Families looking for something to do with their children as the weather gets warmer should consider a visit to the Isle of Thanet and its coastal resorts of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. There is so much fun to be had for little or no cost – from becoming rocky shore explorers to discovering quirky, hidden gem attractions such as the Crab Museum – and everything in between.
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside…
The Isle of Thanet has 19 miles of spectacular coastline with 16 sandy beaches and bays, including seven international Blue Flag Award winners and three Seaside Award winners – so there’s no shortage of choice.
Building sandcastles, exploring rock pools and splashing in the sea – it’s all free and great, active fun for energetic youngsters.
For just £5 (plus proof of ID), visitors can hire a Coastal Explorer Pack in Margate, Broadstairs or Ramsgate for at least half a day of coastal fun. Learn how to make a sundial, identify clouds, play hopscotch, make sand art with finds from the beach, or identify the marine life found in rock pools – all equipment and information sheets are included in your pack.
Throughout the summer months, there’s an opportunity to dive deeper into the area’s fascinating rock pool wildlife on a Seashore Safari. Explore the extensive chalk reef and rock pools to see what shore life you can find. The safaris take place on a variety of beaches, and last for up to 2 hours. They are suitable for all the family, but particularly 4-11 year olds, and all children must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Advance booking is required as numbers are limited. Suggested donation of £2 per person.
There’s so much more to explore
Fancy a break from the seafront? There’s a variety of intriguing, independent, hidden gem attractions just waiting to be discovered if you venture into our towns. Some have free entry whilst others offer family tickets for £10 or less.
Only a few minutes’ walk from Margate Main Sands is the Old Town. Here, you will find the quirky Crab Museum, Margate’s newest offering which highlights the diversity of the crab species and how it affects all of our lives in ways many of us don’t even realise. It’s a fun, interactive and educational way to spend a few hours, with plenty of things to see, hear, touch and smell!
Open weekends, Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 4pm. Entry is free, prices in the museum shop start at £1 (for a branded pencil).
Nearby, explore the subterranean curiosity that is Margate Caves or the mysterious Shell Grotto, an underground wonder decorated in no less than 4.6 million shells! Each attraction offers a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) for £10. Adult tickets are £4.50, concession £4, child £2, under 4s free. Check websites for opening times www.margatecaves.co.uk and www.shellgrotto.co.uk
Margate Museum – housed in a Grade II listed building in the heart of Margate Old Town – is a unique example of a Victorian Police Station and Magistrates Court. The museum displays an eclectic history of the seaside town of Margate over the past 5,500 years.
The museum is open weekends and Bank Holidays all year, from 11am to 3pm (last admission 2pm). Prices are adult £2, accompanied child up to 16 free, concession £1.50. www.visitthanet.co.uk/attractions/margate-museum-2275/
Monkton Nature Reserve is situated in a 16 acre abandoned chalk quarry. There are over 350 species of flowering plant to be found, including 8 species of orchid and 25 species of butterfly, plus other species of insects, mammals and birds. The reserve is also home to the UKs first artificial bat cave. Free children’s activities include the Monkton Meander I-Spy game, a brass-rubbing challenge, plus an activity box with games, paints and pencils in the picnic area. Coming soon is a fossil/dinosaur trail and an enchanted fairy house trail to really get young imaginations firing!
Open Tuesday, Thursday and weekends, 10:30am to 3:30pm (last admission 2:30pm).
Adult £5, child £2.50, concessions £4.50, family ticket £10.
The Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum at Manston is a unique site, displaying the iconic Spitfire Mk XVI and Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc. and displaying a host of objects and artefacts telling the story of life in and around Ramsgate during WWII.
The museum is open all year but times do vary, so it is best to check their website. Entry is free – and so is the onsite parking.
The Powell-Cotton Museum, Quex House and Gardens in Birchington is a three-in-one attraction, with a museum of African and Asian natural history and cultural objects, a stunning house and beautiful gardens. Seeing the natural history dioramas adds a real wow factor to visits, for adults and children alike, and the gardens are perfect for picnics.
Little explorers can borrow a backpack full of activities to help them discover more, plus families can learn together with their interactive handling collection.
The museum and gardens are open weekends and Bank Holidays, opening times may vary so check prior to visiting. Quex House is viewed by guided tour only on museum open days, subject to weddings. Entry is £2.50 per person.
Crampton Tower Museum in Broadstairs is a small local history and railway museum celebrating the life and achievements of local engineer Thomas Russell Crampton (1816-1888) who was the first to succeed in laying an effective telegraph cable under the English Channel.
Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2pm to 4:30pm (last admission 4pm). Check their website for August opening times and events. Adult £3, child (4 to 16 years) £1.50, family ticket £7.50.
At the Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs, you can explore Charles Dickens’ relationship with the town through his very own letters and personal items. The house was once the home of Miss Mary Pearson Strong, the inspiration for the character of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield.
Open to 24 July and from 5 September to 30 October, Wednesday to Sunday, 1pm to 4:30pm. 25 July to 4 September, daily, 10am to 4:30pm. Last entry 4pm. Adult £3.50, child £1.50, family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) £8.50.
Make digital discoveries
It can be hard to separate a young person from their phone – but what if they could use it to make a digital discovery and uncover some of the Isle’s unique stories, rich heritage and secrets?
A series of 10 digital interpretation plaques are scattered around the isle in a digital treasure trail. Simply enter/scan the code on the plaque to find out more about each location through film, audio and images.
There is plenty of accommodation in Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate and the surrounding villages to more than meet a family’s holiday or short-break needs. From hotels and family-run B&Bs to superb quality self-catering options to tempting camping and caravan parks – the Isle of Thanet has it all!
Find out more on www.visitthanet.co.uk/stay-and-eat/places-to-stay – all properties have either been inspected and graded by a national quality scheme, or have signed up to the Kent Accommodation Scheme and Thanet Accommodation Charter.
With the increasing cost of petrol, it’s worth looking at car-free options (which help save the planet and pennies alike!) Did you know that Southeastern offers ‘Kids for a Quid’ tickets? Under 5s go free, and tickets cost £1 for children aged 5-15 years when travelling with an adult with a valid ticket.
Find out more at www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/tickets/ways-to-save/kids-for-a-quid