I’m lucky enough to be able to call Kent home. I may be biased, but this county nestled south of London has remarkable landscapes, incredible opportunities, bustling small varied businesses, and people who know how to make life great! From iconic coastal vistas to little known gems, we are awash with places to visit in Kent. It’s no mistake that there are many reasons why it is called ‘The Garden of England’. Grab a cuppa and read on to discover a unique insider’s guide to things to do in Kent.
Just a little note though… Kent is actually one of the largest counties in the country! As such, it’s bursting with things to do, places to see, and experiences to have. I can’t fit it all in here but this list is a great starting point.
Let’s dive into 20 of the best places to visit in Kent:
1. Botany Bay
What’s remarkable about Botany Bay is that so few Kent residents seem to know that this incredible spot exists in their county. The landscape here is truly remarkable with orangey sands juxtaposed with chalk cliffs and stacks.
Park up on the cliff and make your way down for a wonderful experience exploring amidst thoughts of smugglers and pirates. Go for a wander and check out what’s hiding in the rock pools. But be sure to check the tides, because it’s possible to get slightly cut off!
At the end of your adventure, check out the delicious fare at The Botany Bay Hotel.
2. Hever Castle
From one side of Kent to the other, right up against Kent’s western border you’ll find Hever Castle. The childhood home of Anne Boleyn, expect lots of Tudor history! However, this is also a compact and beautiful UK castle, with incredible grounds.
Have fun trying not to get lost in the yew maze, watch jousting tournaments in the summer, row on the outstandingly beautiful lake, watch an outdoor theatre performance, or dodge the water jets in the water maze. The views out over the lake are mesmerising, and the gardeners here are obviously both dedicated and talented. All in all, Hever Castle is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kent.
3. Dover Sea Safari
Back down to the coast, but at a more southerly point, I really recommend doing a Dover Sea Safari. Combining mighty good fun with the iconic white cliffs (as well as the potential for a bobbing seal coming to say hello), this is an exhilarating and enjoyable excursion.
If you’re after a spot of adrenalin then opt for the speedboat option. However, if a more sedate experience is your thing then their cruising yacht is an equally fabulous experience.
4. Dover Castle
Whilst you’re in the Dover area, I simply can’t rate Dover Castle highly enough. Owned by English Heritage I am always completely bowled over by the variety of history on show here. Spanning 900 years, you can literally take a tour through time.
It’s impossible to pick out just one part of Dover Castle that makes it worth a visit, but don’t neglect to explore the cliff tunnels which were used as a headquarters and a hospital in WW2. Looking out over the sea, you should also be able to spot France on a clear day!
5. Port Lympne Animal Reserve
Run by the Aspinall Foundation, Port Lympne Animal Reserve is one of Kent’s highlights. Enjoy an authentic safari through the reserve and get up close to an incredible array of animals. Laugh at the monkeys and bears who are extremely cheeky, or be amazed at the grace of the splendid giraffes ambling past. With rhinos, tigers and lions, there’s something to get everyone enthusiastic.
What’s more, Port Lympne isn’t just one of the best Kent places to visit – you can stay here too. It’ll be an experience like no other. There are lots of choices, but my favourites include Tiger Lodge where you have a floor to ceiling large window to view the tiger area. There’s also The Bubble, with its complete 180° views of the reserve. When you stay you get a golf buggy for exploring the site, which is perfect given its scale and hills!
6. Canterbury Cathedral – and Canterbury full stop!
Oh how I love Canterbury! With medieval history bubbling up from everywhere you look, unique boutique shops and a university-city vibe, Canterbury can keep you busy and immersed for days.
Canterbury Cathedral is of course one of the most interesting places to visit in Kent with its 1400 years of history. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful and majestic – a good destination for a romantic UK city break.
7. Groombridge Place
If you’re a fan of period dramas then you’ll probably recognise Groombridge Place. From the moated house and its formal gardens through to its birds of prey experiences, there’s a lot to do here.
However, some of my favourite Groombridge Place experiences have come from exploring the Enchanted Forest, and particularly the swing walk. Giant swings send you swooping through the trees, giving you an adrenalin-kick whilst you also enjoy feeling at one with the forest around you! Visit when the bluebells are out for a truly impressive experience.
8. Lavender Massages
Ok, so this is an entirely seasonal experience, but it’s so wonderful it’s worth a mention here. When considering where to visit in Kent in July, having a massage in the lavender fields at Castle Farm is an absolute must.
I’ve probably got you hooked at the idea of an aromatherapy massage, but what’s so incredible is that you are literally in the lavender field for your massage. A sublimely blissful experience! If you don’t fancy a massage, a visit to Castle Farm is one of the best things to do in the Sevenoaks area.
9. Prison Island
Prison Island in Maidstone is completely different from anything else I’ve listed so far. Basically, you rock up with your favourite people and get involved in trying to escape from various different ‘prison cells’ using your brain or your brawn! Each cell is its own unique challenge and takes just 1-5 minutes to solve, and there are around 25 to do. It’s definitely one of the most fun things to do in Kent.
For an otherworldly landscape, pay a visit to Dungeness on the Kent coast. A strange and eerie place, it’s home to a sprawling shingle beach littered with abandoned boats, rusty machinery, and discarded fishing nets. All in the shadow of the nuclear power station that looms in the background.
