5 of the best coastal walks in Kent

Coastal, Walking, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ed Roberts on 11th September 2020

From estuarine Gravesend to the shingle bank of Dungeness, the Kent coast is a stunning region of the South East of England. It’s a lovely part of the country to take a holiday and if you enjoy walking, whether it’s a stroll or a hike, the Kent coast is home to some very beautiful stretches indeed. All around the coast you will find pleasant towns and villages, so chances are that you will encounter a good restaurant, café or pub to enjoy a rest in along the way.  

The Kent coast is characterised by the White Cliffs of Dover, an iconic landmark that can be seen from the French coast and has been a symbolic landmark for the nation since ancient times. The county is also home to some excellent sandy beaches and miles of shingle and pebble strands too. The Isle of Thanet, which makes up the north-east area of the county, is where you can find upmarket holiday destinations like Whitstable and Seasalter, and also the traditional English seaside resorts of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs. From town to country, our guide has some lovely suggestions for a coastal walk – whether your planning to pull on your walking boots or your flip flops, there’s a trail for you.

Coastal cottages in Kent

English Coast Path - Kent

England Coast Path – Kent  

The Kent section of the England Coast Path stretches all the way from Camber Sands in the south to Ramsgate in the north – it is a whopping 66 miles long in total. It is possible to hike its entire length in a few days and we’d say that it’s well worth the effort. The Kent section of the national trail begins at Ramsgate Harbour - it threads its way down past Deal, Dover, the White Cliffs of Dover, St Margaret’s at Cliffe, Folkestone, Hythe, Greatstone, and Dungeness before ending up near the west end of Camber Sands where the River Rother meets the sea. The England Coast Path encompasses a number of other walking trails along its way and we will include specific sections in the remainder of this guide to help you decide on where to focus.

Distance: 66 miles

Difficulty: Challenging

Facilities: Depending on the section you choose – you can find WCs, parking, and places to eat and drink all along the course of this national trail.

Good to know: Kent is a great county if you enjoy lighthouse bagging. There are about 10 around the coast to spot.

Stay nearby: Sandpiper Cottage | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 2 dogs 

Contra Trail

The Contra Trail - Ramsgate to Pegwell Bay

Ramsgate is a seaside resort that sits at the most easterly point of Kent, and its where you can pick up the 6-mile-long Contra Trail. Linking in with the much longer Isle of Thanet Trail (32 miles) this public footpath to Pegwell Bay takes you through a wonderful diversity of habitats. It originates in the UK’s only royal harbour, Ramsgate Harbour, then sweeps past the town marina, and climbs up to the cliff tops just beyond the town centre. You can head into Cliffs End, a network of fascinating caves and tunnels (used since Viking times) in the cliffs, some of which connect local pubs and houses together! The walk ends at Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve which is dominated by wetlands and is known for its birdlife and rare orchids.

Distance: 6 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Facilities: WCs, picnic areas, pubs, restaurants, cafes and parking at Ramsgate, Pegwell and Cliffs End.

Good to know: There is an entrance fee into the Pegwell Bay Country Park, but its well worth venturing in – it’s beautiful.

Stay nearby at: Sea Renity Cottage | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 1 dog 


The Royal Military Canal walk - Hythe

This walk is not strictly a coastal walk, but it is within walking distance of the coast and it is a waterside walk. Less than a mile in from the coast, you can find the 28-mile-long Royal Military Canal, dug by navvies as a defence line during the Napoleonic Wars as coastal protection – so if the country was ever invaded, the troops could fall back to a second obstacle. Today, you can still walk along much of the canal and the best section is picked up in the coastal town of Hythe. Head to Hythe Railway Station on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RH&D). Adjacent to the station building, you can find the beginning of a level and sealed 2-mile stretch. It is easy to accomplish with small children, small or old dogs, or if you need a wheelchair or a mobility scooter to get about. It’s a pleasant wooded walk, with a few historical remnants along the way like the concrete sound mirrors, an obsolete counter-attack technology that can be seen here and there along the Kent coast.

Distance: 2 miles (each way)

Difficulty: Easy

Good to know: After the walk, visit the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Model Railway in Romney or catch a narrow-gauge steam train down the coast to Dungeness.

Facilities: WCs at Hythe railway station, parking, information boards along the path

Stay nearby: Little Hamilton | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 1 dog 

Camber & Dungeness

Camber Sands to Dungeness

This Kent coastal walk between Dungeness and Camber is a winner. Even at high tide, Camber Sands on the Sussex border provides one of the best and longest beach walks available in the South East of England. The most westerly stretch is fringed by sand dunes and, although there are seasonal restrictions for dogs, it’s a great place for a run and to exercise the four-legged friend in the off-season. The easterly section is even wilder, and this is where kite surfers and surfers head to for some solitude. It’s a lovely beach with plenty of places to stop and take in your surroundings. Dungeness is a large shingle bank, the largest in Europe, where you will find two dramatic lighthouses, fishing boats galore, wild expanses where rare plants grow, designer homes and quaint fishing huts. It’s a dramatic place full of eye-catching dramatic contrasts; if ever there was a ‘marmite’ place to define your preferences, it’s Dungeness. Facilities at Camber Sands are good too, as the beach is within walking distance of the village, so there is a small but solid choice of restaurants, cafes and pubs to choose from. You will probably want to return to Camber for a bout of sun worship and relaxation as it is such a good beach.

Distance: 8 miles (each way)

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Facilities: Parking, WCs, small seasonal dog-restriction zone (but huge swathes welcome dogs), access to local amenities, lifeguard service.

Good to know: There is a lifeguard service at the beach during the late spring and summer. The railway is closed on weekdays throughout the winter.

Stay nearby: The Beach Retreat | Sleeps: 4 guests and 2 dogs 

White Cliffs of Dover walk

No trip to the Kent coast would be complete without a visit to the White Cliffs of Dover. This National Trust-managed landmark is an absolute must-see so that you can appreciate the scale of these gigantic chalk cliffs up close. There are several trails up on the cliffs, where you can see the Exmoor ponies that live there, and you can also spot rare orchids like the early spider, and lesser-spotted butterflies that favour chalk grasslands. Full of wild meadows, this seaside walk is so pretty, high above the English Channel, and on clear days you can even see buildings on the French coast! Take a break and watch the ferries cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes before heading into one of the two visitor centres (with cafes) at the White Cliffs of Dover.

Distance: Variable

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Facilities: WCs, parking, two visitor centres, some sealed pathways suitable for wheelchairs, dogs welcome but on leads near cliff tops.

Good to know: The White Cliffs of Dover are riddled with tunnels that are the remnants of old wars. Some are open to the public.

Stay nearby: Wren Cottage | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 2 guests

Map of coastal walks in Kent

Even more inspiration

Fall further in love with Kent by reading some more of our guides, packed with ideas of places to go and things to see.

Stay in coastal Kent

Come to Kent for a break by the sea. Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages; we have properties close to the beach and the England Coast Path. Whether you are searching for a small and cosy retreat for you and your partner or are planning a walking holiday with friends and family, we have the perfect property waiting for you to discover in our collection.

Coastal cottages in Kent

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.