The 10 Best Things to Do in Margate

Things to do in Margate
Margate seafront

We escaped London for a weekend to the sunny county of Kent, and we must say – we thought Margate was going to be awful. Oh, how we were wrong.

We were heading out for a 90s music festival, and Margate happened to be the nearest large town. So, in good Bumper Crew fashion, we set about exploring the town to discover the best things to do.

You’ll notice Arlington House because it’s unavoidable. The building dominates the landscape, and whether you love brutalist architecture like me (Joel) or hate it, don’t let it spoil your impressions of Margate, given it’s the first thing you are likely to encounter in the town.

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This is Arlington House

Things to Do in Margate, Kent

You’ll find Margate on the northeast coast of Kent, around 80 miles east of London. Its popularity dates back to the mid-18th century when fancy Londoners travelled by boat to the town. These days, you’ll take the train straight into Margate or hop in the car and head down the A2 and M2.

Margate is underrated, but with plenty of things to do, its reputation is gaining momentum as a destination worth visiting.

It’s a great coastal town that combines a tacky seaside resort with a trendy seaside town and a bohemian village. This doesn’t sound great but bear with us.

The place is fantastic, combining elements from more famous places like Newquay and St. Ives in Cornwall into one seaside hotspot. One might say Margate is a Dreamland (you’ll get it by the end of the post!).

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1 | Explore Old Town

Old Town Margate is a charming little district and probably the best part of town, with its narrow streets, bohemian vibes and artistic community.

It’s full of independent retailers, cafes, art galleries, vintage clothiers and antique shops.

As we discovered, it’s also the place to be on bank holiday weekends, with pop-up markets and plenty of places to eat and drink in the sun.

It’s nice to explore the unexpected, with shopfronts spewing into the streets.

Look for The Parade between Duke Street and King Street. The Parade is the place to be for a few afternoon drinks in the sun.

You’ll also find some atmosphere at Market Place, right in the centre of Old Town.

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2 | Visit Europe’s First Crab Museum

A little hidden gem in Margate is the Crab Museum. It’s inside a little door in Old Town. It’s small but worth a visit.

It takes a cheeky approach to crab life and will leave you with a greater appreciation and sadness for our little multi-legged friends, knowing we are, as a species, exploiting them, other animals and the planet for our benefit.

It’s free to enter, too, which is excellent, but be aware – you will find no live crabs inside the museum. That would go against its values, after all.

If the information boards around the museum aren’t enough, you can visit the little gift shop, where the staff will tell you more about crabs using a few exhibits they have.


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3 | Head to The Old Kent Market

The Old Kent Market is cute and somewhere you can’t miss if you’re in Margate.

It’s reasonably priced, intimate, warm and welcoming and offers a few bits, from clothing to tattoo shops, bakeries, pubs, and curiosities.

Inside, you’ll find some cute shops that look more like they belong in medieval York than Margate, but it’s these finishing touches that really bring the place to life.


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4 | Head Underground to Margate Caves

The Margate Caves are a small but interesting subterranean attraction just outside the town centre. They were discovered in 1798 and turned out to be a man-made cave mined for the chalk inside.

Because they are underground, the caves are cold and can be a nice respite from the heat in the summer. At their deepest, they are 50 feet below the ground.

Make sure you talk to a guide while you’re in the caves. They’ll explain the history and tell you about some of the personalities who have owned the land, which will helps to bring the cave’s story to life.


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5 | See Art at the Turner Contemporary

The Turner Contemporary is named after the famous landscape painter Turner, who lived in Margate as a child and produced a series of drawings of the town.

The gallery is one of Margate’s headline acts, but we feel it’s slightly overrated, partly because, as the name may suggest otherwise, it doesn’t hold any of Turner’s work.

There isn’t much to see at the Turner Contemporary other than some contemporary art, which demands discussion; otherwise, it’s just stuff on the wall.

There are three main exhibition rooms, each with a few pieces of art. A small theatre that shows films is bolted onto one of them. If you like art, it’s worth a visit. If not, go for the panoramic windows, cafe and gift shop, which are all rather good.


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6 | Feel Nostalgic at Dreamland

Dreamland looks like it would be a total disaster for the average grownup, but it’s not.

Not only does it have one of the coolest facades in town, with its brick Art Deco tower that was built as a cinema, it’s also more than just a kid’s theme park.

Dreamland is regarded as a heritage theme park and one of the oldest in the UK.

Inside, you’ll find old-school arcades, pinball machines, and a classic and rare rebuilt wooden 1920s rollercoaster called The Scenic Railway.

Dreamland is also a music venue and plays host to some great artists. There’s no doubt you’ll find something of interest inside, whether you’re a family, group or couple looking for a bit of fun.


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7 | Walk the Promenade Walking Trail

Never overlook the simple things, like a walk. They are free, good for you and enable you to see the best parts of somewhere. Thankfully, Margate has a lovely promenade walk, where you’ll see the best views of the town.

We started at The Oval Bandstand & Lawns in Walpole Bay on the east side of town and walked all the way to St. Mildred’s Bay Beach in the west.

You’ll see a good spread of Margate, from the disused and rundown lido to the beach huts, before turning around and getting a lovely view of the harbour and Turner Contemporary on your way back.

You’ll also pass a few of the things to do in Margate along the way, such as the Turner Contemporary, Main Beach, The Old Kent Market, Dreamland, and The Sun Deck

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8 | Hit the Beach (and Tidal Pool)

Another benefit of visiting Margate is that it’s in Kent, one of the sunniest counties in the UK, with an average of over 1800 hours of sunshine annually. It’s no wonder then that Margate is known for its sandy beaches,

So, if the beach is your thing, grab your bucket and spade and get building those sand castles. Margate is home to several beaches, the main one being Margate Main Beach—a long, golden sandy beach complete with a tidal pool.

Safety being the number one priority these days, the RNLI guards the beaches along this stretch of the coast. They do this at four points: Margate Main Beach, Westbrook Bay Beach, St. Mildred’s Beach, and West Bay Beach, slightly further west.

So, you can head to the beach knowing the RNLI is helping to keep you safe in the water.

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9 | Scoff your Face at The Sun Deck

The Bus Cafe gets all the hype when it comes to cafes in Margate. It’s very cool, there’s no doubt about that, and it’s always a pleasure to see old buses get repurposed, but there are other eateries by The Bus Cafe.

So make your way down and take a look around before diving into The Bus Cafe. There’s a small complex of around half a dozen vendors called The Sun Deck.

They sell a variety of food, and you’ll also find coffee and cocktails and some open-air seating to eat your food. It’s right by the promenade, too, and offers great sea views.


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10 | Shell Grotto

The Shell Grotto is a series of underground tunnels covered with mosaics made entirely of seashells.

The Grotto was discovered in 1835, but its purpose remains a mystery, and the mosaics inside cover around 2000 square feet along the 70-foot passageways.

It’s suggested that around 4.6 million shells form the patterns and designs. We suspect each shell hasn’t been counted, so maybe you could give it a go.


Things to do in Margate Map

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