Whitstable has long been famous for its native oysters, but it offers other seafood as well...winkles, cockles, whelks, crab...
I didn't try any on my visit (an early January early morning is not really conducive to a crab sandwich!) but I know that it's all good stuff.
There are several places in the town itself..including the Royal Native Oyster Stores restaurant on Sea Wall....but you might decide to have a snack down by the harbour, where you'll find the Fish Market, selling the catch of the day but also with its downstairs cafe and upstairs Crab & Winkle restaurant.
I must admit that the older clapboard buildings along Sea Wall are very pleasing to the eye. Many of them (although not all) seem to be holiday properties, available for letting through most of the year.
I also liked the 'traditional' pitch-black fisherman's huts on the harbourside. Although clearly pretty modern they are still in use: it's nice to see traditional styles retained.
It's worth wandering along Sea Wall and around the harbour area to see what you can see. There are several information boards dotted about as well: they help to give an idea of what once was.
The Royal Native Oyster Stores building on the corner of Sea Wall and Horsebridge is rather lovely too: it's a seafood restaurant now.
I always make this place one of my ports of call (nautical pun absolutely intended) when I visit Whitstable. It is a great little pub, right on the beach. In fact, I'm surprised it hasn't been washed away before now in a high tide.
A friendly place, you can sit at tables actually on the beach and drink and watch the world go by.
The pub also boasts a big, friendly "dopey" dog, whose name I can't for the life of me remember, but you can't miss him.
I am told there is music here on a Friday and Saturday night, although I;ve never been.
If you visit Whitstable, and I suggest you should, one of your first stops should be at the very good tourist information centre. On the day I visited (enquiring about local bus times), the lady there couldn't have been more helpful. There is a large selection of useful free publications as well as many items to buy, ranging from the usual tourist souvenirs to some great books on local history.
Now, I don't want to mislead you, there is not an old German U-boat moored off the coast at Whitstable, rather it is the name given by locals to the delightfully named Ship Centurion Arminius. A very welcoming pub with a good (and regularly changing) selection of ales, it seems to be very much a locals place, marred only by one person, but more of that later. Myt friend declared the Black Dog ale to be very good.
Although I did not sample it, there is food available, with a distinct German emphasis. They have a weekly special (Saturday, I believe) of schnitzel, and various wursts (German sausage) feature on the menu. Standard English fare is also available.
Service is very quick and friendly, and the staff seem to take a pride in what they do. I suppose this is only to be expected in a pub that has won various awards, including a CAMRA Kent Pub of the Year recently.
Again, due to the vagaries of VT, I could easily have included this as a nightlife tip, as they have live music on a Thursday night. We saw a very good soft rock duo called VT (yes, they really were called that) although the types of bands are varied. VT certainly seemed to have a very good local following.
So, why the U-boat? Well, according to the history on the wall (there are some excellent old photos of the town displayed) the place was originally the Ship, then for reasons unknown, the Ship Centurion. In 1992 it was taken over by a German man called Armin Beckis who changed the name to the Ship Centurion Arminius, Arminius apparently being the God of Strength, although I suspect it may also be a play on his Christian name. There is a faux old fashioned pubsign in the bar showing a German U-boat with the current name thereon. Which brings me to the only marginal downside.
On entering the palce as a complete stranger for the first time, there were a number of middle aged and upwards gents in the bar. I love a bit of banter, craic, badinage, repartee, whatever you like to call it, but within about one minute of being in the place, one man sitting at the bar, who it was obvious had something to do with the place, had started, well frankly, abusing me. Not good-natured joking, but unecessary ignorance. I did, as I can, give as good as I got, and everyone else seemed slightly embarrassed by the whole affair. Given his age, his obvious association with the place and the fact that he had a pronounced German accent, I thought he may have been the aforementioned Armin. I may be wrong. I was later to see him being totally abusive to one of the musicians that had just filled the place for the evening.
Other than that, I would certainly recommend the place, as long as you can avoid the unpleasant gent at the bar.
I know it sounds radical, but simply parking the car and going for a nice walk along the sea front from the harbour down past the town, expecially when the weather is windy, can be very therapeutic.
The seafront takes you from the fish market in the harbour along past several oyster restaurants and other seafood places.
While the main streets in Whitstable may seem narrow, make sure you make the time to explore a couple of the VERY narrow lanes in the town. Apparently these narrow alley ways were used as convenient escape routes by smugglers back in the day.
We went for a wander and stumbled upon the amusingly named 'Squeeze Gut Alley', which at one end is so narrow that we did have to turn sideways to pass through. Rumour has it that the alley way got its name when some kids were playing a prank on an overweight policeman and he was unable to pursue them via the narrow lane.
The harbour is highlight to any visit to Whitstable. Famous for its oysters and and freshly caught seafood it attracts a number of visitors both locals and tourists who flock here to buy their fish. Whitstable Fish Market on the South Quay sells everything you could want and are also introducing a sustainable fish policy. They sell the tradional fish - kippers, red mullet, crab, haddock, sea bass, sardines, cockles, winkles but you must try the oysters which are delicious!
Now every Saturday in the harbour there is also a trade market where you can buy fresh local pastries, meats, bread, cheeses as well as hand made jewellery, art, plants and also attracts a crowd.
The harbour can be particularly busy especially during the summer month but even in the winter the place is still bustling.
This place has so much character but the sad thing is that there are plans to ruin this historical working harbour by tearing it down to build a swanky new development which would be an absolute shame to ruin this place.