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Whitstable, Kent, UK

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Whitstable has a reputation of being a quaint, relatively unspoilt seaside town.

This accolade has not been gained by careful, sensitive planning to keep the town's aesthetic looks firmly planted in its maritime roots, but rather by under-investment and neglect by the local council whose coffers are ear-marked for the star attraction of the county - Canterbury1.

Due to the lack of redevelopment, the town has many relics of the past left around in various states of dilapidation - this makes it a magnet for artists and artisans whose works and wares are displayed in various little shops and galleries throughout the town - especially in Harbour Street.

At the end of the 19th Century Whitstable was a thriving town with its working harbour, boat-building and fishing industries. Nowadays the harbour still works but its main cargo, coal, has long gone. The boat-builders and riggers have all disappeared but the fishing industry is still hanging on - thanks to the famous Whitstable Oysters.

Whitstable Oysters

Available from September to April each year, the native Whitstable oyster has been harvested for centuries and is well-known for its deliciousness throughout Europe.

Oyster fishermen used to use boats called smacks and yawls to gather their catch. Examples of these can still be seen in and around Whitstable and are raced in an annual regatta.

Whitstable people are very proud of their links to the sea and especially proud of their native oyster - so much so that they hold a week-long festival in its honour every year. A week of frivolity which culminates on the landing of a pre-season catch of oysters which are paraded around the town and distributed to restaurateurs by the mayor. One of the funniest sights of the parade is a troop of locals doing the Fish Slapping Dance - a sort of maritime version of Morris dancing2, which involves costumes adorned with shells, seaweed and fish-type things and slapping fish around whilst singing traditional songs - sort of.


Naturally, the town boasts several restaurants specialising in seafood, perhaps the most renowned of these is the Whitstable Oyster Fisheries Restaurant which backs onto the beach. Above the restaurant is the town's unique Imperial Oyster Cinema where you can get a drink from the bar, sit in one of the rows of padded armchairs to watch the blockbuster of the moment amidst the unforgettable aroma of other peoples' fish dinners!

They used to say you could drink in a different pub in Whitstable every week of the year. There are not quite so many now but there are plenty to choose from and certainly enough to find one to suit your particular preferred ambience.

All in all, if you fancy spending a lazy Sunday strolling around quaint little back streets and along beach walks, sucking in those salty aromas of the harbour and sampling the seafood, you couldn't pick a better spot. Peter Cushing* liked it so much he stayed for 30 years.

1It is the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England and the boss of the worldwide Anglican Church; first choice for pilgrims; all singing, all dancing tourist-mecca.2Pagan in origin, men dressed in strange costumes adorned with bells and brandishing sticks performing dances which involve lots of stick banging and jumping about to invoke a good harvest, fertility, and so on.

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