As a tourist hotspot continues this week, after the county was placed number one on a list of Europe’s best family holiday destinations by Lonely Planet.
The announcement is part of the travel guide publisher’s Best in Europe 2015 roundup, which puts Kent ahead of destinations including County Kerry, Ireland, Normandy in France and the wild Black Forest in south-west Germany. Destinations are selected by Lonely Planet’s pool of travel experts, who are briefed to sniff out the most compelling destinations for this summer.
Kent was praised for the host of “opportunities it offers curious young minds”, including the retro fun of Broadstairs beach, the footpaths along the White Cliffs of Dover and, of course, the much anticipated Dreamland amusement park in Margate, which reopens this weekend.
The publisher also highlighted a resurgence of Kent’s coastal towns as another reason why the region was deserving of its top spot. Whitstable and Margate are both referenced, with the latter becoming “gentrified without losing its personality”.
“Kent has a huge amount to offer travellers of all ages, including beautiful countryside and wonderful views of the Channel,” said Tom Hall, editorial director of Lonely Planet.
“A number of towns along Kent’s coast now boast a more diverse range of attractions and restaurants than they once did, and this gives families far more choice in the way they want to holiday,” he added.
However, despite Lonely Planet’s homing in on the county’s affordable, family-friendly credentials – it boasts eight major castles and the award-winning Port Lympne wild animal park – the region has been experiencing a regeneration that has far broader appeal.
The county’s culinary scene has been developed, with discerning foodies making trips to enjoy local treats, such as oysters in Whistable or elite cooking at placesincluding Michelin-starred Indian restaurant The Ambrette.
Turner Contemporary, which opened in 2011, has helped transform Margate into an emerging destination for the arts, while new hotels, such as the Albion House in nearby Ramsgate, cater for visitors looking for boutique-style accommodation.
For the local tourist board – already excited by the spike in press interest due to Dreamland – the news of Lonely Planet’s recognition is a vindication of years of development in the region.
“From our perspective there’s been a decade of work and investment and it’s starting to bear fruit,” said Sinead Hanna, PR manager for Visit Kent. “The renaissance of the east Kent coast and Margate has been all over the press this year and it will be even more so this weekend, with the opening of Dreamland.
“Seaside kitsch has always had an appeal, but in Margate it’s got that with a modern twist. It has helped turn it into a nice family destination.”
Suzy Humphries, co-founder of Ramsgate Arts, which was set up in 2009 to find ways in which culture could support the regeneration of the town, says the decision by Lonely Planet just confirms the experience of residents.
“From the perspective of someone who has a shop on Ramsgate harbour and co-runs an arts festival, the news just confirms everything you’re seeing,” she said.
“From about the first the weekend of February, there’s a constant stream of people coming down. And there’s a buzz; people are visiting and we want to offer more to those who come. I’ve certainly seen the difference in the last year, with new businesses and events setting up. People here feel much more energised.”
For Bibi Morelli, director of Broadstairs’ iconic ice-cream parlour, Morelli’s Gelato, the retro charm of Kent’s coastal towns is a major draw.
“For families in particular it’s beautiful, it’s affordable and it’s nostalgic,” she said. “Broadstairs is very quaint: there’s Punch and Judy, there’s a bandstand, you can go for a walk on the beach and enjoy a knickerbocker glory. Especially with what’s happening Ramsgate and Dreamland in Margate, you come to share a little of what you enjoyed as a child.”
Europe’s 10 Best Places for Family Holidays
- Kent, England, UK
- County Kerry, Ireland
- Black Forest, Germany
- Budapest, Hungary
- Vorarlberg, Austria
- Åland archipelago, Finland
- Ibiza, Spain
- Normandy, France
- Skomer Island and Marloes Sands, Wales, UK
- Bohinj, Slovenia
Europe’s 10 Best Beaches
- Jaz Beach, Montenegro
- Peniche, Portugal
- Rondinara Beach, Corsica, France
- Cala Goloritzé, Sardinia, Italy
- Vík, Iceland
- Bantham Beach, England, UK
- Sandwood Bay, Scotland, UK
- Cala Macarella, Menorca, Spain
- Voutoumi, Antipaxi, Greece
- Curonian Spit, Lithuania
Europe’s 10 Best Places
- Akureyri, Iceland
- Leipzig, Germany
- The Azores, Portugal
- Málaga, Spain
- Belgrade, Serbia
- Piedmont, Italy
- Baku, Azerbaijan
- Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Tromsø, Norway
- Porto, Portugal