Down to Margate

Down to Margate

We took an impromptu trip down to Margate on a sunny September day. Margate has reinvented itself from run-down traditional seaside town to an artistic hub. A world-class art gallery, cool cafés and retro shops now complement the sandy beach.

For Daisy the biggest draw was the deserted sandy beach. It was a great time of year to visit after all the school holiday and weekend crowds had left. It was even just about warm enough for a little paddle.

I love the walk along the Viking Coastal Trail from Margate to Broadstairs. It takes a couple of hours and passes by dramatic cliffs and seascapes.

Family activities

There are other traditional family holiday activites available. Such as the opportunity to rediscover childhood toys at the Hornby Visitor Centre. Or the fantastic 18-hole adventure golf course at Strokes Adventure Golf – they have even held the world championships there!You can also visit the weird and wonderful Shell Grotto with its underground shell-lined passages. The grotto was discovered in 1835 by some builders who sent a boy down a hole on a rope to investigate a lost shovel. Instead, they found several caves with over 4 million seashells laid out in mysterious, intricate patterns. No one knows why it is there; visit and invent your own theory…

The regeneration of Margate continues with the revival of Dreamland. Unfortunately the park is only open at the weekend, so we could not pay a visit. But it sounds great, with historic rides, classic side shows and places to eat. The Octopus’s Garden, an indoor play area for under 8s, is open every day though. There’s a circus tent, beach huts, a grassy hill to roll down, a potting shed for arts and crafts, along with climbing frames, cargo nets and sand pits to keep the little ones entertained.


The Turner Contemporary art gallery brings together historical and modern works. Admission is free and it is normally open Tuesday to Sunday. But check the website before you go – at the time of our visit the galleries were shut for 2 weeks while new exhibitions were installed. Exhibitions often include pieces by JMW Turner, who was inspired by Margate’s stunning seascapes, and local artist Tracey Emin. And importantly for us with toddlers, decent baby-change facilities. In summer/autumn 2017 one of Antony Gormley’s one hundred Another Time solid cast-iron figures is on display outside the gallery. The sculpture becomes visible about 3 hours before low tide. I was excited to see another of his sculptures as they had previously been scattered around the Arlberg mountains in Austria as part of his Horizon Field installation. It was fun to spot them as you skiied around between 2010 and 2012.


Margate’s Old Town and Harbour Arm have also been revived in recent years. Here you can find chic restaurants, chilled-out cafes, candyfloss stands, fish and chip shops, seafood stalls – something to suit every taste. We tried the pizza at GB Pizza Co. It was pretty hip with neon lights and upcycled furniture, but perfectly toddler-friendly. The pizzas were lovely – thin and cripsy, with toppings sourced from local suppliers. And although not on the menu, they will do a little pizza for your toddler.

Down to Margate: Getting there

We hopped on the train from St Pancras but you can also catch them from Victoria (the latter is cheaper but takes longer). This makes it an easy trip to head down to Margate from London and only takes around an hour and a half. Worth the journey for a bit of proper bucket and spade action.


Extraordinary Chaos

19 thoughts on “Down to Margate

    1. I do like what they have done with Dreamland – it was a depressing sight when it was closed and the scenic railway was half burned down

  1. My WORD! I had an excellent spur of the moment holiday in Margate some very long time ago, which was excellent precisely because it lived up to every stereotype of off peak run down seaside town going, which I am afraid I found very amusing. I am actually slightly horrified they have done the place up, but it really was only a matter of time as it’s a lovely spot really.

    Mind you, we actually went there because of Hornby – husband is a fan – and we even trecked out to the factory to find… nothing. We were quite surprised. I think my husband will be quite irritated to find they have now got around to a visitors centre, but it does make it slightly more likely I will get to go and see all these changes for myself.

    1. Yes, Hornby do have a visitor centre now – I think my other half is planning to drag me there one day… Margate does have a fantastic beach, so anything they can do to entice more people there has to be a good thing I think

  2. I’d love to see the rejuvenation of Margate. It was the first British seaside town I went to when I arrived in the UK around 20 years ago. As an Aussie I was appalled!! But I now understand the Britishness of it all and can appreciate it for what it is. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles

  3. I’d really love to visit Margate this year! My husband is from Kent and used to go as a child and does not remember it fondly at all, but its changed so much! Looks like a lovely day out! #farawayfiles

  4. Love how close it is to the big city! As an American, I always here the world “paddle” and I think canoe, or kayak. I learned the discrepancy on another English beach with friends who wanted us to go for a “paddle” and there was no boat. HA! Looks lovely and you’ve intrigued me with the Shell Grotto – so crazy! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

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