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Sunny Herne Bay by the Sea
Herne Bay in general
Member Name: scotia1949
Herne Bay in general
Date: 04/06/01, updated on 04/06/01 (2642 review reads)
Advantages: compact, everything for the visitor
Disadvantages: not a lot for older children
Herne Bay is a traditional seaside town on the north coast of Kent. Until about ten years ago it was looking very dated, rundown and generally feeling sorry for itself. Since then a lot of money has been spent on the seafront and the town is now thriving again as a popular destination for day trippers and longer family holidays.
When I say family holidays, perhaps I should adjust that to read "young family" holidays. To be honest there is not a lot for teenagers to do in Herne Bay of an evening, other than go into pubs, and many of the locals go to Canterbury for their evening entertainment.
Where Herne Bay does succeed is in providing everything which is needed for a seaside holiday for the youngsters. It has a very safe shingle beach which has now won a clean beach flag for several years running. Along the pretty promenade there are gardens, seats and the traditional shelters for those who just want to sit and watch what is going on. There is also a playground for young children which is well situated in a very central position along the prom. There are also trampolines, roundabout and a recent addition this year has been a crazy golf course.
The seafront stretches from Beltinge in the east to Hampton in the west, with the pier somewhere towards the middle. When I say "pier" that is a slight misnomer. Until the early 1970s Herne Bay had a lovely pier, one of the longest on the south coast and received many day trippers by steamer from the Essex coast. Unfortunately Mother Nature did one of her dirty deeds on the town and blew the whole middle section away. The pier head is still clearly visible out to sea and is a proud monument to what used to be. The fabric of the pier head is apparently in a very sound state of repair and periodically some plans get drawn up to rebuild the pier to its former glory. The latest estimate is that it will take about £1m+ to do it.
So, what about the landward end of the pier, I
hear you ask, what happened to it? Well, the Planners in all their glory built the most hideous tin hut of a leisure centre you could ever wish to see and called it the Pier Pavilion. Don't get me wrong, as a functional amenity for the town it is very well used and is home to Herne Bay's two championship winning roller hockey clubs. It is also used for all manner of sports including badminton, 5 a side football, squash, judo etc. and has excellent gym facilities which I use myself. It also has several public rollerskating sessions every day. As I say its usefulness as an amenity is only matched by its ugliness as an eyesore.
On the opposite side of the road from the promenade you will find the traditional seaside amenities of coffee shops, cafes, ice creams, amusements, tearooms, fish and chip shops, seafood restaurants, novelty and gift shops and boarding houses. There is also the requisite number of pubs. Don't get me wrong, Herne Bay does not have one of those seafronts jam packed with things to do, there are only two proper amusement arcades for example, but there is plenty for the number of visitors.
Some places to be recommended are the Ship Inn at the Beltinge end of the seafront and the Bun Penny pub near to the Clocktower. The first of these two has a wide selection of real ales and an excellent menu, but no garden. It is also an old smugglers inn and the history of the pub is described on their menus and makes fascinating reading. The Bun Penny is a big central pub with a large garden just across the road from the sea, perfect for that family drink.
On the opposite corner to the Bun Penny is a Herne Bay institution, Macari's cafe. For those of you old enough to remember the cafes of the 60s it is like going into a time warp. Big steam pipes making frothy coffee, hot chocolate, they also sell knickerbocker glories and a whole array of other ice cream dishes, formica top tables; they are all there. One fascinating
thing to look for if you visit Macari's is the old black and white pictures of Herne Bay around the walls.
Just round the corner from Macari's you will find the Herne Bay Museum which has some interesting displays about the history of the town. It also doubles up as an information bureau and is an invaluable source of guides and leaflets on events and places both nearby and farther away.
Between Macari's and the Pier Pavilion is the newly opened Central Bandstand. This was another antiquity of Herne Bay's which was allowed to get into a dreadful state of decay and was a total embarrassment to the town being a rusting old eyesore right in the middle of the promenade. Now it has been completely renovated, restored to its former glory and hosts concerts in its open area in the middle, a restaurant bar and a small permanent display of seaside artefacts and exhibits relating to the history of the town and its marine traditions.
Herne Bay consists mainly of three parallel roads, Central Parade which is the seafront, Mortimer Street and High Street. The latter two are inland from the front and a bit more sheltered when the breeze picks up, straight off the North Sea and not much land between it and the North Pole! It's here that you will find Herne Bay's shops. I am not going to kid you that it is another Oxford Street but it has everything which the visitor is likely to need with a Boots, Woolworths, several book shops, some town centre pubs, a couple of clubs of which I have no personal experience and the local well stocked library.
Herne Bay is a very good place to come for a holiday by itself or to use as a base for touring this part of Kent. One of the best times to come is the first two weeks in August which is carnival fortnight. There are several parades through the town, huge firework displays and music along the seafront. There are also lots of other extra things to do with competitions for children, a
travelling fair etc.
Bigger resorts such as Margate are only 20 minutes away and the historic city of Canterbury is about the same distance inland. What prompted me to write this op today, June 3rd, is that in today's Mail on Sunday they had a top ten of the sunniest places in Britain for the week ending 28th May and Herne Bay was number one in the UK. This is not a rare event and I can remember seeing it in a similar position many times in the past. If you want to check out what it looks like for yourself I have some pictures which I took of the seafront posted on my webshots.com albums under the user name of scotia1949.
So, why not give it a go, come to sunny Herne Bay with the kids, its only 80 minutes or so on the train from Victoria.