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A nostalgic seaside resort near the Thames Estuary, on the northern Kent coast


Clock Tower
Herne Bay Museum
Herne Bay is a seaside resort near the Thames Estuary, on the northern Kent coast. Its beach is a fun place, with easy access to all the deckchairs, ice cream, and fish 'n' chips you might want. A row of colourful beach huts helps to create the cheerful atmosphere. There's a nearby bandstand from the 1920s, which hosts live music, as well as traditional seaside entertainment like Punch & Judy.

Herne Bay Beach and Pier
Photo Richard Gadsby
Out at sea, you'll spy plenty of people enjoying the water, on yachts, motor boats, and jet-skis. You can join a boat trip yourself if you like, and go off seal watching, or fishing. Also visible offshore are the white blades of the wind farms, as well as the very unusual-looking sea forts, which were used in World War II. These odd structures were built inland, and then floated into place. The pontoons were then allowed to fill with water, which dropped down and anchored the fort to the seabed. If you're curious, trips are still available out here, in the summer months.
Herne Bay has several other landmarks, such as its clock tower, which was reputedly the first in the world to be free-standing. It's nearly 25 metres to the tip of its weathervane, which at one point made it the tallest clock tower in the country. Another notable structure is the long, curved sea defence, which encloses a large portion of the beach. It's called Neptune's Arm, and it significantly calms the waters, helping to reduce the effects of erosion.
The town also has a tiny pier. At one time, this was the second-longest in the UK, but that was before it suffered terrible damage in a storm. The central section was completely destroyed, leaving the very end of the pier isolated from the land. This section includes an entire building, which looks very lonely, sitting out at sea by itself. There are hopes that the pier will one day be rebuilt, but until that day, it will have to wait.

The Pier and seafront
Photo Colin Smith
Despite this unfortunate event, there's lots left in Herne Bay to enjoy! One of the best times to come is in August, during the annual festival. Over a period of nine days, there's a huge programme of free events, including street performances, music, competitions, and fireworks.
Don't worry too much if you can't make it though, as there's still plenty to see during the rest of the year. A good starting point is the town's Victorian architecture. Herne Bay enjoyed a period of huge growth in the last two decades of the 19th century. Many buildings were built, and the population almost doubled. One place that's even older than this is a pub called The Ship. It's been here since the very beginning of Herne Bay's history, before its growth into a seaside town so it's seen a lot of changes! It was once the favourite haunt of Herne Bay's smugglers, who illegally transported goods like brandy, and tobacco. In the 19th century, it was the scene of a confrontation between them, and a coastal law enforcement officer called midshipman Snow. They both drew pistols, but unluckily, Snow's gun jammed. He was shot down, and later died of his wounds.

Central Parade Gardens
Photo Colin Smith
More events from throughout the area's history are described at Herne Bay Museum & Gallery. You can see a prototype of the famous "bouncing" bombs, which were used in World War II after being tested just offshore. Other artefacts date from prehistoric times, such as the fossilised mammoth tusks. There are also plenty of items on display from a tiny little settlement called Reculver, which is just a couple of kilometres east of Herne Bay. This is the site of an ancient Roman fort, which was later turned into a Saxon church. Not much of the building is still standing, but you can see its most impressive feature, the two huge twin towers. When the rest of the building was demolished, the towers were kept, so that ships can use them for navigational purposes. They're an eye-catching sight, even on a stretch of coastline like this, that's full of eye-catching sights.

All kinds of artifacts can be found in the Herne Bay Museum
Photo Linda Spashett
Visitor Information
Herne Bay Information Point, Herne Bay District Office, William Street, Herne Bay, CT6 5NX. Tel: 01227 378 100
Herne Bay Museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm (open Sundays in summer, 1pm to 4pm). Entry is FREE. 12 William Street, Herne Bay, CT6 5EJ. Tel: 01227 367 368

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