Kent’s Top Tourist Attractions: From Medieval Castles to Riverboat Tours

Ever fancied a UK getaway but don’t want the hustle and bustle of London? Look no further than Kent. From stunning castles to serene countryside, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy in this southeast county.

In this guide, we’ll cover Kent’s top attractions to help you plan an unforgettable visit. Whether you’re into history, nature, or just want a relaxing riverboat cruise, Kent has something for everyone. You’ll get insider tips on must-see sights, hidden gems off the beaten path, and info on getting around. After reading, you’ll be itching to book those tickets and experience Kent’s charms for yourself. So get ready for a journey through some of England’s most captivating scenery and fascinating historical sights. Adventure awaits in Kent!

Discover Mediaeval History at Dover Castle

A Mighty Fortress With a Turbulent Past

Dover Castle has stood for over 900 years as a mighty fortress, enduring conflicts and turmoil throughout England’s history. Originally built in the 12th century, the castle was strategically positioned atop the White Cliffs of Dover to defend the shortest sea crossing between England and mainland Europe.

Explore the Secret Wartime Tunnels

During World War II, a vast network of tunnels was constructed under the castle to serve as an underground hospital and shelter. Today, you can tour the tunnels to see how they were used. It’s a sobering yet fascinating glimpse into life during wartime Britain.

Walk the Castle Ramparts and See the Coastline

One of the highlights of visiting Dover Castle is walking along the ramparts surrounding the keep. You’ll get panoramic views of the English Channel and the Kent coastline. On a clear day, you may even see France in the distance, a mere 21 miles away.

A Family-Friendly Day Out

With costumed re-enactments, exhibits on castle life, and activities for children like archery lessons and craft making, Dover Castle appeals to visitors of all ages. Pack a picnic, grab an audio guide, and spend a day exploring all the castle has to offer. You’ll come away with an appreciation for the rich history of this formidable fortification and its role in shaping Britain.

Celebrate Charles Dickens At Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs

No trip to Broadstairs is complete without visiting the Dickens House Museum. Charles Dickens spent many summers in Broadstairs between 1837 to 1859, writing some of his most famous works here like David Copperfield and Bleak House.

Annual Dickens Festival

The museum hosts an annual 3-day Dickens Festival in June which brings the town to life with Dickensian characters and events. Visitors can see re-enactments of scenes from Dickens’ books, enjoy Victorian-themed entertainment, crafts and food, and join guided walks around the area Dickens frequented.

Explore Dickens’ Broadstairs

Even without the festival, you can follow in Dickens’ footsteps any time of the year. Start at the Dickens House Museum, the actual house Dickens visited, now filled with artefacts, letters and other memorabilia providing insight into the author’s life in Broadstairs. Then head to the quaint Bleak House, the inspiration for the famous novel. Picture Dickens writing in the garden gazebo on warm summer days.

Stroll along the Viking Bay promenade and pier, stopping for fish and chips or ice cream like Dickens surely would have done. Climb the stone stairs at Stone Bay, which Dickens described in David Copperfield. With so much of Dickensian Broadstairs beautifully preserved, it’s easy to imagine yourself back in the Victorian era.

A trip to the Dickens House Museum and walking in the author’s footsteps around charming Broadstairs will delight any Dickens fan or avid reader. Celebrate one of Britain’s most famous authors in the place he found so inspiring.

Exploring Historic Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral

No trip to Kent is complete without exploring the historic city of Canterbury and its world-famous cathedral. Canterbury has been a place of pilgrimage and worship for centuries. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting over a million visitors each year who come to immerse themselves in its rich history and culture.

Wander the Charming City Streets

As you stroll through Canterbury’s cobbled streets, you’ll feel transported back in time. The city centre is filled with picturesque Tudor houses, quaint shops and traditional English pubs. The Westgate Towers are Canterbury’s largest surviving city gate, offering panoramic views of the city from its ramparts.

Visit Canterbury Cathedral

No trip to Canterbury is complete without visiting its magnificent cathedral. Founded in 597 AD, Canterbury Cathedral is the headquarters of the Church of England and Anglican Communion. The cathedral is renowned for its imposing Gothic architecture and stunning stained-glass windows. You can see the spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170. The cathedral’s precincts also house peaceful gardens and the medieval King’s School.

