatic will have a thrilling time here. There are plenty of places to go, all dotted along the seafront.
Play on the Pier (and photograph the eerie end of it)
Herne Bay pier used to be one of the longest in the country, but a fire meant that the middle part was destroyed. You can still look out to see at the rather desolate pier end, which is a bit gloomy but does make for some good photo opportunities!
On the pier itself, there are some funfair games and rides, which is one of the best things to do in Herne Bay with kids.
Cycle or Walk the Oyster Bay Trail
They Oyster Bay Trail takes you 6.7 miles around the entire coastal area of the town, ending up with some beautiful panoramic views of the seascape. It is primarily a cycle path, but if you’re careful it’s walkable. Click here for more information from Explore Kent.
Visit the Telly Go Round
On my second visit to Herne Bay (after measuring the beach during the geography school trip), I was delighted to find the Telly Go Round. Basically, you put a few coins in and loads of kids’ TV characters pop out and say hi. It’s fun for adults too, trust me!
Walk along the beach (or sunbathe if you don’t mind pebbles)
Herne Bay’s beaches are all pebbly, so sunbathing might be out of the question, unless you want to feel like you’re having a permanent hot stone massage without the heat (might be nice…). Walking along the beach is very nice though, and if you visit during the 10 days a year where we have temperatures of 25 degrees or more, you might even fancy a dip in the sea.
Note: Herne Bay is actually apparently the sunniest place in the country. Which I mean, isn’t all that impressive, but I thought I’d let you all know anyway.
Watch the Waves at Neptune’s Arm
Constructed in the 1990s as a breakwater, Neptune’s Arm sticks out into the ocean; in calm weather visitors can walk to the end of it to enjoy the sea in front, and the town views behind you.
Be careful during high tide; if the wind is strong (which it can often be in Herne Bay) and the waves large, it can be dangerous here. Often Neptune’s Arm is shut during extreme weather, but it may be dangerous even if it isn’t, so don’t go on it during adverse weather.
That being said, admiring the waves crashing over the weir from afar, on safe dry land, is a great spectacle to see in Herne Bay.
Herne Bay Seaside Museum
If you want to find out more about this quaint little seaside town, and more about the construction of Victorian seaside towns all over bonny England, there’s no better place to learn about it than the Herne Bay Seaside Museum. It has permanent and temporary exhibitions and goes into detail about the history of the place. Click here to visit the official website for more details.
Places Near Herne Bay
I’m going to be honest, if you’re looking for a week’s worth of attractions, you won’t find them in Herne Bay. You can explore the town in a day, but it does make for a good place to explore some other Kentish seaside towns.
Beautiful Whitstable is another quintessential British seaside town, with arguably prettier beach huts than Herne Bay. There are plenty of things to do in Whitstable, and it is also home to lots of independent stores and cute cafes and beachfront pubs. Definitely worth a visit while you’re in Kent.
Margate has turned into somewhat of a trendy, up and coming place in the last few years. It intertwines British beach culture, as you’ve seen in Herne Bay, with an artsy, modern scene. While it’s not quite as traditional as Herne Bay, it’s another take on the British seaside.
Located about half an hour from Herne Bay, Canterbury is one of the largest cities in Kent. It is renowned for being the place of the murder of Thomas Beckett, and then the site of pilgrimage of many Christians from around Britain and Europe. There is also an ancient Cathedral, lots of beautiful buildings and the Canterbury Tales exhibition, which depicts life in Canterbury during medieval times (inspired by the writings of Chaucer).
Home to the country’s only Royal Harbour and an impressive network of WWII tunnels, Ramsgate has plenty of history, beautiful buildings and (!!)A sandy beach(!!). If it’s +20 degrees during your time in Kent, be sure to head here for your obligatory sunbathe.
Where to Stay in Herne Bay
B&B in town: Lime Tree Cottage
Lime Tree Cottage has well-decorated rooms, with a homely atmosphere, friendly hosts and a fantastic breakfast. It is located a little out of Herne Bay, in the town of Herne, but is in a lovely quiet location. You will need to drive or take a taxi into town, but it is well positioned for day trips to the other locations mentioned in this post. Click here for rates and to book.
Seafront: Evening Tide
This beachfront guesthouse has amazing views of the sea, is clean and tidy and offers great breakfast. Guests love the friendly and helpful host. Click here to book.
Holiday Let: Imperial House Holiday Let
Located on the Herne Bay beachfront, this Holiday Let is one of the more modern accommodation options in Herne Bay and sleeps up to 4 people. It’s great for groups who want a place to themselves, and has a kitchenette with a microwave and kettle. Click here to learn more and to book.
Please note that I haven’t personally stayed at these accommodations due to having free accommodation at my dad’s when I visit Herne Bay, but they come with the recommendations of friends and all have a very high rating on Booking.com.
Don’t Forget Your UK Essentials!
Click through to see each product on Amazon.
- UK travel guide and the Rough Guide to Kent, Sussex and Surrey
- Suncream if you’re visiting in the summer
- A high-quality water bottle (tap water is drinkable anywhere in the UK)
- A picnic blanket and hamper* (presuming that your visit will coincide on the 10% of days it doesn’t rain*)
- High-quality shoes for walking
- A coat (could be necessary any time of year), scarf, wooly hat and gloves (necessary during winter)
- A camera – I use the Fuji X-A5 and the Go Pro Hero 6, as well as my Samsung Galaxy Phone.
- If you’re backpacking, you might need a backpack – I use the Osprey 40 litres backpack, which has a lifetime guarantee!
- A daypack for day trips out – Osprey do these as well!
* I feel like hamper is a very British word – does anywhere else use this word? It’s basically a picnic basket.
** not an official statistic, I just made this up.
Where to next?
There are plenty more worthwhile places to visit near Herne Bay. As well as checking out the towns listed above, you could explore elsewhere in Kent (days out in Kent post is coming soon!) or head to London, if you haven’t already come from there. Check out my 4 day London itinerary to show you around, or click here to find out where to stay in London.
Other great spots to visit in the UK include Bath; here’s a budget travel guide to the city and how to find cheap accommodation there. Bristol is a really underrated city that I lived in for 4 years and absolutely adore (and am determined to move back to in a few years)! Here’s my guide on what to do in Bristol (coming soon!) and where to stay in Bristol.
Of course, you could also venture north, to the midlands and to places like the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, the picturesque Cotswolds area, the dynamic city of Birmingham and then into the north to cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds and to see nature like the Peak District and the wonderful Lake District.
Then, there’s Scotland – check out an itinerary for a road trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye here.
If you’re really not sure where to go, my UK bucket list will help!