Oysters on the beach, fish and chips, quirky, independent shops… you name it, Whitstable has got it. This traditional Kent fishing town is genuinely one of the most dog-friendly places we have ever visited in the UK. Almost all of the pubs and cafes in Whitstable welcome pets, there’s a beach to enjoy all year round and you can even take them shopping! Here’s our ultimate guide to the town.
Dog-friendly Whitstable: the must-sees
Whitstable is renowned for its oysters so seafood fans should head straight for the harbour. Turn right towards East Quay, where you can watch the catch of the day being processed, or turn left to find wooden shacks selling fresh seafood. The Forge – where you can dine on the seafront in stripy deckchairs – welcomes dogs and also does a mean donut dessert.
Follow the path towards West Beach and you will pass the Old Neptune pub, or “the Neppy”, as it is known to locals. You will also see lots of colourful beach huts and the house that actor Peter Cushing called home for more than 35 years. Just look out for the blue plaque.
Don’t miss a stroll down the main thoroughfare of Harbour Street, which is packed with independent shops. Many of the stores are dog-friendly and signs up in their windows to let owners know. Check out the Harbour Market too, which is home to more than 35 independent traders selling everything from handmade fudge to photographs.
Another great place to visit with a dog is Whitstable Castle. If you’re expecting an actual castle, you may be disappointed as this one was built as a family residence in the 1790s – but to the untrained eye, it sure looks like one! After a £3m refurb in 2010, the castle – also known as Tankerton Towers – is now a popular wedding venue.
Although dogs are not allowed inside, they are welcome to explore the lovely grounds and best of all, it’s free. The castle also has a tea room that’s open all year round. Pets are welcome in the outdoor seating area.
Whitstable is also renowned for its “secret alleyways”, many of which have unusual names. They were initially created to give residents better access to the waterfront – but were also handy for smugglers needing to make a quick getaway. For a small fee, pick up a map of all the alleyways from the Visitor Information Centre on Harbour Street.
Dog-friendly Whitstable: the best walks
Once you’ve had your fill of the beaches in Whitstable, simply follow the seafront path to grassy Tankerton Slopes. The beaches here are much quieter so it’s a great place to escape the crowds if you visit during the summer months. You can walk from the heart of Whitstable to Fraser Hill in about 30 minutes and there are some great places to grab a drink or bite to eat en-route. Keep reading to find out more.
The Crab & Winkle Way is also fantastic to explore with dogs. This 7.6-mile route runs from Whitstable to Canterbury and takes its name from the railway line that once ran between the two towns. It is mostly traffic-free and passes through historic Blean Woods, which is a wonderful place to visit in its own right.
Teeming with flora and fauna, The Blean covers more than 11 square miles and is one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in England. There are plenty of designated walking trails running through it – including one that is specifically for dogs.
If history is your thing, head towards Ramsgate to Reculver Towers, around 10 minutes away by car. You can’t miss the twin towers of the ruined church on the clifftop, which dominate the skyline and is really quite an impressive site. The church, which has acted as a navigational aid for ships since Medieval times, was built on the site of an ancient Roman fort. It is now managed by English Heritage but is free to visit and pets are welcome.
Conveniently, the ruins are right next to Reculver Country Park, which is a great place for dogs to let off some steam. There is a huge car park (at the time of our visit, it was £1.10 to stay for an hour) as well as a visitor centre and small café that’s managed by Kent Wildlife Trust. Dogs on leads are welcome both inside and out.
In the opposite direction, towards Faversham, you’ll find South Swale Nature Reserve, which is home to thousands of wildfowl and waders during the winter months – particularly brent geese. The reserve is also managed by the Kent Wildlife Trust and has excellent views over to the Isle of Sheppey. Make sure you pack your wellies in winter as it can get rather muddy.
Dog-friendly Whitstable: the best pubs and cafes
Dog owners are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in Whitstable. Ernie was allowed in every café, pub and restaurant we tried, which was great – and often, he wasn’t the only pooch being treated to a meal out.
For breakfast, I can heartily recommend The Beach Café just outside the main town centre. When we visited, we counted five other dogs! The Seaview Café in nearby Tankerton is also a great place to get a Full English. Pets are allowed both inside and out.
Lunch at the Windy Corner Cafe & Stores is a real treat, thanks to its doorstep sandwiches and The Rock Lodge – which looks like an alpine ski lodge – even has a doggy menu, with dishes such as Beef Stew and Chicken in Gravy. If you are eating, your dog will also eat for free. Visit on a Sunday to enjoy one of their spectacular sharing roasts.
Veggies and vegans will love Revival, a 1960s-themed café run in conjunction with mental health charity, Mind. Based in the Horsebridge Arts Centre, the café welcomes dogs and specialises in retro ice creams. Birdies French bistro and seafood restaurant also loves having four-legged guests and is a great place to go for a more upmarket meal.
Plenty of pubs and bars are dog-friendly, too. The quirky Black Dog micropub has a great selection of ciders while The Duke of Cumberland is the place to go for live music. The Smack Inn also has a great beach-themed garden but we loved its sister pub, The New Inn, which has a real local vibe and serves fantastic, affordable food.
If you plan to venture further afield, try The Hampton Inn on the way to Herne Bay. It’s the only remaining building in Hampton-on-Sea, which was engulfed by water and abandoned at the start of the 20th Century. There’s a beach nearby, a free car park over the road and pub dog Alexei the Keeshond will give you a warm welcome.
Dog-friendly Whitstable: where to stay
For an authentic seaside experience, check out the Whitstable Fisherman’s Huts, right on the waterfront. These 150-year-old wooden huts were once used for storage but have been transformed into stylish accommodation. There are several huts available sleeping two to four, as well as quirky lodges and sheds. Many of them welcome dogs – the ones that do are clearly signposted on the website.
For self-catering accommodation that won’t break the bank, check out Harbour Cottage. This cosy house, near the beach and main shopping street, sleeps three people, as well as a dog. Money raised from the rents helps owner Polly support dog rescue charities in Spain, which is nice to know.
If you’d rather go full-board, check out The Marine Hotel in Tankerton, which has stunning sea views. The boutique hotel has 30 rooms and is around a 15-minute walk from the heart of Whitstable. Dogs are very welcome here and can even dine with their owners in the stylish conservatory restaurant.
How do I get to Whitstable?
Whitstable, on the north coast of Kent, is roughly a 90-minute drive from central London. The quickest way to get there is to follow the A299 road towards Ramsgate. It takes a similar amount of time to travel by train, with Southeastern offering regular rail services from London Victoria. National Express coaches also serve nearby Ramsgate and Canterbury, where you can pick up local buses to Whitstable.