Anna Lloyd-Morell: With a privately owned beach which is permanently open to the public, Whitstable is within easy reach for London daytrippers (or DFLs - 'Down From Londons' as the locals call them). The beach sits right in the heart of this former fishing and oyster dredging town. Here, the Thames and Medway feel as if they properly become sea, although the view of Sheppey across the water makes the area look a little estuarial. The beach is backed by restaurants and houses, many of whose owners keep their boundaries low, so the beach is almost a part of their terraces.
A fair amount of people use the beach for walking and enjoying the views of racing sailboats and, far off, the wind turbines and WWII sea forts, but few dip here, probably because this part of the beach feels so exposed and overlooked. In fact few dip along this stretch of coast at all on account of the rough shingle which pierces the feet way before you hit the water. If you bring swimming footwear with soles and head towards Seasalter (towards the beach huts, which even in summer do not seem to be heavily used), you will find a series of groynes which provide makeshift benches and hidey-holes for stashing towels and bags.
All along here, the shore has been worked to be steeply ramp-like - to keep the tide at bay from the waterfront properties - a nice perk for bathers who want to get straight in without a wade. It doesn't feel as clean as much of the Kentish coastline, but it is one of the first safe sea-bathing points available from South London, and on a railway line, for townies impatient for their brine.