As much as we love London, we do enjoy escaping the city from time to time and there’s nothing quite like a trip to the seaside, if only to breathe in some actual fresh air for once. It may be mocked as ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’ but Margate still has quintessential British seaside town feel and it’s close enough to go there and back in a day. How to get there is always the kicker though, and with the train taking a similar amount of time as it would to drive, we opted to rent a car and get out on the open road (aka the M2).

Car sharing app Getaround makes the rental process super easy. It’s all done from your phone – you simply open up the app to see all the available cars near your location (saving you a trek to the train station) and book the one you want. You can even rent cars by the hour if you don’t want to stray too far from home. From locating the car to setting off took a matter of minutes. You use the app to check-in, snap a couple of photos to check there’s no damage, unlock it using your phone, and away you go. We picked out a lovely red Mini Cooper Classic parked up in Hackney and it made the drive down an absolute dream, especially as we’d picked a very rainy day to go.

As it’s not very big, you can pack a lot of Margate into one day meaning you have time to do the main attractions as well as stumble across random discoveries. Dreamland has become one of Margate’s new icons. The retro frontage of what looks to have been an old cinema opens out into a decent sized (for the size of Margate anyway) theme park. It’s clear that money and effort has been spent restoring it but it still has that classic seaside, end of the pier feel, with 2p machines in the arcade and crap prizes on offer from the ticket stand.

Dreamland sits at one of the town with the seafront curving round to the Turner Contemporary gallery at the other end. It’s an easy walk along the front, where you can spy brave souls taking a dip but there’s also car park out on the edge of the harbour by the lighthouse, conveniently located next to a parade of pubs and cafes.

Margate is full of cute backstreets so after stopping for a coffee and slice of cake at the Margate Coffee Shed, we walked away from the sea, following the sign for an art sale, then dropping into some of the town’s many antique stores before heading up towards Carl Freedman Gallery. There’s no doubt about it, Margate is an art town. From small shops selling prints to the Alphabetti Spaghetti twisted phone box installation to contemporary galleries there’s a lot to see. At the time of our visit, Carl Freedman was showing the Gossamer exhibition curated by Zoe Bedeaux, featuring a range of works made using tights. The Turner is undoubtedly the most famous gallery in town and we managed to hit it at the right time of year as the Turner Prize nominees were exhibiting.

If Dreamland and the Turner Contemporary are new Margate, then Shell Grotto is old, old Margate. The grotto, a winding underground passageway on a very unassuming street, is lined with 4.6 million shells was discovered in 1835 but has been there for a lot, lot longer. Sure it’s touristy but the fact that no one knows exactly how the grotto came to be there or what it was used for makes it worth a look, just so you can see how bananas the whole place is.

For us one of the big draws of being on the coast is the prospect of a seafood lunch and for that, it had to be Buoy & Oyster, which serves everything from seafood platters to fish & chips. Given that Whistable is just down the road, we felt it only right to start with a half dozen of Whistable oysters, with a glass of another local, Chapel Down rose. From then it was parade of beautiful fish dishes, including scallops with cauliflower puree, skate wing in brown shrimp and seaweed butter, and wild halibut with crab, saffron potatoes and shellfish bisque.

After the drive back to London, returning the car, via a stop to top up the petrol, was just as simple as picking it up – you do a quick check-out using the app and use your phone to lock it back up again. If you’re looking to get out of town, with Getaround you can be in the car, on your way and by the beach before you know it.

Use the code LOTI30 to get £30 off your first rental with Getaround

Terms & Conditions
Code can be used for first booking only.
Valid until 1st Janaury 2020.
Minimum age of 21 applies, some cars may be 25+