From micropubs to indie boutiques, discover our Secret Guide to the South East with Southeastern.
We’ve compiled our favourite hidden gems in glorious destinations, from Margate to Hastings and beyond. Plan your perfect weekend away with our guide and escape the city with Southeastern – taking the stress out of travel. In little over an hour you could be indulging in gelato at Morelli's or digging for treasure at Robert’s Rummage, after an effortless ride through beautiful countryside. Find your perfect place to stay with luxurious hotel offers and take advantage of the Southeastern summer offer with unmissable Off-Peak day returns starting at £15.
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Shuck oysters in beautiful Whitstable, discover the modern cool of Margate, relish the classic Victorian charms of Broadstairs, and more...
Discover Dickensian charm in Rochester, find treasures in Faversham, and embark on a pilgrimage to Canterbury...
Walk the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, walk the battlefield of 1066, and explore the vintage treasures in Hastings Old Town...
Unmissable Off-Peak Day Return tickets from London to over 13 destinations
In the old harbour of Whitstable you’ll find the unassuming black and white stand run by Derek West, the oldest working fisherman in Britain. For over 70 years Derek has been picking whelks with his family each morning, hauled fresh and brought to the timbered harbour building. His oysters are some of the best in the town, and his old fishing boat so part of the fabric of Whitstable it now resides in the town’s museum.
The Old Neptune pub is a cosy hideaway sat right on the beach, a perfect pit-stop during a walk along the coast. It’s white timber frame makes it a recognised landmark in the town, but its best attribute comes around each evening. The sunsets here are glorious, making it a favourite amongst photographers. Grab a pint of local ale and sit outside for irresistible views across the sea.
Kent is no stranger to real ale – the hops grown here are coveted. Whitstable even has its own microbrewery, and as a refreshing complement, a handful of hidden micro-pubs. Old shop fronts are fitted out with casks and kitsch, stools and beer mats, making for a unique setting to share a few local tipples. The Handsome Sam, The Twelve Taps, The Black Dog and the Tankerton Arms offer a unique and cosy atmosphere for trying a vast variety of wonderfully-hopped beers, from IPAs to Porters.
Wandering through some of the less pretty streets in Ramsgate, stumble upon this former pub – a fine treasure awaits. Don’t let appearances fool you; Flavours by Kumar is one of the finest Indian restaurants in the South East. Chef Anil Kumar cut his cloth in a host of dinner spots across India, Dubai, Jordan and London, before opening this coveted restaurant in Ramsgate. Enjoy contemporary Indian dining on the Kent coast.
Treasure hunters and bargain seekers alight! Petticoat Lane Emporium is a treasure trove of vintage, antiques and bric-a-brac. It’s so good it featured on Antiques Road Trip, which is a fine reason to visit. A vast hall hosts a large collection of stallholders, each offering a vast range of curios, antiques, retro cool and rare treasures. Walk the golden path that navigates you around this packed-out hall and find your perfect vintage gems.
Brunch, coffee and records – a winning combination that delights hip locals. Venture in and smell the rich roast on offer and kick-back with a light bite or sumptuous cake. Records spin in the background, with LPs displaying their art on the walls enticing you to crate dig through the strong selection of vinyl. Vinyl Head Cafe fosters local talent with intimate live performances on certain days, making this a one-stop-shop of all things musical.
Quite possibly the last thing you’d expect in this rather typically British seaside town is an old-school Italian gelato spot. It becomes even more remarkable when you realise that the Morelli’s have been in business since 1907! The current site has been delighting visitors since 1937, with a colourful display of homemade gelato. It’s mid-century design makes it every bit a time-warp, retro hangout for sharp modernistas, where formica, soda fountains and espressos reign supreme. An unmissable stalwart.
There’s a lot in a name, but appearances can be deceptive; yes, this is a chapel. A rather old one at that, dating to 1601. But open the doors and the first thing you’ll notice is books. Lots and lots of books, split over the ground floor and a mezzanine – but again, deception is at play! Because there’s live music, and loads of cask ale, and a bar. That’s right, the Chapel is a micropub and a music venue, in a bookshop, in a chapel. A truly unique space to hang with locals over local brews feasting on local produce. Delicious.
On the stretch of coast that joins Broadstairs to Margate hides one of the most beautiful beaches in England. Botany Bay, a picturesque walk out of Broadstairs, is less visited than its more popular neighbour, Joss Bay. Steep, white cliffs fall steeply down to a long stretch of soft sands. Find a set of stairs or a slope that’s easy to climb down and head for the beach, where tall chalk stacks pierce the sands and a network of smugglers caves make for hours of fun exploration.
Margate’s best-known hidden gem, a self-aware oxymoron, Shell Grotto is a rather perplexing oddity that makes it an unmissable attraction. At the back of a small shop, on an unassuming residential street a short walk out of town, is the entrance to a rather spectacular, delicately beautiful, network of caves lined by all manner of shells. The patterns are artistic, the scene breathtaking. This awe is soon met with perplexity – why? How? When? Well, no one knows! For that, you’ll just have to see it for yourself...
