The Zetland Arms, Kingsdown
Kingsdown is a dream coastal village, whose narrow main street tumbles downhill to one of the most famed beauty spots on the Kent coast. Here, occupying a remote corner overlooking the White Cliffs, is a beachside pub on the shingle, its outdoor benches overlooking beach huts one way, curving bay the other. There is also a rear courtyard, with parasols and the odd tropical pot plant if you need to escape the sun. Should the Zetland itself be too busy, walk five minutes round the corner to the Rising Sun, an attractive weatherboarded watering hole built in 1692 at the foot of the hill climbing up into the village. Its more trad pub garden has covered outdoor seating, a lawn and lots of tables. Both pubs serve Kentish-brewed beers and decent enough seaside pub grub, with plenty of fish options.
The Green Berry, Walmer
Beachfront Walmer Green, with its memorial bandstand, boats on the shingle and white fishermen’s huts, is lively all summer, with music pub the Lighthouse (currently being revamped) on hand for a restorative pint. At the far end of the promenade, up Canada Road, is the Berry, a neighbourhood, family-run traditional free house with 11 hand pumps, six real ciders and six keg craft beers, all chalked up on a blackboard daily. Not exactly a secret, having won several Camra awards, it’s nonetheless one of the best places to try excellent local brewery Time & Tide. Behind the building’s eye-catching lime exterior, the garden is small but leafy, with climbers entwined in its pergola, and shady benches for escaping the afternoon sun. Last summer it took over the adjoining shingle path to create a relaxed additional outdoor space, too.
The Bedford Inn, Ramsgate
Set among the grand villas of Vale Square, this rebooted pub is in Ramsgate’s most affluent neighbourhood. Nearby are the independent cafes, pubs and stores of pretty Addington Street, leading to the clifftop with its sensational views over the Royal Marina. The Bedford, which launched just before Covid hit, is a simple, pared-back reimagining of a boozer, with booths, lazy Chesterfield sofas and an open fire; the bar boasts a good range of craft beers and cocktails, too. But it’s the Kentish flint-walled garden, with sharing benches, pergola and mini sandy beach, that add a holiday flavour – underlined, last summer, by weekend barbecue meze afternoons.
thebedfordinn.co.uk, open from 22 April
The Pullman, Folkestone
Folkestone’s pub scene seems to strengthen every year and, with the town’s fifth Triennial art show kicking off in July, shows no signs of slowing down in 2021. On the edge of old town area The Bayle, just at the top of the Creative Quarter’s steep Old High Street, is this satisfyingly tucked-away gastropub: the garden, on different levels, is a proper sun trap, with palms and plenty of room to people-watch over a craft beer or cocktail. Reopened a few years back, the Pullman has been such a hit that its owners are now among the town’s movers and shakers, with their waterfront pub the Harbour Inn, and several restaurants, including Luben Pizza, all doing a roaring trade.
Earl of Clarendon, Sandgate
Sandgate is Folkestone’s sleepier neighbour, its independent pubs, cafes and restaurants lining a single main, and often traffic-clogged, road running parallel to the shingle beach. On the other side is a steep backdrop, and it is up one of these thigh-firming paths, at the western tip of the town’s esplanade – appropriately enough called Brewer’s Hill – that you’ll find the tiny Earl of Clarendon. Its outside seating, framed by palm trees, takes over the pedestrianised steps and offers panoramic views over the coast. With proper pub grub and, on our last visit, table service due to Covid rules, it’s a very pleasant, romantic way to while away a fine day. Tasty Sunday roasts, too.
The Rose in June, Margate
On sunny Saturdays last summer Margate was roadblock, although many visitors don’t explore much further than the town seafront, Harbour Arm and Old Town. Five minutes’ stroll uphill towards Cliftonville, past the George and Heart, with its vibey roadside courtyard and all-day weekend barbecues, is Trinity Square. At its far tip, just behind the point where Margate seafront morphs into Cliftonville, is the restored Victoriana of the Rose in June pub, all scrubbed-up Victorian back bar and stripped floors. Happily, there are two outside areas: a flint-walled garden to the side with covered booths, tables for two and banquettes, and, out front, benches and lots of foliage. It’s a useful option to kick back, a little way away from the crowds, with a local craft beer, or a quality burger from current kitchen residency Barletta Margate.
The Smack Inn, Whitstable
Whitstable is, along with Broadstairs and Margate, one of the three most oversubscribed Kent coastal resorts on hot days. A good solution if you can’t get anywhere near the always-mobbed Old Neptune or Pearson’s Arms is this Middle Wall pub, originally a pair of 19th-century fishermen’s cottages. Set back a few streets from the estuary, its winning card is a spacious shingle beach-style rear garden, complete with candy-coloured individual beach huts that can be booked. Last summer there were also bands every Sundayfrom 6pm. Sister pub the New Inn, a few more streets away behind the seafront, is another locals’ haunt that’s equally worth a visit.
Deal Hoy, Deal
Rowdy old Deal has plenty of alfresco drinking options if you choose to chance it on a warm weekend, from the many ancient pubs on the seafront to the historic town behind, where the Ship’s rear garden catches the evening rays and the stunning courtyard at the Rose channels sun-kissed Mediterranean vibes (booking here is essential). A locals’ favourite is Georgian inn the Hoy, named predictably enough in honour of the town’s nautical history. The low-ceilinged and characterful interior is ideal for wintry nesting, while the capacious walled garden, with sun trap patio, shady areas, tropical plants and a covered deck is a big draw in summer. A perfect place to tuck in to speciality wood-fired pizzas or a Shepherd Neame ale or three.
The Lantern, Martin Mill
The Lantern is a gently renovated 16th-century hostelry, perched in expansive English country gardens at a picturesque spot a couple of miles inland from Saint Margaret’s Bay, whose seafront gastropub the Coastguard can be an impossible proposition at the weekend. A few minutes’ walk from Martin Mill station, the Lantern’s warren of small dining rooms and cosy fireside nooks leads to a surprisingly large, almost park-like beer garden, with enough room to accommodate drinkers on the busiest of sunny weekends. The gastropub-style food service can be leisurely, but you could hardly linger, cold glass of rosé in hand, in a prettier rural spot.