Yesterday my BF and I decided to join some of his friends down in Whitstable for the Oyster festival. It was glorious, a really beautiful, but hot, summer’s day filled with a lot of music, colour, food and people. The yearly event, has grown since 1985 from a small community celebration into a huge attraction, packing up the streets with locals, tourists and visitors, roughly 80,000 people coming from all over the UK and Europe.
Arriving by train, we walked into the high street to be greeted by hundred of people queuing out of every pub, fish and chippy, coffee shop and restaurant on the high street.
What we found out/good to know:
- The event lasts from Thursday, July 21 to Sunday, July 31 and attracts a lot-a-lot of people to it, so if you’re not one for a lot of people, probably best to avoid at the weekend, it sure does get busy.
- The overall festival is rounded off with a fab fireworks finale over the harbour
- The festival is based on the service of thanksgiving held by fisherman which took place around the feast day of St James Compostella, a tradition dating back to Norman times.
- There’s a two-day food fair plus live music on the beach with lots of local and popular acts that draw in a huge crowd to tickle your fancy
- You should definitely not miss the famous Landing of the Oysters at Long Beach which we saw yesterday followed by the Seafood Parade with babies, schoolchildren, youngsters and adults showing off their seafood-themed creations and dancing along to music performed by Whitstable’s samba band and the town’s native marching band.
- It’s a great day for families and kids, but it can get very loud and very busy quickly, so keep well aware of your surroundings.
Wear suitable clothing
Wear suitable clothing, I’m not kidding. I thought wearing leggings as I had no shorts left was a great idea, I was sweating a lot during the day and spent a vast majority of the day cooling down my bump in the heat. I also half wished I shaved my legs instead of boiling in my leggings.
Bring plenty of wet wipes and tissues
There are plenty of toilet facilities around but unless you can wait in a queue for a pub bathroom, the next best thing is a Portaloo and we all know how nasty those can get.
Get there early
With nearly 80,000 people attending, it does get pretty darn busy quickly. When we first arrived, there were still a lot of space to move around but after a few hours it gets ridiculously busy and can feel a little claustrophobic.
Meet friends at meet-points and stick to it
We spent a lot of time yesterday trying to find my partner’s friends yesterday and nothing is worse than when they say near the ‘Miles & Barr’ stand and then finding 10 of them lined up and down the beachfront. We also noticed that phone signal can drop off at any given point so if you’re meeting somewhere, stick to it.
Bring swimwear or wear it underneath your clothing
The beach can get busy but who can resist a cool down in the sea to entertain the kids and yourselves when you have music in the background – perfecto.
The sun was very hot yesterday and although I covered up in 15SPF and applied on a few occasions over a short time period, I did go red in a few places.
Bring lots of loose change and cash
Although the high street has plenty of ATM’s the queues are ridiculous. Non of the high street stores did cash back yesterday, so make sure you get cash out before you arrive.
Definitely check out the Seafood Parade
Lots of little kids dressed up in pirate and mermaid costumes dance along the street with their parents, families and fellow classmates with their seafood inspired creations. Right up front, the town’s native marching band provides plenty of colourful music to get the whole street moving.
Best to avoid all the traffic and road closures and come by train. If you are travelling by car, try and make a weekend out of it and If you’re coming from London, you can travel from Kings Cross St Pancras or London Victoria with train journeys only lasting a little over an hour and the high street and Harbour is only a short 5-10 minute walk away. Check with The Trainline for cheap ticket deals in advance.
Parking is expensive anywhere in London but keep in mind parking in Whitstable at their busiest festival will cost roughly £10 and getting your car out to leave early is impossible. Once the parade starts down the high street, forget going anyway for a fair few hours!
All in all, be prepared for a great day and you’ll have a blast.