Ruff Guide to… Margate, Ramsgate & Broadstairs

Artist JMW Turner fell in love with the big skies of Thanet, and you will too. You’ll also love its beautiful sandy beaches, bracing seafront walks and retro charm. In fact, there’s very little not to like! The main towns of Thanet are Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs and each has its own individual character. There is something for everyone here, from the fairground attractions of Margate to the wartime history of Ramsgate – or take a stroll along the genteel streets of Broadstairs, which once charmed author Charles Dickens.

Ramsgate harbour
Ramsgate Harbour

Dog-friendly Margate, Ramsgate & Broadstairs: the must-sees

There is so much to see and do in Thanet but if you’re travelling with a dog, the beaches will be the biggest draw (see my Walkies section below). Many of the area’s most popular attractions, such as the retro theme park Dreamland, do not accept dogs – but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

If history is your thing, head straight to Ramsgate where you can learn all about the role it played during World War Two. The two-hour Ramsgate Blitz Walk is a great way to discover the town’s past and dogs are welcome to tag along. Walks start from Ramsgate Library at 10am on the first Sunday of the month and at 7pm on Fridays in July and August. There is no charge, but donations are welcome. If you do happen to be dog-free, however, be sure to check out the Ramsgate Tunnels – the largest network of civilian wartime tunnels in the country. Adult tickets cost £7.

Shell Grotto, Margate
Margate’s bizarre Shell Grotto is a must-see

The Margate Shell Grotto, made from millions of tiny shells, is also something that has to be seen to be believed. Nobody really knows when it was built, or why, but that almost makes it more interesting. Tickets cost £4 per adult. Dogs are not allowed in the grotto itself but they are welcome in the cafe and shop, which is a great place to pick up a seasidey souvenir.

Also tip your hat to Mrs Booth, the shell lady, at the end of the Margate Harbour Arm. She was JMW Turner’s landlady but went on to become his lover – and the house where they lived is now the site of the Turner Contemporary art gallery. If you’re travelling with soemone who doesn’t mind waiting outside with your dog, I can highly recommend popping in to get your culture fix. The gallery is free to enter so your visit can be as brief, or as lengthy, as you like.

Ernie at Botany Bay, Kent
Ernie explores the chalk stacks at Botany Bay

Dog-friendly Margate, Ramsgate & Broadstairs: the best walks

When it comes to beautiful stretches of sand, Thanet has truly been blessed. Many beaches – such as Eastcliff and Palm Bay – are dog-friendly all year round but restrictions do apply at some of the more popular spots. If you’re travelling during the summer months, check the council website to make sure you know where pets are welcome. Also see the picture at the bottom of this article to help you plan.

The walk between Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate forms part of the Viking Coastal Trail and is an absolute classic. Broadstairs is roughly five miles from both towns so it’s easy to break the trail up into manageable chunks. Simply follow the promenade and enjoy the fantastic sea views and sandy bays along the way.

Ernie and Nick in front of the Turner Contemporary art gallery on Margate Beach
The Turner Contemporary art gallery is right on the seafront in Margate

History lovers will enjoy following the Margate Heritage Trail through town while literature buffs should check out the Turner and Dickens walk. This four-mile route, from Margate to Broadstairs will take you to several sites both the artist and author knew and loved. Alternatively, explore the famous chalk stacks of Botany Bay – they’re fantastic.

For more inspiration, check out the Active Ramsgate website, which has lots of walk suggestions. These range from short circular strolls in and around the town to lengthy hikes that form part of the England Coast Path.

Margate Harbour Arm
Margate Harbour Arm is home to some fantastic independent eateries

Dog-friendly Margate, Ramsgate & Broadstairs: the best pubs and cafes

There are loads of dog-friendly eateries but in Margate, head straight for the Harbour Arm. This is home to a number of independent bars and restaurants, many of which welcome dogs. The Harbour Arms is a must-visit, and pets are allowed both inside and out. Although the pub doesn’t serve food, it does have a giant jar of dog treats behind the bar. Pets are guaranteed a warm welcome at the cosy Lighthouse Bar too, and they will love curling up in front of the lovely wood burner.

