As the kids get older, I realise how important it is to spend real quality time, us all together as a family. It’s weird, the way that transition has gone: I’ve morphed from feeling worried and anxious to spend time as a single parent family (are people judging us for being only three? Will I cope single handedly?) to actively revelling in every single moment we get to spend together. We have the BEST time!
This half term, for the first time ever, they spent the whole week with their daddy. So, home for the weekend and a bonus day off school (we have to enjoy these INSET days – or insect days, as Hux calls them), I knew I wanted to do something pretty special with them to make up with seven days of being apart, so we decided on a day-trip. And, when Southeastern challenged us to discover a hidden gem, we decided this would be the perfect opportunity. Which is how we found ourselves whizzing the 1 hour 20 minutes from St Pancras International to Broadstairs one optimistically dry insect-Monday morning.
There was wifi on our train and so, with the kids distracted with pens, papers and books (they didn’t ask for an iPad once: HEAVEN), I got on with some emailing. And with no worries about traffic or parking, it felt like a really relaxing way to travel.
Things To Do In Broadstairs
The walk from the station in Broadstairs to the beach is easy: five minutes, so easy that neither of my Uber-loving children begged for a taxi on the return journey (success!). Though Broadstairs has a massive 5 sandy beaches to choose from, to save little legs we decided to stay at Viking Bay, the most central.
1. Play on the beach
The most popular of all the beaches, Viking Bay is a gorgeously sandy beach with tons going on. With a cliff-side elevator for those whose legs really are too little to take the steep ascent, there’s tons of fun to be had here.
On the day we visited Broastairs there were plenty of surfers to watch and kites being flown; during holidays and weekends lifeguards patrol the soft sands, but on this day we were happy to paddle rather than swim!
Beach huts line the bay with a plethora of cafes and restaurants to choose from. To the northern tip is a small fishing harbour guarded by the promenade, and Bleak House – the place where Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield – overlooks. We were lucky to visit on a Monday when it was fairly quiet so we had the run of the shallows, and we’d all love to come back in the summer holidays. Look at those beautiful beach hut colours!
2. Feast on Seafood
I knew that if we were going to Broadstairs we’d have to eat seafood! Southeastern recommended we try the Tartar Frigate, a seemingly unassuming pub/restaurant, right at the bottom of the hill by the beach.
We arrived to The Tartar Frigate and were given one of the warmest ever welcomes I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant from Lemoni, the manager; they knew we were writing about Broadstairs by the end of our lunch, but only because we were now best of friends and had spent so much time chinwagging!
The place is one of the oldest flint restaurants in Kent; dating back to 18th century the kids were delighted to hear it was frequented by pirates back then, and even happier to learn they have their very own in-house ghost.
Though no kid’s menus, they were incredibly flexible when it came to feeding the children and were happy to offer half portions of pretty much everything on the menu. The kids shared a pate to start followed by a steak, and I feasted on the amazing lobster thermidor accompanied by a huge salad and hand-cut chips to share. It was quite literally brilliant, and to munch our lunch overlooking the beautiful Viking Bay was something special.
We left The Tartar Frigate with a glowing recommendation from Lemoni for our next stop ringing in our ears…
3. Eat Italian Ice Cream
“I don’t want to talk you out of our desserts” she said, “but you MUST have an ice cream at Chiappinis!”.
With another perfect situation overlooking the bay, Chiappinis is way more than an ice cream parlour. Though service wasn’t as friendly as that we were spoiled with at The Tartar Frigate, the counter full of Italian sweet pastries was an absolute feast for the eyes. We had pretty full bellies so decided to go for ice cream: Elfie and I chose classic chocolate and Hux the slightly more colourful bubblegum flavour. And they were delicious! We may have made a slight sticky mess of our chins, but boy was it fun to munch while we gazed out to the surfers.
4. Play in the the Arcade
I might be in the minority here, but I really love an arcade! And the one at Broadstairs was no exception: it was as noisy, repetitive and unnaturally lit as you’d like. Plus, quite obviously, the kids couldn’t get enough.
So we may have spent about a tenner on the 2p machine, I couldn’t shoot as many ducks as I wanted and we definitely hopelessly failed at the hoop shoots… but we had a BLAST! We ended up with a massive 703 tickets, duly exchanged for a the finest plastic tat (Hux is still totally enamoured with his blue monkey), and even more happy fluorescent-tinted memories.
5. Discover Charles Dickens
There’s a definite Dickens feel to Broadstairs, and all becomes clear when you start exploring.
Of great inspiration to the novelist – he once declared “You cannot think how delightful and fresh the place is and how good the walks” – Dickens visited the town often. We paid tribute at Dickens House Museum, which has a wealth of memorabilia and prints (and was once the home of Miss Mary Pearson Strong, the inspiration for Miss Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield), and references to the resort’s most famous visitor and his novels can be seen everywhere around town: the Charles Dickens and Barnaby Rudge pubs, Copperfields B&B and The Old Curiosity Shop.
Our journey home was just as smooth as our outward trip to Broadstairs; the commuter train was slightly busier but Hux and Elfie entertained our fellow passengers with tales of our day and “my mummy wrote a book!”. Despite the constant chatter it was comfortable, it was smooth, and we were back in London before we knew it.
In a couple of week where we weren’t able to spend much time just the three of us, our trip to Broadstairs was a ray of Arcade-soundtracked sunshine. It was lovely to explore a place so close to London that had such a seaside-y holiday feel, and with no worries about motorways or parking. There was tons to do – I’d love to return for a longer poke-around in the summer – and it really was one of the most beautiful British beaches I’ve ever been to, even slightly overcast.
Thank-you so much for Southeastern Railway for such a previous family trip: we won’t forget it in a hurry! If you want to take a similar fun trip, Southeastern have a special Off-Peak Day Return ticket offer available this summer, for travel from London to 13 different destinations in Kent and East Sussex! Grab your summer ticket before 24th August.
This article is in paid collaboration with Southeastern