The "Gateway to Europe" is famous for its mighty white cliffs and mediaeval castle.
Few natural wonders are as iconic to Britain as the White Cliffs of Dover, the towering chalk sea cliffs that stand watch over the English Channel. Hike the 10-mile trail along the clifftops, take a tour of Dover Castle, and admire the views from South Foreland Lighthouse. Or, set sail on a boat cruise to marvel at the cliffs from the water and spot seals and seabirds along the coast. Hopping over to France for a day—ferries from Dover to Calais take just 90 minutes—is a popular choice, but this travel hub is also ideally situated for exploring the Kent countryside.
Kent’s south coast is a rugged expanse of chalk sea cliffs, rocky coves, and shingle beaches. South of Dover, the sleepy seaside town of Folkestone has a sandy beach and seafront camping, while bird-watchers should head to the Romney Marshes. To the north, Margate, Ramsgate, and Broadstairs have the best waves for surfers, and golfers can tee off at one of the many coastal golf courses.
The 153-mile North Downs Way national trail sets out from Dover, climbing its way through the chalklands and woodlands of the Kent Downs AONB. If that sounds like too much of an effort, there are also miles of hiking, cycling, and horseback riding trails to choose from, with camping and glampsites dotted along the way. Highlights include the view from the Devil's Kneading Trough, the wildflower meadows of Perry Wood, and the Iron Age ruins in White Horse Country Park.
Blue Flag beaches line the shores of Kent’s North Sea coast. Head to Herne Bay or Whitstable for some old-fashioned seaside fun—swim and sunbathe on the pebble beaches, stroll the seafront promenade with an ice cream, then tuck into fresh oysters at an oceanview restaurant. Many campsites and caravan parks are within walking distance of the coast, or you could even rent one of the traditional beach huts right by the water.
Daily passenger ferries run from Dover to Calais and Dunkirk in France year-round, but the busiest period is May through September. Day-trippers flock to the Cliffs of Dover walk in July and August, so make an early start to beat the crowds, or visit in low season to enjoy the views to yourself—the cliff-top trail is accessible year-round. Winters can be wet and windy, and morning frosts are common, but this is also the best time for bird-watching along the coast.