By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
Acres of luscious green open space, rolling rural countryside and, of course, the English Channel right on the doorstep – enjoying the outdoors in Kent, as well as all the sporting opportunities it has to offer, couldn’t be easier.
As is always the way with the British weather, you can never count on a dry day but there’s no need to worry as this county also has plenty of undercover options for those days when the heavens open.
Miles of coastline
Perhaps Kent’s greatest asset when it comes to sport, however, is its miles of coastline, providing copious opportunities for water sports. Complementing the superb scenery, pristine beaches and safe waters, there is an excellent array of facilities and tutors to help you perfect your skills or learn a new hobby. The swell-filled seas around Broadstairs are perfect for surfers and you can choose from, not one, but two surf schools to help you hone your boarding skills, or try your hand at the more recent trend of stand up paddleboarding and even paddleboarding yoga!
Established in 2001, Kent Surf School, in Viking Bay, is perfectly located for catching waves, yet is a sheltered bay so is also ideal for beginners. Meanwhile, Joss Bay Surf School, set up by Dave Melmoth in 1998, is the only British Surfing Association-approved surf school in the south east of England and is situated on one of Kent’s 11 Blue Flag beaches.
If you want to add an extra dose of adrenaline to your surfing experience, then Kent Kitesurfing School, in Whitstable, can show you how. Once you’ve trained on the beautiful beach, get kitted out at the town’s Boardworx shop (it’s where the school is based) and then head to Minnis Bay or the exposed coves off Romney Marsh, where you’ll find the best conditions for kite-surfing and wind-surfing alike. For adrenaline junkies, the fun doesn’t stop there. The wide open waters of Herne Bay’s beaches are a great place to take a jet ski for a spin. Alternatively, launch off from Jet Ski World, in Cliftonville, Margate.
The swell-filled seas around Broadstairs are perfect for surfers and you can choose from, not one, but two surf schools to help you hone your boarding skills
Viking Coastal Trail
Those who prefer a slower pace of life should take advantage of the Kent coast’s stunning sailing opportunities. There are two marinas, which make excellent bases; the historic Ramsgate Royal Harbour Marina – the UK’s only royal marina, granted so by King George IV in 1821 – and the award-winning Dover Marina, which is situated in a quiet, sheltered corner of the harbour and has a number of boat and yacht clubs offering facilities for both visitors and residents.
If you’re a first timer or want to brush up on your skills, then there are a number of teaching establishments dotted along the coast, or you could head inland to one of the county’s rivers, lakes or reservoirs. Bewl Water, near Lamberhurst in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is the largest area of inland water in the south east of England, while Leybourne Lakes Country Park features a watersport centre with a tranquil 30-acre inland freshwater lake. These centres also provide the ideal calm waters needed for kayaking and canoeing but, if you want a real treat, head back out to the coast, where you can glide below the iconic white cliffs of Dover.
For those who like to keep their feet firmly on dry ground, there’s a plethora of walking trails to follow across the county. If time is short and you want to cover a larger distance, then take to two wheels and ride one of the many cycle routes Kent has to offer, such as the 32-mile Viking Coastal Trail, which circles the beautiful Isle of Thanet, taking in the vibrant resorts of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate.
For those who like to keep their feet firmly on dry ground, there’s a plethora of walking trails to follow across the county
Kent’s picturesque landscape also provides the perfect backdrop for a spot of golf. There are more than 100 golf courses here, from those that cluster among the orchards and inspiring gardens, to those boasting dramatic, panoramic views over the English Channel. Over the years, Kent has hosted 17 British Open Championships, the first in 1894 at Royal St George’s, in Sandwich, marking the first time that the major had been played outside Scotland. Founded in 1887, this challenging course offers stunning views over Pegwell Bay and Kent’s white cliffs and is home to the UK’s tallest and deepest bunker! Even if you’re not a golfer, you may recognise the club as the setting for that classic match between James Bond and his rival Auric Goldfinger in the novel of the same name – it was written by one of the club’s most famous members, Ian Fleming.
Comprising some of the UK’s top championship links, the courses along the East Coast Trail are Kent’s most famous. As well as Royal St George’s, Sandwich is also home to Prince’s Golf Club, which boasts 27 holes of championship links in three nine-hole loops; The Shore, The Dunes and The Himalayas, each with its own unique characteristics. Along the road in Deal, the 18-hole The Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club is regarded by many as one of the finest in the world and hosted two Open Championships in 1909 and 1920.
If the weather is hot and you want to cool off while at the same time enjoying the sunshine, then you can always go for a dip off one of Kent’s Blue Flag beaches (you’ll find eight of these in Thanet) or dive into one of its outdoor swimming pools, such as The Strand, in Gillingham, which has a lazy river, slides and water zorbing.
However, if the weather takes a turn for the worst, Kent has an abundance of indoor leisure centres providing plenty to do away from the elements. Larkfield Leisure Centre has a leisure pool with waves, water cannons, lazy river rapids and a 60-metre water slide to keep the kids (big and small) entertained for hours. There’s also a selection of leisure complexes offering all sorts of other activities to keep the whole family amused, from ice or roller skating at Planet Ice, in Gillingham, to the Gravity trampoline park and Hollywood Bowl at the Lockmeadow complex, in Maidstone. In Kent, you really are spoilt for choice.
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