The SouthEastern English county famously described as being the ‘Garden of England’ has extraordinary beauty and landscapes in abundance. With the iconic White Cliffs and easy-on-the-eye seaside enclaves, Kent’s coastline is particularly special but the inland countryside is pretty spectacular too, here you can expect to see miles of gently rolling hills dotted with romantic stately homes, cultivated country estates, fruit-laden orchards, and some of the finest castles in England. Some of history’s most famous writers, poets, and artists were captivated by this corner of the country, and once visited you’ll see why! Here are my favourite best and most beautiful places to visit in Kent, England…
1. Broadstairs – a gorgeous coastal town filled with traditional seaside fun
A lovely coastal town located on the Isle of Thanet, this beautiful place to visit in Kent brings so much more than what meets the eye. It has a distinctive charm all of its own filled with good old fashioned sea-side fun. For starters, the long wide sandy beach lined with pretty colourful beach huts and sheltered by low chalk cliffs is just wonderful.
The town itself has a nostalgic feel with a mix of retro and more stylish shops, cafes, and restaurants as well as art galleries, a Victorian engineering museum, and attractive red-brick and flint-fronted buildings. The area is also fantastic for scenic hikes as there are many cliff-top paths here linking beautiful bays.
Broadstairs also has some important literary connections as this was apparently Charles Dicken’s favourite holiday spot. Make sure you visit the Dickens House Museum (which is also the former and very charming home of Mary Pearson Strong, who inspired the character Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield) and Bleak House a striking building located high on a cliff where Dickens penned David Copperfield.
2. Canterbury – the stunning historic cathedral city which is easily one of the best places to visit in Kent
Located in southeast England, the cathedral city of Canterbury is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kent and even the whole country. It has an ancient and important history with significant literary connections too, but it’s so well preserved that it’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was once a popular pilgrimage site and its literary connections come from being the former stomping ground of Chaucer the famous author and poet who hailed from the Middle Ages. He was so inspired by the Kent city he based the world-famous “Canterbury Tales” here.
It has ancient walls, initially built by the Romans which surround its medieval centre. Inside the walls are a network of cobbled streets and gorgeous timber-framed houses as well as no less than six museums, seven art galleries, six theatres, one castle, one abbey, 24 Canterbury Tales, and of course the gorgeous cathedral!
Add to this, picturesque parks, gardens, and plenty of interesting shops, cafes, and restaurants, and you have a very beautiful city destination to explore in Kent. Enjoy!
3. Whitstable – the affluent coastal turned trendy foodie destination
This is an affluent coastal town located on the north coast of Kent in south-east England not too far from Canterbury. It has a beach (shingle) lined with colourful beach huts, a harbour, and pastel-painted shopfronts but this is no tacky English seaside resort.
Think more of a trendy foodie destination-on-sea complete with Michelin stars restaurant, food (mostly shellfish) festivals, and craft beer a plenty.
It also has a creative side with many art galleries, independent gift shops, and retro/vintage stores. A lovely place to visit in Kent for either a day trip or a longer break – check out the wonderful Fisherman’s Huts for unique seafront accommodation. Beautiful coastal scenery also surrounds the town so also take time to explore further afield.
4. Scotney Castle – one of the most romantic buildings to visit in England
Located to the South-east of the small Kent village of Lamberhurst is where you will find this wonderful treasure which is now owned by the National Trust.
Built in the 14th century, the beautiful turreted English country house with formal gardens and a moat is as arguably close to a fairytale building as you can get. Located within the valley of the River Bewl, its surroundings are pretty lush too and includes many walking trails over 770 acres of gorgeous woodland.
Explore the inside, find out all the building’s secrets on a tour, take a walk around the grounds, enjoy a delicious meal in the tea-room, or take a picnic in the designated area. Definitely one of the best places to visit in beautiful Kent.
5. Kent Downs – a gorgeous area of Outstanding natural beauty
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Kent Downs is one of the most scenic sites to visit in the county. It stretches all the way from London/Surrey border to the famous White Cliffs of Dover.
Its enchanting natural sights include chalk ridges, dipping slopes, and dry valleys, grassy landscapes lined with hedgerows, traditional orchards, and picturesque ponds. as well as being home to many species of wildlife, birdlife and rare plant life.
It’s also home to some of the highest points in the southeast, and you’ve probably guessed that this is perfect for an incredibly scenic walk, so don those boots, grab your family and dog and get going!
6. Scenic Cultural Coastal Drive and the White Cliffs of Dover – one of the most beautiful road journeys in Kent
The Scenic Cultural Coastal Drive is a must-do attraction when you’re visiting Kent. If you are hoping for a relaxing drive, with jaw-dropping scenery then this may just be the place for you. Enjoy an excellent coastal journey that takes you through incredible sights such as the White Cliffs of Dover and Thanet’s stunning chain of fifteen sandy beaches.
The White Cliffs of Dover, are a famous landmark that is now owned by the National Trust. They face France and during the World Wars they became a symbol of freedom and hope and were often sung about in now-legendary war songs!
With this scenic drive, you can trace through the historic towns and cultural regeneration of Kent. At the same time, take in the glorious east coast view of the place.
There are several galleries and vintage shops to be visited within the area. Visit the Cinque Port of Sandwich that lies 2 miles inland and is flanked by three famous golf links.
