Looking for a change of scenery from the Big Smoke (and to get away from the big smoke)? Here are the best day trips from London I can recommend!
Let me start by saying I love London.
It’ll be 6 years since I moved down for work and have stayed longer than I thought I would. There’s always something to see or do, even when I haven’t planned to and I’m just wandering around the city.
And that’s what makes London great to live in.
But there are some things London is missing that only venturing outside of the capital can quench.
Here are the best day trips from London!
South East London
Rye has a very nostalgic feel to it.
Maybe it’s the many (many) cobbled streets.
It’s kept much of it’s old style charm that they filmed the World War 2 movie The Monuments Men here. See the pictures of Bill Murray, George Clooney and co. filming in Rye! For some nostalgic fun, head to the Old Pier Penny Arcade which has super ancient arcade games which only take old pennies! Don’t worry, there’s a change machine so you don’t have to provide your own.
I recommend visiting Knopps Chocolate Bar where the impressive chocolate menu comes in percentages!
Whitstable is still an active fishing town, so you can get great tasting and fresh seafood by the boat load here!
Whitstable Castle and Gardens is worth a quick walk around while the lovely Harbour Market has lots of independent local artists and food stalls.
I love coming to Canterbury for it’s secondhand book stores. I always come away with a book or five without fail. Canterbury is a uni town so I reckon lots of students give their read books away.
I recommend Burgate Books, Oxfam Books and the wonderfully leaning Catching Lives Bookshop!
Canterbury also has an interesting foodie scene with a ton of great independent cafes. Check out the Skinny Kitchen for tasty and healthy food. And there Canterbury Cathedral too of course.
The £20 entrance fee is very reasonable as you could spend 5 hours wandering around the huge grounds of Dover Castle.
There’s much more to see than just the castle (which is very impressive) including a tour of the underground hospital and bunkers (both a must and worth queuing up for), Anglo-Saxon church and medieval tunnels (I went by myself and I got really scared).
And if you have time, visit and walk along the White Cliffs of Dover.
Samphire Hoe Country Park
Samphire Hoe Country Park lovely quiet trail with the sea on one side, cliffs on the other and green, green grass in the middle. Something London can’t offer!
Watch out for the animal excrement! But it’s worth it to see sheep and cows close up.
You’ll also find rare wild flowers and this interesting lighthouse.
Home of Charles Darwin
How much do you really know about Charles Darwin, other than being the Godfather of nature theory?
Learn about his upbringing and fascinating personal life at his beautiful home in the middle of nowhere (Downe in Kent).
The garden is beautiful and the greenhouse is an Instagram must.
Rochester is famous for Charles Dickens who grew up as a child and returned as an adult. There are even some references to Rochester in his books. The legendary writer has two festivals held in Rochester, Dickens Festival and Dickensian Christmas Festival.
It’s also worth visiting Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral which are both a stone’s throw away from each other. After that, wander the cobbled streets and enjoy one of the many cafes or spend an hour or five in Baggins Book Bazaar which claims to be England’s largest secondhand bookshop. I believe them, it goes all the way back and up!
Other seaside town’s wish they had a pier like Folkstone’s pier. The food stalls are on par with any London food market – that’s a bold statement to make for this London foodie!
Elsewhere, they have lots of gift shops to browse in town too.
Apparently the London hipsters are moving to Margate. I can see why. The hipster food scene continues to get better. I recommend the Swedish cafe Mala Kaffe for some traditional rye bread open sandwiches in the sun.
If it’s raining (*shakes fist at typical British weather) art lovers can hide in the Turner Contemporary. Margate even has a vinyl record shop in the shape of Elsewhere Records (formerly Monkeyboy Records in Catnerbury)!
And Margate is one of the few seaside towns with a sandy beach too!
For those looking for a quieter seaside experience, I recommend the sleepy Deal.
Granted it’s smaller than many other seaside towns on the list and there isn’t as much to do, but that makes it perfect for a stroll along the seaside or have fish and chips followed by an ice cream for that traditional British seaside experience.
The first time I went to Hastings, half the people were walking around in pirates hats…
It was Hasting’s Pirate Day.
Once I was convinced no one would make me walk the plank, I enjoyed the visiting and learning about Hastings Castle which has such a fascinating history. Unfortunately, not much of the castle remains so you have to use your imagination quite a bit. You can also take a tour of underground caves smugglers used! I loved Hasting’s gift shops along the high street also.
Okay, Dungeness is pretty derelict and not a lot exists there, so this one’s for the photographers out there.
Despite looking like a scene from an end of the world movie (it’s the only place in the UK classified as a desert by the Met Office), it does have a lovely fresh seafood cafe shack.
And if you or your partner/kids/mate gets bored, there’s always the old fashioned railway which runs through Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch.
The 14th century moated (complete with giant lily pads) Scotney castle is Insta-pic perfect while the landscape garden is perfect for a romantic stroll.