It’s as if the place was abandoned in a hurry and you can’t quite shake the feeling that you’ve landed yourself in a post-apocalyptic movie! Look out for Prospect Cottage or head to the top of the Grade II listed Old Lighthouse. It’s also a great place for photography and bird-watching.
Fun fact: Dungeness is Britain’s only desert!
If you fancy a retro funfair experience, then Dreamland in Margate is the place for you. Dreamland is all about fun – pure and simple. From roller discos to live gigs to hair-rising rides, they’ve got it all. Dreamland is definitely a bit quirky, but that’s what I love about it, and it offers a slight twist on your usual theme park or seaside resort.
Also on the coast, but an entirely different experience to Dreamland, is the beautiful small fishing town of Whitstable. You can indulge in some of the freshest seafood here (the town is particularly famous for its oysters). The little lanes are perfect for meandering along, perhaps on your way to the market.
There’s a real arts culture to Whitstable and it feels like every time you turn a corner you find another interesting sight. And of course, it’s wonderful to wander along checking out all of the beach huts on the beachfront. Whitstable is definitely one for your UK bucket list.
13. The Historic Dockyard, Chatham
If you’re a fan of naval history then you will be completely in your element at The Historic Dockyard in Chatham. However, don’t think it’s just for naval buffs. There’s so much to do and see here.
Three ships really absorb your attention, each very different: a Cold War submarine (HMS Ocelot), a WW2 Destroyer (HMS Cavalier) and a Victorian Sloop (HMS Gannet). You can wander aboard each of them and feel yourself transported in time.
However, at the Dockyard there’s also something for Call the Midwife fans. Many of the dock views in the TV series (and more!) have been filmed here. So, you can spot the sights and even go on a themed tour.
14. Leeds Castle
Another castle to make my list is Leeds Castle. It’s such a quintessential part of Kent that I can’t leave it out! I adore Leeds Castle for many reasons, but up there is the fact that it’s incredibly picturesque and lends itself to stunningly beautiful photos which change throughout the seasons. I can see why it’s got the moniker ‘the loveliest castle in the world’.
You can spend hours wandering the grounds and exploring all the different areas of the site. There is a lot for kids to explore with fantastically themed playgrounds and adventure golf. The land train and boat add to the experience (and make it easier to get around), and the maze makes for a fun challenge.
There are also some really quirky things to add to the Leeds Castle experience. Dog collar museum anyone? And if you want to indulge your inner adrenaline junkie then there is a Go Ape high ropes course right here too.
15. Alpaca Annie
For a delightfully unique experience, you can trek with alpacas at Alpaca Annie. It’s difficult to convey just how wonderful this experience is. The alpacas are incredibly docile and friendly, and provide plenty of entertainment. What’s really lovely about this alpaca trek is that you get to do it in the Romney Marsh habitat, which is another unique Kentish landscape.
16. Chapel Down Winery, Tenterden
I can’t list things to do in Kent without picking out at least one vineyard and winery, but it’s a tough choice! Chapel Down Winery, in Tenterden, is very much in the heart of the ‘garden’ of England. You’ll spot iconic oast houses galore as you make your way there.
From a walk through the vineyard and tasting afterwards through to their deluxe experience, which includes a delicious three course meal. You can expect to have a luxury experience here.
17. The Spa Valley Railway
Enjoying a ride on the Spa Valley Railway is like stepping back in time to a slower and more relaxed way of life. You’ll travel through some of the finest and most quintessentially ‘Kentish’ landscape from Tunbridge Wells (pop into the Pantiles for a chance to explore this royal spa town) to High Rocks, Groombridge and Eridge. They offer various dining experiences and there’s something so wonderful about enjoying a classic afternoon tea whilst wending your way through the countryside.
18. The Big Cat Sanctuary
The Big Cat Sanctuary is something Kent should be immensely proud of having on its turf. This charity is doing incredible things for conservation around the world. You may be familiar with it from the BBC’s Big Cat Diaries.
The Sanctuary isn’t somewhere you just turn up at, except on Open Days. However, I really urge you to book an experience here for something that will take your breath away. They run outstanding photography workshops, as well as overnight safari experiences too.
19. High Rocks
Whilst you’re in the area with the Spa Valley Railway, make sure you take the chance to visit High Rocks. This is actually a national monument – the landscape here will bowl you over. You probably won’t have seen anything quite like it.
Turn up at the pub (having checked opening times, as the Rocks aren’t always open to the public and times vary) and buy a ticket to enter the High Rocks area over the road. Then you can wander and explore. Keep a hold of little hands, and be prepared for some vertigo challenge!
20. Knole Park and Sevenoaks
Last but by no means least I can heartily recommend a trip to Knole Park in Sevenoaks. This deer park is enormous, covering a staggering 383.4 hectares. It’s largely managed by The National Trust, along with Knole House (also worth a visit!) and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Knole Park really comes alive at different times of the year. A picnic amongst the hazy summer grasses watching a nearby cricket game is just as sublime as wrapping up warm in autumn and walking amongst the ochres and russets of the trees.
There are so many things to do in Kent that I’m sure I’ll be back again with more another time. However, for now, I hope this article whets your appetite!