* Prices may differ from that shown
We regularly holiday in Kent as we are lucky enough to be able to use a family member's property to stay in, so for the past 5 years we have regularly visited the area and tried out different places that take our fancy.
On our most frequent visit, we were wanting to visit a sandy beach with the kids, and we were recommended a visit to Broadstairs because it has a lot of facilities. We had previously driven through the town of Broadstairs, and had been reminded very much of York with the narrow streets we were driving along, and the age and appearance of some of the buildings. It didn't surprise me at all to find out that the area was actually very popular with the author Charles Dickens, who regularly frequented the area. It certainly holds a lot of charm.
The area is very popular as a lot of the beaches further south on the Kent coast are actually stony beaches, and it is only as you head North to Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Botany Bay that you see the golden sands popular with young children on a summer holiday. My children are like most others. Show them sand, give them a bucket and spade, and they are happy for as long as you are willing to leave them there.
At Broadstairs, there is a car park that you can use which is nearer the beach, which is known as Viking Bay. We chose to park at the top of the hill and walk down using free on street parking. The area was very busy indeed as we picked a reasonably nice August day to visit the area, and lots of people had the same idea as us to enjoy the sunshine.
Walking down to the beach via a narrow access road, we came across a property called Bleak House. It had sea shells stuck to the wall which the kids found very appealing to touch, and it is apparently from my research where Charles Dickens stayed when he was writing David Copperfield.
Carrying on down towards the beach, there were other links in the names of the hotels and bars to Dickens. Apparently there is also usually a performance of some of his work in the area during an annual Victorian festival held in the 3rd week of June.
Access to the beach was past a toilet block, a small fish and chip shop and an ice cream parlour. We went down a set of stone steps onto the sand. (I'll just give a little warning that these were quite slippy, and if you are with young children or anyone unsteady on their feet, maybe keep hold of them. I only just stopped my toddler slipping down onto his bottom, and I imagine you would get a bit of a shock.)
We were then able to walk along the beach past a series of brightly coloured beach huts to find ourselves a spot on the sand. There was a path made out of wooden decking which ran along the full length, which was good as it meant it was easier to walk along with lots of stuff, and some of the sand also came off when walking back off the beach.
The beach was hugely popular because of the nice day, but we did find ourselves a little spot to erect our windbreaker and little tent for the kiddies, and set up a base. If we wanted to, we could have rented some deckchairs as we got on the beach, but we were happy to sit on towels on the sand with the kids.
I felt this beach was not the cleanest I have used, but we did arrive in the afternoon, and this is down to the people who were using the beach, rather than the people cleaning the beach. Plenty of bins were available, but there was litter like chip forks and cigarette butts buried in the sand, so we did have to be vigilant especially as my 11 month old niece was with us and likely to put anything in her mouth. We saw people cleaning the beach, but obviously it is not them who have littered and they were trying to make it nicer.
The beach itself is a nice golden sand. On the day we went there was a lot of seaweed washed onto the shore. My brother in law said the last time they visited, there were hundreds of star fish on the beach, but no seaweed, so you might notice different things on different days.
The sea was cold on the day we went, but that didn't stop the kids wanting to go and jump in the waves and fill their buckets. The beach was good for this as it wasn't full of sharp rocks where you were paddling so it did feel quite safe to be there with young kids.
Another feature we really liked, was that there was a huge concrete man made rockpool, which was basically a biq square feature of about a foot and a half in depth. As the tide went out, the kids went to explore this and it had sea creatures in such as shrimp, starfish, mussels, limpets and crabs, so they found it very interesting to go and have a look in here as we have never done this before. Around this there were also some smaller natural rockpools, so that occupied them for the best part of an hour.
Down the far end of the beach was also some sort of funfair. I didn't really venture as far as that, but I could see swingboats, and they seemed to be in use for most of the afternoon.
While we were there, we indulged in ice creams from a kiosk on the middle of the beach near where we were sat. I would say this is perhaps the only part of the day I would not repeat. While eating the ice creams, I was a bit suspicious as there were ice crystals in it. This suggested to me maybe it had partially defrosted and then been refrozen. That night, my 4 year old had a very upset tummy, and was vomitting every time he ate or drank a tiny amount for over 12 hours. That was the only thing he had eaten different to anyone else during that day, so I highly suspect he had a case of food poisoning.
The only other thing I can really comment on was the toilet blocks. They were obviously in high demand, and while not the most nice smelling parts of the day, they were fairly clean in appearance and well stocked with supplies, so it was very handy having them so close to where we were located.
Overall, we enjoyed our outing to Viking Bay at Broadstairs. Issues of cleanliness can only be put down to the fact that it is such a well used beach. I imagine I would be glowing about how clean it was if we had gone at 10am when a little quieter. There are a lot of different things to keep the kids amused. The only downside is that it felt a bit cramped with so many people trying to claim a bit of space, so you felt very close to others using the beach.
If we were wanting a beach trip again, I would happily go here if it was the morning, but in the afternoon I think I would be more tempted by the quieter Botany Bay a bit further up the coastline. Although there are less facilities there, it felt more peaceful and relaxing when we last visited there.