Whitstable Harbour: Things To Do, Activities, History

The Whitstable Harbour was opened in 1832 by the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway Company to support one of the world’s first steam-driven passenger and freight railway lines. 

Today, the harbour serves as a critical component of the town’s bustling fishing industry

Visiting Whitstable harbour is a must while exploring this idyllic seaside town. Be sure to check out these activities while you’re there. 

This Article Covers: 

Things To Do At Whitstable Habour 

There are several interesting things you can do centred around the harbour, including: 

1. Hop aboard the Greta

The ship, Greta, launched in 1892, is one of the oldest remaining Thames sailing barges left in the UK. The ship also took part in Operation Dynamo, which saw fleets of British vessels rescuing troops from Dunkirk in 1940. 

The Greta is available for private charter and day trips around the Thames estuary. Be sure to check the schedule on the website before booking. 

2. Shop and Dine at the Whitstable harbour market 

The harbour market is an open-air showcase of locally-made, handcrafted goods and art. The market sets up in Whitstable harbour, where you can enjoy and shop for everything from paintings and photography to jewellery and ironworks. 

There’s also a host of eateries offering a variety of delicious food. 

3. Join the Whitstable Harbour Day celebrations in August

If you’re lucky enough to be in Whitstable on 15 August, stop by the harbour for the annual Whitstable Harbour Day. Join the local community in celebrating Whitstable’s unique history and culture with family-friendly events.

4. Visit Island Wall street

Island Wall is the closest street to the seafront, about a 10-minute walk from the harbour. It’s well known for its mid-19th-century buildings, including the Neptune and Wall Tavern pubs and The Dollar Row cottages. These cottages were built from the remnants of a salvaged ship carrying silver dollars. 

5. Check out the famous Whitstable Oyster Festival

Centred around Whitstable’s beach and harbour, the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival takes place each July and lasts nine days, concluding with a fireworks display on the beach. It’s a perfect excuse to try some of the area’s famous seafood from one of the many stalls lining the waterfront.

A Quick History Of Whitstable Harbour

The Romans first used the area to harvest oysters – you’ll notice several Roman structures still standing. Historical charters also suggest that Saxon villages specialised in salt production and coastal trade here. 

From the mid-18th century, Whitstable became a hub for the passage of goods and passengers between London and Whitstable.

In May 1830, one of the first entirely steam-driven passenger and freight railway services launched between Westgate in Canterbury and the Whitstable town centre. In 1832, the harbour was opened and the rail line was extended to carry cargo to Canterbury. 

The railway line closed down much later, but the harbour continued to function.

After the Second World War, Whitstable harbour fell into disrepair. However, in 1958, the Whitstable council bought and restored the harbour to rejuvenate the town’s economy. 

What Are The Activities Undertaken At The Whitstable Harbour?

The Whitstable harbour engages in four main activities: 

  • Fishing: Much of the quay space is dedicated to landing and processing whelks and oysters. 
  • Aggregate imports: Small coaster vessels use the harbour to transport aggregates like sand and gravel. 
  • Wind farm support: The Kentish Flats offshore wind farm lies just off the coast of Whitstable. Workboats servicing the turbines routinely dock at the Whitstable harbour. 
  • Ship lay by: Occasionally, with permission from the harbourmaster, small boats may be allowed to berth.

Whitstable Harbour Contact Details

Here are Whitstable harbour’s contact details: