A perfect day trip from London, The White Cliffs of Dover is a geological beauty. As you can imagine, the chalky white cliffs plunging into the blue hues of the Atlantic Ocean leaves visitors with calming senses.
Don’t put on your flip-flops and shorts just yet. The small beaches in the area aren’t known for overly warm temperatures. The coastal winds will keep you cool in the spring as you walk along the footpaths to get a better look. A windbreaker or jacket may be a good idea as the weather can change at moment’s notice.
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Below are a few things to do when visiting the White Cliffs of Dover for a day.
Dover is a small town on the southeast coast of England. Walk along the Marine Parade, buy an ice cream, or find a bench and watch the ferries and shipping boats navigate the English Channel. From the port, consider any of the below options.
1. Walk the England Coast Path
Walk. Then walk some more. The England Coast Path-South East provides kilometers (miles) and days worth of hiking and links various cities. Wander the trails as most are interconnected join back to a main one. Bonus points if you pack a picnic and surprise your friends with a nice snack overlooking the White Cliffs. There are plenty of grassy area to choose from.
Walk from Dover to St. Margaret’s Bay
We walked from the Dover train station to St. Margaret’s Bay. As you start out, walk through town or along the water to view the ships coming in and out of the harbor. Continue to the National Trust-The White Cliffs of Dover visitor center where most of the footpaths start. Continue on the footpaths until the lighthouse. From the lighthouse, there’s a bit of road walking before the path continues to St. Margaret’s Bay. End by entering the village. After you pass by the Pines Garden Tea Room and Museum, walk down a narrow road towards the water. Watch the car traffic here.
Return from St. Margaret’s Bay to Dover
Climb the narrow roadway you walked down and continue to climb up to Bay Hill, where you’ll find a bus stop. You can pay a few pounds and hop on the bus back into town if you don’t want to repeat the same walk back to Dover. If you do, retrace your footsteps and enjoy the views from a different angle.
2. South Foreland Lighthouse
On a nice day, you’ll find kids flying kites high above the lighthouse. It’s an old Victorian design and adds to the coastal vibes. Learn the history of the lighthouse. Located beside the lighthouse is Mrs. Knott’s tearoom. Take a break from walking the path and sip tea while enjoying the views.
3. Churchill Wartime Tunnels
While visiting the White Cliffs, consider exploring the Fan Bay Deep Shelter, which was part of the tunnels ordered by Winston Churchill. Tickets are on a first-come, first-serve basis. I opted not to take this tour, but I might just have to go back in the future.
4. Dover Castle
While walking around the bluffs or town, you may have noticed a large castle towering on the hillside above. The castle is completed in 1256 but had earlier construction during the late BC and early AC time. If you have time, consider paying the entrance fee into the castle. Since I had a late start from London, I didn’t have enough time to walk through the castle and go back to the medieval times. It’s stunning to look at even from the outside, and I wish I had more time.
5. Hire a cycle or bring your own
Cover more distance on wheels. Bikes aren’t permitted on the England Coast Path (at least the area we were walking), but there are plenty of other cycling options. I looked into finding bike rentals but couldn’t find a company that did pick-up and drop-off in different locations. I didn’t have much time to do research. Instead of hopping off the train in Dover, perhaps a better option would be to take it to Sandwich (or Canterbury), rent a bike, ride a trail back to Dover, return the bike, and take the train from Dover back to London.
How to Get to the White Cliffs of Dover
Trains: Depending where you are in London, take a Southeastern train to Dover or beyond (to Sandwich). Don’t hop on just any train. Check the departure boards and assess if it’s worth waiting a few more minutes for the train that has fewer stops. We almost made this mistake on our return trip after asking a worker if we could take any train back to London. The one we hopped onto would have took us longer than waiting an extra 15-minutes for the “express” train.
By Car: The M2 or A2 are your best options from London, but driving doesn’t save you much time depending on where you’re starting from in London to take the train and to avoid having to find parking. If driving, park at the visitor center and start your walk from there.