Dreamland may be on everyone’s lips when Margate is mentioned, yet did you know it had a roller disco? Like, an actual roller rink, with lights, neon, and disco? Well soul brothers and soul sisters, that’s right. You can disco late into the night (well, til 8pm, but keep an eye out for special nights!) practicing your grapevine, moonwalk and spread eagle all to the right-on sounds of Candi Staton, Margie Joseph and Gwen McCrae.
This classic seaside cafe (drop the e, this is the south after all!) is a great metaphor for what’s happening in Margate. Take a classic seaside institution, add a touch of cool, aim to serve the best produce you can, but keep the fabric of the place intact. Fort’s does just this. On the Cliftonville seafront sits this kitsch brunch hangout, serving glorious British fry-ups and an unmissable array of other mid-morning treats. Fort’s is the best place to start your day in Margate.
At the far end of the beach toward the station stands a big red bus. This is your marker; head for it with an empty belly and discover a little foodie mecca right on the beach. The Sun Deck is a collection of street food vendors, with cafes and bars offering all you need to while away a few hours with irresistible eats. From Po’Boys to vegan kebabs, be at the cutting edge of Margate’s food scene in a picturesque seaside setting.
This stalwart seafood stop is a nostalgic flavour of old Margate. Fresh oysters, jellied eels, cockles and more are cheap and plentiful, with dousings of vinegar and pepper for a typical seaside snack. Since 1962 this small shack has offered true seaside fayre – yet as old school as it is, they know what the people want. That’s why you can now order prosecco and oysters, with small picnic tables offering sea views as you slurp up some of the finest (and cheapest!) seafood in the town.
Shops are old hat; yards are the new in thing. Fort Road Yard is an exceptionally cool space filled with fairground pieces (Dreamland anyone?) and industrial salvage that makes for killer statement pieces. Browse the shacks that line the yard for more vintage treasures, alongside tiny galleries that house local art. Fort Road Yard is a mecca for unique mid-century kitsch, hidden just behind the seafront ready for modernist treasure hunters.
This remarkable little town is an untouched medieval treasure. Once a hugely important medieval port that rivalled London, it slowly sidled into obscurity in the 16th century, when the waters filled with silt and ruined the harbour. For this reason, there’s a wealth of fantastic medieval buildings here, with the majority of the town’s centre having listed status. Riverside dining and creaky, timbered pubs make this a truly charming Kentish getaway, with plenty of historical sights to explore, seal spotting tours to embark on, and all the country indulgence you would expect.
In the 19th century, a rather famous novelist would pop in to this former apothecary to cure all sorts of ailments and grievances. Now, you too can follow in Charles Dickens’ footsteps and nurse yourself back to health with a fine selection of wines from across the world. From floor to ceiling, the shelves here are stacked with a magnificent array of tipples, each chosen by the family owners.
Emblazoned in emerald green letters above the door of this curious shop, are the words ‘England’s largest rare & secondhand bookshop’. It’s a bold statement, but peer inside the door and rows upon rows upon rows of literature dominate the space. From floor to ceiling, books pack the shop floor. And it’s rather fitting; Rochester’s literary connection with Dickens makes a rickety shop like this a wonderfully apt place to rummage around in, searching for a nice copy of Great Expectations to mark your break.
Set within a timbered 15th century building in the heart of Rochester, Topes offers fine dining that has made it a favourite amongst locals. This family-run restaurant may reside in a gloriously historic setting, but its menu is firmly modern. From pressure-cooked beef cheek to Barbary duck breast, all ingredients are locally sourced – which, rather surprisingly, extends to the wine selection. Head there on a Friday night to sample the Dickensian delights of their ‘Gin Palace’.
This quiet market town is a perfect stop-off before you reach the bigger towns further down the line. Home to Britain’s oldest brewery, Shepherd Neame, plus a host of inviting Kentish pubs serving fresh pints of the local brew, Faversham is awash with quaint countryside charms. Plan your visit for either Tuesday, Friday or Saturday, when the whole town turns into one big market – from vintage treasures to delicious local produce, the event makes Faversham a truly unmissable stop on the line.
In an old railway shed next to the clatter of the train tracks is a foodie hotspot, one that delights in offering an irresistible selection of local Kentish produce and artisanal fayre. A restaurant adjoins the mini-market inside, where you can browse all manner of delicious goods. Build-your-own breakfast in the morning, browse the farmer’s market, and come back for an unmissable dinner made with the finest Kentish produce.
Canterbury Cathedral may prove the most popular historical sight in town, but it’s by no means alone. Oft overlooked, this small, unassuming church is but a short walk from the centre of town – and, quite remarkably, the oldest church in the English-speaking world. Roman foundations were renovated by Saxon king Æthelberht of Kent, so his Christian wife Bertha could practice her faith. Its historical significance is at odds with its unassuming stature – a truly charming and utterly beguiling place.
This high street stalwart has been offering fine vintage threads since it was opened by Debbie Barwick in 1988. Whether you’re looking for that perfect pre-war gown, or a sharp ivy-league button down, you’ll find it in this packed emporium of sartorial finesse. Debbie has an eye for the classic and the oddball; if it’s from the 20s to the 70s, you’ll find it on the sagging racks that fill this small, yet packed, little gem.
