When I was asked if I want to spend a weekend in Thanet, I had to think for a minute if I really did. You see, I live in Kent, I used to spend a lot of my childhood down on the coast and, if I’m honest, I wasn’t really sure if it was ‘my thing’. Anyway, I started discussions with the lovely Julie from Visit Thanet and she put together a fantastic itinerary for Dexter and myself that was just perfect for us, so we went down there last weekend.
Finding things to do with a tween is notoriously difficult, as fellow parents of one will agree I’m sure. Most things are ‘boring’, and if it doesn’t involve the Xbox, my tween doesn’t want to know. Undeterred, we drove down to Margate.
A quick word about the weather. Coincidently, I just happened to pick the most perfect weekend to visit Thanet weather-wise, especially when you learn what our itinerary was going to be! The weather was low-mid 70s, the sun was shining, there was a light breeze and I think the entire population of Kent headed to Margate on that Saturday!
We stayed at the Sands Hotel, which overlooks the beach, and is amongst the more … salubrious establishments of Margate. I had heard great things about this hotel, not that I could find it easily because you only really notice it if you know it’s there, and parking is a bit of a problem. But if I visit again then everything will run smoothly, but for a first time visit, there is a certain … knack to it.
The staff at the Sands Hotel were great. Everyone was friendly, helpful and our room was glorious. There aren’t many hotel rooms with a balcony that have this view:
BEAUTIFUL ORIGINAL FEATURES
And the view is a massive selling point. We ate dinner on the balcony and watched the sunset on Saturday evening, and it’s something I will never forget. With regards to the food however, it was a tale of two halves if I’m honest. I think the staff were under the kosh that night with a staff shortage, and you could tell. Service was really slow, the meat, although tasty, was too tough to eat and I think had I been told about the staff shortage upfront, I perhaps would have been more understanding, but I wasn’t, and when you’re dining with children and it’s approaching 9.30pm with no sign of a dessert menu, things just get a little fractious. However, having said all of that, I think we were just really unlucky. The duck fat chips and pots of jus they came with, were absolutely glorious. Seriously. I’ve never tasted anything like it and, in hindsight, had I just had chips and gin for dinner whilst watching that sunset, I would’ve been a very happy woman. It’s a unique place and I’d be more than happy to go back and give dinner another try.
A SELECTION OF THE FOOD WE ATE
Onto what Thanet had in store for us!
So before dinner, we had made our way to Dreamland, or Benbom Brothers as I knew it is a 15-year-old! It was quite a bitter sweet experience walking through the gates again as I have so many fond memories of this place. I’ll be honest, it looks a little tired. There are holes in the ceiling that haven’t been patched up, some of the staff look a little … jaded but I can only hope that once they finish the refurbishment (I think there is one more phase to go) the whole place will brighten up a bit. It’s no Thorpe Park. It’s quite kitsch, like an old-fashioned fair maybe, but having said all of that, we had an absolute blast. I think we went on four rides in total and were happy to spend 90 minutes there. I think it’s a little pricey for what it is, I believe it’s just under £15 per adult, but I guess when you think about it, that does allow you to have unlimited rides on everything and I’m probably just tight!
I’m not really a fan of theme parks but Dreamland will always hold a special place in my heart and I was really glad I got to experience it with Dexter.
(Also, don’t go on the tame looking monorail, I thought I was GOING TO DIE.)
After Dreamland, we headed to Rascal Bay Adventure Golf, an 18-hole crazy golf course in Manston, which was only a 10 minute drive from Margate.
Rascal Bay is perfect for anyone of any age – who doesn’t like crazy golf? We saw groups of twenty-somethings, young children, couples and everybody loved it. You can’t miss the place, there is a massive dinosaur, including a roaring sound track, outside, along with jeeps, more dinosaurs, chimpanzees and well, you get the picture. Each hole gives you an easy and a difficult option – needless to say, I was made to take the difficult one whilst Dexter took the easy one, and again, we ended up spending 90 minutes or so there. There are little streams running through the course and a couple of holes make you climb up onto the little wooden pirate boat where you pull yourself across the stream by a rope pulley system. Difficult to explain, but so much fun! Highly recommend it!
After a delicious breakfast at the Sands Hotel on Sunday morning, we headed off to Joss Bay where Dexter and I were going to learn to surf.
We were both really nervous about this, it’s completely out of our comfort zone and I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to get in the wetsuit, let loan learn how to surf! But I like a challenge, and I’ve heard a lot about Joss Bay being the most beautiful beach in the area, and yet again the whole of Kent seemed to have headed down to the coast that day!
Dave runs Joss Bay Surf School, along with James, who was tasked with looking after us for our two hour lesson (poor bloke).
OK, NOT THE MOST GLAMOROUS SHOT, BUT SOOOOO MUCH FUN!
I want to say upfront that both guys couldn’t have been more friendly, helpful and encouraging to us as complete novices. I managed to put a brave face on but it was clear Dexter was super nervous and they were really lovely.
Once we were (finally) in our wetsuits, we headed down to the water to get wet so that our bodies could warm up. The sunshine clearly had no effect on the water as it was absolutely freezing! It’s a real shock to the system, but you do get used to it really quickly once the water between your skin and the suit warms up. We then collected a surfboard each and headed down to the shore line where James demonstrated how surfing should be done.
JOSS BAY SURF SCHOOL
The beautiful weather with a double-edged sword because there was zero surf, which made trying to stand up on the board even more difficult, although it was doubtful I would’ve managed it anyway if I’m honest! But we spent our lesson learning to get on the board, paddling up and down the shoreline, falling off (a lot), and just generally enjoying doing something new. We don’t do new things nearly enough and as suspected, once Dexter got over his initial nerves, he absolutely loved it and I hope that this has just made him see that there is more to life than FIFA on the Xbox.
Our weekend wasn’t over and we had kindly been invited to have lunch at the Minnis Bay Bar and Brasserie which, as the name suggests, is in Minnis Bay. It took about 25 minutes to drive there and again, it’s another lovely spot for a day at the seaside. The restaurant overlooks the sea and even though it was absolutely packed, we managed to find a car park space, the service was great and the food even better. The batter on my cod was to die for, even crispy on the bottom – no mean feat! I would say that the poor staff looked absolutely run off their feet and they really were inundated, which is what happens when the sun comes out in England, but I can only comment on the service we received, and everything was great about lunch.
The final thing to tick off on our itinerary for the weekend was a bike ride along the seafront. But no ordinary bike ride. This was a bike made for two! We picked it up from Viking Coastal Trail Bike Hire and instead of a tandem bike, you actually sit next to each other, with a space at the front for little ones and a canopy over the top to protect you from the sunshine. The plan was that we would cycle along the Viking Trail, which is a great cycle route that takes you along the coastline, but we were surprised by how much hard work cycling on the same bike was! Coupled with the fact that we were exhausted from surfing, there was no way I was going to be able to get up the hill at the end of the road! Instead, we took it in turns to steer and cycled up and down the road a few times, including a couple of U-turns, and Dexter seemed happy enough with that. VCT Bike Hire also hires out regular bikes and I think I’d really like to do that next time, I think it will be a little easier to pedal!
HE’S LAUGHING INSIDE. HONEST.
And with that, the sun still shining, and Dexter and I a little tired, we headed home after the most fun-packed and enjoyable weekend. We loved what Thanet had to offer and we’re so lucky that it’s right on our doorstep – I feel like we only scratched the surface.