Travel UK

Travel || Coastal England: Margate

I’d heard many, many things about Margate in the past. Some great, some not-so-great. Historically, Margate was one of the first seaside resort towns, but when cheaper foreign holidays became available in the later half of the 20th century, Margate fell into decline. High levels of unemployment and poverty ruled over the town. But for the past 5 years or so, Margate has been on an upwards trajectory. 

The Turner Contemporary Centre was built. Dreamland (the old amusement park) was re-opened to acclaim. The arts have started to thrive and there’s a vibrant cafe and boutique scene. So on the rise is Margate’s star that it’s nickname now is “Shoreditch-on-Sea”. Sam and I both love being on the seaside; and since he’s from Scarborough, he has a very soft spot in his heart for down-on-their-luck old seaside resort towns. The recent investment and influx of artistic types from London who are looking for cheaper property has created a stark divide between the older residents and the newcomers. I think it will take awhile longer for Margate to homogenise and look remotely akin to a funkier version of Brighton. 

Despite all that, I heartily enjoyed my time in Margate and would firmly recommend it to someone for a weekend break. We were there on Saturday during Margate Pride, which I felt really moved by. There was a moment in time when someone was marching with an LGTB community stands for the refugees and immigrants sign, which made my heart catch in my throat. 

We stayed at the Crescent Victoria, which was a really lovely boutique hotel with the kindest staff. From there we used it as our base to explore! 

seaside beach daytime

Things to Do in Margate: 

  • I have a whole post dedicated to Dreamland, but it is an Instagram dream come true. All the colourful signs, retro rides and delicious food, make it a winner! 
  • Even above the Turner gallery on my to-visit list, was the Shell Grotto. Call my tastes simple, but I love the kitsch. It reminds me of old American roadside stops. (In particular Rock City or Ruby Falls near Chattanooga.) Sam was slightly more apprehensive of the Shell Grotto. He even considered sitting it out. In the end, he exclaimed, “This is awesome!” because it was. The Shell Grotto are some subterranean passages covered in 2,000 square feet of shell mosaics (approximately 4.6 million shells). The best part is that it was discovered in 1835 and no one knows who built it! 

Tickets are £4. Grotto Hill, Margate, CT9 2BU
shell grotto celing
shell grotto

  • Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Turner Contemporary gallery. Whilst not the biggest fan of it from the outside, I found the inside space gorgeous, with the huge open spaces. We spent most of our time looking around the “Seeing Round Corners” exhibition which focuses on artists responses to circles, discs or spheres. Look out for the side room with the huge floating ball – it was my favourite piece, changing its height in the room based on the body temperature of the people in the space and their movement. 

    Entrance is free, though some exhibits have an individual charge. Rendezvous, Margate, CT9 1HG

turner - inside

turner contemporary

  • Dust off your wallet for some cute, retro shopping. Margate seemed to have the best vintage stores! In particular, I loved Madam Poppoff’s, Paraphenalia and Margate Retro. Fox & Spindle was filled with accessories that I could have emptied out my purse for and I fantasised about my future puppy in Doggie Apparel. 

Most of these shops are located on King Street. 

shop - para

  • Last but not least, you have to put your feet in the sea, even if it’s not warm enough to put the rest of your body. Though I have to put my grumpy cap on, and shake a finger of disappointment at fellow beach goers. Pick up your trash! If you bring a picnic, take the empty containers away. We had a late evening stroll and it broke my heart to see all the litter that was slowly being grabbed up by the sea. 

After that mini-rant is over, I want to acknowledge the gorgeous colour of the sea near Margate. So blue but milky looking because of the chalk cliffs. And a real beach, with proper sand! (Sorry Brighton.) 
seaside cold
The shock of the cold! 
seaside with margate
seaside sam in waterseaside margate beach

What to Eat:

eat - margate
We heard phenomenal things about Great British Pizza Company. Things like “some of the best pizza in the world” and “watch out Franco Manca” and it certainly did not disappoint. Plus they had a keg full of proescco so you could fill your own glass. I couldn’t imagine anything more perfect. They had a great selection of beers for Sam to enjoy, too.

The pizza crust was crisp but flavourful. The chorizo and chile pizza was especially tasty, and the rocket and parmesan salad was one of the best salads I’ve ever had in my life…. and I eat a lot of salad. In fact, it was so good that when Sam was having fish and chips the next day, I went back for another salad.

GB Pizza Co is located at 14a Marine Dr, Margate CT9 1DH.

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Ever since our time at Hemma in Edinburgh, it’s opened up my eyes to the joy of Swedish breakfast. So when I heard about Mala Kaffe in Margate, I knew we had to pay it a visit. Their coffee was truly delicious, and their location on the harbour arm provided beautiful views.  The cakes were beautiful and you could tell it was super popular with the locals. 

Mala Kaffe is located at Unit 3 Harbour Arm, Margate. 
mala kaffe

tudor house
Margate’s “Tudor House” 
love walllove wall walkinglove wall drawing
This is the Margate “listening wall”. It’s actually a very recent addition to the town, and one I love very much! (It’s been open for just over a month.) You can write public notes on the chalk wall, and also post letters through mail slots anonymously, just so you know you’ve written something down for someone else to listen to, even if you never get a response.  The group that created the wall says: 

“The project (part of a larger community greening project), will be to create a place for the public to share, express and release emotions safely. The listening wall will have two parts: 
– A Loving Wall, where messages of love, hope, connection, positivity and unity can be written and expressed on a huge plant surrounded blackboard in the shape of a heart.
– For those struggling to feel the love at the moment, a Listening Wall, where people can express more painful emotions privately by posting messages though letterboxes enclosed in the wall to a peaceful and non judgemental listening group, enabling them to feel heard in a safe environment, without hurting those around them.”
harbor arm in evening
amanda gesticulating
Apparently I gesticulate a lot when I speak…

seaside sunset standing
seaside amanda sunset seaside amanda sunset laughing margate town hall margate prideseaside sam sunset
Sunsets Redux-8Sunsets Redux-9

Have you ever been to Margate? What’s your favourite British seaside town? 

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