This local’s haunt on the high street lives up to its moniker – bohemian vibes wash over this cute little brunch spot, with a small smattering of outdoor tables made for people watching. The breakfasts here are renowned, a perfect way to start a day of exploration. Sit in the rear garden, an eccentric, cosy space perfect for distracting yourself from the hustle and bustle of the high street.
Hidden behind the Eastbridge Hospital, the 12th-century pilgrim’s hospital, sits this rather unassuming building. The chapel was actually part of the first Franciscan monastery in Britain, built in 1267. Now, the gardens surrounding this romantic medieval structure make for a wonderfully picturesque picnic spot. Sit near the quiet stream and soak up the unique atmosphere, all just a stone’s throw from Buttermarket.
Marlowe’s is a Canterbury stalwart, with a formula unchanged since 1984. Close to the theatre that shares its name with the famous playwright, Marlowe’s has long been the pre-show dinner spot for locals. A rather mish-mash menu that seemingly spans the globe, Marlowe’s is one of those old-school, family-run places where you kind of get what you’re given – in all its rich, indulgent glory. Don’t miss this classic Canterbury fave.
This charming town amongst the rolling landscape of High Weald has long drawn visitors from London. A historic spa town, the Georgian and Victorian architecture makes for picturesque walks down streets packed with boutiques, cafes and pubs. Green spaces line the fringes of the high street, a perfect retreat for city dwellers. Tunbridge Wells’ most prized landmark is The Pantiles, the beautifully picturesque lines of shops colonnaded and covered, where all manner of stylish businesses offer their wares to visitors. Pitch up outside one of the restaurants or pubs and relax in this charming town.
There’s really only one reason to hop off the train in Battle and there’s one, very large clue in the name. Just behind the charming village high street, packed with pubs and restaurants, bakers and butchers, is one of the most important historic sites in the whole of England. This is the place where the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066, between the Saxon king Harold and Norman invader William. Now, the commemorative Battle Abbey built by the victor (William obviously!) marks the entrance to the battlefield. Don’t miss country quirks like the effigy-burning Battel Bonfire Boyes, in a market-village packed with English history.
There’s plenty of antique and junk shops to pick from in Hastings Old Town, but Robert’s Rummage is a pretty special place. Robert has been dealing in curios and vintage his whole life and is a bit of an institution here in Hastings. He’s an old collector with a keen eye, now selling off parts of his vast collection and sharing incredible stories with those who lend an ear. Across the road you’ll find his sister shop, Robert’s Curios, specialising in Oriental antiques – both are a treasure in fine vintage pieces, delicately stacked in an intimidating mess of organised chaos. A true delight for bargain hunters.
This is the oldest shop in Hastings. That’s right, Reeves & Son has been offering its wares since 1818. It’s reason enough to visit, walking in the footsteps of Victorian visitors clamouring for a bargain. This really is the epicentre of Hastings’ love of antiques and curiosities, piled high with vintage classics and oddball bric-a-brac. The stock isn’t much different from what was being sold back in the 19th century – be sure to ask the owner Chris to show you some of the old photos of the shop!
An Edwardian time machine and a totally unexpected marvel in Hastings, A G Hendy is the remarkable vision of Alastair Hendy. One part homestore, one part restaurant, A G Hendy is a shop for the curious, decked in vintage fittings and Edwardian sensibility. Purchase home wares, be they vintage or picked from esteemed designers, and delight at the extraordinary interior of the shop. Book ahead for the hidden kitchen at the back of the shop, hosting evenings of impeccable dining with locally-sourced produce in a rather unique setting.
Known as ‘Filo’ to locals, First In Last Out is a quirky watering-hole that feels every bit ‘70s throwback. A brewpub since before the times of trendy craft beer (remember those?), alight at the bar for pints of cask ale brewed in-house and a menu of pub classics. Occasional live music completes the trad pub feel, where splitting hairs with locals is positively encouraged. This is a far-cry from those soulless gastropubs that are all too common these days – instead, enjoy a proper pub, with proper beer, and a proper good knees-up until the bell rings.
This boutique exemplifies the creativity that has nestled in the Hastings indie landscape. Owner Leida Nassir Pour curates a ready-to-wear collection of timeless pieces, brought together by her love of textiles and design-forward craft. A made-to-order service ensures you’ll receive classic design that will last, made by select makers overseen by Leida. Accessories and homeware, plus choice vintage pieces that complement Leida’s aesthetic, make Warp & Weft a stylish boutique for Hastings trend-setters.
Hankering for a good bottle to catch the sunset on the beach? Borough Wine, Beer and Books is a perfect spot for picking up a delicious bottle from a curated selection of small producers worldwide. Owner Muriel Chatel started off in London’s Borough Market on a small stall and now owns eight shops – this one being the first venture outside of London. It’s a model that clearly works – quality wines, craft beers and select books offer all you need for inspired nights in Hastings. The best bit? Refill bottles. That’s right, buy an empty bottle and fill it up straight from the cask, saving you money on gorgeous house wines.