7. Ightham Mote – a charming, medieval manor house to visit in Kent
This medieval 14th-century moated manor house can be found near Sevenoaks in Kent. It has an outstanding architectural design and the writer John Newman even described it as “the most complete small medieval manor house in the county”.
Get lost in the estate and explore beautiful the gardens that are now owned by the National Trust and are open to the public. There are three very pretty waymarked routes that will take around the Ightham Mote estate along footpaths, woodland, and country lanes. You can also take a tour of the Grade I listed building and see its wonderful and interesting historic interiors.
8. Aylesford – one of the prettiest villages to visit in Kent
This is a medium-sized village that is also a civil parish on the River Medway in Kent which is accessed by a very picturesque 14th century five-arched bridge.
It started off initially as a small riverside settlement which is said to orginate as early back as Neolithic times, and the old town is comprised of around 60 houses, many of which were former shops.
You can go for a guided or unguided tour of Aylesford and it’s an exceptionally pretty village and one of the finest in the SouthEast. There are many significant historic buildings to explore including the church, Aylesford Priory, Preston Hall as well as a few interesting independent shops.
9. Leeds Castle – one of the best castles to visit in England
This stunning stone castle built in 857AD was once called the “loveliest castle in the world” whether you agree or not this a fine specimen of place and one of the most important and best castles in England.
Once a Norman stronghold, a royal residence, and a royal palace (it was Henry VIII lived with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon), it’s now open to the public and offers all sorts of things from accommodation to workshops, tours, talks, and events.
Its location is also very beautiful, it’s can be found not too far from the large town of Maidstone set on on two islands in a magnificent lake. There is an option explore further and here you’ll also over 500 acres of beautiful gardens and parkland just waiting to be explored.
10. One Tree Hill and Knole – two of the most beautiful places to explore in Kent
Owned and protected by the National Trust, this is a truly beautiful slice of Kent countryside and a must-see for nature lovers and walkers visiting Kent. Located in Kent’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, here you can expect stunning panoramic views of the unspoilt countryside as well as woodland and open glades.
The scenic area also provides habitat to wildlife and flora and fauna including wild garlic, bluebells, and the rare point snail.
Nearby also located in Sevenoaks (only a 13-minute drive away) and also owned by the National Trust is Knole. Knole is a country house and former archbishop’s palace situated within Knole Park, a 1,000-acre park located immediately to the south-east of Sevenoaks in west Kent. The house apparently ranks in the top five of England’s largest houses and occupies a very beautiful area of four acres.
11. Hever Castle – the wonderful historic castle which was once home to Anne Boleyn
Once an important historic landmark built in the 13th century, Hever Castle is now a popular tourist attraction to visit in Kent. It’s also famous for being the seat of the Boleyn family of Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor fame. Located the pretty village of Hever near Edenbridge it began life as a country house and also comes with mazes, picturesque gardens and a lovely lake.
You can go for a guided or unguided tour on the Hever Castle seeing all the preserved architecture from years gone by and also visit the well-maintained gardens. It also hosts a popular annual jousting tournament every summer.
12. Herne Bay – a once bustling Victorian resort perfect for a friendly day out
Herne Bay is a charming coastal town located near the city of Canterbury. It’s a lovely spot to visit in Kent and is home to over two miles of coastline, a sand and shingle beach, pretty multi-coloured beach huts, seafront gardens, a pier, and even a bandstand – so expect plenty of seaside fun!
Don’t leave without seeing the very kitsch Seaside Museum is home to a collection of photographs from the town’s Victorian heyday and even an old Punch and Judy set. There are also many fantastic independent shops and restaurants here as well as art galleries and plenty of opportunities for gorgeous coastal walks.
13. Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens – once the former home of poet and writer Vita Sackville-West
A romantic and wonderful place to visit in Kent, this beautiful historic building is located in Sissinghurst village and is famous for once being the home to the famous poet and writer Vita Sackville-West.
Vita actually designed the gardens in the 1930’s which surround the castle and hailed the whole place as a ‘ refuge dedicated to beauty’. Her husband Harold Nicolson, author and diplomat also lived here with her.
The Grade I listed building is on the Historic England’s register of historic parks and gardens and is owned by the National Trust, so you can take time exploring the wonderful gardens and estate.
14. Chapel Down Winery – a perfect day out in Kent for wine lovers!
The Chapel Down Winery in Tenterden is known as the home to England’s leading wine producer and England’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc. Here you have the opportunity to see where the wine is grown as well as made as well as take a tour in the vineyard estate to take in the stunning landscapes and views.
Depending on how long your trip is, you may take interactive masterclasses on how to make wine and taste it. Make sure you also take time out to check out the vineyard on the award-winning Chapel Down estate. There is also a popular restaurant on site and also a restaurant selling food and drink.
15. Bewl Lake – a lovely beauty spot in Kent to explore
This is one of the well-known reservoirs that are found in the valley of the River Bewl. It straddles the boundary between Kent and East Sussex in England and stretches about 2 miles south from the village of Lamberhurst and is a lovely beauty spot to explore.
You can go for a long walk while taking the beautiful views of the water. There is also the option of bike hire if you feel like cycling and seeing the tranquil scenery. Rowboats can be hired here for a lovely way to spend the afternoon.