In the heart of the Old Town, you’ll find the Margate Coffee Shed, which has great cakes and a quirky range of trinkets to take home as souvenirs. GB Pizza Co is also close by, as is the old-school Lifeboat Ale & Cider House, which comes complete with sawdust on the floor. The pub is a great place to go for hearty comfort food, such as pie and mash. Microbrewery Xylo, right on the seafront, also welcomes dogs and is a great place to enjoy a craft beer or two.

Veggie Hash from The Bus Cafe, Margate
The Veggie Hash at The Bus Café, Margate

If the weather is good when you visit, I’d highly recommend seeking out The Bus Café, too. Dogs are not allowed inside the red double-decker restaurant, set just off the main beach, but the staff will do everything they can to accommodate you outside. Try one of the all-day breakfast hash dishes – you won’t regret it.

In Broadstairs, don’t miss out on a trip to Morelli’s ice cream parlour, which first opened in 1932 and still has a retro soda fountain and Formica worktops. Bookworms will love The Chapel Bar & Bookshop, where you can enjoy a beer while browsing a great range of second-hand titles. And craft beer enthusiasts should head to old-fashioned ale house, The Thirty-Nine Steps. For breakfast or lunch served with a surf vibe, head to Beaches Cafe Bar. And if it’s live music you’re after, be sure to visit The Magnet micropub, which has entertainment most nights of the week.

The beach-themed garden at The Bedford Inn, Ramsgate
The beach-themed garden at The Bedford Inn, Ramsgate

When in Ramsgate, the Royal Harbour Brasserie is a must-visit. It may not look much from the outside but this quirky restaurant, at the very end of the Harbour Arm, is amazing. There are also some cool bars and cafes tucked away in the Arches that overlook the harbour on Military Road. Ship-Shape Cafe allows dogs both inside and out, as does Archive Homestore – which is a great place for coffee.

The trendy Ravensgate Arms hosts regular tap takeovers and quiz nights and the recently refurbished Bedford Inn is well worth a visit, too. There’s a cool, beach-themed garden – complete with stripy deckchairs – and a big jar of dog treats behind the bar.

Brooklyn Lodge, Margate
Experience New York loft-style living at Brooklyn Lodge in Margate

Dog-friendly Margate, Ramsgate & Broadstairs: where to stay

Hipsters should head to Margate, where there are a cool range of B&Bs and apartments available to rent. We fell in love with Brooklyn Lodge, a New York loft-style apartment just a short walk from the old town and beaches. But if you want to pull out all the stops, head to the Sands Hotel Margate. This luxurious hotel overlooks the main sands and has a fantastic terrace.

For a coastal location that’s hard to beat, try The Bay Tree Hotel in Broadstairs. It’s right on the seafront and on a breezy day, a stroll along the coastal path will certainly blow the cobwebs away. Dogs are guaranteed to receive lots of fuss at Broadstairs’ Royal Albion Hotel, which has a fantastic beer garden overlooking Viking Bay. And in Ramsgate, pet-friendly favourites include Albion House and The Falstaff Hotel, which is a great place breakfast spot, too.

Carousel at Dreamland, Margate
Dreamland Margate – not dog-friendly, but a massive local attraction © Thanet District Council

How do I get to Margate, Ramsgate & Broadstairs?

Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate are situated on the south-eastern tip of Kent, which makes them a little tricky to get to – but the journey is worth it. The towns are around an hour’s drive from London via the M20 and M2 and a similar distance from Folkestone, on the south coast.

High-speed trains from St Pancras International station take around 75 minutes to Ramsgate, 85 minutes to Broadstairs and 90 minutes to Margate. There are also frequent rail services from London Victoria that take just under two hours.

Where can I find out more?

For more information about Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, check out the Visit Thanet website, which has lots of handy suggestions for people travelling to the area with dogs. The Visit Kent website is also well worth a look for broader information about the county.

Map explaining what beaches welcome dogs in Thanet
Map showing dog-friendly beaches throughout the year

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