East Kent Coast: North Foreland to Dover

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East Kent Coast North Foreland to Dover.jpeg

This stretch of coast faces Eastwards out into the North Sea. We are out of the Estuary here, so this is "real sea" (though calmed at LW by the infamous Goodwin Sands, some 10K offshore, drying to several meters).

The Northern coastline (Foreland, Broadstairs, Ramsgate) has chalk cliffs and a rocky-ish foreshore, with some sandy beaches. South of Ramsgate (Pegwell Bay, Deal, South Foreland) this gives way to flat landscape and sand/shingle beaches, before the cliffs rise again near Dover.

A high spot for mariners is Ramsgate, a "proper" port which has a ferry (4 crossings to Ostend daily) a marina, and a few working vessels. Outside the summer season, it is fairly quiet, so crossing the harbour entrance is not a big deal (unlike Dover). Currents of up to 3 knots can be encountered passing the Ramsgate Southern breakwater, which makes life interesting.

Just South of Ramsgate lies Pegwell Bay, the "mini-estuary" of the River Stour , a pleasant paddle in its own right. This is a broad and flat stretch of sand, where the sea recedes nearly 3K at lower water, drying almost all the way to Ramsgate harbour entrance!

The big feature of this whole section is the "tidal offset" caused by the constriction of the Dover Straits. Along this coast, HW is not SLACK WATER ! The tide instead runs NORTH from Dover HW-1.5 to Dover HW+4.5, then reverses for a similar period. (The direction change is "4.5 hours late", in other words).

If paddling "round the corner" (ie to/from the Estuary) it's worth thinking about "tidal windows", ie whether you can get tide support both ways. For those who like an easy life, the best plan is to go clockwise (ie from Estuary to Channel) and to pass North Foreland between Dover HW+4.5 and HW+6. This nicely links the 2 tides. It also rounds the corner close to local LW, so the uncovered foreshore (sand with some rockpools) produces a quieter sea to pick through.

35k map Broadstairs
24 hr sandy bathing beach, launch inside breakwater, toilets; parking can be tricky.
36k map Dumpton Gap
24 hr slipway on to sandy beach, parking.
24 hr sandy bathing beach, a few rocks, good parking. Access via steep turning off cliff-top Victoria Parade, avoiding town centre.
24 hr sandy bathing beach, parking, nice sheltered launch beside harbour breakwater. Best car access via the special PORT road off a roundabout the outside town, via a tunnel through the cliffs. Nice transport cafe just across the road, popular with truck drivers waiting for the Ostende ferry. See notes under River Stour if planning to enter the river.
42k map Pegwell Bay
HW only, because of extensive mudflats. Access near the Viking ship, parking nearby,
41k (? 'ed') map' Shell Ness - Stour
Entrance to the River Stour. South of here is the long sandy beach of Sandwich Bay, where you can land just about anywhere, but with road access difficult until Deal.
54k map DEAL PIER
24 hr pebble beach, parking, toilets, pubs/cafes/shops. Access easy everywhere along here.
64k map St Margarets
24hr attractive and popular pebble beach, only about 500m long and tucked under the White Cliffs, which rise up from here towards Dover. Access via steep & windy cliff road from St Margaret's village (not advisable with a trailer!). Pub, Cafe, Toilets and good parking (prices Sept 2006 were 40p per hour 0900-1700 June-Sept only, free at all other times - including overnight).

St Margarets beach is just 2K North of DOVER HARBOUR Eastern entrance, which is busy with Ferry movements. Paddling beyond here really requires care - and ideally a VHF call. This is the narrowest point of the Dover Straits so water is always likely to be running fast, and the additional projection of the harbour breakwater a kilometer or so into the flow, further squeezes things. The result is a mini-tide race and a sizeable eddy just of the Eastern entrance, which could be fun to play in - were it not for the dangers of the constant ferry traffic.