Enjoy Howletts wild animal park

If you love wildlife, you’ll want to visit Howletts Wild Animal Park, set within 90 acres of beautiful Kent countryside. Howletts is home to over 400 rare and endangered animals, including gorillas, tigers, and rhinos.

Meet the Gorillas

One of the highlights of Howletts is the opportunity to see western lowland gorillas in a naturalistic habitat. The gorilla kingdom is home to several family groups, including youngsters who love to play. Watching the gorillas go about their daily activities is a truly magical experience. The gorilla house offers a chance to get an even closer view of these magnificent primates in an indoor area.

More Wildlife Highlights

In addition to gorillas and big cats, Howletts is home to over 30 species including elephants, giraffes, zebras, and rhinos. The elephant sanctuary and rhino reserve offer spacious enclosures where you can see the animals grazing and socialising. For a unique wildlife experience, book a private elephant or giraffe encounter to feed and interact with these gentle giants up close.

Whether you spend a few hours or a whole day exploring, Howletts Wild Animal Park offers an unforgettable opportunity to see rare wildlife in a natural setting. Discover your favourite animals and create cherished memories at this world-class conservation park.

Visit The Historic Dockyard Chatham

The Historic Dockyard Chatham is one of the most popular attractions in Kent, and for good reason. As an integral part of Britain’s naval history, the dockyard was established in 1567 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. For over 400 years, Chatham Dockyard built and repaired naval ships, helping establish Britain as a dominant sea power.

Today, the Historic Dockyard Chatham is a fascinating museum and the perfect place to discover more about this important era in British history. Walk through the massive Victorian ropery, where ships’ ropes were made by hand, and see craftsmen demonstrate how it’s done. Tour historic warships like the HMS Cavalier, a WWII destroyer, and the HMS Gannet, a Victorian sloop. The dockyard is also home to the HMS Ocelot, the last surviving submarine of its type.

No trip to the dockyard is complete without visiting the Victorian naval barracks. This immense building housed up to 5,000 sailors and is a stunning example of military architecture. After exploring the barracks, take a break at one of the cafes or picnic areas along the riverfront, with panoramic views of the Medway River and dockyard.

The dockyard hosts many special events throughout the year, including living history reenactments, food festivals, and guided tours. One of the highlights is the annual firework show over the river in November, which features an impressive display of fireworks and lights set to music.

Whether you’re interested in maritime history, Victorian architecture, or just enjoying a fun day out, the Historic Dockyard Chatham has something for everyone. Its significance in Britain’s naval and industrial heritage makes it a must-see attraction for any visit to Kent. After 400 years, this dockyard remains an important reminder of Britain’s proud naval tradition and legacy.

Leeds Castle – The Loveliest Castle in the World

Known as ‘The Loveliest Castle in the World’, when you first catch sight of its turreted towers rising up from the lake, you’ll understand why it has captured the hearts of so many visitors.

A Medieval Fortress

The original castle was a Norman fortification, built in 1119. Over the centuries, Leeds Castle was transformed into a lavish palace, with King Henry VIII using it as a luxurious retreat. Walking through the ancient stone archways and courtyards, you can almost imagine the grand banquets and jousting tournaments of medieval times.

Beautiful Gardens

The castle is set within a large picturesque parkland and formal gardens. The woodland garden is a sea of bluebells in spring, while the aviary and bird garden are home to native and exotic birds. The hedge maze and grotto are fun for both kids and adults. For the best views, stroll around the lake walk or take a boat tour to see the castle from the water.

A Fascinating Insight into History

Inside the castle, you’ll find richly decorated rooms with tapestries, paintings and antique furnishings. The gatehouse exhibition gives a glimpse into what life was like in the medieval castle. The Henry VIII banqueting hall with its timbered roof is a highlight, as is the library which houses over 10,000 books. A free audio tour guides you through the castle’s history, bringing its former inhabitants to life.

Whether you come for the beautiful scenery, the history or a fun family day out, Leeds Castle will capture your imagination. It’s no wonder that it has been voted as one of Britain’s best attractions. A visit here is a magical step back in time.

