"Why Margate?" Was the response every time I told someone about my weekends plans in August. Having just moved to the UK about six months ago I was confused at first. "What's wrong with Margate?" Yes, some people view it as a tired seaside town, past it's prime with little to offer the traveler seeking it all. Luckily I wasn't seeking it all, just looking for a close, relatively inexpensive escape, with some seaside walking, good grub, artisan shops and antiques galore!
Our AirBnb was utterly perfect. Vintage furnishings, up-cycled walls and artful accessories all came together perfectly by the hand of Georgina, our host. We ate a lot of our own groceries in her gleaming kitchen to keep it casual and woke to the sounds of seagulls and smell of sea breeze each morning. About a 15 minute walk from the old town and main beach stretch was just fine. We were close to some of the shops and restaurants on Northdown Road and within easy walking distance of the beginning of the coastal path. Plus I found out just how much I love white floors and stairwells.
$40 towards your first booking for first time users (Are there any of those actually left? It feels like everyone has used Airbnb!)
I mean. Shut up, with this tub. These floors. The The velvet, burgundy upholstered vanity seat. The antique mirror tucked perfectly in the little alcove behind the tub. If my place looked like this I don't think I could rent it out much less leave it to do anything other than take bubble baths by candlelight.
Now that I'm done gushing over the bathroom we can move on to Margate itself! We arrived on a Friday night so we dropped our things and went straight to Hantverk & Found. Definitely book in advance if you're hell bent on going. Can't beat fresh seafood on the coast, plus they are an art gallery/café by day!
Once you're well rested in the morning head to Cliff's - a café/record store/yoga studio. Though I wasn't able to get into a class I managed to get a peak at the studio - spacious, dimly lit and a casual air to the group inside. Seems like good vibes to me! We had a delicious brunch, a poke around the records (+ hair salon on the upper level) and ventured off to explore for the day.
Wander on Northdown Rd towards the waterfront until you see Marmar. This shop is yet another combo deal as many of the shops in Margate seem to be - which I am not bothered by at all! Marmar is a café and plant/gift shop. The pastries looked divine, though we didn't have any since we'd just left breakfast. I picked up a few small gifts and cards for upcoming birthdays. It always makes me happy to support a small business and have unique birthday baubles!
Next up is RG Scotts Furniture. Wander through mountains of chairs, doors, reclaimed wood, and the odd watering can in the outdoor portion of the shop. Meander through a maze of clocks, tea sets, decanters, mirrors on the first and second floor. Go row by row, examining armoires, chesterfield chairs, bookshelves and old telephones. Don't even get me started on the retro + mid-century modern room! An absolute dream.
Shell Grotto. If I were to ever build a secret underground tunnel it would be built out of sea shells, no question. I <3 seashells. It was discovered in 1830 and the intricate designs flow uninterrupted save for one wall damaged in a WWII bombing. No one knows who built this tunnel complex containing 4.6 million shells but I bet we'd be best buds.
Time to explore downtown! There are tons of vintage, thrift, artisan shops in the old town and near the waterfront. I was able to accumulate an adorable little collection of keepsakes and gifts to bring home. Normally I don't bring much home from trips - I don't want to feed into the tourist economy in a negative way and I try to keep my "stuff" to a minimum. Margate makes it easy to support small independent, artists, shops, and restaurants. Many of the shops showcase local artists by gallery or product selection and actively support the environment and developing countries in their work and manufacturing methods. Listed below are some of my favorites:
This female-founded shop also has a location in London in case you're passing through the UK but can't make it out to Margate ;). They stock jewelry and homeware (designed in house). The jewelry is made of recycled brass from Kenya. I got THE most badass ring. Some might say knuckleduster... like I said, badass. The Margate location also has a studio space used for yoga classes, art exhibitions and supper clubs. I hope their next step is real estate because I'd live here.
One of several antique shops downtown, Paraphernalia was my favorite. Loads of retro + vintage accessories and signage, a pin ball machine of course. I had a tough time not buying a very Eames-esque magazine rack. Next time we go to Margate it will be in a van not on the train ;). This shop even had an old working train signal! Maybe wired and refurbished by my next pick...
This. Place. Is. So. Cool. Functioning vintage lighting covers the walls in this beautiful little shop. Candles are for sale of course (the best light other than daylight IMO) alongside other local artisan products. You can even buy the materials to design your own lighting! Wire, shades, bulbs etc. I bought the tiniest bundle of candles to bring home - they fit in these single stem vases lying around that will now double as candleholders.
Once we were all shopped out we had a break back at our airbnb and got dressed to head out to the coastal path. White cliffs, tall waving golden grass and in this case, seaweed. Lots and lots of seaweed. So much that a luxury self care business has been made of it, but I'll get to that later..
There's just something about the English coast. I didn't grow up near the ocean but for some reason I am ALWAYS itching to go seaside, even in sweater weather. The walk from Margate towards Broadstairs is a peaceful one. At least it was for us, probably not a huge Saturday night destination for most ;). There's limestone bits falling from the cliffs onto the path and along the paved part all kinds of drawings, maybe not appropriate for all ages. We brought a small blanket, some snacks and settled in to watch the sunset. Spoiler alert - it was too cloudy. Classic english coast for you. All the same we enjoyed goofing around on our walk and people watching on the cliffs.
Now that you've seen how much seaweed is on the beach I have one last shop to tell you about, that I wouldn't be surprised to hear some of you might know about already. Hækel's uses seaweed and local botanicals harvested on Margate's coastline (and now around the world) to create natural, sustainable, luxury skin and haircare products. The day we visited the Margate shop, Dom, the owner and founder, happened to be behind the desk - the nicest man. We chatted with him for 5-10 minutes about the products, his days in New York and the shop. The company offers discounts for those who return their glass packaging for refills to limit waste, plus rewards for those who can prove they've helped clean up Walpole Bay, where much of their botanicals are sourced from. They are conscious about every business decision they make and it shows. I've seen their section in Selfridges, and if you want to indulge definitely do make a purchase there if you're passing through - but to me, there's something about experiencing the space where a brand and idea was born, and I'd hit the Margate store over Selfridges any day ;).
Dreamland!! A revamped retro theme park complete with concert venue, arcade and roller disco! If you couldn't tell already I'm a big fan of "old things" in general so Dreamland was a perfect place to go back in time, in an oddly modern way. The new design here reflects the carnivals back in the day, plus the rides, food and atmosphere are enough to make you feel like a kid again! Cotton candy here I come!
This might look a tad like prison, but I promise it's way more fun. The Turner Contemporary was founded in 2001 and named for the semi-resident artist JMW Turner, famous for capturing the mood or his impression of an event or landscape. Its a fairly small art gallery, so definitely not a hard thing to work into your trip. Two exhibitions I personally enjoyed that are on right now feature female Chinese contemporary artists and Jyll Bradley's Dutch/Light, representing the end of the Anglo/Dutch wars 350 years ago.
That's all from me about Margate folks. It was an absolute pleasure chilling there and I hope you all get a chance to go. I'm starting to appreciate trips that allow for informed, responsible rest and relaxation more and more, especially where you wouldn't expect to find them!
Also in case you were wondering - that gorgeous hat I wore throughout the whole weekend is made by Wyld Aire. Designed and manufactured in the United States, these ethically-made packable hats are an absolute MUST have for travelers! This hat solves every GD problem I've ever had with hats (trust me there are a lot). The Wyld Aire crew is running a kickstarter in order to start offering a variety of products and I highly recommend you get in on it or check out their shop. Ta ta for now!