England’s southeastern corner is a playground of rolling hills, flower gardens, and seacliff walks.
With miles of lush countryside right on London’s doorstep, Kent has long been nicknamed the ‘Garden of England.’ Escape the capital for leisurely walks and bike rides in nature reserves and country parks, picnics in historic castle gardens, and coastal strolls on sandy beaches to see the famous White Cliffs of Dover. More than a third of Kent’s landscapes are Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), affording ample terrain for outdoor adventures, and camping is a year-round affair. Pitch your tent by the beach on 350 miles of coastline in summer, then cosy up in a pod for a winter glamping retreat. Easily reached from London, Kent is as good for a weekend escape from the city as it is for a week of summer holiday fun.
The tree-lined gardens and parks of Seven Oaks are magnificent in spring and autumn, but the highlights of north Kent lie along the water. Set sail along the River Thames from Gravesend, follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens in Rochester and Chatham, then hop over to the Isle of Sheppey to explore the marshlands and camp along Blue Flag beaches.
Patchwork farmlands, lively market towns, and stately homes dot the heartlands of central Kent. Enjoy woodland walks and farmland camping in the High Weald AONB, take a ride through Royal Tunbridge Wells on the Spa Valley Railway, or sample British wines at a local vineyard in Maidstone or Ashford. This is the spot for tranquil country camping or glamping, surrounded by nature and perhaps the Kent Downs, a chalk ridge protected as the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Camping in or near the Kent Downs means great views from higher ground and good walking in the countryside, especially if you are near the well-marked North Downs Way trail. Kent also lays claim to part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which it shares with neighbouring Sussex.
Kent’s northern shores harbour several Blue Flag beaches, which fill up with campers and caravanners as soon as the sun starts shining. Hit the beach at Ramsgate, Broadstairs, and Joss Bay near Margate for the best surf, then duck inland to admire the UNESCO-listed Canterbury Cathedral. Just to the north, Herne Bay and Whitstable are Kent’s quintessential seaside resorts with their pebble beaches and lively seafront promenades—visit the latter in July for the renowned Oyster Festival.
The postcard star of Kent’s southern shore are the White Cliffs of Dover, and a walk along the mighty cliffs affords impressive views across the English Channel. Seafront walks, rocky coves, and cliff-top golf courses pepper the coast north of Dover, where the Tudor fortifications at Deal and Walmer also beckon. To the south, Folkestone has seaside camping and sandy beaches, while ramblers and wildlife lovers can explore the Romney Marshes and Dungeness, a huge shingle spit that’s technically the UK’s only desert and an internationally important habitat for birds, insects, and plants.
Kids just seem to love the adventure of camping. All the routines of home are broken so you spend all day in the great outdoors before a barbecue dinner or perhaps a trip to the local pub, followed by a spot of stargazing and marshmallow toasting. And before you’ve even pitched your tent, your kids are likely to have met the neighbours and sussed out who’s going to be their new best friend. But why not bring friends with you in the first place? Camping is a great way to holiday in a group with other families. Just ask for neighbouring pitches and the kids can amuse each other until bedtime when the adults can stay up around the campfire.
There are plenty of family-friendly campsites in Kent, some welcoming campers of all ages with special activities and facilities. Campsites may have a few simple touches designed to keep youngsters amused: a tree swing, a storytelling session around a communal campfire, pond-dipping or a forest-school lesson, perhaps. There’s family fun at Chatham Dockyard and the Rare Breeds Centre too, home to rare farm animals with activities from cuddling rabbits to racing pigs! In fact, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to animal parks in Kent. You can see exotic animals at the Aspinall Foundation’s conservation parks, Port Lympne and Howletts; head to Wingham Wildlife Park to see exotic birds; or choose Wildwood, where all the animals are native to British shores.
Kent also has lots of other kid-friendly attractions including its beaches, castles, and even a pint-sized heritage railway that’s just right for kids, so you’ll never run out of things to do while camping in Kent.