Cruise the River Stour on a Canterbury Historic River Tour

A river cruise along the River Stour is a lovely way to see Canterbury from the water and gain a different perspective on the city. The River Stour flows right through the centre of Canterbury, passing by the city’s top attractions.

Relaxing and Informative

The historic river tours last around 45 minutes and travel at a leisurely pace so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery and commentary. A guide provides an informative commentary about the city’s history and points out landmarks along the river. You’ll learn about Canterbury’s long history, from its Roman origins to its role as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Take in the Sights

As you gently cruise along, you may spot grey herons, ducks and swans going about their day on the river. The tours run daily from April to October.

Family-Friendly Activity

The river cruises are suitable for all ages, from kids to seniors. It’s a great way for families to discover Canterbury together without having to walk far. Kids will surely enjoy seeing the ducks and boats along the river and learning about the city in an engaging way.

If the weather’s nice, a river tour is a perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon in Canterbury. The tours provide a unique perspective of this historic city that has been an important site of pilgrimage for centuries. Climb aboard and let the River Stour be your guide!

Explore Samphire Hoe

Samphire Hoe is a hidden gem of the Kent coast worth exploring. This 28-hectare nature reserve was created from 5 million tonnes of chalk excavated during the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. The lunar-like landscape is now home to rare plants and wildlife.

As you wander the network of trails around the reserve, you’ll spot orchids and wildflowers peeking through the chalk grassland. Look out for butterflies like the Adonis blue and chalkhill blue fluttering by. The best spots for viewing birds are the lagoons, where you may glimpse little ringed plovers, redshanks and lapwings. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a Mediterranean gull or little tern.

The dramatic white cliffs provide a scenic backdrop for a picnic. There are plenty of spots to sit and soak in the sea air, with panoramic views across the Strait of Dover. On a sunny day, the azure waters glisten as ferries and cargo ships glide by. It’s a peaceful place to unwind and reconnect with nature.

Samphire Hoe is open daily and admission is free. It’s located between Folkestone and Dover, just off the A20. There is a small car park at the bottom of Shakespeare Cliff where the footpaths begin. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, as the terrain can be uneven. Pack a pair of binoculars to get a better view of the wildlife and ships in the channel.

Whether you’re interested in botany, birdwatching or simply enjoying a breath of fresh air, Samphire Hoe is a perfect escape. Discover this unique habitat and its natural wonders for yourself. The striking scenery and biodiversity will leave a lasting impression.

Ride The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway

One of Kent’s most popular attractions is the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway. This miniature steam railway offers a fun and leisurely 15-mile ride along the coast. The line runs from Hythe to Dungeness, stopping in picturesques places along the route.

As you board the train, the smell of burning coal and the sounds of the steam engine fill the air. Sit back and relax in the open or closed carriages as you trundle past beaches, harbors and the Romney Marsh countryside. The smaller scale of the railway (5.5 inches to the foot) makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Highlights of the journey include sweeping sea views at Jury’s Gap, the 13th-century church at St Mary’s Bay, and the distinctive black timbered houses at New Romney. The endpoint at Dungeness is a scenic wasteland with a massive nuclear power station dominating the horizon.

The railway runs every day from March to October, with extra services around bank holidays and summer weekends. Standard fares start around £10 for a return adult ticket. Special dining trains, fish and chip specials, and Santa trains also run on selected dates. It’s a perfect day out for both kids and kids at heart.

Whether you’re a train enthusiast, beach lover or just looking for a fun family adventure, the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway offers a delightful escape from everyday life. All aboard for a seaside getaway you’ll never forget!


So there you have it – Kent’s top visitor attractions that should definitely be on your itinerary. From exploring the winding medieval streets and imposing castle towers of historic towns like Canterbury and Dover, to enjoying a relaxing river cruise along the Great Stour, Kent has something for every type of tourist. The beautiful coastline dotted with seaside towns is the perfect place for long walks and beach picnics. Don’t miss out on trying a traditional cream tea while in Kent. And be sure to visit at least one of the many stately homes and gardens to experience the grandeur of Kent’s heritage and countryside. With so much to see and do, Kent is truly a delightful destination for your next holiday. You’ll leave with lasting memories of this picturesque corner of England.

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