Despite the thriving oyster industry, Whitstable didn’t gain itself a Harbour until 1832, when a port was built alongside The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway. It’s main purpose was less for fishing and more for bringing coal from the North East to the South more cheaply.
The building of Whitstable Harbour brought prosperity to the town, leading to an explosion of house and shop building. The houses at the end of Woodlawn Street, connecting to Harbour Street, are some of the oldest still standing in Whitstable.
Despite the Harbour and town’s new found prosperity, there were still grim reminders of hardship. These are remembered at Starvation Point, a memorial to seamen lost at sea, but also a stark memorial to those men who queued up to find work at the Harbour. If they weren’t hired, they and their families would not be able to eat.
Nowadays, Whitstable still has a working Harbour, with a small fishing fleet and regular cargo deliveries allowing it to continue to thrive.
Whitstable Harbour fish markets and restaurants
The Harbour isn’t just about fishing and cargo deliveries though, it also contains a market village, full of an impressive array of stalls ranging from rockabilly clothing to fresh fruit and vegetables.
There are also some great places to eat. The Harbour Garden Café provides outside dining in the spring and summer months and ticketed live music events. It offers a wide menu, ranging from sandwiches and beer through to oysters and champagne and provides a perfect dining view of the Thames barge, The Greta.
Alternatively, there is The Crab and Winkle, based above the main fish market. This restaurant offers a menu full of seafood dishes including Lobster Thermidor, oysters and a wide variety of fish dishes.
For food on the run or an opportunity to experience Whitstable’s native oysters, there are also stalls that sell prepared oysters.
The sailing barge ‘Greta’ offers exciting sea trips out to the forts and wind farm, and other passenger vessels such as the ‘Balmoral’ and the paddle steamer ‘Waverley’ regularly visit the port, providing trips for those lucky enough to have bought a ticket.
During the Oyster festival, the Harbour becomes a hive of activity, with live bands, food and drink stalls and the Shuck (an indoor music tent) all providing entertainment. With such a lot going on, the vibe is fantastic and both locals and visitors rub shoulders to watch the landing of the oysters.